Friday, December 29, 2017

Preparing Single Income Sons: Spinning Stories for Sale

The Maxwell Family - of fame - have a fair number of publications to their name. 

Teri Maxwell's family, school and chore organizational blockbusters of "Managers of Their Homes", "Managers of Their Chores" and "Managers of Their Schools" seem to be a perennial favorite among large families.  She's also written "Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit" which I reviewed here.

Her daughter Sarah has written ten children's books that are completely free of any objectionable material at all!  (I can't bring myself to read them - the free PDF chapters on the website made me feel like I was in the first part of a dysutopian novel.)

This lead me to Steven Maxwell's book "Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single Income Family".  Truthfully, I was curious what he recommended - and if his advice matched my experiences in preparing students for the workforce.   

The odd thing I wasn't expecting, though, was that his book felt like I was reading two separate stories at the same time. 

The official "story" goes as follows:  Steven Maxwell works for 20 years in corporate America after receiving a college degree in engineering - but God was calling him to start his own business.  Meanwhile,  his son Nathan who was home schooled and has not attended college was out-earning Steven during Steven's last few years in the corporate world through grit, hard-work, and (the implication of) contract work alone.  If Nathan Maxwell can jump economically that far ahead of his father through online certifications and a home-business, anyone can!

It's a great story - and I bet it's sold a bunch of $15.00 paperback books over the years.  The real story is more complicated - and a more realistic view at how career connections can be passed on from one generation to the next.

I haven't been able to run down all of Steven Maxwell's previous employers - but he mentions having served in the Air Force for four years prior to being saved on the family blog. 

  • He earned a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Missouri in Rolla in 1979 according to his LinkedIn profile.  
  •  In "Preparing Sons...", he mentions working for an unnamed company in marketing followed by sales before leaving the company in 1986 for Boeing on page 34.  
  • According to his LinkedIn profile, he worked at Wilcox / Thompson (sic) CSF from 1990-1997 as a procurement engineer.  (I'm assuming he means Wilcox Electric / Thomson CSF - a major electrical company during that time in Kansas City) 
This means that by 1996, Steven Maxwell had a long list of contacts in a variety of engineering firms that he could use for starting his own business and helping his sons launch their own companies.
In 1996, Wilcox Electric lost a large defense contract that crippled the company.  I don't know if that's what Steve refers to as a call from God to start his own company - but it was extremely prudent of Steve to look at other options for supporting his family.  I think "Preparing Sons...." mentions that Steve's original plan was that Communication Concepts, Inc was going to provide printing and electronic forms - but I could be wrong about that.  

When I compared Nathan Maxwell's LinkedIn profile, I was surprised - although hardly shocked - to realize that his first listed job was at Wilcox Electric in 1996 working on the company's computer servers.  

Nathan left that position in 1997 to work at Western Auto for nearly three years in their information technology department where he ran some pretty intense systems.

By 1999, Communication Concepts, Inc was running strongly enough to support at least Nathan and Steven.

The real story is pretty darn cool - and nothing that needs to be hidden.  Steven Maxwell used training through the military and college to provide for his family for 20 years and had the business acumen to start a fledgling business when his original career area hit a major recession.  His son Nathan had the right experience in computers to land a series of solid jobs that gave him the experience to become an computer security expert in his own right.

The only problem is that "Preparing Sons..." sells a fantastic world that doesn't represent the actual way that the Maxwell Family has reached their well-earned success.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter Six

 Blogs are a fascinating view into the mind of the author.  I feel like I learn a lot about an author's personality both by the stories they chose to include and the spin they place on the stories.  Technically, "Maidens of Virtue" by Stacy McDonald is a book - but we get revealing glimpses into how her mind works through her anecdotes.

Chapter Six is titled "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On".  The chapter serves two purposes.  First, Stacy McDonald makes it clear that public schools are hot-beds of social judgement and sexual harassment that would crush the gentle, delicate flowers of CP/QF maidenhood.  The second purpose is to make young women extremely self-conscious about how their clothing could be construed by random strange males.

I find both of the purposes repugnant and irresponsible for an adult woman to pile onto pre-teen and teenage girls - and I do not like the glimpses of Mrs. McDonald that appear in this chapter.

To most people, blue jeans are as "American" as apple pie. Whether they're straight leg or boot-cut, bell bottom or "skinny", many people - - especially young people - - place great value on a pair of well fitting jeans. When I was in my teens, a girl was considered a "nobody" if she didn't have at least one pair of tight fitting, designer jeans --preferably Gloria Vanderbilts (topped off with a gold stretch belt - -don't ask). (pg. 61)

Monday, December 25, 2017

ATI Wisdom Booklet: STD's, Cervical Cancer and Infant Vitamin K levels

These Wisdom Booklets are full of shoddy facts - but thankfully, most of them will not kill people.  People can and do live fulfilling lives in spite of knowing nothing about evolution or the Second Law of Thermodynamics. 

Unfortunately, the same Wisdom Booklet that contains the Evils of Evolution also has a medical section that makes some outlandish, mistaken and potentially lethal claims about sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancers and infant production of Vitamin K after birth. 

The section covers random Old Testament Laws that pertain cleanliness and purity and attempts to prove that there's a valid medical reason for each of them.  The writer manages to stretch the list into seven items by covering the idea that blood can transmit diseases in three separate items,  implying that cud-chewing ruminants have less parasites and diseases than other animals in two separate items, applying bio-amplification in food chains to the animals that are forbidden in the Bible, and stating that eating fat leads directly to heart disease. 

Unfortunately, most of those are simply wrong.
  • Blood can transmit diseases - but it's a poor vector compared to oral-fecal and airborne routes.  
  • Pigs that free-range and have access to carrion are at much higher risk of parasitic diseases than grass-eating ruminants - but that's because the pig is an omnivorous trash can.  Kept reasonably contained and fed pig food, table scraps, waste milk, forage crops etc., and you get a parasite free piggy.
  • The Bible forbids some animals that do bio-amplification like mussels - but left in cows.  In the US, the most dangerous food for bio-amplification for generations was milk or meat after cows ate milk snake-root.  (Oops.)
  • The fat = heart disease theory was in vogue when the Wisdom Booklet was written - but it's not particularly accurate.   Heart disease has many causes and many interlocking parts.
Eight and nine, though, are just plain dangerous.
Let me give a quick rundown of the real history of the discovery of the connection between human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.  First, doctors studying cervical cancer had noticed a strange phenomenon.  Women who had never had sex had extremely low rates of cervical cancer - way lower than rates of women who had had sexual intercourse.  One example - although not the only - were groups of monastic nuns who volunteered their bodies to science.  Their rates of cervical cancer were non-existent.   

On the other hand, the rate of sexual partners to rate of cervical cancer wasn't directly correlated - no matter what the ATI booklet wants to imply - for reasons that are pretty obvious once the HPV connection was made.  Some women have a single sexual partner who gave them HPV.  Other women have multiple partners but never contracted HPV.  Some women who have HPV develop cervical cancer while others do not. 

The discovery of HPV and cervical cancer was found after this booklet was published - but women had a perfectly good screening method for cervical cancer known as a Pap smear.  In fact, women still receive Pap smears after testing negative for HPV every 3-5 years to catch non-HPV cervical cancers early enough for non-invasive treatment.  Nowadays, we have the HPV vaccine for teens which greatly reduces their risk of cervical, penile, oral and neck cancer which is a great advancement.

Women can be allergic to their husband's semen.  That's  a real phenomenon - but women KNOW when it happens.  Vaginal skin develops the same reaction that all skin does after an allergic reaction - red, itchy, burning irritated skin.  It's pretty rare - and has no relation to cervical cancer.

Nothing like a creepy clip-art to bring home the point.

Um...kind of. 

Look, I'm old enough to realize that just because one spouse is monogamous doesn't mean that their spouse is.  Good behavior doesn't protect innocent people from other people's bad behavior.  

Condoms work quite well to prevent STDs as well.

HIV is transmitted through sexual activity - but it can also be transmitted by intravenous drug use, accidental needle sticks or from blood transfusions prior to modern donor screening.

In fairness to the inhabitants of Canaan, their main sin was worshiping other gods.   I think that the last sentence is supporting the anti-circumcision argument that an intact foreskin has more sensitivity - but the sentence unclear.    The most current AAP recommendation on infant circumcision is that parents should make decisions based on their cultural, religious and social beliefs.  

Again, there's a weird mix of truth and lies mixed together. 

Yes, uncircumcised men have to clean under the foreskin.  The foreskin doesn't retract immediately in young boys so that's not an large problem before the kid is old enough to learn how to clean his penis.   On the other hand, some circumcised boys have a foreskin remnant that needs to be cleaned under until the penis grows enough that it is permanently retracted.  Either way, we are not taking about a major difference in personal hygiene.

Uncircumcised men do have slightly higher rates of STDs including HIV - but the difference can be eliminated by the use of condoms in non-monogamous relationships.  Uncircumcised men have higher rates of cancer of the penis - but that's a super-rare cancer.

Oh - this next one might kill a kid pointlessly.

Human infants are born with very low Vitamin K levels.  Vitamin K doesn't cross the placenta well.  The bacteria that produce Vitamin K in the digestive tract don't produce large amounts of Vitamin K until solid foods are introduced at between 4-6 months.   

The real danger of low Vitamin K levels in infants isn't due to visible surface cuts.  First, the body has an entirely different clotting cascade that happens when skin is cut.  Second, parents are surprisingly good at connecting "My baby is covered in blood" with the response of "Get medical help immediately!".   No, the real danger is bleeding into the brain or intestines.  That can lead to a very, very ill baby before parents realize the problem.

There's a mindlessly easy solution: newborns are given a large injected dose of Vitamin K after birth - assuming their parents do not withhold consent due to mistaken beliefs in the power of cuddling.
Argh.  The mix of truth and lies gets under my skin. 

True: Vitamin K is fat-soluble; that's why doctors can give newborns a shot of Vitamin K that lasts for 6 months.  Fat-soluble vitamins do need fat to be absorbed by the body. 

Lies: Human breast-milk has very low levels of Vitamin K regardless of the fat content.  Assuming your child is a healthy, term baby, no one is going to interfere with breastfeeding let alone insist on antiseptic contact.  (Heck, even with my micro-preemie son, we were encouraged to clean under our nails, wash to the elbow for 30 seconds and use hand sanitizer at his bedside.  It's more than need for a term baby - but hardly over the top.)
No one's against circumcision on the 8th day after a son is born - but get the Vitamin K shot first.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Life with One (1) Medically Complicated Infant: The Tricky Bits

In my last post on this subject., I gave a rundown of what an easy day with my son was like when he first came home from the NICU.  Those days were pretty straightforward if exhausting - but I managed to get between 8-10 hours of sleep a day (although none of it was in chunks longer than 4-5 hours), eat three meals, and generally get a chore or two done around the house.

If it was a tricky day, I got 8 hours of sleep, a meal eaten while doing something else, and prayed that my back wouldn't be permanently damaged from any of the gymnastics.  These days also meant that I generally had no downtime between two feeds or I did a tube-feed with Jack in the backseat of the car while one of my parents were driving us to or from the doctor's office.

Here's what I remember from three tricky items: bathing Jack, medical appointments, and in-home therapy visits.

Bathing the Baby:
We bathed Jack about once every 7-10 days.  I'd wipe him down with wet-wipes every two-three days, but eventually he'd get grungy enough that he needed immersion in water.  The tricky bit was that Jack had a feeding tube and nasal cannula taped to his face - well, actually there was a base layer between his face and the tape, but you get the idea.  Removing the wires, feeding tube and nasal cannula was simple especially since we only removed it when the base layer was coming loose on its own.   The exhausting bit was replacing everything after the bath. 
Expanded for details.  The beige layer visible on his cheek is duoderm which had a sticky bottom layer that wouldn't remove skin and a textured top layer that we stuck surgical tape and tegaderm on.  The white layer is surgical tape; it was the adhesive layer that held everything in place.  On top of the surgical tape was a layer of tegaderm which is like a sticky saran wrap to make it harder for Jack to pull anything free.  He's got his orange NG feeding tube in his right nostril.  The small black and white cords are attached to his chest.  The thick white cord is attached to the oxygen monitor on his big toe.
Here's how I'd bathe Jack:
Pre-bath prep:
  1. Turn off monitor.
  2. Remove taped layers from Jack's face.
  3.  Cut the feeding tube and nasal cannula free of the layers of adhesive.
  4. When Jack was on 24 hours a day of oxygen, replace the cannula using the slider on the tube to hold it in place.  If he was being bathed during a oxygen wean, hang the nasal cannula on the flow meter or throw out if it needed to be replaced.
  5. If the NG tube was >14 days old, throw it out.  If under 14 days, take the NG tube over to the kitchen sink.  Use 10mL syringe to force 5-10mL of whatever pop we had on the counter through the feeding tube to dissolve any proteins that had coagulated in the tube.  Drop the tube into about 1/4 of a cup of pop to clean the outside.  
  6. Take off Jack's clothing.  Remove the chest leads and stick them to the diaper wipes container.  Remove the toe lead and lay it in the box of assorted medical items. 
  7. Swaddle the baby in a bath towel and lay him in his bassinet.
  8. Put the baby bath on the sink and fill it.  Get soap and washcloths ready.
  9. Remove Jack's diaper.  Put Jack in bath.
Bathing him was pretty standard; if he was attached to the nasal cannula, that would trail up and out of the bath tub.  I'll skip those steps and start back up with Jack laying on the dinning room table we converted into a changing/medical station wearing a diaper with a large receiving blanket or dry bath towel under him.

Post-bath work:
1) Fish the feeding tube out of the pop and rinse it in water.  Carry it back to the baby.
2) Cut a length of surgical tape about 4 inches long.  Rip in half.  Attach the pieces to the flow meter so I won't lose them.  Tear 3 one inch pieces and attach to the flow meter.
3)Use the towel or receiving blanket to straight-jacket Jack's arms.
4) Measure the depth that the feeding tube needs to be inserted by placing the tip at the nostril that it will be inserted in, run the tube to the earlobe on that side of the head, then to a point halfway between the xiphoid process (bottom of the sternum) and his belly button.  (Jack traditionally thrashed his head around during this part which made it insanely complicated.) Twist one of the pieces of surgical tape all the way around the NG tube leaving two sticky ends free.  Lay the NG tube out of the way where neither the baby nor I will get the tape stuck on us.
4) Take out a sheet of duoderm, a roll of tegaderm, and scissors.  Cut the duoderm into a barbell-shape where the thin bit fits on the skin between Jack's upper lip and nose without touching his upper lip.  Remove the backing.  Pin Jack's head in place while placing the duoderm on his face without stretching it.   (Angry growls from the baby should be ignored.)
5) Lubricate the tip of the NG tube with saliva.  Insert the NG tube by pointing Jack's chin upward and aiming the tube for the dark space in his nostril.  Quickly and smoothly push the tube inward until the tape is reached.  Attach the tape to the duoderm under his nose.  (Counter-intuitively, Jack never put up much of a fuss during the actual insertion - probably because from his point of view I wasn't messing around with his face.)
6) Check the tube for placement in the stomach by attaching a 10mL syringe and suctioning.  When it is in place, stomach fluid or formula will appear in the tube.  (Honestly, you'll know if it goes in the trachea LONG before this point.  It happened once.  Jack's face turned bright red, he started frantically waving his arms and thrashing his head.  We pulled the tube out in less than a second and he was fine.)
7) Lay the NG tube along the tegaderm on his cheek.  Use the 1 inch pieces diagonally across the tube to secure in place. 
8) Lasso the nasal cannula around his head.  Tighten the slider in the back.   
9) Cut a length of tegaderm.  Remove backing and place over the NG tube and nasal cannula on one cheek.  Cut another length.   Use to secure the nasal cannula on the far cheek.
10) Replace the toe electrode.  
11) Replace the chest electrodes.  Cut two short lengths of tegaderm and place over chest leads to secure.
12) Turn on monitor.  Redo toe electrode as needed.  
13) Dress baby.  Look at clock.  Start feeding routine.

Medical appointments:
7-10 days before:
  •  Get one of my parents to come to help wrangle Jack's equipment.
Night before:
  • Check his medical go-bag to see that it contains an entire NG replacement set (NG tube, duoderm, surgical tape, tegaderm, scissors, 10mL syringe), a replacement nasal cannula, a 2oz syringe for feeds and an unopened bottle water.
  • Make sure the diaper bag has diapers, wipes, Vaseline, a spare outfit, a burp cloth, a pacifier and toys (once he got old enough to be interested in toys.)
  • Check that the travel tank in the shoulder bag has enough oxygen for the trip.  Replace if needed.
After the last feed before the appointment:
  • Put car keys and wallet in pockets.
  • Mark bottles with feed times that will occur during the appointment plus one extra. Place medications in the correct bottle.  Place bottles into diaper bag (which is an insulated lunch bag.)
  • Place diaper bag into the giant bag.  Bring giant bag into dinning room.
  • Put baby on changing table.  
  • Detach monitor from electrical outlet.  Verify that the battery is working.  Put monitor in giant bag.
  • Use regulator on the travel tank to set the oxygen flow to 0.5L. Detach nasal cannula from oxygen concetrator.  Attach to travel tank.  Place travel tank in giant bag.
  • One adult picks up baby.  Second adult secures cords onto the first adult (so that the first adult doesn't trip on them) and picks up giant bag.  Walk out of the house, down the steps and to the car.
  • Put the giant bag on the floor behind the car seat.  Secure Jack.  One adult drives; other adult sits in back with Jack and is in charge with dealing with the monitor if it goes off during the trip.
Upon arrival at the doctor's office:
  • Adult who is not driving removes stroller from the trunk, arranges the oxygen tank, monitor and diaper bag into storage under the stroller, removes Jack from the car seat, and secures him in the stroller.  Driver watches for anyone who might not see the adult running around the outside of the car and parks the car after Jack's brought inside.
The actual appointments are pretty standard. 

After the appointment, all of the previous steps are reversed.  Tube-feeding in the car was the same as tube-feeding at home except that the adult had to hold the 2oz syringe over Jack's head to allow gravity to feed him so you have really tired arms at the end.

Therapist Visits:
Ok - truth in blogging time.  I like home-visits by therapists.  I get time to talk with an adult besides my parents or spouse plus the therapist is someone who was totally used to babies attached to medical equipment so I didn't have to explain anything to them.  Since I did home-bound tutoring when I taught, I know that therapists aren't mentally judging my housekeeping or organizational standards; it's not part of their job description.

The down-side: Babies can smell a therapist coming from a mile away and work at thwarting their evil aims.

  • Jack behaved like his physical therapist was trying to kill him when she placed him on an exercise ball or laid him on the floor on a heap of mats and blankets.  
  • He'd go completely limp and pretend that he didn't know how to support his head.  
  • Jack had an entire act where he'd slump over while being held in a sitting position and cough dramatically 3-4 times.  Using his last bit of strength, he'd slowly raise his head up and bravely make eye-contact with the PT or OT before giving a weak, deathly ill baby cough.   I would burst out laughing and "verbalize" Jack's performance as "Lisa, I really want to work with you today - I really do.  But PT is making my multy-dwug wesistant tuburkuosis (multi-drug resistant tuberculosis) I just....can't.  I'm so weak...."  That would make Jack swivel his head towards me and glare at me because for siding with the PT.    
His antics were hilarious - but it's exhausting to have a baby acting like he's being killed for the better part of an hour even if you know he's fine.

Plus, no matter when we scheduled an appointment, Jack would be hungry and cranky by the end and I'd have no downtime between two feed cycles.

 For the first two months after he was discharged from the NICU, Jack averaged 0.5 doctor's appointments between his "normal" well-baby visits and specialists visits to the pulmonologist, cardiologist, neuro-developmental pediatrician, and optometrist  plus two therapy visits per week.

We were lucky.  Jack "graduated" from weekly PT at the end of the first two months and out of SLP at the end of four month into a single monthly appointment with a PT/OT early childhood specialist through Early On.  Our SLP acted as a medical liasion guru who got Jack into specialists earlier so that his care would be transitioned faster.  The optometrist found no signs of damage to his eyes so we just need a single yearly appointment until he's verbal enough to be checked at school.  His lung issues and persistent PDA didn't lead to pulmonary hypertension so his next cardiology appointment is when he's three.  We see the pulmonologist twice a year.

For kids with more substantial delays like Verity and Katie Musser or Lina, Olyvia, Rachele and Avi Carpenter, they could be entitled to three therapy visits a week each until they were enrolled in school (Speech, occupational therapy, and physical therapy) on top of well-child checks, any visits to the doctor for illnesses and quarterly/yearly appointments with medical specialists.  Additionally, if the kids are eligible for Medicare and receive specialist visits, the kids are often eligible for home care aides to help with daily hygiene function which adds an entire different layer of scheduling to the calendar.

Just writing this out is exhausting - so that's why I am extremely skeptical that families with multiple children with complicated disabilities are able to cope with a single stay-at-home mom and whatever resources they can cobble together - especially if they refuse governmental services as many CP/QF families do.....

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter Five

There is a one thing I really enjoyed about this chapter.  It is really short.

The rest of the chapter is a vapid, contradictory ramble on how people should dress modestly because otherwise those lost pagans might not think the right things about Jesus!  Also, Christians shouldn't judge others by their outer appearances - but Christians can TOTALLY judge people by their outer appearances.

It's so tricky to justify judging others while being totally clear that you yourself are not to be judged.

The chapter leads off with a completely unconvincing "discussion" between two friends about how Hannah thinks Sarah's clothing is inappropriate.

"But it doesn't matter what I wear!" Sarah scoffed. "God sees my heart!" Sarah finish putting on her lipstick while Hannah tried in vain to reason with her old friend.

" Yes, God sees your heart," Hannah explained, " but nobody else does --especially boys --they see that." Hannah swept her hand in front of Sarah's revealing outfit. "Don't you see? They're too distracted by what you're wearing to notice you."

"But that's my point! I don't care if boys notice me or not." Hannah smiled coyly. "I just care what God thinks, and he can see my heart." (pg. 53)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Life with One (1) Medically Complicated Infant: An easy day.

Being a bit over a year into my son's wild and crazy life, his medical needs have dropped down to "baby who needs asthma-control medication and judicious choice of outings during cold and flu season".  IOW, he's so close to being a normal 9 month (adjusted) baby that I feel like I can breathe.

I'd breathe more easily if I hadn't gone back to child hoarding adoption blogs. 

See, I have no idea how many of these families are even pretending to function.   My single medically complex son pushed my skills at organizing, sticking to a schedule, staying calm, ad-libbing, communicating and not losing my mind to the brink.

I didn't home school.  I didn't work outside the home.  I didn't do more than a handful of chores a week.  I didn't cook meals from scratch.  I relied heavily on my husband, my parents and a few family friends to keep our lives running well enough that we could keep my son healthy and growing.

I don't think people get a clear view of what a medically complicated kid looks like from those blogs - so I'm going to outline what I remember doing at various time intervals.

I also feel compelled to point out that my son was much easier than many medically complicated kids.

  • The doctors know exactly what is wrong with him.  
  • I live 30-60 minutes away from a city with a level 4 NICU (that's the kind that is attached to a pediatrics hospital that can do all sorts of tricky surgeries), a top rated children's hospital that has an out-patient clinic where my son is being monitored by a series of pediatric specialists, and a family doctor who thinks she's the luckiest doctor in the world to get to have my son as a patient.   
  • My son weighed between 8-16 pounds so I could move him without assistance and without being likely to injure myself.
  • My son is a super-good, mellow baby.  His personality is as easy-going as they come.
  • My husband and I learned how to use Jack's oxygen (O2) and feeding tube (NG) easily.
  • I'm really good at formulaic paperwork and I find playing phone-tag with insurance companies vaguely enjoyable.   
  • My husband makes enough money that we could simply buy a lot of odds and ends that has made our lives more simple while he was working half-time.  
  • Most importantly, my parents were on-board and ready to go with helping out with Jack.  

Here we go.  I'm going to start with an "easy" day.  This is any day that does not include a bath, having to redo taping, out-of-the house visits or any in-home therapist visits.

Average Day Schedule with a newborn Jack:  (Jack had issues with severe choking during reflux episodes not associated with feeding so an adult who could do infant CPR had to be with him at all times.)

9am: Wake up.  Get dressed for day. Stretch legs.   Eat breakfast while getting an overview of Nico's time with Jack.

9:30am:  Take over Jack's feeding so Nico can get ready for work.   Say goodbye to Nico when he leaves around 10am.

10am: Get Jack settled into his Rock'N'Play.   Throw in a load of laundry. Tackle one of the weekly duties.   Nap/ down time for me if possible.

11am:  Change over laundry.  Fold yesterday's load.  Give him his dose of Zanac at least 30 minutes before noon.

Noon: Begin a feed with Jack.
Feed routine:
1) Change Jack's diaper (and clothes if needed).  He's got wires on the toe of one foot, two chest leads, one oxygen cannula and a feeding tube.    I always felt like I was trying to put a diaper on an octopus.
2) Put Jack in safe location while I get his bottle out of the fridge.
3) Put warm water in his bottle warmer.   Put bottle in warmer.
4)Look up what medication/vitamin he needs at this feed.  Measure medication and add to formula.
5) Assemble the Dr. Brown's bottle system.
6) Stack pillows on the couch so that I can feed Jack in a left-side lying position without too much discomfort for me.
7) Feed Jack stopping to burp after each ounce.  Each choke, gag or reflux flinch is "one strike".  After three strikes, we need to stop the oral feed and switch to his feeding tube so that he doesn't learn to associate feeding with pain.
8) Finish by feeding tube.

  • Put baby in rock'n'play or his crib.
  • Get a 10ml syringe, 2 oz syringe, and a length of string.
  • Tie the 2oz syringe to the string.  Tie the string to a piece of furniture that will hold the syringe at a constant height of between 6-12 inches above Jack's head.
  • Pull the feeding tube out of Jack's onesie. (This was often the hardest part; I swear that kid wrapped the tube around his legs on purpose.
  • Attach the 10mL syringe to the feeding tube. Draw out any air that's accumulated in his stomach.  Detach the syringe from the tube and blow the air out.  Repeat until the syringe shows stomach fluid or formula.
  • Attach the 2oz syringe to the feeding tube.  
  • Hang the 2oz syringe from the string.
  • Fill the syringe with 2oz of formula.
  • If the tube isn't flowing, use the plunger to push a few milliliters of formula through the tube.  
  • Repeat the last two steps until he's finished the bottle.
  • Detach the 2oz syringe from the feeding tube.
  • Use the 10mL syringe to draw out air as above.
  • Cap the feeding tube.
9) Wash up all of the items used during this section.

Feeding Jack takes between 1-2 hours.  Jack's usually pretty tired by the end and often will fall asleep.

1pm: One or both of my parents would come over.  They would finish Jack's feed while I caught an hour to two hour nap.  I'd need to add medication to his 3pm feed if they were staying before I fell asleep.

3pm: Wake up from nap.  If my parents are staying, I do an out of the house errand or exercise.  If not, Jack's ready for his next feed which will last until between 4-5pm.

4pm: Nico comes home.  He goes to sleep for two hours.

5pm: Eat lunch if I haven't done it already.  

6pm: Nico wakes up in time to take over for Jack's 6pm feed.  I go to sleep in the bedroom until 11:30pm.  

9pm: Nico feeds Jack.  He also gives Jack his nebulizer treatment which Jack has strong feelings about.  He catches a nap on the couch where he can hear Jack's alarms.

11:30pm: I wake up and take over Jack for the night shift.  Give Jack Zanac right away in his feeding tube since it is most effective on an empty stomach.

Midnight: Jack never wakes up for this feed - ever.  Since infants aren't really active participants in physical therapy, I do his PT on him after I change his diaper, skip the oral feeding portion and move right to feeding him through the tube.  It takes about 30 minutes to feed by tube only and 15 minutes to change his diaper and do PT when he's asleep.

1am: Work on blog post if I'm not sleepy.  Nap on the couch near Jack's bassinet  where I can hear and respond to his alarms if he chokes if I'm sleepy.

3am: Question all of my life choices; I'm not a night owl.  Play a bit with my wide-awake baby, remember that this isn't going to help him differentiate day and night, and get down to feeding the baby.  

Between 4-5am: Finish feeding Jack.  Fall asleep on couch.

5:30am: Nico wakes up and starts making coffee.  I wake up, mumble "I love you" and go into the bedroom where I can sleep more deeply until 9am.

That was an easy day with one kid and three-four caregivers.  The next post will be on the repeating issues that cause days to go from "easy" to draining.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit: Depression - Part Two

In the first post on depression, we looked at some of the decent ideas for surviving depression while being a homeschooling mom like exercising, avoiding caffeine, and following a schedule.  We saw one terrible idea - use OTC progesterone creams. *shudders*

This post is focused on quotes from the chapter that are mediocre to terrible.    Let's jump in:

I discovered that I made it best through a time of depression when I didn't try to analyze what was causing it. It was better to accept my feelings - as Steve would encourage me to do - like a physical ailment to be patiently waited out. The more I ferreted for the causes, the more discouraged and upset I would become.

However, the times I accepted the feelings and said," Lord, I don't like this, but I'm going to focus on you and not on me. I am not going to make any major decisions or search for the cause. I will just wait. If I do that, it will pass with no damage except for feeling down. If I think about being depressed, and talk to Steve about it, it will pull me further down, resulting in wrong thoughts and words." (pg. 99)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Ting Ministries: Special Needs Adoption as Child Hoarding - Background

I feel sick. 

I've been covering the Musser Family (two parents, 15 kids total; one adopted special need child who drowned in 2013 [Tommy], two living adopted special needs children [Katie age 15, Josie age 15], two biological children with special needs [Verity age 7, John Michael age 12], and 10 biological children: [Not available for 24-7 care-taking: Daniel age 22, Joshua age 20, Laura age 18; current full-time caretaker: Jane age 16; everyone else: Stephen age 9, Peter age 11,  James age 11, Ben age 4; Nathaniel 2] since a year after Tommy died.

Good on Laura for getting free of the last four years of full-time care-taking for Verity and assisting with Katie.  I'm sorry to say that Jane's now not being home-schooled as far as I can tell and has been co-opted into Laura's full-time caregiver position now that Laura has a job.    According to the previous pattern, Susanna's adoption itch should be getting pretty bad soon.  Expect a new kid to appear by first quarter of 2019 at the latest.

Through their craziness, I learned about another family - Brian and Stephanie Carpenter - who have no biological children and are working on adopting as many special needs kids as they can. 

Let's take a look at their current family in order of adoption:

1) Sasha - 20 years old.

  • Adopted from Ukraine at age 17 months with cerebral palsy (CP); in-country specialists stated that she had severe CP and would never be able to walk.
  • Medical outlook: She has mild CP which means she's fully mobile on her own; she's an excellent student at a local college.
  • Ministry Purpose: She has been told by her family since day one that "God saved you for a purpose."  Sounds sweet on the outside - but she's the main social media guru for her family's efforts to batch adopt kids on a yearly basis.  The family leads off with her story all_the_time which serves to minimize concerns that people have about medical reports on complicated special needs orphans - e.g., "Ukraine was so wrong about Sasha; I bet they're wrong about (insert name of orphan-du-jour)

3) Ellianna - around 13 years old

  • Adopted: from Taiwan in 2007 at age three with moderate CP and profound deafness.
  • Medical outlook: The Mussers blog implies that she's nonverbal, deaf and has severe CP (e.g., she cannot walk even with mobility aids).  Based on Ting Ministry's information and photos, a more realistic description is moderate CP, profoundly deaf with little intelligible speech- but fluent in ASL.  
  • Ministry Purpose: She's photogenic and capable of age-appropriate interaction with other human beings.  She serves as a handy model for what the family can accomplish.  
3)Avi (Avigayl)  - around 12 years old; functions at infant level.
  • Adopted: from the Philippines in 2009 at age 4.  Known diagnosis of severe cerebral palsy.
  • Medical outlook: Added diagnosis of scoliosis.  Has severe developmental lags so that she functions at the level of an infant; I don't know if that is from a preexisting genetic condition or she was so malnourished prior to adoption that her body had to metabolize her brain to stay alive.  Until now, I had assumed it was from malnutrition - but in the summer of 2017, Avi and her family got a Make-a-Wish trip.  Make-a-Wish only funds "progressive, degenerative,  or malignant disorders that are currently placing a child's life in jeopardy".   Severe scoliosis can be life-threatening (the treatment is some rough surgeries) - but I am very worried that Avi has an additional degenerative disorder.   She's still a tiny little thing compared to the growth of her other adopted sisters - even ones with similarly severe disabilities.
  • Ministry Purpose: She's lovely - and they don't update about her much.
4) Lina (Angelina) - around 10 years old; functions somewhere in the infant to toddler level.
  • Adopted: from the Plevin Orphanage in Bulgaria in 2012 at age 5.5.  No notes on any of the blogs about diagnoses prior to adoption - but she was critically malnourished and weighed 12 pound at 5 years of age.  (For reference, my 9 month old adjusted son weighs 18 pounds and is on the skinny side.)
  • Medical outlook: It all depends on how damaged her brain is from malnutrition.   She started walking this summer which is good for her body and makes care much easier.  Based on the amount of posts about the fact she's walking, I don't think she's had any other major breakthroughs in terms of cognitive development.
  • Ministry Purposes: Did you notice she's walking!  She's walking now!  She looks like a healthy kid in a few carefully chosen pictures prominently displayed!  Now, when you dig around on the site, the candid pictures show that she's easily distracted during family photos - like the fact she's pulling Ellianna's hair in this year's Christmas photo - but did I mention she's walking!  Everyone knows that physical development mirrors cognitive development perfectly......  
5) Olyvia - around 14 years old; probably functions at mobile infant level - but the blog doesn't mention her much..
  • Adopted from Plevin Orphanage in Bulgaria in 2012 at the age of 9 with her sister Rachele. Known diagnoses of spina bifida, cerebral palsy, autism, and severe, long-term malnutrition. 
  • Medical outlook:  Same outlook as Lina.  She learned to sit and hold her head up within two months of coming home from Plevin -  which is great! There have been no new updates on steps forward for her since then - which is sad, but shouldn't be unexpected.  
  • Ministry Purposes: They need one decent picture of her a year as an individual and one in the family Christmas picture.  Outside of that, she needs to stay under the  potential donors radar of how much work a nonverbal child who cannot walk takes on a day-to-day basis.  She can do this by looking in the general direction the camera and sitting independently in some photos.....
Have I mentioned I feel physically ill from writing about these poor kids?
6) Rachele - around 11 years old;  her functional age is of a newborn or less.
  • Adopted from Plevin Orphanage in Bulgaria in 2012 at the age of 6 with her sister Olyvia. Known diagnoses of cerebral palsy, epilepsy and long-term critical malnutrition.
  • Medical outlook:  Poor.  She grew 15 inches in her first year with the Carpenter family; that's the only update about Rachele so I am assuming she has severe cognitive impairments as well as physical impairments.  She will need extensive medical and daily living support for the rest of her life - which may be shortened by her inability to describe pain or discomfort to doctors.
  • Ministry Purposes:  She needs to look good in the family Christmas photo - and not do anything to draw people's attention to the fact that she's severely disabled.
7) Hannah (Annie) - around 15 years old.  
  • Adopted from China in 2016 at the age of nearly-14 with moderate cerebral palsy.  Any questions about how fair being placed in a home with four severely disabled sisters and one sister with disabilities who uses a form of sign language Annie's never seen were swept under the rug with "If she's not adopted by 14, she will NEVER be adopted!"  I really hoped the adoption fund-raising would fail for Annie's sake; it succeeded.
  • Medical outlook:  Pretty solid.  Based on photos, she's still wheelchair-dependent for long outings - but she may be using crutches or a walker for shorter distances at home.  Educationally, she graduated from 8th grade.  Assuming she's acquired English at an average rate, she's probably comfortable with conversational English by now.  The main educational issue is trying to make up any content area deficits with a teen who is still between 1.5-3 years away from developing  academic English while she receives intensive physical therapy (hopefully, she doesn't need any surgeries) AND before she reaches 21 years of age.  That's a lot to do in six years - and her family has 4 children who need full-time care plus her slightly younger sister who needs a lot of care now.
Once the Carpenters got Annie home, Sasha spear-headed a media blitz to raise $20,000 to refit their family home so that the girls could get around using their adaptive equipment.  Nothing says "good planning" like remembering that the kids can't move around the house until after you've adopted 6 kids who have major mobility issues; Susanna's always a bit more forth-right than the Carpenters......  (Added bonus in the linked Musser post: Susanna decides that she needs to explain to Josie - who has moderate CP herself - that Annie's moderate CP means that she can't get her body and mouth to do what her brain wants them to do - but Annie's still really smart.  Josie replied, "I get it."  I'm really curious what Josie was thinking during that interchange....and what she thinks of her adoptive mother.)

The fundraising bonanza failed; they raised around $7,000.

On a totally unrelated note, the Carpenter Family remembered in April of 2017 that there are two girls with some unspecified disabilities living in China the Carpenters want to adopt - if they can raise $45,000. 

After all, at some magic number of children, people will cough up the dough to get a house that the kids can live in comfortably - so let's keep racking up the kid count.

It's not like the Carpenters - and the Mussers if they wanted to - could fund-raise to help disabled kids in China instead of bringing them to the US into their overextended family.   No....that's too much disinterested generosity and too little praise for the Carpenters.

I feel sick.

Friday, December 15, 2017

ATI Wisdom Booklet: The Evils of Evolution - Part Three

Welcome to the last post on the Evils of Evolution according to ATI's Wisdom Booklet!  Now, the booklet starts with a several page discussion of the first two laws of thermodynamics before attempting to explain why evolution breaks those laws.

The first section is filled with "facts" that are badly mistaken.  Evolution is not directional; there is no reason to expect that organisms will always become more complicated or will never become less complex.  Organisms can lose organs that are not useful in their environment.  
  • Whales have vestiges of hind legs that have become greatly reduced down to bone spurs. 
  • Many organisms that live in caves or in the deep ocean lack eyes.  
  • One hypothesis about the evolution of viruses is that viruses evolved from a common ancestor to bacteria into a parasite that requires other organisms to reproduce.
I am uncertain about what the clause "and also experience" means in the last sentence.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics does state that entropy (or disorder) increases in a random flow of energy.   

The reason the Second Law of Thermodynamics doesn't apply to living organisms is that living organisms capture energy from the environment and use that energy to repair the disorder that occurs.   For example, being a warm-blooded organism brings a higher rate of mutations in DNA simply because the nucleotides that make up DNA and RNA are more unstable at higher temperature.  This is offset by the energy liberated from food that is used to repair DNA.

When does the Second Law of Thermodynamics apply to living things?  It applies when they die; they stop taking in energy and at that point the body disintegrates.

Mutations are random - and can create more complicated organisms.  As I mentioned in the last post, mutations are generally silent, occasionally negative, and rarely positive. 

Labeling mutations as a destructive force that increases entropy is just plain weird.  A mutation is not necessarily a lower state of entropy compared to the original state; a mutation is often part of a very complex chemical structure and can create complicated chemical structures - in other words - a mutation can lower entropy.  The comparison to an earthquake is purposefully misleading - but hey, it's ATI......

The world is a fascinating place - and it's fascinating enough that ATI's authors didn't need to fudge the truth. 

Yes, bacteria have pretty cool cell walls - but it's not like each bacterial species has a completely unique type of cell wall.    The cell walls are similar enough between two large sub-group of bacteria that microbiologists use the type of cell wall as the first step in determining the identity of a bacteria.  The Gram stain to identify the cell wall uses a two-step staining technique on a slide with bacteria on it.  The two groups are referred to as "Gram negative" and "Gram positive".  Added bonus: a lot of antibiotics work by breaking holes in the cell wall and cellular membrane of a bacteria so knowing that an infection is by a Gram negative (or positive) gives doctors a quick way to eliminate certain classes of antibiotics when a patient is suffering an infection.

Viruses DO NOT do the same complex operations that larger organisms do.  There's always a debate about if viruses are alive or not.   The issue is that viruses cannot reproduce on their own; they do not have the cellular equipment to do that any more.  A virus has to invade a cell, hijack the DNA or RNA of the cell, and use the cellular equipment to produce more viruses.   I fall in the "viruses are not alive" category of scientists.

I'm very curious how ATI would deal with prions.....

That's right enough.  It's a bit outdated because "geographic separation" is not a requirement of speciation - especially in non-animal organisms.  Plants are known for producing a genetically abnormal offspring that cannot breed back to the parent species because of a mismatch between chromosome number.  In animals, that would mean the organism couldn't reproduce.  Plants, though, have a trick up their (proverbial) sleeves; they can reproduce asexually.  If that abnormal plant sends off a runner that grows into a new plant, that new plant has the name number of chromosomes as the abnormal plant.  Now, the abnormal plant and its clone can reproduce sexually using flowers again.  Poof!  We've now had a new species evolve in the middle of an existing species without geographic separation.

The author then goes into great detail about how the frequency of the morphs in the British pepper moth changed from "mostly light" before the Industrial Revolution to "mostly dark" during the Industrial Revolution back to "mostly light" as pollution decreased.  
I kept waiting for the author to explain why they were harping on about pepper moth morphs and lab coat color and how it disproves evolution.   See, species are usually defined as organisms who can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.  Light and dark pepper moths are both members of one species of moth.  Ditto for different coat colors in dogs.  

There's a separate issue involving dogs and horses.  Humans try to keep purebred lines of dogs and horses for around 200 years- and the dogs and horses work as diligently to cross-breed with whatever member of their species comes near them.   It's a bit easier with horses now since relatively few stallions are kept by private owners compared to mares and geldings - but an intact dog will travel (or cause intact males to travel) long distances to find females in heat.   Heck, we had a group of steers (which are castrated male cattle) get out, wander to another dairy farm 5 miles away and start to hang out around the cows who were in heat.  Livestock aren't picky - and they know far more about how to find a mate than humans give them credit for.

The last section is the most flaky argument - both scientifically and theologically.

The only way ATI can try and make homologous structures in organisms seem scientifically invalid is by doing a botched job on the history section.  Sure, scientists compared the skeletal structure of different animals in the 1500's.  Next, they looked at the cellular structure of tissues beginning in the early 1600s.  By 1800, scientists were working out the relative ages of fossils and comparing the structures found in fossils to living organisms as well. Research exploded in the 1900s - scientists figured out how to look at cellular structure within fossils as well as developed ways to compare protein, RNA, and DNA sequences using various techniques. 

The neat thing - all of these fields added new information that helped scientists tease out which organisms were related to each other.    It's not like scientists are relying solely on anatomical drawings from the 1500s alone.

And this is where ATI goes off the rails theologically.

Yup.  ATI falls back into the common CP/QF heresy that God's omnipotence is constrained within the physical world.   God's just like a human painter - artists are constrained within style, techniques and design.  God is constrained so that most bacteria only have two cell wall types, entire gene sequences are conserved between species, and lots of animals have similar skeletons. 

To me, the most obvious response is that if an omnipotent Creator could make anything - anything! - and didn't want to create evolution, why don't we have more variation?  Like a vertebrate with six legs or hairy fish?  Really, an evolved world is much more boring than the creations possible by a Divine Creator.

I love this trick!  ATI makes a deep sounding statement about bones and skin - then stops dead.  Ending is important because giving any sort of detail about how bones  or skins are 'irreconcilably' different will be disproved rapidly and easily by comparative anatomists.  Better to just stop and run away before anyone asks questions.

Boom!  Done with evolution for now :-)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit: Depression - Part One

This is the second to last post on Teri Maxwell's "Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit".  She has an entire chapter dedicated to discussing her personal struggles with depression and strategies that worked for her.  I've decided to divide the chapter into two posts.  This post is about non-toxic strategies.  The last post will be about toxic strategies.

Let's dive in at the beginning of the chapter.

In one of Steve's monthly home school in articles for dads ( www.titus; July 2000), he mentioned that my bouts of depression were part of the reason we decided, at one point, to limit our family size. We were amazed at how many people emailed us, after that one sentence in his article, to ask how we dealt with the problem of depression. (pg. 95)

Wow.  I've discussed tangentially my concerns about mental health issues in CP/QF families before - but the fact that the Maxwells' had a wave of emails in response to a single sentence mention of Teri's struggle with depression is sobering.  In the wider US society, there is still lingering stigma about mental health issues - although lessened for the "acceptable" illnesses of depression and anxiety.   By comparison to CP/QF society, the rest of the US lives in a wonderland - a land where medical and psychological remedies exist to lessen the burden of mental illness.  In CP/QF land, all of the asinine assumptions about mental illness exist along with a heap of guilt because if a person REALLY loved God, they wouldn't have mental illness.  (If my options for reasons I have a mental illness is a) not enough faith or b) demonic possession, I think I'd pick the demonic possession.  The fact I'm not entirely to blame for the demon picking on me could be comforting.)

It is only been this 8 years since the Lord has given me freedom from the at times devastating depression from which I had struggled. It was usually worse during the year I nursed a baby. My pain through those difficult years was very real and is not that distant. I can fully understand the concerned feelings of a mom who is struggling with times of depression and the worry of her husband, because that was my experience too. (pg 95-96)

That's a classic description of postpartum depression; it begins within the year after a child is born and can be worsened by the hormonal changes that accompany lactation.   During the years (late 1970's through the late 1990's) that Teri Maxwell was having children, doctors tended to take an overly hard line against the use of anti-depressants during pregnancy and lactation.  Now, doctors have realized that use of most SSRIs during pregnancy has no increased risk of birth defects in the infants while decreased depression symptoms lead to better pregnancy outcomes since the mother is more likely to seek prenatal care and take better care of herself during pregnancy.  In a similar vein, doctors have found that the amount of most SSRIs found in breast milk is nearly none. 

Personally, I remained on an SSRI during my pregnancy with my son and increased the dose slightly after he was born prematurely.  I checked with the neonatal staff and they said that there are very few drugs that are incompatible with breastfeeding - and most of those are contraindicated during pregnancy so I had no reason to worry.

Postpartum depression has been shown to be very treatable through psychological therapy methods as well.  I see a therapist and was extremely grateful for her support during my son's early days.

We discovered that there were very real hormonal imbalances that affected my emotions. I would do everything I could to deny this, but it was obvious to everyone except me. What I could normally handle one day would send me to tears another day. To combat this physical imbalance, I used a natural progesterone cream for a time. In addition, I followed a vitamin regimen suggested by our naturopathic doctor friend. I eliminated caffeine as well. (pg. 97)

Here's my PSA for the week: do NOT use cosmetic creams that contain progesterone - EVER. 

There is a terrifying loophole I learned about while doing background research for this post: as long as a skin preparation is for "cosmetic" purposes, the FDA cannot screen it as it would a skin preparation for "medical purposes".    This means that a cream may contain less progesterone than is advertised - or more.   

Progesterone passes through the skin with relative ease; it has a non-polar structure that is soluble in the lipids that make up the skin.  CP/QF folk already argue that hormonal birth control is evil - and horrible for women's health.  Well, while I was pumping for my son I was on Nora-Be as a birth control method.  It contains a daily oral dose of 0.35 mg of progestin.  For the life of me, I can't remember if Nora-Be was a 21 active day or 28 active day pill - but I received either 7.35 mg or 9.8 mg of progestin per cycle.    Many of the skin creams advertise that they contain 445 mg of progesterone in 2 oz.  Assuming 25% of the progesterone in the cream makes it into the blood stream (which is very conservative), a woman would need to make that 2 oz of cream last for 12 months to keep her hormonal exposure under the amount in a mini-pill like Nora-Be. 

If you think you have a hormonal imbalance that needs to be treated, you need to be seeing an MD, DO, PA, or FNP on a regular basis.

Thankfully, she does have some recommendations that are sane:

Daily exercise was critical at this time. I know daily exercise sounds impossible to an already depressed, overwhelmed, terribly tired mom. My walks were about the only time I was away from home. When I began to feel myself spiraling down, getting out would be the single thing that would change the course of my emotions. Just being away from the environment I was struggling with for a short period each day, plus the effect of the exercise itself, was very helpful (pg. 97-98)

Exercise is huge for my personal sanity.  When Spawn first came home from the NICU, he was a mellow baby who had complicated medical needs.  Going for a walk every day kept me sane.  I needed some time out of the house where I could be away from listening for alarms while scheduling appointments, doing physical therapy with him or caring for him or his equipment.  That mental break boosted the stress-relieving and mood-lightening effects that exercise has for me - plus being outside is very calming for me.

What I was more struck by is how much Teri Maxwell struggled with the entire concept of a SAHM who home schooled to boot.  She doesn't describe struggling with herself nearly as often as she describes struggling with the environment or feelings produced by her environment - and that's a sad commentary on what life must have been like for her.

Being tired was sure to put me off balance. I am a light sleeper, often being awakened in the night by a noise or perhaps the need to nurse a baby. After that, I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep. For 8 years now, I have worn earplugs when I sleep. They have transformed my nights! I thought not being able to sleep was just part of my physical makeup. Not so! Since I began wearing earplugs, I hardly ever have a sleepless night. Steve became the "ears" for our family. I know he will wake me up if the children need me.(Earplugs may not be an option for a mom whose husband can't do this.) (pg. 98)

I have been wearing earplugs for around 15 years now and I sleep much better with them.  Some people are simply wired to respond strongly to noises in the night.  Having earplugs in mutes out a lot of the repetitive noises in the night like the furnace kicking on or the random sounds of cars driving by at night while still letting high pitched noises like fire alarms and human voices make it through.

At the risk of being overly nit-picky, her youngest child was 4 or 5 when this book was written.  Little Mary was more than capable of waking her mom up by shaking her shoulder if she needed her to wake up.  Likewise, if my son is really upset at night - like starts to cry loudly instead of sleep whimpers - I can hear him through my earplugs.

I have another revolutionary idea as well: Steve can deal with most -if not all - of the family's needs at night if he wakes up!  Crazy!

I think if depression-prone moms could figure out a way to work on even a skeleton of a schedule, it would help. I have had moms write to me that when they are depressed, brain-dead, or just overwhelmed, their schedule directed them through the day. This was especially helpful because they couldn't make decisions themselves. If you have somewhat of a schedule in place, despite tiredness or feelings, many things would be accomplished because that is the easiest path to take - just do what the schedule says! Without my schedule on those bad days, I would have simply sat and cried. That would have made everything even worse because then I would have been a day behind! In addition, you can let your schedule direct your children when you don't have the energy to keep up with what you wish you would like to be doing. At least they are accomplishing things rather than just undoing everything. (pgs. 102-103)

Schedules have helped me when I was depressed - but I tend to have an internal schedule naturally when I am not depressed.  Trying to institute a schedule while depressed or overwhelmed by external events may work - but it should be undertaken slowly and gently.  Add one item a day like "Eat breakfast" or "Go for a walk".   This is NOT a good time to purchase the Maxwell's "Managers of Their Home" system and try it for the first time.

I feel bad that Teri Maxwell cannot articulate how angry she felt being at home with her kids.  Oh, she has a chapter devoted to anger - but she never fully owns that being a homeschooling SAHM drove her batty.  Instead, it slips out in bits and smidgens like when she describes how her kids just destroy everything when left unscheduled.....

The last post in this series will be about some spiritual methods of combating depression that sound completely worthless to me.   The next book to be reviewed will be her husband's book "Preparing Sons to Be Single-Income Earners" - in which you can help me try to figure out what kind of career path Steve Maxwell has had.....

Monday, December 11, 2017

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter Four

This chapter has the amusing title of "The Beauty of Chastity".   The title sounds noble, feminine and classically lovely.

Alas, the chapter title is only marginally related to the content of the chapter. 

See, Stacy McDonald and her ilk are in a tricky spot.  Using religion-draped slut shaming on anyone who dressed more "worldly" than they do feels SO good - and I am willing to bet it is one of their only forms of entertainment.  They can't let that go.  On the other hand, they need to defend themselves from the same religion-draped slut shaming from anyone who dresses more "modestly" than they do.  And honestly, they do NOT want to give up their hairspray, makeup and stylish clothing.  What is a girl to do?

Well, in this case, she punts and hopes no one reads too closely.....

Because of my own sinful past, as well as the fact sexual sin introduced so many sorrows into my life (even before I was born), I learned early in my Christian walk that purity meant more than simply avoiding sex outside of marriage. Sexual purity, like all virtues, begins in the heart. (pg. 43)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Maidens of Virtue Review: Chapter Three

Chapter Three is a poorly designed fable involving flowers.

I'm a life-long botanist.  My great-uncle Tom stood in as a grandfather to his great nieces and nephews after his brother Robert died at age 52.  He was a pathologist so we all called him Doc Tom.  He would take us out for walks in the woods and he could identify all of the plants and mushrooms we found.  I thought his naturalist abilities were amazing - and wanted to be as good as he was in the woods when I grew up.

I find plants fascinating on many levels - so I am a harsh judge when CP/QF writers decide to pull out flowers as a metaphor.

The fable starts with a few paragraphs describing the beautiful garden filled with flowers and winding paths. It's pretty clear that the flowers are women and the Gardener is God.

Next to the beautiful garden was a rock quarry, grey and cold. The flowers by the fence nearest the quarry began to turn their faces towards the rocks on the other side and wonder what it would be like to be strong and smooth.

It was true that rocks had no roots, but the flowers did not really care about roots. Who could see those?  It would be so much nicer to be big and strong so everyone could behold their powerful shape. (pg. 35)

What do the rocks stand for?

 I think that the rocks stand for men.  The only negative adjective applied to the rocks is "cold" - compared to the positive adjectives of "strong"(twice), "smooth", "big", and "powerful".   Christian Patriarchy writers love to divide women and men into neat, discrete groups so the flower garden vs. the quarry seems apropos.  Finally, women are always being counseled not to step out of their "God-given roles" as nurturing comforters that must be protected from dangerous things which feels right in this fable.

As they gazed upon the grey lifeless rocks, the flowers begin to covet the rocks' strength and coolness. They grew discontent with their purpose and design and began to despise the beautiful colors and delicate leaves and petals with which they were adorned. No longer were they satisfied with their own simple beauty. The wayward flowers rejected their delicate leaves and vibrant colors and instead wished to be made of stone - - desiring only the strength, weight, and power of the granite. These errant flowers became known as the Fence Dwellers.

The Fence Dwellers began to rip off their beautiful petals and leaves and refuse to produce seed. After all, the rocks did not produce seed, so why should they sacrifice in such a selfless manner? The Fence Dwellers covered themselves in clay in order to hide their vibrant colors. Soon they began to crouch low to the ground, trying desperately to resemble the Rocks they so deeply admired.

Heavens. Some of these sentences need to be shortened for my sanity.

The first paragraph seems to be about women who take on masculine traits.  Men are supposed to be big, brawny, hulking lumberjacks who can protect decorative, fertile and flexible waifs from the dangers of the world outside.  I feel compelled to point out that the CP/QF ideal of a "weak" woman is badly misaligned with historical and practical life skills for women.  Yeah, there have always been a few princesses - but far more tenant farmers, artisans, and charwomen.  A strong back, stiff-upper lip and willing work ethic has mattered far more than looking lovely and delicate.  Even today, caring for small children is physically demanding.  Cuddling my son for hours while he was in the NICU left me with a sore neck and arms once he got over 3 pounds.  Now, the boy is close on 18 pounds and needs to be carried upstairs, brought back downstairs, lifted onto his changing table, picked up to move to the high chair, and brought over to his play area many times each day.

The second paragraph is a bit loosey-goosey.

  • If an annual plants loses all its leaves, it will die pretty quickly unless the leaves regrow - but perennial plants do that all the time to survive times of drought.  
  • The whole "children are a selfless martyrdom" theme is overwrought.  
  • If the flowers have ripped off their petals and leaves, what colors are left to be covered by clay? 
  • Plants can crouch?  Really?  How did I miss that on my walks?
I find the insinuation that feminism has lead women astray by allowing some women to have small families or no children insulting. 

Yes, family sizes are smaller now than they used to be - but that's mainly because many people in the past couldn't limit their family size as effectively.  My dad is one of 8 siblings born in 11.5 years.  I highly doubt my grandparents wanted to have a baby every 13 months with two spaces of 2.5 years when my grandmother had second trimester miscarriages.  (For those counting, that's 10 confirmed pregnancies in 12.5 years!)  My mom's mother had 5 living children - but my mom was born when her oldest sister was 17.  I know that Grandmother always said that having teenagers and a toddler at the same time was NOT her idea of a good time.

Assuming that big families of the past were always wanted and appreciated is as vapid as assuming the people enjoyed getting the measles since it was prevalent back then.

As the older herbs, ivies, and bushes that lived farther inside the garden began to notice the strange behavior of the flowers, they laughed. How foolish the flowers looked: barren of petals, covered in clay, attempting to be something they were not.

But soon, the new seedlings within the garden began to listen to the stories of the Fence Dwellers. And as they grew, they too tore their own delicate petals and dusted themselves with clay - - halfway up their stems ; they were not yet as daring as the Fence Dwellers who are tempted daily with the sight of the rock.

The young plants wished desperately they could uproot and live next to the quarry like the Fence Dwellers so they too could see the magnificent boulders and witness the impressive nature of stone. (pg. 36)
I got lost in this section. My main take home message - although I'm not sure if it was the author's point - is that mild ridicule is not a particularly strong form of social control.  Duly noted.

The objection of the older, wiser perennial plants is trite and superficial.  They don't object to the Fence Dwellers' dangerous behaviors of self-mutilation, suicidal tendencies or disease-breeding mud habits.  No....they scorn the fact that the Fence Dwellers look foolish and stupid. 

Then again, many CP/QF writers strike me as the type of "Christians" who are outraged at the homeless' lack of jobs and hygiene rather than being outraged at the systemic problems that create and sustain homelessness - so the description of the older perennial's reaction is dead on.

I thought the rocks were men - but how would the seedlings never see rocks if children see men?  Maybe the rocks stand for the corrupt "world" that CP/QF adherents fear so deeply.    I think that still works with the earlier portion - but now the whole seedling bit needs some clarification.  The older plants have seen the quarry, I guess, because the first generation of CP/QF adherents were immersed in popular culture before withdrawing.  The youngsters born into CP/QF would be like the seedlings who grew up sheltered from the quarry but long to see it.   Who are the Fence Dwellers then?  People within CP/QF lifestyle who don't adhere to the McDonald's Family belief system om pop culture - or are they people outside of CP/QF who interact with CP/QF families?

I hope this is clearer to people within the system than it is to me; I'm lost.

Within a short period of time, the vibrant color and stunning beauty of the garden were covered in mire. Instead of the sweet perfume of lavender, rosemary, lemon verbena, and blooming flowers, the stench of decay prevailed. Birds look elsewhere for a home. They were not interested in sheltering in their young in a place void of greenery and lacking in beauty. The bees, butterflies, and other insects and wildlife found little nourishment here anymore and visited the garden less and less often. (pg. 35-36)
Oh, good Lord.   Who does the assorted collection of wildlife stand for?  Are they people who would normally be attracted to the CP/QF lifestyle instead of the quarry?  Or are they simply the side effect of lazy writing?

The bit about how insects would avoid the garden because it lacks food is spot-on.  My appreciation for that is dampened by the fact that the author believes that birds mainly look for beauty when building nests.  Hint: that does not seem to be the case - a secure site and access to building materials matters more.  Plus - and this is nit-picky - a lush garden is not the ideal nesting site for all birds.  Killdeer, for example, look for a patch of gravel on the edge of a slightly overgrown field - like a soccer field during the off-season. 

The Gardener comes back and is horrified at how shitty the garden looks.  The question of why the Gardener has been missing in action while his garden has a complete breakdown is never addressed.

"Why have you covered yourself in clay and removed your petals?" cried the Gardener. " I have created you in the way of my choosing - - for my own purpose. But you have rejected my ways and set your eyes upon foreigners and have adorned yourself in mud and grime. You have ravaged and exposed your own bodies."

"Do you not know that you belong to me? This is a wicked and foolish deed. You have emulated the Fence Dwellers and have followed after those preferring death. They've chosen cold and hard barrenness over the true beauty of a warm and tender life-giving experience. Do not attempt to mimic those of the Quarry or their followers - - those who never belonged to me. There you will find only death and desolation." (pg. 36)

Wait.  I thought the Fence Dwellers were plants IN the garden but along the fence - plants that "belong" to the Gardener instead of rejected outsiders.

I am so lost - and thoroughly annoyed at how slap-dash this fable is.

The complaint that the plants have "ravaged and exposed" themselves is richly humorous.  The herbs listed before are grown to be harvested so it's not like they'd stay in the garden forever.  Those stunning flowers are the highly ornamented sex-organs of the plant; ripping the petals off is far more "modest" and more in-line with CP/QF living standards than a blooming plant.

The Fence Dwellers' life choices do bring death - but I can't figure out how any of them lived long enough to tell the seedlings how amazingly awesome the quarry was.  Ripping off the petals of a plant shouldn't kill it and removing flowers is a time-honored way of helping a sick or struggling plant focus energy on growing leaves and roots.  Removing the leaves will eventually kill the plant - especially if the rest of the plant is painted with a pigment that blocks light like mud.  At the same time, mud and dirt often carries molds, bacteria and viruses that can infect plants with diseases.  This means the Fence Dwellers' choices are more along the lines of sharing needles to use IV drugs while failing to seek treatment for active, acute hepatitis; the Fence Dwellers may have a message to share, but most people will see visible signs of severe illness and ignore the message.

The fable rambles on for another two pages - but I can summarize it in a few sentences.  The Fence Dwellers are dead.  The Gardener washes off the "half-way" plants.  Everyone lives happily ever after. 

Yipee.  Now I know what to do when I have suicidal plants!  I also now appreciate why solid writers do lots of preparatory work on the characters within a fable so that the author doesn't accidentally praise the rocks so highly at the beginning that a reader thinks they stand for men instead of the outside world.  Which reminds me: why did she praise the outside world so strongly?  Mrs. McDonald is old enough that she was a teenager in the 1980's and fully partook in the "modern" world before turning to CP/QF after she was saved in her early twenties.  Does she miss being a part of a world where she could be confident, strong and calm without being accused of being masculine?

The last two quotes are from the final discussion section:

Why were the fence dwellers uninterested in whether or not they had roots? How is this similar to someone who is unconcerned over the state of her own soul? (pg. 38)

Mothers, do you see any areas where your young maiden dabbles in forbidden activities "halfway" ( music, clothes, rules, moral choices)? If so, discuss the possible effects of this behavior by considering the overall appearance and condition of the garden. (pg. 39)
Time out. When were root discussed in this fable? *looks back*  Two sentences in the first page of this production are about roots. 

My answer to the first question is "No one in the fable gives a shit about roots.  The mature perennial plants weren't worried over the "roots" of the Fence Dwellers or the seedlings; their only concern was that the Fence Dwellers looked silly or ugly.  This is similar to the common CP/QF theological quirk that external features are a honest and reliable guide to a person's salvation status - and that people who cannot reach standards of white, middle-class Americans in clothing, skin coloring, hair style or hygiene deserve scorn and ridicule rather than acceptance as a child of God"

As for the second question, I pity the girls who now get to hear how their harmless hobby of listening to contemporary Christian music or desire to join a local sports team is a sign that they are going to become suicidal and lose their salvation. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ATI Wisdom Booklets: The Evils of Evolution - Part Two

I know this is out of the normal weekly rotation - but my son was insanely cranky yesterday and skipped most of two naps because he was teething and had a bit of a stomach bug.  (I dreamed of dropping him off at the zoo to be raised by lemurs until he's a bit older.)   I can't bring myself to read "Maidens of Virtue" or any of the CP/QF books into my transcription software in front of him.  As much as I know he's way too young to understand it, I just don't want him to hear this crap.

 The Wisdom Booklet crap is equally harmful - but it's all screenshots so he doesn't hear anything while he's playing.  And - thankfully - he's back to his usual self today except he's taking long naps.

In the first post, I gave a rough outline of what the theory of evolution states.  This post will cover their third and fourth objections to evolution - which make me amazingly happy.

Most of the information in the first section is correct - if weirdly absent of terminology. 

Mutations are changes in the DNA of a cell that is not caught by any of the cellular repair mechanisms AND causes a change in the amino acid that the DNA codes for.  To oversimplify, DNA is used to make RNA.  RNA is used to make a string of amino acids.  Those amino acid strings become building materials, hormones and all sorts of really important things in cells.

Here's the mind-blowing factoid that ATI's authors missed: most mutations are silent or benign.  The whole DNA-->RNA--> amino acid process works in chunks of three chemicals.  Of those three chemicals, the third place is the most likely to mutate due to some quirks in biochemistry.  If you look at the chart below - stolen from Khan Academy - the translation between RNA and amino acids often is the same regardless of what the third letter is:

Obviously, it's not a perfect system.  If an RNA strand that is supposed to be GAU = aspartic acid is translated as GAA = glutamic acid, that could be a serious problem - or the chemical switch could be silent if aspartic acid and glutamic acid act enough alike in the protein - or the new protein might work a bit better.

Oh, and we can't forget that for all non-sex chromosomes, people have two working copies.  The most common outcome of a harmful mutation is that the new protein sucks - but the other non-mutated copy works well enough that the organism survives without major problems.

The basic rule of thumb I learned was that silent mutations were the most common followed by harmful mutations and finally a few mutations turn out to be helpful.

The first paragraph of this section is rather disjointed.   All cells are under mutation pressure - but mutations are only passed on to the next generation if they occur in germ-line cells e.g., cells that become sperm and eggs.   Those cells are under additional levels of protection like the fact that egg cells in girls' ovaries are kept in a non-dividing state from prior to birth until puberty.    It's also posited that the reason so many mammals keep testicles in an external scrotum is to reduce the damage that body temperature does to DNA. 

Next, the paragraph shifts into a glancing mention of an academic disagreement between different evolutionary scientists' beliefs of what time scale evolution happen on - known as "punctuated equilibrium" not punctuated evolution. (Thumps head softly)   It's an arcane argument that theorists on both sides enjoy blasting each other about - but both sides agree that evolution happens.  I'm certain that neither side would appreciate being used as a sign evolution was flawed......

The second paragraph is a hoot!

  • The second law of thermodynamics is that within an isolated or closed system, transfers of energy lose a small amount of energy each time AND that disordered states are more stable than ordered states.  The problem with attempting to shoe-horn the second law of thermodynamics into biology is that living organisms actively bring energy from outside their body system into the system.  IOW, living organisms use energy to prevent their bodies from becoming disordered - and are NOT isolated or closed systems.
  • The author implies that cells are completely helpless in the face of mutations - but that's not true at all!  Cells have many mechanisms to prevent the loss of information from mutations.  The ones I can remember from my college classes years ago include (but are not limited to)
    • Having at least two copies of each gene to compare against each other for mistakes
    • Cellular mechanisms to repair common issues like C-C dimers or replacement of missing nucleotide
    • The redundancy within the genetic code discussed above
    • The ability to destroy non-functioning proteins
    • The ability to sacrifice a cell that is showing abnormal proteins in multi-cellular organisms
  • There is one more "trick" - although it is a painful trick now that we can diagnose pregnancies very early.  Catastrophic abnormalities are extremely common in human reproduction - that's why roughly 20% of known first-trimester pregnancies end in a miscarriage. 
This next bit is where it gets so funny.  The ATI position on mutations is "MUTATIONS ARE BAD, BAD, BAD!"    Too bad the person who wrote the next section missed that memo.....

Ignore the double-speak about "exalts its own rights"  - that's some ham-handed ATI speak for "ignore your own needs, peon!"  Outside of that, the basic outline of natural selection is solid enough.  I'd add, though, that the survivors need to survive AND reproduce for evolution to occur.

I don't want to go berserk on this - so replace the word "gene" with the word "allele" in that entire paragraph.  All humans have two copies of the gene that produces hemoglobin.  Each of those copies is called an allele.   A person cannot be missing the entire gene for hemoglobin and survive past the first-trimester.  People can have copies of the hemoglobin allele that produce slightly different types of hemoglobin.  (People make this mistake ALL_THE_TIME and it drives me batty.  99% of the time that people say "gene" they mean "allele")

Hmmm.  I wonder what caused the allele that causes sickle-cell anemia in people who have two copies of it......

Oh, wait.  IT'S A MUTATION!  A mutation caused a change that has a benefit!  OMG!

Hmmm.  Why would a mutated allele that causes severe pain and organ damage in offspring with two copies of that allele stay in the gene pool?


The real story is so much more fascinating than ATI gives credit for. 

In areas with endemic malaria, having one standard hemoglobin allele and one sickle-cell allele reduces the risk of contracting malaria greatly because half of the red blood cells in the body essentially collapse and entomb malaria parasites if infected.  This group of people will survive to adulthood to reproduce. People with two standard hemoglobin alleles have a high risk of dying of malaria especially before age 5.  People with two sickle-cell alleles are nearly immune to malaria - but untreated sickle-cell anemia generally kills people very young (and makes pregnancy very dangerous).   This means that populations in areas where malaria is endemic are most stable with a fairly high number of people carrying one copy of the sickle-cell trait.

In areas where malaria is not endemic, the selection pressure changes.  The reproductive advantage moves to people who have two standard copies since none of their children will die of sickle-cell anemia - even if they have children with someone who has a single-copy of the sickle-cell allele.  The next best option is a single copy - but prior to genetic testing, this ran the risk of having babies with someone else who also carried the sickle-cell trait.  For those couples, there is a 25% chance with each pregnancy that the baby will have sickle-cell anemia - and sickle-cell is no joke even with modern medicine.

This lead to a really cool study that looked at the changes in the frequency of the sickle-cell allele in people in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to African-Americans descended from slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa.  Prior to ~1900, malaria was endemic in the Deep South so sickle-cell allele rates were assumed to have remained constant in African-American populations.  In the early 1900's, the US underwent a massive public health campaign to control mosquitoes in hopes of eradicating yellow fever. 

It worked - and wiped out malaria as a side-effect.  When the pressure from malaria was removed, the frequency of the allele for sickle-cell anemia began to drop among African-Americans.  Now, the frequency is much, much lower in African-Americans than it is in people from Sub-Saharan Africa.

One more post on evolution to come :-)