Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why are we still talking about this?

A friend of mine posted this hilarious breastfeeding meme on Facebook and I could not even wrap my head around how the commentary got to a few dozen about it.  Everyone talking about what they do and what is/isn't acceptable.
"What's so wrong with the bathroom?  I don't mind it."
"My husband prefers that I cover, but I don't care what others do."
"I prefer to be modest."
"I never use a cover, baby hates it."
"I don't see why a woman can't cover up if it makes others around her uncomfortable."

Nursing while covered up? Nursing while uncovered? Using formula? Well good for you!  You're feeding your child!  I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding.  But I am also someone who had some major issues with latch and subsequently with supply, so I know the struggle is huge.  I had to stop after six months of breastfeeding and switch to formula to save my sanity and be a better mother to Little Man.

I just don't get why this is even a discussion.  You don't see people debating where, what and how other adults should eat... so why is this happening with infants?  Oh yes... because of BREASTS.  Those two lumps on a woman's chest that bare nipples.

The real problem nowadays lies within the media and the hypocrisy of today's society.  Photos like the one above have been reported and removed from Facebook.  But replace that woman with a teenager or Victoria's Secret model and that baby's head outline with a bra, then nobody thinks twice about it. Why is this?  Because everywhere we go, we are taught that sexy is good.  Sexy is awesome.  The better your body looks in underwear (or even naked), the more you are to be praised.  The purpose of the breast has shifted from infant nourishment to something to be sexually objectified.  How messed up is it that a woman is indecent in the photo above but a woman with the same amount of cleavage not nursing a child isn't? 

This conversation shouldn't even be happening anymore.  Women should be able to breastfeed their child when, where, and however they wish.  It shouldn't even be up for discussion what is acceptable and what is not.  What's acceptable?  Feeding your child when they are hungry.  Boom.  That is the only true and right answer to this "conversation".  What blows my mind is that we are still having it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Life Choices

Sorry I've been absent as of late.  Since my last post, we finally found a house, our offer was accepted, and we got all of our ducks in a row to close next month.  Plus I've been wrapping up school duties, clearing out old textbooks and materials to make room for new ones and growing bigger by the minute (32 weeks pregnant as of this coming Sunday).   Needless to say, life is crazy.. which is kind of what I want to touch on.

I once saw a diagram that gave the options of happy kids, clean house, and sanity.  It says to pick two.  I couldn't help but giggle at it because it's so true.  Moms are lucky to be able to pick two on a good day.. some are just one.

I am known to always be in a rush and often stressed.  I cut things closer than I should and leave cleaning until it's so unbearable that I need to clean for hours until it's acceptable again.

As our big move approaches as well as the birth of Little Miss, I couldn't help but realize how much I was focused on keeping life running rather than enjoying life as it was happening.  I'd be doing dishes and Little Man would come up to me with a book asking to read, but I'd tell him no because dishes needed to be done.

I had quite the epiphany this morning, however.  My husband has been traveling almost every day for work this week, so I've been responsible in the mornings not only for myself, but getting Little Man ready too.  It makes time tight, but we always eventually get out the door.  I was getting ready and about to put on my makeup and he came up to me with a book.  So rather than take my last five minutes to put on makeup, I spent those last five minutes going through his favorite book (animals) with him for the 567th time in his life.  I held on to him, kissed him, quizzed him on animals and their noises and just soaked in those precious five minutes.  As I was driving us to daycare, it just hit me how I've been taking baby steps lately to focus on him rather than focus on cleaning, being on time, or looking presentable.  Those five minutes I got with him this morning, I will never have them again.  I cannot express how thankful I am to have realized this and to have started making steps in the right direction without having anything major happen.

My to-do list is a mile long.  Every time I cross something off, I add two more things to it lately.  But Little Man, hubby, and eventually Little Miss need to STAY at the top of that list.

I want to be a good mother.  I want to be a good wife.  And I am slowly starting to realize that being those things means taking time for them, not keeping a clean house or keeping our schedule running.  Sometimes being five minutes late just to get in some extra snuggles is the best thing I can do.

Any readers I do have out there, I encourage you to put down that phone... to let those dishes stay dirty a day longer... to not fold the laundry tonight.  Play with your children, spend some time with your spouse... even treat yourself to some "time off".  Everything else will still be there tomorrow.  But this time you waste that could be with your family... that time can never come back.

photo from

Sunday, March 22, 2015

If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It: Myths and Truths about Natural Family Planning

I want to start this post with the preface that, although I am Catholic, everything presented in this post will have an entirely secular spin to it.  I have seen the benefits of Natural Family Planning (NFP) in my life and health, and the more people I can appeal to, the better.  As you move forward reading, I also must warn you, I am an open book with this topic.  You will read things about timing intercourse, mucus and other things in regard to fertility. If this makes you uncomfortable, you may want to stop reading now.

Whenever the topic of NFP as a method of avoiding pregnancy comes up in conversation, people who are uneducated about it generally like to throw around a lot of misconceptions that make it seem less appealing.  I wish to not only dispel some of these myths, but to give truths to anyone who is interested in learning about NFP.  Let's call this NFP in a nutshell.

So what are some common misconceptions?

1. It isn't reliable

This is probably the biggest one that scares people away.  And if it were the truth, I couldn't blame them.  However, when used correctly, many NFP methods are actually just as effective as artificial forms of birth control (sometimes even more effective).  Keep in mind, NFP is not the same as the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).  Both are natural methods of avoiding pregnancy via knowing a woman's fertility signs, however with NFP, couples abstain during fertile times while FAM allows for barrier methods such as condoms during fertile times.  These statistics apply to NFP, as FAM adds a small level of unreliability.  With NFP, when couples abstain during fertile times, there is literally no way for a sperm to meet a viable egg, as intercourse is not happening.  This is not the case with FAM.

Contrary to popular belief, NFP is not the rhythm method.  The rhythm method assumes each woman has a 28 day cycle and ovulates on day 14.  Because every woman and her body is different, this leads to a lot of unplanned pregnancies and also gives NFP a bad name.  The rhythm method only relies on a calendar whereas NFP relies on the signs a woman's body gives when she is fertile.  MANY medical statistics show NFP to be unreliable because it is very often is bundled with the rhythm method.

Here are a few more links to back up the reliability of NFP:

2. It's a hassle

I won't pretend learning NFP is as easy as snapping your fingers.  However, once you chose a method that works for you and your spouse (more listed later in this post), it truly becomes second nature, which I can attest by experience.  By educating yourself in your chosen method and with a few months of practice, not only does it become second nature, it becomes empowering.  I personally feel very self-aware when I am able to pinpoint when my ovulation day is coming and sure enough, that is when it happens.

3. You can't do NFP if you have irregular cycles.

This could not be further from the truth.  I personally have had cycles that range anywhere from 30 days to 35.  When trying to conceive the child I am currently pregnant with, my average ovulation day was cycle day 17 on any given cycle. With that cycle, I actually ovulated on day 21.  By knowing the signs of my body approaching ovulation (or lack thereof in this case), I knew that I would be ovulating later.  Because I was so in tune with my body, we were still able to time our "lovin' time" appropriately and conceived our daughter.  The bonus to knowing my cycles was that her due date is much more accurate than the week earlier the doctors wanted to pinpoint because my last menstrual period said so.

If your cycles are extremely sporadic, the other bonus to NFP is that, with the help of medical professionals, you will likely be able to diagnose the underlying cause of the irregularities using your charts.  With the proper diagnosis, treatment can be possible.

4. It doesn't work while I am breastfeeding/postpartum

NFP methods actually have a specific postpartum protocol that give women the tools to understand the return of their cycles after giving birth.  An instructor in your chosen method will be able to guide you through the process.

5. I have PCOS/endometriosis/another reproductive condition that won't work with NFP

Many women feel they NEED to be on the pill in order to treat PCOS or other reproductive conditions and also to avoid pregnancy.  Like mentioned above, the beauty of NFP is that it can often help diagnose the underlying cause of things like PCOS, therefore knowing how to treat it, rather than just put a metaphorical bandaid on it to cover up the symptoms via artificial birth control.  With the help of a Napro doctor, a woman can chart her cycles to find out any underlying causes of any reproductive issues and treat them.

6. It takes the spontaneity out of sex

A woman is actually only able to theoretically conceive 6 days out of any given cycle due to the lifespan of sperm as well as her egg once it is released.  In using NFP properly, couples are expected to abstain during those times.  While the idea of required abstinence during any given cycle has some couples running the other way, just keep a few things in mind.  Firstly, the other 3-4 weeks of a woman's cycle is WIDE open for intercourse at any time.  And without having to worry about pills or condoms, it's actually more spontaneous.  It can be quite the mood killer to stop mid-canoodling and say, "honey, can you grab a condom" and take the few seconds to put it on properly.  Secondly, I find that "dry week" to be quite the anticipation builder.  Not only that, it teaches couples how to build intimacy in ways other than sex.  Anticipation can be quite the turn on!

7. I'm not religious so why would I want to use NFP?

There are MANY non-religious benefits to NFP:

1. It is 100% natural.  Unlike artificial forms of birth control, there are zero risks of side effects like cancer, stroke, blood clots, weight gain, headaches, decreased sex name it. The side effects of artificial birth control can literally kill you.  Even the World Health Organization has classified the pill as a class one carcinogen (in the same category as asbestos and cigarettes).

2. Not only can NFP be used to effectively avoid pregnancy, it can switch to helping a couple achieve pregnancy in a snap.  The bonus to NFP is a couple can change from avoiding to trying at any given time without having to wait a few cycles for the hormone to leave the woman's body.

3. Once you learn it, most methods are 100% free of cost.  Generally the only start up cost (again depending on method) will be that of an instructor and maybe a good thermometer.  Unlike the pill or other forms of artificial birth control, you don't need to keep getting more pills, implants, patches, shots, condoms, etc.

4. As mentioned above, NFP can help a woman with any reproductive issues diagnose and treat said issues.

5. Couples who use NFP have a MUCH lower divorce rate than couples who do not (3% vs 50%).  This can be attributed to many different factors, however the very "science" of NFP requires couples to communicate with one another and to find different ways to be intimate, especially during fertile windows.  That can definitely play a large role in that rate.

The Most Common Methods

There are many different methods of Natural Family Planning.  Depending on any couple's given scenario, some methods may work better than others.  This quiz can help you figure out which one could be best for you.

1. Creighton
The Creighton Method is a mucus-only method of NFP.  Women check their cervical mucus any time they use the restroom and record the sensation, stretchability and color.  A chart is used to lay out mucus patterns as well as bio markers to know when a woman is fertile or infertile.  It can also be used in conjunction with NaPro technology/doctors to diagnose and treat underlying reproductive issues.

2. Billings
The Billings Ovulation Method is similar to Creighton in that it is a mucus-only method.  The protocols and "rules" do vary, however.

3. Marquette
The Marquette Method uses an at-home monitor that measures a woman's LH levels to identify her peak fertile times.  This method does require the purchase of a monitor and the continual purchase of test strips.

4. Sympto-Thermal
The Sympto-Thermal Method uses a combination of basal body temperature (taken upon waking), mucus signs, as well as cervical positioning/opening to determine ovulation.

Each method has its pros and cons, but women often use two methods in conjunction with one another as a kind of "cross check".  We used the Sympto-Thermal method the first few years of our marriage.  We were able to successfully avoid before deciding to try for our first child and then conceived within three months of trying.  Once he was born, we used that same method again until we started trying to get pregnant when he was about 9 months old.  Six months later we were pregnant with our baby girl.  Once this baby is born, we intend to be a little more "strict" in trying to avoid for awhile, so we will be combining Marquette with Sympto-Thermal.

The major bonus to Sympto-Thermal over other methods is that the temperatures can confirm ovulation after the fact.  This can allow a woman (if comfortable) to take a break from charting until her period arrives.  However, for the temperatures to work, the woman needs to take her temperature at the same time every day immediately upon waking.  This can get tricky for a woman who doesn't wake at the same time every day.

Marquette is nice because it is considered a little more "idiot-proof" in that you have a monitor backing up what you are interpreting with your signs.  However, it can get a little expensive between buying the monitor and continuing to buy the test strips.

Creighton and Billings are great because they rely mostly on mucous which is something that isn't generally affected by outside factors like stress, changes in sleep patterns, etc.  However, ovulation cannot be confirmed in any given cycle, so constant monitoring is crucial.

I know I've done a ton of "talking up" NFP, but I won't pretend it doesn't have its drawbacks.  It does take time, effort and self control in order to reach the optimum efficacy.  Every woman is different, so there is no guarantee every method will work for every woman either.  It requires open communication between spouses, as well as times of abstinence.  Depending on the "severity" of the need to avoid pregnancy as well as a woman's ability to decipher her fertile signs, some couples may require more abstinence than others in order to continue to avoid pregnancy.

Nonetheless, Natural Family Planning is an effective and natural way to avoid pregnancy, achieve pregnancy and help to diagnose reproductive issues.  I spent many years of my life on hormonal contraception but I can safely say I will NEVER go back.  NFP can just as effectively avoid pregnancy without "breaking" my reproductive system and making it switch from natural function to disfunction induced by synthetic hormones.  I have seen the benefits of NFP on my health, life, and marriage.  A great resource for any more question is this site, as well as an NFP-friendly doctor or NFP instructor.

Photo from

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Raspberry Cheesecake Pie Recipe

This is, hands down, my favorite dessert ever.  It is so delicious (and not so nutritious.. but who cares).

6 oz cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cool whip or whipping cream
1 pie shell (9") with high edge
3 oz package of cherry gelatin
1 1/4 cups boiling water
10-12 oz raspberries (I've found that frozen raspberries work best)

1. In mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and cool whip. 
2. Mix until fluffy.
3. Spread half into the bottom of the pie shell and set the other half aside.
4. Put pie with mixture into fridge and let cool for 30 minutes.
5. Boil water and add to gelatin mix.  Stir until dissolved.
6. Add raspberries to gelatin.
7. Once 30 minutes has passed for the first layer in fridge, add half of gelatin/raspberry mixture to pie and spread evenly.  Put in fridge until set.
8. Once set, add the rest of the cream mixture and spread around top carefully.
9. Immediately add rest of raspberry/gelatin mixture.
10. Chill until set.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Breadmaker Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This is seriously the most delicious cinnamon raisin bread I have ever eaten.  This is a current pregnancy favorite and I'm easily going through a loaf a week right now.  I especially enjoy it toasted.

1 cup tepid water
2 tablespoons of room temperature butter (margarine works fine too)
3 tablespoons brown sugar (do not use white sugar.. the taste is not the same)1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons of yeast
1 cup of raisins

1. Add all ingredients into bread maker pan in the order shown other than raisins.
2. Place pan in bread maker.  Use the sweet bread setting for a 1.5 lb loaf.  I always have the crust be light, but feel free to do any darkness you prefer.
3. While bread is going through first mixing cycle, put raisins in a bowl and cover with water.  Soak 15-20 minutes.  Add raisins to the bread maker no later than the first beeping cycle (with my maker it is 30 minutes in to mixing).  Soaking the raisins makes them much softer when you eat them!
4. (OPTIONAL) remove mixing blade at the appropriate beep
5. Once bread is finished, take out of maker and put on a cooling rack.  I know you *technically* aren't supposed to cut into bread right away, but I always cut off the end piece immediately and butter it.  It's my favorite part!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dear Anti-Vaxxers: Your Luck is Running Out

Vaccine debates.  They are everywhere.  Pretty much unavoidable in the past few weeks amidst the outbreak of measles that is gaining more and more cases each day.  From my observations there are many different sides to this debate.  Those who cannot vaccinate and want to.  Those who do not vaccinate.  Those who do vaccinate but feel it is a parent's choice.  Those who do vaccinate and feel it is a parent's duty to do so as well.

I am part of that final group.  I am generally a very "parent how you choose" kind of person. Formula or breastfeed.  Spanking or time-out.  Co-sleep or crib of their own.  I seriously could not care less how you raise your child.  That "could not care less" goes away in two scenarios: when you are putting your child's life in danger or when you are directly affecting another person's life.  Vaccinating is definitely one that fits in both of those scenarios, hence why I get VERY passionate about it. 

Anyone who is becoming a parent right now is extremely lucky.  Generally we are in the age range of 20-40 (obviously there are exceptions) and we have been so blessed to not know what it's like to grow up in a time where diseases like measles, mumps, polio, smallpox and others were fairly common.  They are now so unheard of that we don't have to think about them.  That is very lucky.  Other countries in this world do not have the same luck.  However, we are about to join them if this madness (yes madness) of anti-vaccination doesn't stop RIGHT NOW.

There are many reasons why someone would believe in the "choice" of vaccination.  Some are valid, others are so off the wall that I can't take someone seriously if they truly believe them.

Let's start with the blatantly obvious vaccines are dangerous reason.  Except.. well.. they're not.  They do not cause autism (this theory has been debunked countless times).  Their chemical levels are not toxic (there is more mercury in a can of tuna than all the lifetime shots combined, hydrochloric acid is added to level out the pH of vaccines, and we produce more formaldehyde in our bodies naturally in a few minutes than what is in a vaccine).  Let's not even touch on the fact that the food we consume on a daily basis has more chemicals in it than vaccines ever will.  While vaccines do have a rare possibility of side effects, your child is more likely to be in a deadly car accident than to be injured by a vaccine (assuming there is no history of injury).  Vaccines have been around for decades.  If they were THAT dangerous, there wouldn't be hundreds of millions of vaccinated adults walking around without any issues.  The bottom line with this excuse is the benefit outweighs the risk when it comes to vaccinating.

Continuing on, many people, even those who do choose to vaccinate, are worried about any sort of law requiring vaccinations because where would the line be drawn?  Okay.  Fair enough.  How do you feel about laws requiring children of a certain age/size be in a car seat/booster seat when riding in a car?  Anyone with a smidge of reasoning is fine with a law like that, so what's wrong with a law like this?  Both laws put into place the legal requirement for you to protect your child from a scientifically proven dangerous situation.

There are a few who are opposed for legitimate moral reasons to a few vaccines.  As a pro-life woman, I kind of understand this one.  Some vaccines were created using fetal stem cells.  Those cells were basically used to "grow" the vaccine.  Vaccines do not contain actual fetal cells and the abortions performed to get said fetuses were done several decades ago.  No new abortions have been performed for this reason.  But, here's the thing.  First of all, even the Vatican (a.k.a. pro-life central) has said we are fine to still vaccinate.  Second of all, being truly pro-life needs to extend past the womb.  Part of being pro-life means protecting the lives of our children who have already been born, and vaccines do that.  I'm all for finding an alternative vaccine that wasn't made in this way (they exist) but if you can't get your hands on it (which is common.. they're hard to find), I don't think it's very pro-life to put your child's (and other children's) lives in danger just to boycott something made in an unethical way fifty years ago.

Finally there are history of vaccine injuries.  In my mind, other than being immunocompromised or allergic, this is the only valid reason not to vaccinate.  Vaccine injuries DO happen (albeit extremely rarely), so I do not blame someone who has a history to second guess wanting to vaccinate their child.  This is a situation where the risk does potentially outweigh the benefit.  This group is a very small percentage of the population.  They should be able to rely on the rest of us being vaccinated (herd immunity) to keep them safe.  But we are in a day and age where it is now a "choice" to put them in danger.

Before Little Man was born, I will admit I bought into the hype and ended up doing a LOT of research about whether or not to vaccinate.  But there were two conclusions that I came to:
1. There is no scientifically accredited reason to not vaccinate a normally healthy child.
2. Even IF vaccines caused autism and had higher than okay chemical rate (again, not the case), how in the world are autism and chemicals more scary than diseases that often disable and even kill?
         *Before you get on my case about the autism comment, no I do not have an autistic child.  Yes, as a teacher I have been MORE than educated on the subject and am well aware of what a life-changing thing it is.  I would still rather have an autistic child than a dead one.

Many of you may think I'm being over dramatic when I talk about a dead child.  But back to our luck.  We cannot fathom what it is like to live in constant fear for our children's lives because of these diseases.  Why?  Because of vaccines.  And the reason it still isn't to those levels is because a vast majority of us are vaccinated.  However, that number is dropping.  Our luck of not knowing what it's like to see our children with these diseases is running out.  And it is becoming dangerous.  The CDC has a great article about what would happen if we stopped vaccinating.  I urge everyone to read it.

The only reason anyone who chooses not to vaccinate feels comfortable in doing so is because of the rest of us being immunized.  We provide your herd immunity.  You're welcome.  I challenge anyone who is against vaccination to take their children to a country where diseases like mumps, polio, measles or smallpox are still around for a quick two-week vacation.  If vaccines are that unnecessary or even dangerous, this thought shouldn't scare you in the least.  But if it does, maybe you need to rethink the logic of your "choice".  If this concept scares you, then you are admitting you rely on the rest of us to be vaccinated (hypocrite much?) or it proves that these diseases are scarier than you think they are.

Chances are, no minds were changed with this blog post.  Frankly, I don't expect them to be.  But until someone who is anti-vaccination can come up with a legitimate scientific reason not to vaccinate that is scarier than the diseases themselves, I will sit on my "high horse of judgement".  I will look down on anyone who puts their own "beliefs" over science and literally puts the lives of their children and others in danger.  Because that is not cool.  And not a difference in opinion I can respect.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Barbecue Meatloaf Recipe

This recipe is a definite favorite in our house.  I got the idea from my mom who used to make meatloaf with barbecue sauce in it, but I have (just like with many other things) tweaked it since.

1.5-2 lbs ground beef or venison
3/4 cup of barbecue sauce (or up to 1 cup if you prefer it to be more barbecue-y)
1 egg
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. While oven is preheating, put all ingredients in a bowl and mush together with your hands (this is the best part!)

3. Line a bread pan with aluminum foil (makes for a MUCH easier cleanup).

4. Put meat concoction into pan.

5. Once oven is preheated, bake for about 30 minutes.  I generally start checking in 5 minute intervals starting at 25 minutes to see when it's done, but 30 is usually my magic number.

This goes very well with mashed potatoes (I even like to mix my meatloaf with the potatoes and top with a bit of ranch. YUM!)  This yields 4-5 servings.