Betty Duffy

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dream Big, Do Little

I am a failure at Lent. My husband is one of five fighting Irish brothers (actually, one's a sister, but you might not notice because she's the best athlete in the family). The first Friday of the sacrificial season they came over. They are always welcome, of course, but their visits are rarely an exercise in self-denial. The door to my vice cabinet opened and closed so many times Friday night, it sounded like Christmas here (jingle bells).

It seems the Duffy brothers have made their Lenten sacrifice something hidden, like not peeing in the shower, because they clearly did not give up beer, chocolate, or swearing.

Certainly, I was not required to surrender my own observations, but one doesn't want to be anti-social, nor wear their hair shirt too publicly, and I also made the same mistake I always make of trying to give up too much.

This sounds magnanimous of me: I tried to give up too much. Yes, for my Savior, I can give up coffee, the internet, beer, TV, carbs, and I can also attend daily Mass, do a weekly Holy Hour, and pray all the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary every day. Except that I have a habit of thinking BIG and doing little.

I'm a chronic dreamer, a bionic woman, a busy body in the deepest regions of my brain, but a complete slug when it comes to putting anything into action. But this seems to be a family trait.

For years the Duffys have talked about starting a family business. We almost had a painting business. We've talked about a custom furniture-making venture, and my personal favorite proposal of all of us operating hot-dog stands on the circle downtown. Wherever the money is, the Duffys have "talked about" being there.

Last night, we were all going to patent our secret inventions that are guaranteed to rake in the cash if we could just get them on the market. Everybody has a secret invention. My mother-in-law always wanted to make a coffee mug with a picture of Bobby Knight on it and the words, "You're in hot water now!" That's the way most secret inventions go: dream, dream, dream until it's too late to do anything about it. The moment in history when your invention was most needed has passed.

Well, I too, have had secret inventions that I want to patent and put on the market, and I'd tell you what they are, but you might steal my ideas. And I've also had movie screenplays I want to write. And a novel. And I want to give up a million things for Lent, because it would be wonderful to be completely detached from all my attachments. But as time passes, my big dreams fizzle out. Or, they completely drop off the radar when I reach an obstacle.

With Lent, I make my magnanimous pronouncement on Ash Wednesday, and then my first brush with temptation I might think, "Well, I gave up chocolate, and TV, so what's one little beer going to hurt?" The TV goes the same way, and then I feel like a failure, so I might as well eat chocolate.

I think I would have better success if I set reasonable and achievable goals for Lent. It's great to dream big, but when I look at the big picture (FORTY DAYS!), I feel stunned to inaction. It's sort of the same feeling I get when I think about having a million kids. I tend to forget that mothers of many children got there one baby at a time (with the exception of the Octomom).

Likewise, I'll take Lent one day at a time. Though today I am offering Christ my weakness and failure, tomorrow, I'm back on the wagon (except, by my calendar, tomorrow is Sunday which is technically an "off" day of Lent--if you do that sort of thing).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Seven "Quick Takes"

Here's my take on the "Seven Quick Takes" as hosted at Conversion Diary:


Around this time of year fifteen bean soup always sounds like a good idea.

But it is not a good idea:


I tried to go for a run tonight, as I’ve done a handful of times since I had the baby. The first few times back on the road always make me feel like I’m in a bad dream where a monster is chasing me and I can’t move. I feel utterly geriatric.


I cannot bring myself to use nice or expensive things, which is why it’s not surprising that I recently came face to face with a twenty-year-old bar of soap (shown) that has been traveling around in my underwear drawer as a sashay since I was about 13 years old. It went with my underwear to college, to the convent, to the first apartment my husband and I shared…and now, at long last, it has been discovered (along with one or two pairs of twenty-year-old panties) by my five year old daughter. A great irony: this bar of soap that I treated so preciously for so long, my kids are now using for a hockey puck.


“The tower of Babel: the most advanced union in terms of technical skill turns suddenly into a total incapacity for human communication…" (Pope Benedict XVI)

Sometimes this is how I think of the internet.


I once had a dog and I didn't like her. She was over-protective, aggressive, insecure, barky and rather unwell. We found her at the shelter, and when her personality became fully apparent to me, I started passive aggressively wishing for her death. She gave the impression sometimes that it might come soon as she had hip dysplasia and limped around pathetically.

At the same time, I felt empathy for her, guilt at not loving her well, and a need to care for her, as she was ours, and in need of care by someone. And when her death didn't come as I secretly hoped it might, I realized I was being unfair to her. I needed to let her walk away from our relationship and find the love she needed elsewhere. I took her back to the shelter to let her try the odds at finding another adoptive family. I know the odds were slim, and that this story won't win me much love from pet lovers.

When I put myself in the position of the dog, humanizing the dog, as pet people are wont to do, I have to admit, I gave her the odds that I hope my friends and family would give me. For instance, if I were possessive, barky, aggressive and unwell, and people were secretly hoping for my death, I would much prefer that they send me on my way, rather than having me put down.

This is my way of saying that if I have somehow guilted you into reading my blog, and you're kindly giving me a glance here and there out of some sense of duty, I hereby release you to find a better read.


This is the cabinet where I keep all kinds of decadent things about which I'd rather the children not know: nail polish, dark chocolate, 20 oz of Gin, Amontillado, cigarettes in an airtight canister.

This cabinet should not be opened again for forty days.

Without going into everything I'm "giving up" for Lent, it always happens that after one or two days, what felt like a sacrifice is no longer a sacrifice, and in fact, is probably how I should be living all the time.


I have a folder on my desktop labeled "killbabies." In this folder, I put all the ideas or sentences that I write and secretly love, but have to remove from larger pieces I wrote because they don't work. The name comes from the writing concept that you have to "kill your babies" in the editorial process. I chose a couple killbabies for this post, and you can probably guess which ones they are. I don't really think about the pro-life implications of having a folder called "killbabies."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This is not what I sat down to write

I've fallen into a habit of turning everything I write into some sort of dissertation or essay, and it was fun for awhile, and I'm sure I have a few more up my sleeve, but at the moment, coming off a sick spell with my kids, feeling stir crazy, and mother crazy, annoyed that my husband is out of town again, and that I have no peanut M&Ms with which to celebrate Mardi Gras, I just want to let my fingers do a little walking on this keyboard and let whatever comes out, come out (That was a long sentence).

My little secret that I share with you now, is that I'm the president of the PTO at my kids' school. Tonight was a PTO meeting at which I had to give a minor presentation concerning the launch of our latest fundraiser, and since, as mentioned, my husband was out of town, I had to take all of my kids with me to this meeting.

Most of the time, our lives are very routine, and routine is good. But when my kids get loose in a new environment, with a new audience, with unclear parameters, all hell breaks loose. Having hell break loose, when all of the parents and all the kids in school are watching, is not a good feeling. So I am smoking a cigarette.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


While I’m a skeptic of nuns who offer yoga retreats, I don’t think that yoga is incompatible with Christianity (though if this is a conversation anyone wants to have, I'm interested in your comments). So inspired by a college girlfriend who is now an accomplished yogi, I decided to break out my old Brian Kest Power Yoga DVD. It really does work wonders for my back after I’ve had a baby, but having spent the last hour trying to maintain equanimity with my five kids lurking in inconveniently close proximity to me, I’m inclined to think that yoga might be incompatible with motherhood.

Perhaps it was naïve of me to assume that onscreen threats to my children’s chastity were only to be found in public places. I had just stretched into my first down dog when the boys walked into the living room, took one look at the TV and said “EEEEEEW! NAKED PEOPLE!!!!” which was not at all an accurate description of the people on the screen. To be precise, the yogis in Brian Kest’s studio wore a menagerie of monochromatic lycra unisuits. But I can remember a time when I thought bodysuits were synonymous with nudity. I think I had the same reaction the first time I saw Lilias Yoga on PBS.

When the TV is on at our house, it doesn’t matter what program is airing, the kids are like moths to a flame. After the boys recovered from the shock (or maybe because of) seeing so many accentuated body parts, they felt content to sit on the couch and watch as though it were a feature length film. My two-year-old and my four-year-old, however, wanted to interact with me while I exercised, and I get annoyed when people persistently request my attention when I am obviously engaged elsewhere.

My default approach to discipline in times of stress tends to be ignore… ignore… ignore… KILL! So after saying in a very equanimous voice, “Please don’t climb on me” (up dog), “Yes, I see you under there” (down dog), “Careful or I’ll fall on you” (whatever that is where you stand on one leg and hold your other out to the side by the big toe), I finally yelled “Go play tractor!” to my two year old. And surprisingly, he went.

My daughter was trickier to manage. She tried to do the exercises with me until she realized they were challenging. Then she decided she would like to play the role of yoga instructor, which meant imitating Brian Kest as he moves around amongst his students, pushing them into deeper poses, stroking their backs, giving all kinds of smarmy hands-on encouragement (see video).


If this makes you uncomfortable to watch, it might give you peace of mind to replace Brian’s character with an angelic little girl, doting on her mother… or it might not. I would have discouraged it, but she felt so important when I told her that during the corpse pose (lying on the floor like a dead person), what she really needed to do was massage my temples and play with my hair: a win-win situation.

Nothing makes me feel healthier than doing some spine-tingling exercise, then cracking open a can of V8.

And if Jazzercise is your thing, Megan provided this excellent link: Click here

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Am Asleep and Awake at the Same Time

I love driving fast on country roads. I like the bobble-headed feeling as my car takes the dips in the road, the drop in my stomach as I coast over the peaks wondering if a car will be on the blind side of the hill. It’s hypnotic. So I was cruising in autopilot along the country roads to a friend’s house when a squirrel ran in front of me, and I awoke to find myself having driven halfway to my parents’ house instead of to my friend’s. I was ticked. If you think driving on autopilot is dangerous, you should have seen me once I turned around, driving like a bat out of hell back towards my missed turn, to make up for the 20 miles I’d driven out of my way (ten out, ten back), and the thirty minutes I’d lost.

In a leap of metaphor, I find myself in a cultural current of late, in which I steadily and absently forge through life on a media-induced soma holiday. Sitting in the doctor’s office I bounce back and forth between the TV screen and the latest People Magazine. Online, I drift through the blogosphere avoiding any reliable news sources. A Valentine’s Dinner date, found my husband and I inadvertently allowing our attention to drift to the E! Hollywood true story taking place on the flat-screen. I have to wonder what the cost of all this complacency will be when we wake up and realize we are off course. Does 787 billion dollars sound about right?

I heard a rumor that the US conscientiously exports media to Iraq to win the natives over to Democracy. When people are hooked on Western TV shows, technologies, and fashions they are friendlier to the political influence that introduced them to such pleasures. I find that idea just a tiny bit disturbing.

For some reason, perhaps because I subscribe to Harper’s magazine (for the fiction, I tell you), I find myself on the mailing list for the ACLU. It’s interesting to receive their mailings with their presumptuous sermons on how outraged I should be about the state of life in America. I am outraged, come to think of it, not only because they are impinging on my role as the designated deliverer of presumptuous sermons, but also because the ACLU is putting its efforts in the wrong places.

They sent out a survey recently in which I was meant to rank in importance certain items on the ACLU litigation agenda. On issues of religious freedom, they wanted to know how important I considered freedom from religion in the public schools (important, somewhat important, or very important). If they had allowed space for comments, I would have told them, that what I would like freedom from is this mind numbing popular media that intrudes on my life everywhere I go. Talk about an “opium of the people.”

At the gym where I work out, there’s a row of TV screens on the front wall that all the machines face. One day, as I absentmindedly (as per the usual) spun on the elliptical machine, I glanced up from my reading material to see three half naked people in a hot tub engaged in an intense make-out session. I looked around at the retirees who work out in the morning alongside me and the other stay-at-home-moms, thinking surely someone would pipe up at the disturbing visual, but everyone else plugged along as though there were nothing particularly scandalous or surprising about a communal viewing of soft porn in a public place at 10 a.m.

I jumped off the machine to complain to the manager, and he said, “Well, you can ask the people around you if they don’t mind if you change the channel.”

“If THEY don’t mind?” I asked, incredulous. “Shouldn’t they ask me if I DO mind watching pornography?” Imagine the possible responses: “Well my wife doesn’t let me watch it at home—so I’d rather you not.”

Has the media not become some sort of secular religion? And if so, I demand to have my thoughts released from its influence in public places so I can think freely and independently, and occasionally in silence. DO YOU HEAR ME, ACLU???

To drive the point home, I leave you with a little quote from my favorite Pope:

“The human person is a being which does not become itself automatically. Nor does it do so simply by letting itself be carried along and surrendering to the natural gravitational pull of a kind of vegetative life. It becomes itself always and only by struggling against the tendency simply to vegetate and by dint of discipline that is able to rise above the pressures of routine and to liberate the self from the compulsions of utilitarian goals and instincts.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

There is our German Shepherd urging us not to be sheep.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Catholic "Birth Control" (or lack thereof) pt.2

When I go out with the kids, I am always a curiosity. Anyone with more than two kids knows what I’m talking about: “Well you’ve got your hands full. So are you done?” I always want to say something that might soothe the troubled onlooker whenever the thought of me and my kids occurs to them again, like, “Most likely.” I could say, “God’s in control” but it feels so pious and ignores the relevant truism, “My husband and I 'do it' so the odds are in favor of conception.” It just follows logically—at least it would have less than 100 years ago. Birth control has made me the victim of imposing questions from the sterilized. But I suppose everyone has to answer for their choices in life. And I am a dinosaur, as one of my former co-workers termed it.

But I don’t consider myself “out of touch.” I prefer to think that the rest of the world has lost touch with a very simple fact of nature. Here it is: SEX MAKES BABIES. And for the most part, sex only makes one, two or three babies at a pop.

The New York Times featured an article in which the large family was presented as another lifestyle choice, and an unusual one at that. I knew from experience that America is not friendly to families having more than a couple kids but I was not prepared for the vitriolic responses in the comments section—many suggesting that having more than a couple kids is narcissistic and selfish.

When a woman with six kids has eight new embryos implanted in her uterus, apparently just because she can, it does indeed look a little like narcissism. But that does not mean that narcissism is the impetus for all procreation. In fact, whirlwind descent into mothering fourteen new individuals is a surefire way to be cured of narcissism.

But apparently, we birth control shunning Catholics have a subversive desire to see our genes replicated. Since children are the current favored accessory of the rich and famous, we are selfish for desiring to have more than one or two (just admit, you look down on anyone who would dare to purchase more than one Birkin Bag). We see motherhood fetishized in the person of Angelina Jolie, the mother superior of child-bearing women across the country. Now motherhood and babies are about being sexy rather than the logical outcome of a sexual relationship, so we who would reproduce, must be narcissistic (and this is not so much a criticism of Jolie as it is a criticism of how culture views her: the yummy mummy).

I know I’m not the first to say that this is the brave new world where reproduction is concerned. But let’s review: sex makes babies, unless acted upon by an outside force. Sex makes only one, two, or three babies at a time, unless acted upon by an outside force. What exactly is so abhorrent about choosing NOT to let outside forces determine who comes in or out of my womb? (Seems like this idea was a feminist mantra once upon a time.)

The problem is that our culture cannot decide how it feels about new life. On one hand, people want children on demand, with in vitro and fertility treatments. On the other hand, people want abortion on demand, anytime, anywhere, no restrictions.

There are those who feel that recklessly procreating families are a threat to the environment—that our back country kids and their offspring are going to steal valuable resources from the New York elite, undermining all of their green efforts to curb global warming. (Someone’s brilliant response to the Green Party leader’s suggestion that we use birth control and abortion to save the environment: “If you must take a life to save the world, please take your own.”)

Culture either wants children desperately, or it does not want them at all. There is no longer any room to allow children to happen, to receive them graciously, and to care for them because it’s the right thing to do. Man is now the author of life, and as in every great monster story, the creator feels threatened by his creature when it dares to assert its independence.

Monday, February 9, 2009

As the Snow Goes, So Goes my Brain

And since the snow is melting, I find I need to take a break from deep, cold and heavy thoughts. So to lighten the mood a little bit, some bodily humor:

My son came home from school today and said he knew what the S word, the B word and the F word were. This was no surprise. For the past seven years, those dirty words they were not allowed to say were "stupid," "butt," and "fart."

Well, he's graduated to the big guns, and it's all because of his bad-influence-friend, Garret G.

Last Wednesday, at the school Mass, Garret G. came running up to us from the back of the Sanctuary during the sign of peace, gave my son a high five, and said, "Duffy!" (he pronounced it DUFF-ay). I knew this was coming. My husband had a plethora of nicknames in high school, all perverse derivatives of the name Duffy, like Muffy. But it's funny to hear my seven-year-old called by his last name in such a chummy way because he's a squirt. He's skinny, kind of serious, and sort of a follower, God bless him (breaks my heart to see him "following" his schoolfriends, because he is by no means a follower at home).

Garret G. went down the pew slapping the hands of each of my kids, as though he were doing the congratulatory handslap after a little league game. When he arrived at my two year old he said, "Hey, Duffy, remember when your little brother slobbered on me in 2006?"

"Yeah. Oh, yeah. He did!" said my son like a little snouzer hopping alongside his bulldog friend. And it's true, my two-year-old slobbered on Garret G. in 2006 when I brought him into my oldest son's kindergarten classroom for story hour. That's Garret G. for you.

So when my son came home and said, "What does the word "fitch" mean?"

I said, "Uh, fitch? Hmm...I have no idea."

"Well, maybe it wasn't fitch," he said. "It's an f word."

"Who told you this?"

"Garret. Maybe it's the b-word."

Explaining the referred to B-word was certainly preferable to the hinted at F-word. "Bitch, is a name for a female dog. But you really shouldn't use that word," I said. "There's no conversation you could have, at this point, in which you would need to use that word."

"But there's another word. An F-word. F-U..."

"OK. It's a very bad word. Do not say that word. Ever."

"What happens when kids say that word?"

"They get their mouths washed out with soap. And I can't guarantee that the police won't come pick you up and take you to jail. Your friends' mothers won't let you play with them. Just don't use that word."

"But what's it mean?"

"'s a bad word for how babies are made." Obviously this was not the right response, but I was caught in a split second decision whether or not to keep my child in the dark, or let him have understanding so he could use good judgement in the words he chooses.

"You mean God?"



The dust was coming from Ash Wednesday services, "You are dust and unto dust you shall return." But I don't want him thinking that babies are made out of dust at this age, nor that the F-word is another name for God. What a bind. I hate this question. I absolutely hate it. I know that I knew what sex was when I was his age, but he's my oldest, and it just feels like it would be all downhill from here.

I almost had to have a "Where do Babies Come From?" talk with the boys last summer. They were in the back seat of the van kicking each other in the privates and laughing. I said, "Don't do that if you ever want to be a Daddy someday." Another dumb thing to say, and yet something they need to know.

"Why? Why not kick balls if you want to be a Daddy?" And they got the term "balls" from Garret G. too, but I never corrected them because I didn't want to say, "Actually, it's called a scrotum."

"Because Daddies keep something special in there that helps them to make a baby."

"How do Daddies make a baby? Do they poop something out or do they grow it in their buttocks?"--Yes, the emphasis was on the second syllable, and I once again blame Garret G.

"No, Daddies don't grow babies, only Mommies do. But Daddies help."

"This is confusing. How can something in Daddy's balls help a Mom make a baby?"

"Well, you know how a chicken lays an egg, and the rooster has to fertilize it?" They know this from hanging out at my Mom and Dad's farm. "Well, Mommies have tiny eggs and Daddies have to fertilize them."

"So they both poop at the same time..."

"This has nothing to do with poop. Just don't kick each other in the balls!"

And that's where it ended. They weren't ready to understand. And wouldn't you know, I'm still not ready for them to understand.

"God makes babies, but mommies and daddies have to help. They have to do something for God to decide to give them a baby, and the F-word is a bad name for the good thing mommies and daddies do."

"But what do they do?"

Darn it, Garret G.

"They love each other. A lot."

And there I left it. The F-word is a bad word for love. How sad.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

People Searching for Info on Regnum Christi and Fr. Maciel:

As this is a personal blog, and not a blog dedicated to Regnum Christi and The Legion of Christ, I'd like to direct you to some other resources. I posted here briefly about my experiences as a member of the laity trying to make sense of the recent news about Fr. Maciel's unpriestly behavior. There are also some older posts that I wrote when I lived in the House of Formation for Consecrated Women in Greenville, RI. See label "Regnum Christi" at right.

For the record, I was a co-worker at the House of Formation, named Mater Ecclesiae, so I did not take any vows or make any promises, but I was a very close observer of how these women live. I did live in community with them, as they lived, side by side with them, and I consider that year a very special time of my life. I'm happy to answer questions in the comments section, but for sites devoted to Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ, please see below.

Official Regnum Christi website:

A blog for current members of RC to discuss their experiences and concerns:

A directory of former members of the Legion of Christ:

For people who feel that RC is a cult and want to talk to other people who feel that way (I personally don't feel that way).

And I'm sure you can find much more salacious reading material on the google search that brought you here. As much of the material posted on the internet is meant to hold your interest rather than to present objective information, I hope that my readers who are following their curiosity on this issue will take everything they read with a grain of salt. The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, like any religious order, cannot be summed up in a couple of blog posts.

I, for one, am ready to think about something else for awhile.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Regnum Christi, where to from here?

Over the past couple of days I've run through an emotional gamut as I consider the life of Father Marcial Maciel. Again, I'm not terribly impressed that a man who was purported by many to be a saint was actually a scoundrel who, as members of the Legion put it, "died in disgrace." Suffice to say God only knows where he is now or if he ever repented.

But I am trying to understand duplicity and the darkness of man's heart. My sister-in-law made an excellent point:

"I think it might be easier to contemplate the reality that duplicity reigns in the hearts of most men. Difficulty is exposing it to light, then you face the true contemplating question "Do I change or not? If not, what are the consequences?"

This is not the first time I have encountered the duplicity of man. I know what happens when people opt to keep their secret pleasures. Ultimately, there is a fallout and other people must dislodge all the shrapnel. I have never known sin of a serious nature that does not eventually become public. Grave sin almost always has victims; primary victims like a betrayed spouse, or children of divorce, and secondary victims, like extended family who are left to fill in gaps and redefine what's left of the family.

Well, here I am, trying to redefine my place in this family. And I am annoyed that I have been put in this position. I need to be able to say that I am annoyed. Father Maciel failed in a collosal way at carrying the cross of his humanity. He failed in a way that most priests would never allow themselves to fail. And because of his fall the entire priesthood and all the members of Regnum Christi and the Legion, are picking up the Cross for him, not necessarily with joy in our hearts.

I know some people who are taking this opportunity to bail on RC, and I don't blame them. It's a lot to ask of people to associate themselves with a Movement that was founded by such a remarkably fallen personage. It's humiliating. I write here under a pseudonym (though many of my readers know me), but in real life, I will always feel the burden of that humiliation in admitting my membership in this Movement. It's like wearing the scarlet letter that stands not only for sin, but for gullibility as well.

And yet, I still do not doubt the presence of God in this situation and in the hearts of the members of the Movement. God apparently insists on using broken instruments to do his work on earth. Can we recall that many medieval popes were also great sinners who still managed to protect the doctrines of the Church in matters of faith and morals? My generation has been lucky that we have only known good and holy Popes--a fortunate fact, since current culture has shown itself to be tolerant of almost anything but hypocrisy.

I know it's a leap here, but it would be a huge consolation for me if we, the members of Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ, heard a little something from the Vatican about how to proceed. I'm not about to stop living the prayer life I've discovered as a member of RC, but in terms of how to relate to the rest of the Church and society, I need something a little more substantial to go on than the testimony of Yours Truly.

American Papist: Not Your Average Catholic!: Maciel Meltdown: Day 3

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Catholic "Birth Control"

WARNING: Net Nanny probably won't let you read this one. And Mom, you probably shouldn't read it either.

Last night my sister told me that someone who knew me pretty well (like her) could figure out my menstrual cycle based on my blog posts. I was like, “Ha ha! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve HAD a menstrual cycle?” And I had no intention of starting one now. Because we all know that women who are exclusively breastfeeding, taking a nap every day, co-sleeping and baby-wearing are 99% less likely to have a menstrual cycle in the first 6 months post-partum.

I’ve known for awhile that I’m a part of that one percent who does NOT enjoy prolonged infertile periods after giving birth (A nap every day? Who has the time?), but I am indeed surprised this time around. At exactly two months PP I am officially ovulating. There are some people around here who would point to the pacifier I’ve been using in the car (for the first time with any of the kids), and say, “See. I told you that would happen.” But this is fine with me, really, because I prefer to know these things, than to spend the hazy months after a baby wondering, “Am I fertile? I don’t know. I can’t tell. Is it stretchy or just present?”

Enter Natural Family Planning.

Having five children, people are unlikely to ask me for NFP advice. But, I say, it works. It really does—as long as you—get this—DON’T HAVE SEX when you're fertile. Five times my husband and I have played Russian Roulette with the NFP, and five times we have taken the bullet (the bullet being these sweet little darling blessings who currently surround me). It would be un-Catholic of me to say that I’m not having any more kids, but I do not see myself opening my mind, heart, or legs, to take another bullet anytime soon.

The utterly ridiculous thing is that my husband is ovulating too. It happens. He sniffs me out, and the drive to procreate becomes just as fierce in him as it does in me.

The bedroom dialogue when I’m ovulating:

Husband: “Come here. Let me just rub your back. We won’t do anything. I promise.”

I hide in the bathroom, picking my zits or something. “Just a minute.” I peak through the crack in the bathroom door to see if he’s fallen asleep yet. Much as I want that backrub, I know where they lead. They’re dangerous. Dangerous.

Contrast with bedroom dialogue when I’m not ovulating:

Husband: “Wanna do it?”

Me: “Is that foreplay?”

Husband: “Yeah, but if it helps, I’ll let you see me naked too.”

Ooooh….That’ll do it.

Well, I’m not falling for it this time. I’m not going in for that backrub. I am going to invest my creative energies in something other than procreation. The NFP experts say that spouses should not avoid one another during fertile periods—that they should not abstain from signs of affection while they are abstaining from sex. I find that advice a little naïve.

If I have to go seven days without showering or brushing my teeth, I’ll do it. I’ll wear the hijab. I’ll hide in the closet when my husband comes fee, fie, foe, fumm-ing home from work. I’m serious this time.