Friday, March 16, 2018

CP/QF Crazy: Civil War Conspiracy Theory Writ Large

Oh, boy.  It's pretty rare that a portion of a CP/QF screed causes me to stop dead in my tracks, but this one did it:

During the War for Southern Independence 140 years ago, many black Confederates fought for the freedom to be stewards of their own land and that of their masters, refusing to be subjected to the tyranny of a coercive, centralized Unitarian State in the name of emancipation. In the same way, let us, as married women, contend for our God-given right to be full-time housewives to our husbands and servants to other members of the Body of Christ, forsaking the world's current administration of centralized government, socialism, and statism.

This is part of Antonia Cunningham's 2003 work "Against the Proletarianization of Women" which I accessed at Blessed Homemaking and was originally posted at Ladies Against Feminism.  The entire essay is reminiscent of any revisionist history spouted by Geoffrey Botkin or his daughters beginning with the assertion that the US was founded as a Calvinistic utopia that was overrun by Unitarians and spiralling into pride-protecting fantasies about the causes of the Civil War. 

I'm not descended from Northern abolitionists.  My ancestors who were in the US during the Civil War period were all located in the Upper South mostly in Appalachia.  In so far as we can tell, my ancestors never owned slaves - but I also assume that the lack of slaves was due more to their poverty than it was due to an understanding of the evils of slavery. 

The first sentence in the quote is baffling in its oversimplification.

 There is a world of difference between the choices available to a free black person living in the South compared to an enslaved person living in the South.  Enslaved African-Americans made up 93.8% of the population of African-Americans in the South at the beginning of the Civil War  By definition, an enslaved person is a person who does not have the freedom to choose whether or not to obey their master - and pretending otherwise is disingenuous at best and absolutely sick at worst. 

In terms of options available to black men in the South during the Civil War, being an armed combatant for the Confederacy was not available until three weeks before the end of the War.  The Confederacy paid some pensions to African-American men who had documented service as laborers during the Civil War; no pensions were ever paid for African-American men who served as soldiers in the Confederacy.  If the main cause of the Civil War was about "states' rights"  or "freedom from centralized government", why didn't the Confederacy allow units of free black men?  Why not offer freedom to slaves in return for fighting against the North? 

The answer is pretty clear: the Civil War was about slavery, not about states' rights.   The US Constitution gives states all rights that are not expressly reserved for the Federal government.  Let's see which of the rights reserved to the Federal government the South wanted to revert to state-level prior to the Civil War:

  • Did the South want states to coin money?  No.
  • Did the South want states to regulate foreign commerce including import duties and taxes? No.
  • Did the South want states to regulate interstate commerce? No.
  • Did the South want states to establish post offices? No.
  • Did the South want states to punish crimes on the high seas? No..
  • Did the South want states to fix standard weights and measures? No.
  • Did the South want states to raise and maintain armed forces including militias against insurrections? No.
  • Did the South want states to enter treaties with foreign states and declare war and peace? No.
The largest argument against the "states' rights" theory is that the states that succeeded from the Union didn't operate as 11 independent state-nations; no, the Confederate States' Constitution states that the purpose is to form a permanent federal government.  The Confederate States did pick up a few rights that were reserved to the federal government - but I've never seen a states' right essay that mentioned the importance of impeaching federal judges who live in a state,  taxing ships that enter ports, issuing bills of credit, and creating inter-state treaties involving shared waterways.    Of course, that same document made sure that slavery was legal throughout the Confederate States.

Really, it's not that complicated.  The Civil War was about the future of slavery in the US - not about states' rights.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter 14

Every author has styles of writing where they excel and styles in which they falter.  Stacy McDonald has a notable strength in writing realistic fiction set in a semi-idealized CP/QF home schooling universe.  She struggles mightily when she attempts rhetorical or persuasive essays.  Unfortunately, "Homemade Homemakers" in "Maidens of Virtue" is a stilted, under-researched essay that aims to explain to young women why the only acceptable end goal for young women is to become a stay-at-home daughter to learn the intricacies of homemaking and child rearing. 

The chapter starts with McDonald's standard theme: Be like me or you offend GOD
If you have been raised to love God and respect His plan for families, then you almost certainly dream of someday marrying a godly husband who loves and protects you. You also probably hope for plenty of babies to rock and cuddle. If you have been raised by parents with a healthy vision for future generations, you may plan to homeschool and faithfully train your own children in the ways of God night and day ( Deuteronomy 6: 7- 9) (pg. 126)

Apparently God's expectation for all women is to marry, bear scads of children and home school all those kids. 

If that is the case, why are the Bible verses used to support these expectations pulled from a few books of the Bible and never from the Gospels or Acts of the Apostles? 

If that is the case, why are the few verses mangled beyond recognition?  Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 is when the Israelites are given the Great Commandment or Shema "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your might."  Verses 6-9 are commentary on what following that commandment would look like.    I suppose that a shaky interpretation of verse 6 could imply that "Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and away, when you lie down and when you rise" could be used to support home schooling Biblically - but that also would require the wearing of phylacteries and affixing the Shema to the home which isn't done by most conservative Christian homeschoolers.

Random change of topic: how come every discussion of raising children in books for unmarried women focuses on rocking and cuddling an infant?  I enjoy a good cuddle with my son - but rocking and cuddling are only one of a million infant related chores.  She'll be spending far more time feeding, changing diapers, and cleaning up the messes created by the infant than she will rocking them.  Plus, horror of horrors, some babies are not fond of being rocked.  As much as I like rocking a baby, my son uses the motion to keep himself awake by focusing on how the objects around him look different. 

Yet not everyone will be called to marriage. We all know godly Christians who never married. So what if you are going to be single your whole life? Shouldn't you prepare for that day? Shouldn't you go to college in case you ever have to work? Shouldn't you get a part-time job somewhere to become independent and gain some experience in the workforce? Before we go further, let us consider whether singleness or marriage is normative in Scripture. (pg. 126)

Stacy McDonald never circles back to answer the important questions she poses in this paragraph so I'll answer them instead. 


Yes, women should prepare for adult life by being educated enough that they can be productive members of the workforce.  Pursuing a vocation is not about rejecting parental authority or refusing to seek out a qualified marriage partner.  Vocations are about finding the type of work that a person can do well and get enough income to benefit a family.  In a broader way, working helps achieve the Biblical mandates to do good and help others.  Some careers specifically revolve around helping people like medicine, education, social work and human resources.  Other careers do not support people directly but earn wages that can be given to help others. 

Mrs. McDonald launches down a rabbit hole by wasting pages of writing to demonstrate that marriage was the normative state during Biblical times.  Unfortunately, she does this by pulling verses about marriage and married couples before waving her hands and saying "See!  Marriage is normative!"  A more nuanced look at the Bible makes it clear that plenty of women were in a states of singleness known as widowhood or slavery.   Yes, some widows remarried and some women who were enslaved either became wives of their master or were freed and married another free person - but that's not the same thing as saying that marriage was normative.  Also, the Bible is pretty clear that polygyny was normative at points as well...but let's not blow Mrs. McDonald's mind.

Truthfully, marriage is still normative in the US.  The vast majority of adults will marry before age 40 and a sizable portion of the remaining singles will marry later in life.  Likewise, periods of singleness are also normative.  The main difference between "Biblical" times and now is that the period of singleness before marriage is longer and that divorce is a more frequent cause of singleness in all age groups except the elderly.  Plus, slavery is illegal and polygyny cannot be entered without a willing partner. 

Those good ol' days weren't so good.

Where do good wives come from? They don't just happen - -good wives are either trained to be successful wives and mothers... or they are not. If you are Christian maiden and plan to be a wife and mother, shouldn't you be working alongside your mother, focusing together on your goal of becoming this rare and precious jewel?


We might expect Scripture to instruct younger women to find a trade or means of making an independent living. Wouldn't this appear to be wise advice? Isn't that what most people say young lady should do - - prepared to be breadwinners, just in case?

Paul had different instructions for young maidens:

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (1 Timothy 5:14) (pg. 127)

Where should I start this time?

I don't buy Mrs. McDonald's assertion that the only way a person can have a happy marriage is if their mothers trained the wife to be the perfect future wife.   Bluntly, Mrs. McDonald's far too old to still believe that pap.  Some happy couples come from dysfunctional families of origin; some miserable couples had functional families when they were growing up.  The outcome of happiness in a marriage has far more to do with how much work both members of the couple are willing to do than with how they were raised.

The bit about how being a wife and mother is "a rare and precious jewel" cracks me up.  In terms of rarity, being a lifelong single person without children is rare so I assume that makes the lifestyle precious as well.

Looking back at Biblical times to make connections involving working is as fraught with peril as making assumptions about marriage.  Every job, every task discussed in Scripture has changed beyond recognition for people who lived in Biblical times.  Keeping a home in Biblical times was far, far more difficult than it is today.  Women needed to bring water from a water source to their homes.  Livestock needed to have water drawn from wells which was an exhausting task.  All foods came in a raw, unprocessed form.  Grains needed to be ground into to flour, leavened, shaped and baked.  Baking required tending a wood fire in a clay-brick oven. Milk needed to be made into cheeses.   In addition to the never-ending process of feeding a family, textile work consumed any remaining time.  Linen plants needed to be retted and combed to remove the woody parts of the plant to ready the fibers for spinning.  Wool fleeces had to be cleaned and either combed or carded to prepare for spinning.  Women were spinning thread all the time.  Finished yarn needed dyeing before being woven into cloth.

Even the most ardent homesteader today has advantages that Biblical women couldn't imagine in the form of water pumps, hoses, glass canning jars and commercially available clothing.

The reason Paul doesn't recommend that young women learn a trade is that he assumed they were already learning the trades of food preparation/storage and textile work along with any skills that a girl could learn to help out her father in his trade.   Women stuck to food preparation and textile work not because women were unable to learn a trade but because food preparation and textile work can be done around the additional work that lactation, infant care and young child care brings. 

I thought the McDonald Family were KJV Bible enthusiasts.  1 Timothy 5:14 doesn't talk about "younger women".  The group referred to is "young widows".  Most of the fifth chapter is about how best to manage the needs of widows in the church community.  Having young widows remarry if possible made the most financial sense because it reduced the number of people being supported by the church while increasing the number of households that could pay support for the needy.

The last quote brings up the favored strawman of CP/QF women - the dissatisfied college graduate:

I often hear from women who are never taught homemaking skills when they were young. Many genuinely struggle with organizing and cleaning their homes consistently, mastering basic cooking skills, and being content at home with children all day. What is even more interesting is that most of these frustrated women are college graduates.

Some are accomplished career women, yet many gave birth to their first child without having ever changed a diaper. In fact, many hospitals now have mandatory diaper changing classes which parents must attend before they are allowed to take their newborn infants home. Before marriage, most of these women knew how to drive a car, balance a checkbook, change a tire, and even run a cash register; yet they were unprepared for keeping a home, helping a husband, and nurturing children. (pg. 128)

I firmly believe that women who have graduated from college could use the same skills that got them through college to learn how to clean and organize a home and learn basic cooking.  Even before the advent of the internet, there are plenty of books on how to clean and organize a home at the local library; ditto for cooking.   I wonder if the difference that Mrs. McDonald is actually picking up is that women who have graduated college and are stay-at-home-mothers might not care as much about having a spotless house as they do letting their kids have creative play time.   I also question that a college degree causes women to find being at home with children all day more exasperating than not having a college degree.  I suspect that the main difference is how honest the different groups of women are being.

I did know how to change a diaper before my son was born, thank you - but let's not pretend that changing a diaper is a deep and complicated task.  It's three steps: remove diaper, clean baby's butt, put new diaper on.    I think that the mandatory diaper changing class is a bit of hyperbole; before we brought my son home, the nurses needed to sign off that we knew how to feed, burp, diaper, and bathe him along with knowing about safe sleep practices and the importance of using a car seat.  Because my husband and I were reasonably comfortable with infants before Jack, the nurses just watched us care for him and checked off that we knew what to do.  I'm sure that nurses do need to show some parents how to care for an infant - but baby care is simply not that complicated.

I think Mrs. McDonald should poll some young men about which wife they would prefer.  Would they prefer to be married to a woman who can drive a car, balance a checkbook, change a tire and run a cash register  but can't change a baby's diaper  OR would they prefer a woman who can change a diaper, but doesn't drive, can't balance a checkbook, can't change a tire or run a cash register?

I know which group I suspect would be more popular among men - and it's not the diaper changers who are confounded by a checkbook and a tire iron.....

Monday, March 12, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter Seven - Part Four

We are in the home stretch for the "Really Long List of Normal Activities that Steve Maxwell Thinks Lead to Evil"!  So far, we've covered movies, television, professional sports, and recreational sports.  In this last section we learn the horrors of hunting, recreational vehicles, food, and gambling.

After that, Steven deigns to share with us the kinds of fun that are allowed.  In my opinion, that's when the horrors truly begin!

Steven struggles mightily to come up with coherent reasons why hunting and fishing are bad for people to do.  My hunch is that Steven Maxwell has picked up a generalized disdain for hunting and fishing because they are activities that can be connected to rural areas and lower income brackets - but that's not a reason that sounds particularly moral.  Instead, he punts:
What could be wrong with hunting, fishing, and other similar activities? There are definitely no beer commercials to see while you are out enjoying God's beautiful creation.

Kevin spent all of his extra money and free time hunting, fishing, or working with his gear. It was his passion. His wife didn't go with him because she had her own interests. Kevin is a good example of an appetite turned passion. Could that happen to anyone? Yes, but only God knows who. There is nothing inherently wrong with these type of outdoor sports -- unless they take a dad away from this family. (pg. 97)

Oddly enough, he gets close to my only concern about hunting or fishing but glances off it.  People who are hunting or fishing from a boat need to be careful about the amount of alcohol they imbibe while engaging in potentially lethal activities.  Honestly, I don't mind gatherings where a group of guys get together every year for a drinking weekend that's labeled "Opening of Deer Season", but no one in the group has ever killed a deer because the guns stay in the car. 

For people who genuinely like hunting, there are a lot of personal and communal benefits.  Michigan is overrun with white-tailed deer.   Deer thrive in border habitats that humans create so we now have more deer in the state than existed prior to European settlement.  They love eating young fruit trees and snacking on people's gardens.  The deer discovered the students' sustainable agriculture plots last year; in a hilarious turn-about, the deer refused to eat the lettuce in the plots.  Instead, the deer stood on the lettuce and munched on the other veggies.   More seriously, car accidents involving deer can be lethal if the deer goes through the windshield of the car or the driver swerves and loses control of the car.  In fact, the state government puts up signs every year that remind us "Fall is here/ Don't swerve for deer."  I'd much prefer Bambi to be providing meat to a local family through the winter than diving in front of my car.

I don't subscribe to the belief that married couples have to do everything together.  My parents have been married 40 years through some really hard times - but I doubt their marriage would have survived if Mom had felt obligated to go train-watching with Dad and Dad felt obligated to quilt with Mom.  Likewise, my husband is fond of superhero movies - and I encourage him to go without me just as he's not into swimming or water aerobics.

Next up: Steven Maxwell reminds us that recreational vehicles are about as addictive as crack!

Dollars, dollars, and more dollars. If boats can be viewed as a hole in the water that you pour money into, then an airplane is like trying to wallpaper the sky with dollar bills. The older man gets, the more expensive his toys.

If an appetite for recreational or sports vehicles is cultivated, a man will never earn enough money. His joy will always be limited by the size of his income and his relationship with the bank's loan officer. What is the cure? Treat motorcycles, jet skis, ski boats, sailboats, airplanes, and campers is though you were handling nitroglycerin. (pg. 98)

Yeah, the road to hell is paved by a $7,000 dollar 5th wheel camper that sleeps 7.  *rolls eyes*  

I don't know which annoys me more - the hypocrisy or the willful ignorance. 

Let's start with the stupidity.  In Michigan, plenty of people have a boat that they use as part of a full-time or part-time charter fishing business.  It's not my cup of tea - but I went to school with several families who had a father who ran charter fishing trips.  As small businesses go, it's not a bad gig if you can captain a boat and are good with people.  For CP/QF families, the father would be home every night and possibly off during late fall through spring.    Most of Michigan has enough road access that we don't need bush pilots - but depending on where a family lives a small plane could act as the basis for a small business.  Now, I don't think the Maxwells have ever lived in snow country before - but Maxwell completely overlooked snowmobiles.  Acting as a guide in some of the more remote areas of Michigan for snowmobiler trips makes decent money, too - and often overlaps with a business as a hunting guide during the fall months. 

Now - hypocrisy.  Meet Uriah - the Maxwell family tour bus converted into a terrifying pseudo-bunkhouse drivable camper complete with a refrigerator bungee-corded shut.  Uriah includes most of the furniture in a normal home arranged in ways that will collapse onto the occupants of Uriah in case of an accident.  I don't know which is my favorite death-trap feature of Uriah. Is it the two couches and four recliners that offer no restraint or protection for occupants?  Is it the four framed bunk beds that will behave like flying shrapnel in a rear-end accident?  No, my favorite is the full-sized refrigerator with a microwave stacked on top will become a few hundred pounds of flying metal that will kill or maim anyone sitting in front of them. 

Believe me; I would seriously prefer to save up a few thousand dollars for a used fifth wheel rather than risk the lives of my family in Uriah.

Next up - Steven Maxwell lets us know about the evils of overeating...and why basic health class is important.

Ouch. This one hits really close to home. My appetite for food was cultivated when my parents were divorcing, and I turned to food for comfort. As an adult, I was able to mask my appetite by exercising. Unfortunately, with age, as my metabolism has slowed and my knees no longer allow me to run, the calories accumulate around my waist. This is simply an outward evidence of an inward appetite.

My excess appetite has reproduced itself and several of my children, and all of them will likely struggle with it. The appetites of the parents will affect their children.

Think of all the ways that an excessive appetite for eating will negatively affect your children as they grow. It will cause them to want to spend their money on worthless treats that will harm their teeth. It will result in poor health and, over the years, will increase medical spending. Spending will also rise because of eating out more often. Then there is the need to keep growing one's wardrobe. There are more consequences, but even these few examples make it clear that an excessive appetite for food will affect the ability to provide for his family. (pg. 99)

The first paragraph is surreal.  Steven Maxwell blames his overeating on his parents' divorce.  I've heard a lot of  overwrought horror stories about the bad things that can happen to kids if their parents divorce, but this is the first time I've heard "Your kid might get fat".   At least the first bit matches up thematically with the fact that overeating without a lot of exercise leads to weight gain.  Those two sections are a bit disjointed, but it kind of works.   The problem is that the second sentence throws everything out of whack.  If Steven Maxwell was exercising a lot, then he needed to eat a lot of calories to keep from losing weight.  Does it make sense for Maxwell to have eaten less and given up exercise if running was something he liked to do?  In one of the books - and I've forgotten which - he mentions that he trained for a marathon after he and Teri were married.  That's an impressive amount of running!    Based on their family blog, his kids are really into running and home-based Cross-Fit-like weight training which seems to me like a harmless way to burn off energy. 

Let's all be grateful for a few minutes that Mr. Maxwell refrained from telling us in great detail which of his kids he thinks are pudgy. 

I've never met anyone who went into debt because of a junk food habit.  Junk food is quite cheap; that's one of the reasons that kids who live in high-poverty areas tend to eat more junk food than kids in lower-poverty areas.  Parents who can't afford the newest toys, clothes, classes, sports gear and camps can afford to buy their kid a pop or candy bar.  Parents do not like having to say "no" to every request of their kid so junk food is one of the few rewards or "splurges" available to those families.  That's one of the reasons I get irritated as hell when busy-bodies start whining about how people can buy dessert foods using food stamps. 

The last vignette is about how insanely judgemental Steven Maxwell is when doing random chores like paying for gasoline.

One time, while I was getting gas, the clerk and the customer in front of me were discussing which local casino was their favorite. I couldn't believe it. Here was the gas station clerk, who would have been fortunate to be making $8 an hour, wasting her money gambling. My heart was so heavy I could have wept. (pg. 100)

With a bit of luck, Maxwell was so busy choking back his tears that he was unable to do his usual hackneyed conversion attempt on the clerk. 

I can't imagine that the cashier's occasional visit to the local casino was more of a drain on her household than Maxwell's taste for flying private planes.  I suspect the casino trips were more affordable than the costs of badly retrofitting a tour bus in order to rent one hotel room instead of two during the family's conference attendances.   I've got a sneaking suspicion that the clerk had fewer than eight children and may well have been a member of a two-or-more income household.   

It's not so much that Maxwell is bad with money per se.  He makes the mistake of assuming that everyone shares the same priorities as he does.

After pages and pages of terrible life choices, Steven Maxwell shares with us an example of the fun we can have if we follow his ideas about life:

After Sid became a Christian, he was encouraged to go soul winning with a friend. He found it a joy that soon became part of his life. Through the years he continue to share Christ at every God-given opportunity, and it became a passion for him. At work Sid was a diligent worker and did not take company time to share his faith. However, he would gladly use his break time to share Jesus Christ when a door was opened. Most other Christians at work considered Sid a radical, because he was fearless. I remember the time he gave an impeccable presentation to a customer, all the while wearing his favorite "Jesus" tie. Sid had a passion for sharing Christ. (pg. 101-102)

Oh, boy.  I'm glad that Sid didn't commit time fraud to convert co-workers and clients on the clock, I guess.   What I really would enjoy, though, is a description of Sid from the point of view of one of his co-workers.   For conversion attempts to be fair, the other person needs to be able to tell you exactly what they think of you without any fear of major repercussions.  That's not going to happen in a company break-room.   How did Sid's career go after waylaying coworkers at break and sending mixed messages to clients?   

I can see why Maxwell likes Sid.  The Maxwells are fond of figuring out methods to begin conversion attempts that create unequal power dynamics.  Steven talks a lot about attempting to convert captive audiences like cashiers or wait staff - people who can't tell off a customer.  The Maxwells set up a booth without visible symbols of Christianity at fairs and festivals to offer free balloon animals and face painting to kids - at which point the conversion attempts begin on the kids and their families. 

I find cold-call conversion attempts deeply annoying - but I have a grudging respect for people who do it openly and in the face of repeated rejection.   Doing it through covert means is childish and cowardly by comparison.

The last quote is discussing Steven Maxwell's sons' response to preaching and playing music at a local men's shelter once a month:

One Sunday afternoon during the preaching, Joseph, who was 10 years old, leaned over to me and said, "Dad, I'm having the best time of my life." John, who is two years younger than Joseph, says that the second Saturday is his most favorite day of the whole month. Do you want to know what I want to create in my sons? I want them to have a passion for sharing Christ and spending time together and beneficial activities. (pg. 102)

I want my son to develop a strong ethos of helping others.  I want him to understand the value and enjoyment of hard work and of knowing that he's made the world a better place.   This is a part of who we are as a family and integral to our worldview. 

If my son thinks the most fun he's ever had is preaching at the local men's shelter, though, I've done something badly wrong. 

We help others because it is the right thing to do.  Often, we'll get a sense of joy or satisfaction for a job well done - but sometimes we'll feel exhausted, helpless or overwhelmed at the sheer amount of work that needs to be done in the world.

That's when good self-care comes in.  I want my son to enjoy a visit to the local amusement park and play ghost-in-the-graveyard with his cousins and neighbors.  I want him to stay up way-too-late with a school friend trying to beat a level of a video game or reading a book.   I want him to build kites or planes or forts.  I want him to get skinned knees from trying acrobatic tricks on his bicycle. 

I want my son to experience fun as a child so that as an adult he'll recognize which activities restore him when he needs a break. 

I think the main difference between Steven Maxwell's universe and mine is that I know what it takes to work for long periods of time among people who need help.  Maxwell is training his sons to work for short periods around people who are different, but the kids always retreat back to the safety of the Maxwell enclave long before they are exposed to anything that would jar their worldview. 

I want my son to live fully so I know that he will move out of the safety of our family into a wonderful, chaotic and crazy world.  I'm raising him to be ready for whatever comes his way - be it easy or be it hard.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Didn't Expect Derick Dillard to be the First Duggar to Crack

Being a son-in-law of the Duggar clan brings an entirely new level of crazy into a young man's life.  Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have been used to micromanaging their 19 kids lives for decades and have received accolades for their reproductive prowess in the form of a television show, ghost-written books, publicity tours and public speaking gigs. 

Yeah, Jim Bob and Michelle's aura of wholesome Americana got dinged when their insanely negligent handling of Josh's repeated molestations became public knowledge - but I doubt that those revelations changed the family dynamics.  After all, the revelations were not new news to the people who lived through those years.

The tricky bit for sons-in-law is supporting their ever-growing families financially while still receiving some level of financial support from Jim Bob and Michelle.  
  • Ben Seewald works for Jim Bob and in a variety of manual labor style jobs.  Austin Forsyth works for his parents at a campground.  With the minimal education both of these young men have, they are pretty well trapped into family businesses especially since their wives are having children.  
  • Jeremy Vuelo has always worked outside of the Duggar penumbra - and Jinger and Jeremy seem to be doing fine financially in Texas so far.   
  • Derick is in the most frustrating position of them all.  He has enough education on paper to support his family as an accountant - but decided to become a untrained, minimally supported missionary in El Salvador.  When their mission folded, Derick and his family moved back to Arkansas to pursue a year-long course in "ministry".   This has placed Derick and Jill back in the middle of the Duggar clan - and in the middle of the family stresses.
Earlier this year, Derick posted some insulting tweets towards Jazz - a transgender teenager featured on another TLC show.  Personally, I suspect the reason Derick and Jill were not prominently involved in the upcoming season of "Counting On" had more to do with that than anything else.  TLC will swallow a lot of crazy, insulting things from their TV stars  - but Derick was a two-bit minor character on a show that struggles to get advertising revenue.   Either way,  Derick attempted to walk back his generalized hatred of transgender people by claiming that he was denouncing the way that TLC and Jazz's parents earned money off of a teenager.

Needless to say, the internet pointed out that Jim Bob, Michelle, Jill and Derick did the exact same thing.  Pot, meet kettle....

In the middle of the tweetstorm, Derick blurts out that Sam was in the NICU for two weeks - and that his reading comprehension isn't the best in the middle of the night.

No, Derick.  PM was telling you that earning money by filming Israel and Samuel was using your kids to earn money like Jazz's parents and Jill's parents did.

The vast majority of people are unaware that NICUs - and pediatric hospitals in general - have donated funds to cover the costs of meals for parents without a lot of income.  My husband and I received a standard $5.00 voucher in our "Welcome to the NICU" material.  We told our social worker, however, that paying for our own meals was not a financial hardship and that we would prefer the money be saved for families who had farther to drive or less income available. 

Personally, I think Derick and Jill should have gotten the lunch tickets in part because they must have a large bill coming for Samuel's stay.   We had no bills for our son's stay - but that was because Michigan has a Medicare program that is called "Thirty Day Medicare" that automatically covers children who are hospitalized for 30 consecutive days or more regardless of parental income.  Since Jack was in the hospital for 108 days, we qualified easily.   The Dillards, on the other hand, had the costs associated with Jill's C-section and 14 days of NICU care.   That's easily $250,000 in hospital and doctor bills if they are uninsured.

As the spat continues, Derick explains that he asked TLC to cover some of the costs of Israel's failed trial of labor and C-section.

Obviously, TLC wasn't interested in paying for medical claims that were expressly excluded in the contract that either Jim Bob signed on behalf of all the members of his production company (a.k.a. his biological children, their spouses and their children) or that Derick signed...but missed the details.

Either way, Derick's pissed about the relative lack of cash that's come his way from the show. 

I know the likelihood of Derick or Jill ever reading this is low - but if you do - think about making a break from both the Duggar clan and natural childbirthing.  Derick, be an accountant.  I'm sure you can find a way to help people while earning a decent income for your family.  If you've decided that you want to work in ministry, get a real theology degree from a reputable college and enter a seminary.  Stop doing bait-and-switches like inviting LGBTQ people to an outing for the purpose of trying to get them to realize how sinful they are or offering English tutoring to Middle Eastern university students (read: Muslim) to also expose them to fundamentalist Christianity.   That's not how Jesus worked and is beneath his followers. Jill, get a GED and apply for a nursing program.  You can go to school and take any remedial classes you need while the boys are small.  There's a need for certified nurse midwives - highly educated women and men who handle uncomplicated pregnancies under the supervision of an OB/GYN.  It would take you a while to work up to that level but that would be a real accomplishment that you could be proud of.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter 13

Whoo-boy!  When it rains, it pours. 

My son is down with his first runny/stuffy nose cold.  In spite of my best efforts to keep him from coughing, at least once a day he's coughed enthusiastically enough to spit up some of his last meal - and it always lands on my shirt and pants.   The albuterol medication that is keeping his lungs nice and open is also making him shake like a tiny little jitterbug. 

First thing Monday morning, I carried my hacking son down the steps and found my husband conscious but laying flat out in the the kitchen.  He had dizziness so severe he couldn't stand up or walk on his own.   He's never had anything like that in the past and there was no way I could safely spot him out to the car so I called 911, got the baby settled (and as mucus-free as I could), arranged for my mom-in-law to take the baby, and drove my husband to the hospital once the local first responders had verified that his vital signs were good and helped him out to the truck.

Good news is that my husband has benign idiopathic vertigo which has miserable symptoms but isn't a sign of a stroke or any severe medical problem.

As I told a good friend in exasperation, I trust my ability to deal with all sorts of insane situations - but what I'd like right now is a break from the insane situations.  As a side-effect of this week's crazy, I'm behind on blogging along with pretty much everything else right now.  I hope to be back to three posts a week next week, God willing.

Chapter Thirteen is titled "I love me, I love me not", but I think a more accurate title is "Stacy McDonald is a terrible person."  She spends the chapter going off the Calvinistic deep-end by explaining why "we" all are horrible, horrible sinners.  I might be more sympathetic if she started with or focused on her own failings but she spends the vast majority of the chapter blaming people with mental illnesses for failing to recognize their own personal sins.   

Bluntly, this chapter is gross and completely contrary to modern Christian teachings that recognize that Jesus wants his followers to support the most vulnerable among us including the mentally ill.  Feel free to leave without reading the rest if it will disturb you.

Mrs. McDonald starts by trying to rehash the theology of human sinfulness, but since she's not received theological training the gaps in her Biblical studies show quickly.

If we are to view ourselves biblically, it is much more realistic to deal with our depravity swiftly and honestly rather than to agonize over a false sense of our perceived personal goodness. Admittedly trying to locate our "good qualities" is much more fun and far less painful (Proverbs 27:5-6). (pg. 118)

I....have no idea why she pulled that verse in a paragraph that discusses self-examination.   Proverbs 27:5-6 is "Better is open rebuke than secret love.  Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy."  But then, I'm probably overthinking this.  Mrs. McDonald's major theme throughout "Maidens of Virtue" is that saved Christians or members of the Elect can be as judgemental as they want towards the unsaved/damned.  In case any of her readers have a gentle heart - or dare to question the morality of being crass and bitchy towards the rest of humanity - Mrs. McDonald tries to hide behind the "iron sharpening iron" rationale.  That argument is badly undermined by the fact that Mrs. McDonald already admitted previously that she had a friend who was clearly struggling with personal hygiene issues and her response was to do absolutely freaking nothing.  Wait - that's not entirely true.  She did nothing for the guy and then used his story to make money in a book.

In terms of her disdain for our good qualities, that is in direct contradiction to Genesis 1:27 which explains that all humans were created in God's image. 

The next quote is where Mrs. McDonald shows that her grasp of mental health issues is as tenuous as her grasp on theology:

Many young girls today have serious problems (anorexia, bulimia, obesity, promiscuity, drug abuse, alcoholism, and the list goes on). Many individuals are convinced that the answer to the issues young girls face today could simply be solved by a hearty dose of self-esteem. Actually, the search for self esteem is more than a modern buzzword: it is an age-old pursuit. For years man has thought too highly of himself. Our flesh screams for praise and glory (Genesis 11: 4). (pg. 118)

Having a healthy self-esteem is some protection against mental illness - but self-esteem alone is not a cure for anorexia or chemical dependencies.  All of the listed issues require some level of medical intervention in the form of drugs and/or psychotherapy.   

Mrs. McDonald is especially blind on the subject of obesity; doctors are finding more and more support for the fact that most humans can gain weight far more easily than they can lose weight.  Obese people are not lazy or sinful; they are fighting a very long-term battle where losing weight causes their metabolism to slow down drastically.  A slowed metabolism means that these people can be eating less than 1,200 calories a day and still gain weight.  Truthfully, a metabolic system that could keep a body going through long periods of semi-starvation by slowing the metabolism down was extremely beneficial through most of human history.  Naturally slender people who lose weight easily are more of a recent trend in evolution....

The Bible verse quoted is from the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis.  She interprets it as a sign of the human desire for praise and glory which is a bit strange.  The most literal reading I can get is that the humans were challenging God - not angling for praise or glory.   Ironically, that same literal reading shows that humans were doing a good job at challenging God; God was so concerned about this latest development that he went down with the other gods and scattered human kind.

I feel bad for Stacy McDonald's teenage daughter in this next quote.  It cannot be fun to realize your parent is a horrible person.

While writing this chapter, I discussed the subject with my thirteen year old daughter. Sympathetically she wondered about young people who fall into such a pit of despair that they take their own lives. Even as sheltered as my daughter was, she was somewhat influenced by the humanistic notion of value and self-esteem.

" But, Mom," she said, " if they knew how special they were, they wouldn't be overcome by hopelessness. Aren't some people depressed because they just don't think they're any good?"

"Maybe so, but are they any good? Are any of us any good?" I asked, raising an eyebrow in her direction.

Knowingly, she smiled, " I see what you mean. It just seems so sad."

And it is sad. If we're to be like Jesus, we should have compassion for those who are suffering in the pit of despair. But viewing sin falsely will not lift anyone out of that pit. (pg. 118-119) 

I kept running away from writing this section - like I found myself doing chores around the house that I hated rather than dealing with writing a response to this section.  I finally made myself sit down and reflect the emotions it brought up in me - a mixture of anger and despair - and I realized why I didn't want to write this section.

My freshman year English teacher committed suicide when I was a sophomore in high school.  I wasn't particularly close to this teacher, but he was a damn good English teacher who forced me to buckle down and improve my expository writing skills.  I brought a pile of candy canes to school with me the last day before Christmas and was passing them out to my friends and anyone who wanted one.  At the end of English class, I walked up to the teacher's desk and offered him a candy cane.  He looked deeply touched by my offer and wished me a Merry Christmas.  Even as a rather naive 15-year-old kid, I felt saddened by how much my random offer of a candy cane meant to him; I wondered how lonely or painful his life was outside of school. 

His suicide crushed a lot of students.  A friend of mine has never forgiven himself for the fact that he and his friends acted like complete assholes in the teacher's class the year he died.  I grew up as the daughter of a teacher.  I tried to explain to my friend then - and now - that any teacher who survived the first 3-5 years of teaching wouldn't quit teaching - let alone commit suicide- because his students were jerks; that's one of the expected downsides of teaching. 

No, he committed suicide because the pain of his mental illness was too much to bear anymore.  I remember thinking that he couldn't have expected his own death to cause the amount of trauma for his students, colleagues and family that it did - and that I would keep that thought in mind if I ever felt suicidal.

I know this because four years later I had a severe episode of depression where I started having suicidal thoughts.  After my teacher died, I promised myself that if I was ever suicidal, I would do everything I could think of to get better before I attempted suicide.  I went to a doctor on got on an SSRI.  I started therapy.  The therapy was helpful - but it was overwhelmed by the fact that the first SSRI I tried caused me to have intense suicidal impulses.  Now, that drug has a black-box warning about that side-effect in teens and young adults, but I missed that warning by 18 months. 

After a few months of fighting the urges, I was so, so exhausted and my will to fight was slipping away.  I remembered that one of the things I had promised myself was that I would seek inpatient treatment at a local psychiatric facility before I attempted suicide.  I was so depressed and anxious at that point that I didn't think inpatient treatment would actually help me - but I wanted to be able to say that I had tried.

Well, inpatient treatment did help me a lot.  The professionals there got me off the SSRI that was not working well for me, tried a combination of other SSRIs and added an anti-anxiety medicine.   Truly, the anti-anxiety drug was a game-changing addition.  By taking my undiagnosed anxiety from a 11+ out of 10 down to a 1 or 2, I had enough mental energy left to start working on techniques to manage my depression until the SSRIs kicked in.

Slowly, but surely, I got my life back onto the track I wanted.  I transferred to a college much closer to home and started part-time.  I saw a therapist.  I exercised.  I met new people at college.  I started working in retail again.  I felt like a person again instead of an amorphous grey blob. 

The most ironic thing?  I was such a timid little mouse of a person at that point that I had no particularly interesting sins on my conscience.  I was a non-drinking virgin who had gone on sporadic chaste dates.  I attended church regularly.  I honored my parents and got excellent grades at school.  Hell, I grew up in a family that some people treated like pariahs - not everyone deals well with disabilities and death - so I didn't even go through a clique-ish, catty phase in junior high school; I was nice and friendly to everyone.

Stacy McDonald is a self-righteous prick whose ignorance is only outweighed by her prejudices.  Don't listen to her shit - she's a toxic whack-job. 

Next quote is a great example of how NOT to write a paragraph.   

Ours is an adulterous generation. The reason for the rise in " unwanted" pregnancies (fornication), abortion (murder), homosexuality (sodomy), alcoholism and drug abuse (drunkenness), and suicide (murder and faith in man, rather than God) is sin pure and simple. It's not just the fact that people are sinning; people have been sinning since the Fall. Our response to sin is the problem. When we redefine sin as " emotional problems" or a " sad result of a difficult childhood" we allows sin to remain hidden in the hearts of hurting people. (pg. 120)

Words have meanings.  This paragraph makes so little sense if we define the words that it gets ridiculous. 

Adultery is any form of extramarital sex - and nothing else in the paragraph talks about adultery. 

Fornication, on the other hand, is premarital sex where neither partner is married to someone else. 

An unwanted pregnancy can result from adultery or fornication, but it can also result from completely lawful marital sex since the unwanted quality comes from the readiness of the parents, not the marital status of the parents.  At the same time, some people who are technically fornicating have very wanted pregnancies.  (The world is a wide and varied place, Mrs. McDonald.) 

At all points of publication of this book, the rate of abortion in the USA has been dropping; strong economic times and easy access to hormonal birth control tend to do that. 

The Biblical fears around homosexuality I believe should be treated in the same way as the Biblical stipulations on legal slavery - a historical abominations that we have moved beyond into a more nuanced understanding of human rights and human sexuality.

Any rate of murder or suicide is too high, but modern rates are really very low because the rule of law tends to tamp down on the number of revenge killings and we have some medical options for dealing with some mental illnesses.. 

Drunkenness is a completely different can of worms than being chemically dependent; people with severe chemical dependencies may not get high or drunk but still require a substance to maintain a semblance of functionality. sin the problem or is our reaction to sin the main problem?  They can't both be the problem, Mrs. McDonald.

Personally, I think the main problem is that Mrs. McDonald likes knowing gossip about everyone around her far more than she likes behaving as a Christian.  In the Protestant ethos I thought there's no good reason for anyone to need to know the sins of anyone - that forgiveness was between a person and God.    As a Catholic, sometimes a person needs to confess their sins to a priest - but the priest is forbidden on pains of excommunication from ever revealing the confession.  Priests will also let you know (if you ask) that they don't remember who tells them what sins - partially because they are trained that way, but mostly because people confess the same 5 sins over_and_over_and_over.    Mrs. McDonald's fascination with digging the sins out of the hearts of hurting people from traumatic childhoods feel ghoulish to me.

The last quote for today is some nice revisionist history for us:
Not so many years ago, our country held to many biblical principles. Sin was usually treated as sin. Our laws reflected a biblical foundation, and the people -- Christian or not -- lined up with that thinking. There was a time when it was a shame for a young Maiden to even be alone with a boy. It was a disgrace to be found pregnant out of wedlock, and abortions were considered... murder! Homosexuality was so repugnant that it was rarely even whispered about! Now if we turn on the news, abominations are brazenly performed before our eyes, and we are told that we are judgemental, fanatical, or critical for calling these things sin. (pg. 120)

Ummm - when was that?   You can't just backward fundamentalist-Baptist-wash history. 

The early colonial USA averaged 20% of births to unmarried women - and more than 30%  when couples who gave birth to a living child 8 months or less after their marriage.  Even during times when sexual mores were more strictly adhered, women feared being exposed by a premarital pregnancy far more than they worried about being alone with a boy. 

Concerns about abortions were completely different than the current state of affairs; the major landmark involving abortion was "the quickening" which is when the pregnant woman can feel fetal movements at 15-22 weeks.   The concerns were somewhat about the life of the child - but as much about the fact that abortions prior to modern surgical techniques and access to antibiotics were as likely to end the pregnancy by leading to infections or bleeding severe enough to kill the mother.

I doubt we have a realistic picture of the number of people who were homosexuals in the past.  First, a lot of conservative pastors seem oblivious to the existence of lesbians.  Oh, they get all freaked out about gay men - but some percentage of "spinsters" and "old maids" who lived together were actually living with the woman they loved.  Secondly, people could be married to a partner of the opposite sex while having extramarital relationships with someone of the same gender. 

The local news that Mrs. McDonald watches is much more fascinating than mine!  Our channel focuses on local sports and events with a quick update on local crime.  We don't have abominations on tap - alas!

That last sentence is the crux of conservative Christianity hypocrisy.  Mrs. McDonald wants to be able to criticize everything and everyone freely - but no one else better dare criticize her!

Mrs. McDonald, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.  If you want to call people unnatural abominations because of their sex life, you should be able to handle being called a judgemental fanatic because of what you say.

The last page and a half of the chapter is a surreal turn-around where she encourages girls to have self-esteem because they are saved....but it is completely unbelievable after her rant on our depraved nature.

Monday, March 5, 2018

To Jill (Duggar) Dillard From One Mother to Another

Hi, Jill!

I think you've started to realize that you grew up in a cult.  IBLP and ATI taught you that adoption was extremely dangerous spiritually but you have spoken of being willing to adopt.  Those same teachings implied that men with beards and long hair were possessed by the devil but your husband has experimented with a variety of lengths of hair and beards.

You are learning that the world has more options available and that's a good thing.  I want to warn you, though.  Growing up in a high-demand religious movement like IBLP or ATI (or Vision Forum) puts you at higher risk for being pulled into other high demand groups.  My concern is that you are ensnared in the most risky form of natural childbirth (NCB) ideology that conflates an unmedicated home birth with being a good mother.

IBLP/ATI/Vision Forum promise people that following "Biblical" rules will lead to happiness, fulfillment, and a life free from pain or trauma.  Jill, you know that didn't work in your family.  The rules that were supposed to protect you and your siblings instead provided cover for your parents to abdicate their responsibility to seek help when Josh admitted to molesting you and Jessa.  The rules didn't stop Josh from molesting three other girls - and neither did your parents. Your parents were too invested in chasing the limelight of fame for having a lot of cute, well-behaved kids to act like parents.

NCB fits the same pattern.   Facing labor, delivery and raising a child is frightening.  Pregnancy and children take whatever illusions we have about control over our lives and dash them. You saw your mother's last two pregnancies end with Josie being born at 25 weeks and Jubilee's stillbirth which has to make the thought of starting a family more nerve-racking than normal.  Believe me; I get it.  I grew up in a family where my twin and I were born very prematurely and our middle brother died in infancy.   NCB offers a seductive lure; labor and delivery will be safe, painless, and empowering as long as women follow the right rules.  Women need to learn the right mental state by meeting with their midwives during pregnancy.  Labor coaches should be picked by their ability to support your goal of birthing at home.  By laboring without pain medication or medical support, women will realize their personal strength and feel empowered by the memory of a triumphant vaginal birth to a healthy baby.  Thanks to following these rules, the mother and baby will bond instantly, breastfeed perfectly, and everything will be great.

It's a nice dream - but is a dream worth the lives of your sons?

Israel's birth was a comedy of errors.  His water broke before you had contractions and you thought you saw meconium.  You chose to labor at home for the next 48 hours.  I wonder if you realize today how dangerous that choice was.
  • Once the amniotic sac has broken, there is a risk of bacteria that normally colonize the vagina migrating into the uterus and causing a potentially life-threatening infection in Israel.  The longer the time the membrane has been ruptured, the higher the risk of infection.  Most doctors would want to be sure that Israel was tolerating labor well and that you weren't showing any signs of an infection before letting labor progress past 24 hours after the membranes broke.  
  • On top of the risk of infection, meconium staining in amniotic fluid can be dangerous.  Meconium is the first bowel movement passed by an infant.  The danger with meconium is that a baby who is distressed before birth will instinctively gasp for air.  The gasps draw meconium down into their trachea.  When the baby is born, the meconium can obstruct the baby's breathing or go into the lungs leading to pneumonia or scarring.
After 48 hours, you went to a hospital with a labor and delivery department.  I hope that you told them the truth about how long your water had been broken and the fact you thought you saw meconium.  I hope that the reason they let you labor for another 24 hours was that Israel was doing fine on continuous monitoring and neither of you were showing signs of infection.   

Your shock when the OB/GYNs told you that Israel was breech was memorable.  You spent 70 hours in unproductive labor trying to birth a baby who was in a position that could not be delivered vaginally.   You agreed to a C-section and gave birth to a giant 9 pound 10 oz baby boy who was as healthy as a horse. 

There is a bit of irony in Israel's birth; trying for a home birth with a midwife increased the chances of him being born by C-section.  Some OB/GYNs are willing to try a procedure called an external version on breech babies.  Near the end of the third trimester, you'd get an ultrasound to check Israel's position.  If he was breech at 36-38 weeks, the doctor could give you an epidural and attempt to roll Israel from the breech position to a vertex position.  The advantage is that Israel would have been around 6 pounds 10 oz to 7 pounds 10 oz and more easy to wiggle into the right position.   Not all OB/GYNs do external versions - but the 13 OB/GYNs in the practice I went to did them if a woman wanted to and was a good candidate.   If an external version couldn't be done, at least you would have had time to plan mentally for a C-section and would have missed 70 hours of labor.

The reason Israel's birth was a comedy instead of a tragedy is because Israel was a strong, healthy baby before birth.  His placenta was working well and giving him enough oxygen between contractions that he could tolerate being cut off from oxygen during the contractions over the course of nearly three days.  Israel benefited from some good luck, too.  He didn't have any issues from meconium inhalation and didn't develop a massive infection during the long labor after his waters broke.

Perhaps you hoped your dream home-birth was merely being deferred until your next child.  But, Jill, even midwives admit that a home birth after C-section (HBAC) has a 383% HIGHER chance of stillbirth than a "normal" homebirth.  The stillbirth risk of a HBAC compared to a low-risk hospital birth is 1185% higher. 

Truthfully, I doubt you realized the risks you were taking - but you saw the outcome when something went very wrong during Samuel's birth.

I wondered a bit when I heard that Samuel had been born.   All that your family had stated was that you were in labor for 40 hours before having a C-section.  I've had several friends and family members who had successful and unsuccessful vaginal births after C-sections (VBACs) - but no one was allowed to labor more than 16 hours prior to vaginal delivery or C-section.   Maybe you found an OB/GYN with a very laid-back approach to VBACs - or maybe you tried a vaginal home birth after C-section (HBAC).

Alarm bells really started ringing, though, when I saw the picture of Derick holding Samuel.  Derick was wearing the standard hair-net and disposable sterile gown that support people get decked out in for a C-section.  Samuel was wearing a diaper, a nasal cannula, an IV in his right arm, three monitor leads, a blood pressure cuff on his right leg and an oxygen saturation lead on his left foot.   Samuel, in other words, was wearing the standard outfit of a NICU baby. 

The pictures released from the hospital look like two parents enjoying a new baby - but NICU parents know the signs.  I recognized the monitoring cords on Samuel trailing around Derick; Jack had the same ones.  Jack also had the little bit of reddened skin on each cheek after the stickers that hold the nasal cannula were removed for a bit.    Samuel and Jack shared a dislike of weaning off oxygen and having their little fingers take a bluish tint when they got tired during a wean. 

The picture of Jana cuddling Samuel was adorable - and brought back memories of schlepping Jack around the house with cords that weighed more than he did.    Honestly, I don't know how you managed a newborn on oxygen with a curious toddler in the house - but you guys managed somehow.

You have been blessed with two little boys who survived rough starts in life.  If you are blessed with another pregnancy, please do not risk your child's life and your own life by attempting a home birth after two C-sections!   Find a local obstetrician and let them decide if you are a candidate for a vaginal birth after two C-sections at a well-equipped hospital.  If the doctor recommends a repeat c-section, be grateful that we live in a time and place where the operation poses few risks to you or your child. 

A vaginal birth is not worth a child's life - or yours.  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter Six - Part 3

I'm back!  I'm sorry for the longer than expected break.  Our trip to Pittsburgh was one day longer than I had planned for and traveling long distances with a 12 month old adjusted baby wiped me out. 

I realized when we arrived in PA that my long-suffering laptop power-cord had finally died from an internal wire break so I was sans laptop until a replacement cord arrived today. 

Pittsburgh was amazing and my niece is the brightest little thing ever!  She and my son had a standard toddler-old baby love/hate relationship.  My favorite moment was after one of the adults made her relinish one toy for my son to play with she muttered "Baby bye" which I translated to "Time to get rid of the baby, people!"   Watching her at the Aviary and the Botanical Gardens was so fun; she wanted to look at everything.  My mom, my sister and I introduced her to the joys of swimming; she was hesitant at first but soon was putting her whole face in the water to try and blow bubbles.   We watched the Winter Olympics together and she learned the words "hockey" and "curling".   Unfortunately, she also screamed "NO!" everytime we tried to convince her that the hockey team she liked was the Detroit Red Wings rather than the Pittsburgh Penguins.  :-)

It was a great weekend - and a weekend filled with activities that the Maxwell clan forbids.  Modesty guidelines prevent them from swimming.  Professional and amatuer sports are out.  Heck, television is out.  Technically, the Aviary and Botanical Gardens aren't entirely forbidden - but I've never seen a picture on the Maxwell blog of family members visiting any cultural attractions outside of agricultural fairs.  Most places frown on patrons attempting to convert other patrons on the sly; it changes the experience of the patrons in a negative way.

This section of the chapter focuses on the horrors of youth team sports.  I am biased strongly in favor of youth and adult league sports.  I played soccer, softball, volleyball, and basketball as a kid and pre-teen.  In high school, I played one year of soccer.  During late high school and college, I acted as an assistant coach for girls soccer at the elementary school because I enjoyed teaching girls how to goal-tend.  Athletics taught me how to use my physical strength while compensating for my undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma and low flexibility.  I learned how to communicate effectively with others on the fly.  I learned how to motivate others and how to accept support from teammates. 

I loved to play positions that required aggressive physicality; I led my team in rebounds in 5th-8th grade mainly by being willing to do whatever it took to get a hold of the ball once it hit the rim or backboard despite the fact that I reached my adult height of 5'3" at age 10 and was shorter than average by age 13.  I loved diving for shots in soccer especially the ones where someone was running at me on a breakaway; it was the best game of chicken ever!  I played catcher in softball and lived for runners who tried to go through me,  I played rough and tumble pick-up games of basketball with the boys at recess during 7th and 8th grade.  Looking back, I've always felt constrained by societal expectations that girls were supposed to be non-aggressive, passive and weak.  Sports were a place I really be myself long before I knew how to bring assertiveness into my day-to-day life. 

I benefited as well from my lifelong issues with cerebral palsy, too.  I've spent most of my life tripping over my own feet because my legs don't always move like I expected.  Because of that, I learned how to fall in ways that minimize injuries to myself and developed a high pain tolerance for bruises on limbs.  To this day, my husband will ask me about a nasty looking bruise on a leg or arm and my response is "Oh, I smacked my arm with the car door last week.  Huh.  That looks more ugly than I expected."

I love sports.  Steven Maxwell abhors team sports - and goes into amazingly wound-up hyperbole right off the bat:
Team sports are generally accepted as a good, proper, and beneficial activity for youth. What about Christian youth? A child only has a limited amount of free time in a week. Have the parents evaluated what the best use of this time is? (pg. 95)

*rolls eyes*
Yes, Steven.  Parents evaluate activities for their children all the time.  It's the reason that many parents choose traditional schooling; they feel that their children will receive the best return on the amount of time spent on education.  Other parents choose homeschooling for the same reason.  

Ironically, I live within a short distance from three colleges founded and run by Calvinistic-Baptist denominations.  All three of them have competitive sports teams - so Steven is moving in his own realm of crazy here.

After a workshop one evening, a man discussed with me his son's involvement in team sports. He wanted his son to learn to work hard and with others on a team. I asked him whether he could think of no better way to accomplish these goals.

I have not observe team sports building the proper spirit of teamwork. Rather they foster a spirit of pride. If you want to develop teamwork, have your son work with his siblings on some projects. If he can work with them, he can get along with anyone. If you want him to learn to work hard, take him with you when you help a widow with some home repair. (pgs. 95-96)

For any poor soul who decides to have a conversation with Steven Maxwell in the future, keep in mind that anything discussed is fodder for his next book.  Maxwell is not listening to your argument; he's simply waiting for you to stop talking long enough to interject why your choice is completely wrong.    Likewise, when he seemed to be watching his young sons play sports he was really judging the amount of "teamwork" compared to "pride" shown by the kids.  

The argument that working alongside siblings under the eyes of parents is identical to working with random people assigned to a team under an assigned coach is palpably absurd - and tired.  For the vast majority of parents in the USA the goal is to raise independent adults.  Independent adults can support themselves financially independently of their parents.  They choose to set boundaries between their family of origin and their immediate family.  Adults can behave morally without having their parents overseeing their every move. 

Steven Maxwell's goal is not to raise independent adults; he aims to keep his children dependent and under his control.

How has his plan worked out for his kids? 

Well, his oldest four sons are married - but his oldest two daughters are unmarried at 36 and 25. 

Christopher and Joseph each had a failed engagement prior to meeting their wives. (This explains why Steven was so irritated when John's now-wife Chesly's family announced their engagement before the wedding; twice bitten, thrice shy.)  By comparison, I've never had a wedding called off after a publically announced engagement in my extended family of 50+ adults.   

Nathan's running a successful business; Nathan, Christopher, Joseph and John have each had a business fail.  

I would need a whole lot better set of outcomes to deprive my son of sports.

Maxwell attempts to explain what a massive time commitment sports were on his family:

Nathan and Christopher were great Little League baseball players. They loved baseball, and we love to watch them play. Going to the games was fun and a real family affair. Practices will begin in late February, and the games will continue into June. Then if you were " fortunate", your son would be chosen for the All-Star team and participate in another couple of months of practice and games. The end result was an incredible amount of time invested for the whole family. (pg. 96)

I went down a rabbit hole after I read this passage and tried to figure out how old his kids were when they were playing Little League.  I stopped because Steven Maxwell has bent or mangled the truth so many time previously in the book that the ages of his sons are moot.  This passage could be describing Nathan at 12 and Christopher at 10 or they could have been 6 and 4 years old; Maxwell would write the same story either way.   

The amount of time invested for a family with two kids playing Little League is not as massive as Maxwell makes it sound.  We usually practiced 2-3 a week and had a game once or twice a week - and often the game replaced a practice.  Maxwell wasn't a coach - and a careful read implies that he and Teri didn't stick around for practice times.   Assuming that the boys needed to be driven 15 minutes each way to three practices and played one 90 minute game a week, that's an investment of 6 hours of driving + watching games total.   Remember, the Maxwells had a total of three kids when Nathan was at the maximum age for a Little League with one stay-at-home homeschooling mom. 

The Maxwells clearly lived somewhere a lot warmer than Michigan; our outdoor sports season doesn't begin until early April which caused the season to be run pretty tightly. 

If the Maxwells hate the All-Star team so much, they don't have to let their son try out.  It's not mandatory.

The next section makes Steven Maxwell's main reason for removing his kids from sports clear: he cannot deal with losing control of any aspect of his sons' lives.

What did allowing our sons to play baseball cost us? We could no longer set our own schedule. We were at the mercy of the coach decide where we had to be and when. We were no longer controlled whom our sons associated with. They were part of " the team" and were to bond with each other. The greatest price we paid was at our family evening altar time.

Family Bible study is very important to me for the development of my family. I value it next to importance to my own Bible reading and prayer time. I was now forced to sacrifice our family altar time to the god of sports. I was choosing to give up my opportunity to teach my children God's Word - - the one thing that would have the greatest impact on my son's ability to lead and provide for their families. Finally, this realization hit home! (pg. 96)

My first response was indignation; Maxwell's in la-la land if he thinks the coach has control over practice and game times!  

My second response was bemused recognition of Maxwell's privilege as an male engineer if he's up-in-arms over losing control of his schedule.  Welcome to reality!  Try balancing practices and games with a guest service job, a demanding college schedule and using limited public transportation - or two adults working 5 jobs.  Try keeping a homeschool schedule with a difficult baby and a sick toddler.  Heck, try keeping that same schedule in the year Mary was born.   

The Maxwell kids might get to know other kids!  Kids who have not been pre-screened to avoid single-parent families, divorced families, ideological disagreements with the Maxwells or mothers who work outside the home!  Oh, the horrors!  The other kids might.... I can barely say it.... they might discuss a TV show!  Oh, the humanity!

No, really.  That's humanity.  We're a jolly mess of differences - but most people can work together long enough to play 7-9 innings of baseball. 

That whole "altar time is sacrificed" spiel?  Completely made up.  Here's how I know: The Maxwells included their family schedules in "Managers of their Homes" and family evening prayer time was scheduled for 30 minutes in the evening.   In a traditionally schooled family, the athletes would need some time before or after sports to do homework, but the Maxwell Family homeschools - and didn't have any evening homeschooling blocks in any of the schedules in "Managers of their Schools".    Teri Maxwell is a bright cookie; with only three kids at home, I'm sure she could prep a dinner during the early afternoon that was ready to eat by the end of the game.  If altar time was truly a priority, the Maxwell Family would be able to fit 3.5 hours in a week pretty easily around sports.

The next quote demonstrates how little of a priority emotional regulation is for Steven Maxwell:

Teri and I knew it would be the last baseball season for our sons. After the final game of the season, I took Nathan and Christopher out for a soda. With tears running down my cheeks, I explain to them why we are ending team sports for our family. I shared with each of them how much team sports was costing our family and that we could bear it no longer. To my joy, they both accepted my direction. I firmly believe that as a result of this decision, we have seen God pour out unimaginable blessings into our sons lives. (pg. 96-97)

I have a very dark sense of humor.  In my mind's eye, the two boys are in slightly dirty baseball uniforms including hat and stirrups enjoying root beer floats at Dairy Queen when Steven Maxwell starts visibly crying over the fact that "God doesn't want you to play sports anymore!"  The boys exchange slightly worried glances at each other - is Dad ok? - before saying something like "That's ok, Dad.  We're ok with that."  Both boys are a bit relieved; after all, they're not great players and watching Dad glower every time the coach talks to them has gotten old.  (Did I mention I suspect that some of Steven Maxwell's disdain of the All-Star Team is because Maxwell didn't make the team as a kid and his kids didn't either?  Hmm.....)

Just imagine.  If Steven Maxwell had never entered his oldest boys in team sports, Nathan and Christopher might have been spared the pain of two failed businesses and one failed engagement.  How did Steven Maxwell make such a grievous mistake?  (I'm being sarcastic, of course.)

A few pages later, Maxwell throws in one last horror story of how team sports can lead directly to porn:

I know someone who was introduced to pornography by his own father. The father had the magazines in his home, and the boy found them. How horrible for a father to cause the entrapment of his son. I know another young man whose baseball coach introduced him to pornography. The team went to another city to play a championship game and stayed overnight in a hotel. The coach " treated" the team to a stack of magazines for their entertainment. (pg. 101)

I can't imagine handing a stack of porn magazines to the teenagers; it's such a gross idea. 

 Obviously, I can't rule out that the story is true; there are sick people in the world - but I'm boggled at how this coach handed off a stack of porn mags to his team.  It's pretty rare for a coach to travel with an entire baseball team alone; normally there would be other parents in the hotel staying overnight before the game.   How did the team keep the parents from hearing about the great porn award?  Teenage boys talk a lot - and they are not great at keeping their voices down.  I have a mental image of the Bela Karolyi knock-off Simpsons character standing in front of a bunch of teenage boys and saying "Good job.  You get porn mags.  Make you men." 

Now we are all up-to-date on how youth team sports will destroy parental leadership and lead directly to porn.   Remind me to sign my son up for tee ball and U-5 soccer in a few years. :-)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter 6 - Part Two

Welcome back to the second installment of Steven Maxwell's chapter on "Appetites"  in his instructional book "Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family"! 

In the first section of the chapter, Steven lovingly detailed how childhood card games, downhill skiing and flying private planes will lead a person into financial ruin.  Ironically, the only example he gave of someone spending money irresponsibly was his anecdote about how he passive-aggressively convinced Teri to let him continue flying private planes when it was negatively affecting their ability to provide for their children.  Clearly,  the problem was with the desirability of planes, Steven's dad's choice to take little Steven flying, and Teri for letting Steven fly rather than Steven acting like a spoiled brat.

This section covers three known evils of modern America - movies, television, and professional sports!  Parents, guard your children!

The section on movies was brief and wonderfully filled with hyperbole.  I have chosen two delectable quotes for our discussion today:

Parents will spend money they don't have to go to movies they shouldn't see, setting a horrible example for their children to follow. (pg. 92)

Truthfully, I'm more concerned about Steven Maxwell's random comma placed after the word "see" than I am about my husband and I going to a movie a few times a year.   I don't view myself as being overly obsessed with commas but reviewing CP/QF books where commas are slung around all the time is starting to get to me.....

I'm curious how people buy tickets to the movies with money that they do not have.  Perhaps Mr. Maxwell is confusing the fact that many middle-class people use debit-credit cards in lieu of cash with the idea that people are using a line of credit to buy movie tickets.  More likely, Mr. Maxwell is struggling to find an argument that sounds plausible to a larger audience that bans cartoons, IMAX explorational films and biopics of exceptional people.   The standard cannard about avoiding swearing, violence and sexuality leaves flicks like "Moana", "Sherpa", and "Hidden Figures" available for families.  Trying to justify sheltering your kids from fraught cultural interactions or positive role models of African-American women is hard and highlights the isolationist, xenophobic and racist contexts of Maxwell's theology.  It's so much easier to blame money as the root of evil in movies.

Create a passion for entertainment in your child and it will be a lead weight, strapped to his back, keeping him from God's best. Give yourself and your children a life-long gift of extra money by starving the appetite to see movies. (pg. 93)

Maxwell has a weird assumption about human nature that he starts to elaborate here.  In Maxwell's worldview people will only do "good" things if they do not have access to "bad" things that will give them more enjoyment than the "good" things.  In MaxWorld, there are three classes of acceptable activities: working (which includes learning for the purpose of a career, housekeeping and childrearing), religious activities (including converting people and reading the Bible), and spending time with close relatives.  That's it; there are no other acceptable activities.    Apparently no one - NO ONE - has the maturity or willpower to do needed activities before doing fun things. 

That life-long gift of cash from not seeing movies is a whopping total of $30.00 dollars in the last two years for my husband and I.   The saddest thing is that $30.00 is make-or-break for a lot of CP/QF families because large to massive family sizes on a single income earner who has not attended college makes budgeting really hard.

Maxwell moves from movies to the next humbug of very conservative Christians: the television!  He regurgitates the standard fears of violence, nudity and bad language before launching into the next quote.

Let's look at one seemingly harmless aspect of TV -- watching game shows. Could it be that the game- show seeds planted through the years are now sprouting into the gambling and lottery craze that has swept our country? The thrill of seeing people "come on down" and win truckloads of wonderful items without having to work leaves a powerful impression. Might a son's desire to work for his needs to be replaced by the fantasy of winning the jackpot? (pg. 93)


I have to give him credit for originality; I've never heard anyone link game shows to the decline of the American work ethic before.

On the other hand, Maxwell has no support for his hypothesis at all.   "The Price is Right!" - alluded to by the "come on down!" reference - has been on the USA since 1972.  If it is causing the amount of gambling and lotteries to increase, that should be easy enough to prove.  A basic graph of number of people watching game shows compared with the amount of people gambling would do the trick or a study that connects the two.  There would also need to be a graph of number of people gambling combined with local unemployment and welfare rolls.   Since all of this is missing, my assumption is that the data doesn't support his hypothesis.

This is an example of a disturbing returning theme in Steven Maxwell's writings.  He consistently devalues the work of women.  Oh, he mentions helping out around the house  but in a later chapter he implies that his sons will not need to do household chores once they are married.   Steven Maxwell expects sons and daughters to be home-schooled by mothers but implies that the real manly work of career training is more important than the useless domain of academics taught by women.  How does this fit in this section?  "The Price is Right!" rewards people for being able to correctly estimate the price of various items from groceries to living room furniture to vacations.  Women in CP/QF families often do the majority of budgeting and shopping for their families.  Steven Maxwell is  so oblivious to the skill set involved in estimating prices on the fly that he claims "The Price is Right!"gives prizes away for free.

If he's really worried that his son is dreaming about making a ton of money off game shows for no work, there's a fine article from "Cracked" that will set the kids straight.  Problem solved.

The last pet-peeve o'Steve for today is professional sports.  This first quote shows the danger of uncontrolled hyperbole:

Sports seem to be the number one passion of the American male, in and out of the church. Is there anything truly beneficial about spectator sports? It is extremely hard to come up with any benefit gained from watching sports. At best sports are an absolute waste of the precious time we have on Earth; at worst, idolatry. (pg. 94)

Here's the issue.  The Maxwell Clan has all sorts of shticks for luring in people to convert. 

They use the tried-and-true "Bother Service Workers Who Can't Get Away" method.  (As a former cashier,  I hated people who used the fact that I couldn't run away or cuss them out to give me tracts or lectures on being saved.) 

They hit up the neighbors yearly under the guise of caroling - but at least they bring baked goods, too. 

Their youngest daughter helps children worship idols.  No, seriously.  The fourth picture from the bottom is of Mary with her arm around a boy who she painted KC Royals logos on each of his cheeks.   The caption states that those logos were really popular. 

Apparently, supporting idol worship in children is a minor price to pay for the off-chance that face-painting will morph into a chance to share Jesus with people.

This last quote is amazing:

By watching and attending spectator sports, consider the appetite you will be giving your son to want to be a sports star. He will spend his time dreaming towards and perhaps even preparing to be a professional athlete. His hours could instead be used for learning productive life skills and in Christian service.

If you shelter your son from alcohol at home, what happens at sporting events? Your child will watch those around him enjoying their beer with great gusto. Might he possibly develop a secret appetite for what is "forbidden" as he quietly observes his fellow sports fans? Consider what such an appetite will cost him financially should he indulge it once he is no longer under your authority. Would a Christian father really want to expose his son to the possibility of developing this appetite? (pgs 94-95)

Maxwell wants parents to save their children from the pie-in-the-sky dream of being a professional athlete!  I never dreamed of being a professional athlete because when I was a kid there weren't any professional women's sports teams - but I did dream about playing sports in high school and college.

 Take a wild guess what cured me of my athletic dreams.

If you answered "playing sports" - you're smarter than Steven Maxwell! 

Playing team sports tends to give most people a realistic ranking of their skills compared to other athletes the same age.  I learned quickly that in middle/junior high school sports my absolute lack of natural athletic talent could be overcome through extra practice, determination, and working as hard as I could.  By 7th and 8th grade, I realized that my volleyball, basketball, and softball skills were not strong enough make a high school team even if I trained year round.  My soccer skills were good enough for me to make the freshman soccer team but I was weak enough that I would need to focus solely on soccer year-round and retrain as a defender instead of a goalie to make the junior varsity or varsity teams. 

Why doesn't Maxwell bring this up?  Mainly because he hates kids playing team sports with a passion better reserved for real issues like poverty . 

Maxwell's horror story of how professional sports will lead to alcoholism and financial ruin is wonderfully overwrought.  The family I grew up in made a 6-pack last for months.  My dad would grab one when one of his brothers was coming over for a weekend visit.  Each adult male would drink a single beer while watching a football or hockey game, then fall asleep in their chair.  Occasionally the women would drink a beer or a wine cooler but they'd often be off looking at antiques, quilting or simply making fun of the guys for falling asleep after part of one beer.  Eventually, my parents would use the remaining 4 beers while cooking or another family gathering would roll around.

We were also exposed to professional sports.  My parents also took us up to Muskegon once or twice a winter to watch one of the Red Wings' feeder teams known as the Muskegon Fury play a hockey game.  We had so much fun!   I suppose there were people drinking there but I don't remember anyone getting drunk near us - mainly because I wouldn't have known what a drunk person looked like until I was in high school.    I do remember seeing drunk guys at the Fury or the White Caps when I was in high school - but honestly they looked more gross than anything else.

Long story short:  I'm extremely skeptical that kids coming from a family that drinks little or no alcohol are suddenly going to take up drinking alcohol in copious amounts simply because they saw people drinking at a sports event.

For our game:
3.Movies = D. Bankrupting, Terrible Example to Children;
4. TV Game Shows = H. Undermines US Work Ethic;
5. Professional Sports = F. Leads Children to Drinking and Financial Ruin

The next post in the series will be devoted to exploring the soul-sucking ruin that is youth team sports.

I am going to be traveling with my son to see family in Pennsylvania this weekend so my posting schedule might be disrupted....or not.  It really depends on how the baby travels :-).