In Which I Continue This Mailbag Thing: Lightning Round-Style

All this week, I've been sharing my replies to reader emails and Facebook messages. Today is the Lightning Round! Seven questions, seven answers. These are questions I've chosen because they are seven of the topics about which I get asked most frequently.

Let's do this.

1. My Images

Question: Hi! My name is Rebecca and I am a Catholic teacher down in Texas. I wanted to let you know that I love the graphics on your blog (and your blog in general). I was wanting to make some prayer and quote posters myself. Do you have any tips on how to make them?

Answer: Thanks! I really enjoy making them.

I make my images for posts, and the quotes and memes I share on the Facebook page on Picmonkey. There is a free version that I used for a while, but you get more options for fonts and overlays if you pay for the Royale membership, so I have. As much as I use it, it seems appropriate to pay for it.
I also sometimes use the Rhonna App, if I'm using the iPad.

I get the images I use from my own photos, from Wikimedia Commons, and from Public Domain Pictures.

I am pretty much making it up as I go along, unless you count trying to copy Lauren's general style.

My personal image-style rules are:

1. Pick an image that goes with the quote, but hopefully in a clever, non-obvious way, like this:

See, get it? 'Cause sea glass? Gets tumbled from dangerous trash into something pretty?
And below, those are fire buckets. For extinguishing.

2. Make the text visible. That's the hardest and most important part. If people can't read it, then what's the point? So I use overlays like this:

Or I adjust the contrast on the photo or use I filters like these:

3. Use different but complimentary fonts. I keep clean edged fonts with clean edged fonts, like above, and messy edged fonts with messy edged fonts, like below:

And mostly, I just fiddle around with it until I think it looks good. Then I hit post and don't second guess myself, because Picmonkey doesn't let you come back and edit it. So when it's done, that's what it is.

2. Travel

Question: When you have traveled to Europe if I may be so nosy to ask - what type of accommodations do you stay in? I have 5 kids and it can be a little hard in the states to find hotels for us, I cannot image in Europe how it would be. Do you get 2 hotel rooms if you are staying in a hotel? Or do they have apartments/houses for rent there as they do in the US?


Answer: We stay in apartments whenever possible. I think apartments are far superior to hotels becuase they give us access to laundry and the ability to cook for ourselves. Rental apartments are pretty widely available, the only thing is there's usually a minimum stay of 3 days or so. TripAdvisor and VRBO are good resources for apartments. When we are going from town to town, like we did on our most recent trip, we stay in bed and breakfasts or hotels. Most European hotels have triple and quad rooms. We do usually end up in two or three rooms (with my parents along too) and end up splitting grownups between rooms, whcih isn't ideal. So, I like B&Bs and apartments better, but hotels work!

3. The BIG Van

Question: I think you mentioned that you had a Nissan NV, is this true or am I mixing you up with someone else? If it is you, do you like it? We are going out this weekend to try out vans since we are out growing our mini-van. I like this one on paper, but Hubby prefers used vans so Chevy and Dodge are high on his list since you can't find very many used Nissans. I thought if I can say "well, Kendra said..." he will at least let me test drive one or he will just stare at me and say "who in the world is Kendra?"


Answer: Yes I do! And we really like it. I think I should do a follow up post now that we've had it for seven months, but my introduction to it is hidden at the bottom of this post.

We ARE happy with it. It is huge, obviously, but still feels like a family car. I don't remember what package we have, but it's leather seats (good in case of barfing, which, yes, has already happened), and the bigger engine (so it drives great, lots of pickup, but NOT fuel efficient). It has family type features like seat heat, a backup camera, a USB port so we can listen to music or books on the iPad, and cup holders that pull out under each row of seats.

The only thing that has been a little odd are the headrests. They are great for comfort and safety, but they go up so high and there are so many of them that you can't see out the back using the rear view mirror. We ended up taking two of them off from the back row, so now we can see out the back. The windows are low enough that the kids can see out, whether or not they are in a car seat. The door is light enough for my six year old to close it, but too heavy for the four year old. There are a total of five car seat latches, two in each of the front rows and one in the very back row. So, it would work even for the five-under-six clubbers.

I should admit that we ended up keeping our minivan as well. The husband crunched the numbers and the cost of insuring it was offset by the savings in gas for only using the big van when we are traveling as a whole family. I really don't mind driving the Nissan, but it's almost impossible to park at Trader Joe's in that thing, and the Peppermint Jojos aren't going to walk here themselves.
My favorite thing about it is how much like a regular (if giant) car it is. The Chevy and Dodge made me feel a little industrial. The NV feels like a family car, even though it's got twelve good-sized seats, plus a small storage area in the back there that fits our folding chairs and the stroller.

And we're loving the usb port. Besides the, it fits all of my children in it thing, the usb port is my favorite part of the car. I can finally play our homeschool audio stuff on the iPad in the car!

4. Sex

Question: Dear Kendra,
My sister turned me on to your blog a few days ago. Two words: Thank you! Thank you for being a sign of God's presence and love in the world, and especially for being an advocate for children and families! You are doing important work. May God bless you abundantly!!!

I feel somewhat silly doing this, but here I am doing it; I saw on your blog that I could write you at this address. The reason I feel somewhat silly is b/c I feel like I already know the answer to the question I'm about to ask you, but that doubting part of me wants affirmation from another Catholic. Question: If I know that I'm pregnant, is it a sin/selfish to continue to have sex/make love with my husband?

Now here I go answering the question: Silly, right?! Of course it's not! It's ok to feel good and enjoy our bodies and praise God through the act and to share love with each other! Right?!!!!!

I'm interested to know your thoughts on this "Is it a sin to have sex even though I know I'm already pregnant" question. Thanks for reading. I think I'll go consult my catechism now. :)

In the Love and Peace of Christ Jesus,


Answer:Thanks Jennifer,

You are absolutely right to think that the Church supports intimacy between spouses even if you are already pregnant. Being open to life doesn't mean that the sole goal of each marital act is pregnancy. The Catholic Church has always taught that sex between spouses is for the begetting of children AND for bonding and for pleasure. Spouses who are already pregnant or who are knowingly infertile can still enjoy the other aspects of marital love, even if a new pregnancy won't result.

God made sex enjoyable and good for spouses. The Catholic Church fully supports that!

From the Catechism:
2362 "The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude." Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure:
The Creator himself . . . established that in the function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation.
So, your gut was right! Congratulations to you on your baby!

5. Birth Control

1. Question: Hi Kendra,
I left the most recent comment on your post addressing the comments on Blythe Fike's YouTube video. Thanks for replying and I would love to hear your thoughts on the church's widespread stance against contraceptives. I really do understand the appeal of a big family raising, NFP practicing lifestyle, but I can also see how that is not the best practice for everyone. I can't help but feel grateful that people who want birth control can access it.

I have to admit, I feel like a total fool trying to talk about this. It's not a subject I discuss with my family or friends, but I'd love to have a more developed opinion on it.

I am a new reader of your blog and I'm so glad to have discovered it. I really admire your bravery in tackling these kinds of issues so openly.

Answer: Laura,

I'm home and wanted to finally respond to your question. I know that the Catholic teaching on contraception can seem crazy. It seemed crazy to me when I heard about it (for the FIRST TIME, even though I was raised Catholic!) as my husband and I were doing our marriage prep.

We listened to a talk called "Contraception, Why Not?" by Janet Smith, and I just became convinced that I needed to take a leap of faith on this one and trust the church. I now point to that one moment as a decisive one in my life. I believe that much of my deep faith and happy home life can be traced to that decision my now husband and I made.

But I think your question is more, why do I think women not in my position as a happily married, educated, financially well off, healthy, happy person should also not contracept? And the answer, is that I think that the story contraception sells to women is a lie.

I bought the story that I should "be comfortable" with my sexuality. I was put on the pill in high school for irregular periods, but really because all the adults in my life seemed to think that being sexually active was a forgone conclusion, but all that mattered was not getting pregnant.

I can tell you that, having lived our culture's view of female sexuality and the Catholic church's view of female sexuality . . . I was devastated by the first and empowered by the second. I think contraception is damaging to women. It's bad for their bodies and it's bad for their relationships and it's bad for their self-esteem. Even if there were no God and no religion, I would be against contraception. I think it hurts everything about us to try to separate our fertility from our sexuality.

I think the Catholic Church sees that. I think she's just about the only organization that does.

I'd be very happy to discuss this or other points with you. Especially if I've missed your point on this question. I really do appreciate how crazy this must seem. I just keep coming back to the fact that the people I know who don't contracept, seem so much happier and more fulfilled than the general population.


6. Etiquette

Question: Hi Kendra,
I love your new mailbag series! Here's a question for you!
My family has been invited to a celebration of a same sex union. Our not attending really isn't the issue. Due to travel expenses, we wouldn't be attending even if it was a traditional marriage in a Catholic church. I guess I'm just not sure how to respond. If it were a traditional marriage, I would send a present. I don't want to do that but feel like it needs to be acknowledged in some way (because to ignore it would be rude.) I'd maybe like to send a card or letter or at least an email that doesn't express any type of "congratulations" but also stays away from any "you're going to Hell" type of message. (Hallmark makes those, right?) There has to be something in between the two. But what would that be? Do I say I'm sorry I can't attend? Should I mention that I pray for them? Trying really hard to hate the sin, love the sinner, and practice good etiquette here! (but mostly love the sinner.) I'd really appreciate any ideas you have!

personalize it here!
Answer: It seems to me that you have just the right perspective on it. There isn't an official teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue, but since it would be so likely to cause confusion and scandal, our family wouldn't attend a same sex wedding either.

We have, however, chosen to attend a wedding that I thought probably wasn't valid, but I couldn't know for sure and wanted to keep a relationship with the people involved. It's always a hard call, but I think that if we are honestly, prayerfully trying to choose rightly, God will forgive us if we chose wrong.

As for how to acknowledge it, yes, also hard. I always feel like I want to err on the side of truth on broad philosophical matters, but err on the side of compassion when dealing with individuals, if that makes any sense. I think I wouldn't send a wedding gift, since there's no question of this being able to be a valid marriage. But I would send a carefully worded very short note. I'd send my sincere wishes for a happy and fulfilled life and (unless I thought it would offend them) tell them they will be in my prayers. I *would* say I'm sorry I can't attend, because it would be true. I'd be so sad that wasn't possible. I just wouldn't mention WHY it wasn't possible.

I hope this helps a little. It's a tough situation!

7. Gift Ideas

Question: Hi! I’m a new reader of your blog – and have loved every bit of it – thank you! We have a 1st communion coming up in the next few weeks and I was just looking on your blog for gift ideas. I didn't have any luck, so I’m wondering if you can share some ideas if you have any. I did find a couple trips to Rome for 1st Communions – is that a tradition for your family? It’s amazing (and scary – you have set the standard for the younger ones)! At first glance I thought maybe it was a special trip for the kid and parents, but you took everyone!

Any advice you have on less grand 1st communion gifts would be appreciated. I don’t know about 1st communions other places and if everyone in the country does them around the same time – so maybe other people would be interested in the info too?

Answer: Thanks! Yes, with the blessing of our pastor, we have done destination First Communions. It's been possible for our first four kids, thanks to the generosity of my parents. If it stops being possible, we'll just stop doing it. No biggie.

As for gift ideas . . . well, I'm partial to the confession book I wrote.

Hopefully anyone receiving his First Communion plans to go to confession regularly!

We also like to give a You Are Special Today Plate to kids for Baptism or First Communion, along with the story of how we use it to help our kids celebrate three times per year.

If you're crafty, you could also make one yourself.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

Linking up my never ever quick Quick Takes with back-from-Edel Jen at Conversion Diary.