Saturday, December 29, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter 2 - Part One

We've entered the third stage of holiday events in our house - Sick Toddler Time!  My little guy was a bit off yesterday.  Last night, my son partially awoke about once every 45-60 minutes, let out random wails for around 30 seconds, and fell back asleep before I could make it from our bedroom to his nursery across the hall.  By morning, I was bleary-eyed with lack of sleep when I fished my son out of his crib and realized he was running a temperature. 

I hate it when he's sick - but he did fine today.  He takes medication by mouth pretty well and he would take Tylenol after a few cursory whines.  Spawn would let me know when he was ready to go back to bed by pointing towards the steps or signing "Sleep".   The rest of the time he wanted to sit on my lap and watch "Sesame Street".  After a while, I couldn't handle another sketch about emotional regulation so I pulled an ace that I had reserved a few weeks before.  My husband had been scanning the offerings on Netflix and a documentary called "Tigers of Scotland" appeared.  The documentary was about the remnant wildcat population of Scotland that are a separate species than domesticated cats.   That was interesting to me - but far more importantly - my son loves cats.   Love might be too weak of a term.  Spawn ADORES cats.   If he sees one, he says "Hi, cat!" or "Miaow-Miaow!" at them.  That bought me 60 minutes of a happy toddler who cuddled on my lap while calling out "Miaow-miaow! Miaow-miaow!" every time a domestic cat, feral cat,  wildcat, lynx or bobcat appeared on the screen.  (Previously, he has meowed at tigers at the local zoo.  I'm enjoying the irony that his survivability is now less than it was as a newborn for large cats.) 

Heck, I wondered if the camera crew that spent six weeks looking for a wildcat to film only to get some less-than-thrilling footage of a mouse eating and a barn owl flying by just needed to add a cat-obsessed toddler to their crew.  I feel like Spawn's unbridled adoration would have drawn wildcats to wander around outside the blind. :-)

Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes has written two articles about her regrets of being a stay-at-home daughter as well as the awkwardness of rereading the book she wrote at age 19.   I have a great deal of compassion for her - but especially in having to hear the 'wisdom' she wrote when she was barely out of childhood.   Honestly, I don't think she was any more idealistic or dogmatic than so many young people on the brink of adulthood; she simply had the unfortunate piece of luck to have her writings published by a now-defunct cultic system.

As an outsider, the voice of the cultic CP/QF belief system shouts loudest when authors like Ms. Baucham, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin or Sarah Mally discuss alleged life events that sound fishy:

I have heard so many conversations between young married women who are sighing, "I wish I knew a Titus 2 woman who could walk alongside me! I have so much to learn!"

They talked about how they were trained to have a career, but not run a home; how they could oversee a business merger, but couldn't manage dinner; how they could juggle nine tasks at once, as long as none of those tasks included the difficulties of child-rearing. (pg.33)

The first item that sat oddly with me is the fact that Ms. Baucham at age 19 had been involved in more than one conversation among young married women.  Granted I married at an older age, but when I was around a group of newlywed and single women, I didn't start with "Oh, my God!  Marriage is hard, amiright?  Who will ever teach me how to wife properly?"   No.  Just no.  We did commiserate occasionally on the quirks of our respective husbands - but that is as much about pride that the worst thing about your husband is a minor quirk instead of  being married to a monster.

The second paragraph reads as an creative interpretation of the CP/QF mythos surrounding what secular education is and how it strips away a woman's ability to run a home or raise a child.  After all, families are responsible for training their kids to keep a home, not post-secondary educational facilities.  Certain families are better at teaching how to keep a home, certainly, but that is a different issue than whether women should have careers. 

I want to meet a woman who is capable - and has - overseen a business merger but is unable to solve the intractable problem that is dinner.   A person who has navigated the hazard-ridden, unmapped river that is a business merger may be a horrible cook - but I suspect they would be fine at either hiring a cook, purchasing ready-to-eat meals or ordering take-out.   Likewise, I suspect that there are plenty of women executives who are fine cooks; they simply choose to delegate that task to someone who does it even better than they do.

I also want to meet someone who can smoothly juggle nine-tasks at once - but fails miserably as soon as one of the tasks involve children.   IMHO, most of the problems with child rearing is that small children require caregivers to juggle nine tasks at once while continuously changing the order of priority for the tasks.  In other words, sauteing onions for dinner goes instantly from the first task of importance to the third when you see your toddler balancing precariously on the back of the sofa.  (The second most important task is "Occupy toddler so they don't do that again".  :-) )   The capricious and never-ending needs of infants and toddlers are the reason that women around the world specialized in gathering foods, food preparation and making textiles.   Women can hunt, mine or blacksmith perfectly well - but those activities don't mix well with the curiosity of toddlers.

This next quote is adorably naive in a truly teenage girl way:

As I sit here typing today, working on my first book and babysitting a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and a two-year-old, I can only imagine the overwhelmed feeling that is sending many a new wife and mommy reeling. My youngest brother Micah  (a year old) will be up from nap soon, ready to eat. My three-year-old brother Asher is insatiably curious, and has me running outside every few minutes to answer his plainative knocks at the door. The two year old (Judah) will need a diaper change soon, and will probably have a smell that would send you running for the hills. Elijah is the oldest of the younger set, and he knows how to keep things in order. The only problem is, this little guy isn't exactly seen as an authority in his toddler brothers' lives.

So how am I not screaming my head off and running for cover? (pgs. 33-34)

Obviously, her response is that her parents trained her up right - which is what I would have responded at that age, too. 

The truth is that babysitting your four siblings in a household that contains two seasoned adults and her 15 year-old brother is nothing like being a young wife to a man who is starting his career while you are caring for your close-in-age preschool children.  It's not even in the same universe.  I know nothing of how long it took Voddie and Bridget Baucham to reach the point that he had a stable career and a consistent income - but the couple sensibly spaced their two biological children four years apart.  Since Jasmine is the eldest child, she may well have scant memories of any hard times the young family faced. 

The hardest part to foresee about having children before you do is the fact that your child is your responsibility.  I'm sure that teenage Jasmine could feed, play with, comfort, dress and handle the toileting needs of her young siblings - but that's the easy bit of parenting.  The weeds of parenting is making decision after decision after decision.   Deciding if the toddler is sick enough to need to go to the doctor - or will a doctor's visit simply exhaust a sick tot without speeding their recovery?  How will we afford the bill if we're a cost-sharing plan that doesn't cover non-catastrophic illnesses?  Should I start weaning my kid from their pacifier?  His doctor says yes, but his dentist says no.  My kid has refused to touch a vegetable in two weeks - should I be worried?

CP/QF leaders push young marriage and militant fertility - but different people are ready for marriage and parenthood at vastly different ages.  I've certainly known people who married in their early twenties, had a large family and did fine; I've also known people who married early, had a huge family and descended into the chaos of a dysfunctional marriage with kids who are barely hanging on.  My husband and I have been clear on one fact for a long time - we would have been terrible spouses in our early twenties.   We were too young and inexperienced.   We both needed time to learn additional lessons in patience, cooperation, tolerance and forbearance. 

My son and his medical struggles have taught me what I sometimes refer to as militant patience.   That's the patience that requires every bit of my strength to maintain because I want badly to have something I can fight against or do to promise a good outcome - but there is no enemy and is no magic bullet except time.  And so - patience that goes against every fiber of my being.  Militant patience.

Thirty-seven year old me does have one tip for 19-year old Jasmine, though.  Don't let the three-year old go outside without of an adult's line-of-sight, please.  I'm all in favor of free-ranging kids, but the kid needs to be old enough to not get hurt to due to impulsivity.  Three-year-olds have no decision-making skills other than "Let's try this!" - and that can end so badly in a safe area.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter One - Part Three

Happy Boxing Day!  We had a good holiday run here in Michigan.  There was a bit of snow on Christmas Day itself so I think we can count this as a white Christmas.  I'm enjoyed the last Christmas that I can get away with really half-assing Christmas decorations since Spawn's just barely two.  I greatly enjoyed seeing my sister, her wife and my niece who is growing up so fast.  Today, I'm simply chilling out and trying to get Spawn back on his normal calendar.  He's done really well with a slightly akilter nap and feeding schedule - but he didn't eat much at large family gatherings so he's wolfing down food today.   He managed to eat 5 chicken nuggets and a small fry from McDonald's which is a ton for a small 2 year old.

In our review of "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes I've pointed out the issues with the views of feminism she held at age 19.  The end of the first chapter connects the failings of modern feminism to the benefits that stay-at-home daughterhood (SAHD) brings to believers.    Ms. Baucham begins by pointing out the difficulties of fitting single adult women into the CP/QF view of female life where all women fit into a subordinate position to men:

Still, where do single women fit into this understanding of mankind? Though hierarchy and marriage may seem ordered enough to you, even the most die-hard complementarians often shrug their shoulders when it comes to how unmarried women fit into our understanding of male / female distinctions. While young men and married man are both trained to be leaders and providers in society, often times, young women are trained in the same pattern as young man, then told that, once they marry, they are given a different world to occupy. (pg. 26)

Hmm.  Why might die-hard complementarians fail to object to training young single women to be providers before marriage?  Well, not all homeschooled conservative CP/QF girls are lucky enough to marry within a few months of turning 18.  Since many - probably most - CP/QF families live below the federal poverty line due to a combination of very large families and limited career prospects of weakly educated men, sensible parents educate their daughters so that they can bring in income by their late teens or early twenties at the latest.  No one has proposed a serious answer to who is supposed to support an unmarried adult woman once her father dies so I'd assume that even stay-at-home daughters who can live at home while their parents are alive will eventually need to work.  For young women who marry, being able to earn money is still useful. 

Let's be honest - the skills that make a good employee translate well to being a good wife and mother.  Marriage is built around communication.  Being able to communicate clearly can smooth relationship difficulties.  Marriage requires cooperation.  Marriage requires compromise.  Marriage requires deciding which issues are worth a principled stand as well.  I've been concerned for years at the idea that a wife is supposed to be submissive to her husband in every issue that is not a Biblical sin.   The best outcome of that belief system in practice requires that a husband be able to make decisions that are always in the best interest of his family with minimal input from his wife.  Why minimal input from the wife? Well, it's hard to be totally submissive if you're giving better to remain as a child without knowledge or life experience.  The worse-case scenario has already been described in "Preparing To Be A Helpmeet" by Debi Pearl.  A girl can be married to a man who moves the family every two years in search of his next big idea that will end their crushing poverty or to a man who expects his every whim to be catered to by his wife and children while he abuses them.

Parenting brings an entire different level of organizational skill into play - but that's no surprise, right?  Oh! I always point out one fun factoid to the HS students I sub with: I totally used the math skills I learned in Algebra II to figure out how to make the exact amount of 24-calorie formula my infant son needed.   The steady nerves I developed teaching in rough schools along with the manual dexterity I acquired from years of lab work made inserting an NG tube on my son easy.   I was grateful for my years of experience managing the bureaucracy of education as I've managed the scads of different medical, educational and service agencies who work with my son.

[...] for a woman of my age - of the age of many of the young ladies reading this book - to still be single in Biblical times would be seen as an anomaly.

For a woman my age to be single fifty years ago would have been seen by many as an anomaly as well. (pg. 27)

The first sentence is not entirely wrong.  During Biblical times, people married very young compared to modern times with women marrying not long after puberty.

On the other hand, plenty of women in the Bible never married.  They were slaves or concubines instead.   With the much higher mortality rates, some number of women who married in their teens would be widowed by age 20.  I immediately thought of Tamar from Genesis 38.  Presumably she was married to Er when she was between 12 and 16 years old.  Er died and his brother Onan married her but refused to get her pregnant so God killed Onan.  Judah sends Tamar home to live with her father until Judah's one surviving son is old enough to be a husband.  Genesis 38:12 says that Judah's wife Shua died after a long time - so presumably her son Shelah was quite a bit younger than Er or Onan.   Tamar pulls off a honey-trap on Judah which seems quite risky if she was post-menopausal - but makes more sense if she was in her thirties.  Two thousand years later, the nascent Christian community was still trying to figure out how best to care for young widows - and there must have been a decent number of them since the solution for their care was to require most of them to remarry.

Likewise, the second sentence isn't entirely wrong - but I think Ms. Baucham made a claim based on a faulty understanding of history and statistics. 

Let's discuss statistics first.  The US median age of first marriage for women has been between ages 20 and 22 from 1890 to around 1980.  Median measure the central tendency of a data plot - so we can say that around 50% of women were married by ages 20-22.   Ms. Baucham's claim that she would have been an anomaly as an unmarried 19 year-old in 1950 is a stretch. 

Statistics have the advantage of presenting large data sets in a concise form - but the concise form by definition loses the finer grain of the data.   We have the median age for first marriage - but we don't have the total range of the data or the first and third quartile points that would give a better idea of when people were marrying.  Let's think about two examples.  In the first example, half of the women in the US married between the ages of 18 and 22 while 49.9% of women were married at ages 23-26 years of age.  In this first society, a 30-year old single woman is unlikely to find a marriage partner who is not divorced or a widower - and this is pretty much what the US was like in the 1950's and early 1960's.   In the second society, 50% of women are married at ages 14-22, but the next 49.9% of women who marry do so between the ages of 23 and 50.  In this society, being unmarried at 30 doesn't mean that a woman has no chance of being married - and this is pretty much what the US has been from 1890-1940 and 1970-1980.

This next paragraph is an example of how Ms. Baucham was better grounded in reality than the Botkin Sisters at a similar age:

Stay-at-home daughterhood - the practice of living at home, under your father's authority and parental discipleship until marriage - was normative during biblical times. While the passages that talk about daughters in this context are limited in God's word, they certainly do seem to point to the biblical validity of staying home more than they do to striking out on your own. However, it is difficult to make a case that not staying home between high school graduation and marriage is a sin. Moreover, because of the fallen world we live in, for many young women, stay-at-home daughterhood in the sense that I will be talking about it in this book is an impossibility because of your family situation. (pg. 28)

Yup.   Being a SAHD was normative in biblical times.  So was slavery, death in childbirth and foreign occupation for people who are keeping track of their normative biblical trends.

Making a case that a single woman living outside of male authority is a sin is more than difficult; it's impossible if you read the Book of Ruth. 

And yes - being a SAHD is impossible for ever so many women.  It's just not financially possible for many families - and I would argue that it's irresponsible for any family that can't create a trust fund that can keep each daughter at the same socioeconomic level for the rest of her life.  Each year that the Botkin Sisters, the Mally Sisters and the Maxwell Sisters are out of workforce, the less likely they are to be able to be integrated into the workforce when their parents die.  Fair or unfair, many women spend some time out of the workforce due to caregiving for children or the elderly - but these seven women have no work experience outside of niche-market family businesses.  I suffer secondhand embarrassment on their behalf when imagining them trying to explain what they've been doing for the last two decades of their life.  After all, we've all got family members or friends who have self-published stories, novels or poems while still managing to hold down a traditional job - so what have these women being doing?

Let's end on that upbeat note. 

The beginning of Chapter Two is one of the sections that I believe Mrs. Holmes finds difficult to re-read as a wife and mother - because 19-year-olds often have so very little life experience......

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter One - Part Two

Mr. Spawn is three days post-surgery and I am flabbergasted at how well he's been doing.   He tires out a bit more easily than he did before the surgery - but he's eating well, playing like a happy toddler and getting into trouble.

The fact his surgery went so well has taken a huge weight off my chest.  Spawn's a robust little trooper- but last February he had a cold that set him back for weeks.   Since then, he's weathered several colds without any major lags - but I was worried that this surgery would set him back again.   My concerns have turned out to be imaginary - and I'm thrilled.

On a similar note, I find writing about Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes' book "Joyfully At Home" to be far easier than any of the other books written by stay-at-home daughters.  Mrs. Holmes' writing is of an entirely different caliber of quality than the poor standards set by the Botkin Sisters or the Maxwells so reading it feels like a breath of fresh air.   Also unlike the women of the Botkin, Maxwell, or Mally families, Jasmine Baucham finds a man whom she marries and is raising a family with.  The other authors' books were written with all the energy and vigor of young women who believe that they will be in marriages that will be the envy of all their friends any day now - but as readers who are five to fifteen years in the future we know that that assumption is faulty.

Let's continue discussing Ms. Baucham's understanding of the evils of feminism when she was 19, shall we?

I know, this is not a popular notion. As a young, American woman, I have been told time and again how thankful I ought to be for feminism: it is giving me the right to vote and own property; it is giving me protection from an abusive marriage; it is giving me options beyond the scope of the Suzy Homemaker mold that women before the rise of feminism have been forced into! Women before the dawn of feminism had it bad. Right, guys? (pg. 25)

The people who created the materials for Vision Forum's homeschooling wing have a lot of  resulting ignorance to answer for; that paragraph is such a muddled mess of historical steps for women that untangling it is daunting.

Let me start with this statement: feminism is not offering protection from an abusive marriage.   No one can do that because abuse happens at a person-to-person level.  No, what feminism offers is the ability to leave an abusive marriage without losing all assets and all access to children born in the marriage.  In countries that are based on English Common Law, an unmarried woman had the ability to own property and custody of children born out of wedlock.  Once a woman married, her entire legal existence was subsumed by her husband.  Her husband owned outright all of the property either person brought to the marriage, any assets gained by the couple during their marriage and had complete legal and physical custody of their children.  Divorce was strictly confined and divorced women had little or no expectation of equitable distribution of assets or access to their children.   The most clear example I can think of was in the book "Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres" by Ruth Brandon.  Eliza Bishop was the married sister of Mary Wollstonecraft when Eliza suffered a bout of what we would now call postpartum depression.  Since Eliza was an adult, she could legally leave the home of her husband - but if she took her infant daughter with her she would be guilty of a felony.   Eliza left - and most likely never saw her infant daughter again before the baby died at 11 months old.  Eliza left - and spent the rest of her days working as a companion, a governess or a schoolteacher to try and earn enough to live on.  She had no financial support or settlement from her estranged husband - and no reason to expect one.

Getting a divorce today still requires bravery since legal proceedings and starting a new life are challenging - but at least women have a chance of eventually gaining financial independence after a divorce.

In terms of Suzy Homemaker, she's a myth perpetuated to idealize the decorative, protected wife and mother of upper-class Victorian times.  She re-appeared for a few decades in the 1950's and 1960's for white middle and upper-class women during the exceptionally rare economic times that allowed families to be supported by a male breadwinner of limited education.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news - but that level of economic prosperity regardless of education for white males is never returning.  People who idolize that time period ignore the fact that the prosperity of the 1950's was built on a massive infusion of government cash to veterans through public housing, VA mortgages and the GI Bills support of education plus the oft ignored fact that the other countries that had manufacturing skills had been bombed into ruins.  Oh, and the generally ignored fact that this largess toward white males came at the expense of women and men of color who had also sacrificed for their families and countries during the 1930's and 1940's. 

I think a more realistic historical idea for married women is as half of the economic engine of a household.  Women have always either earned wages directly or done unpaid work in the home that frees other members to produce materials or earn wages.  CP/QF bloggers glorify the stay-at-home mother as lovingly doing things at home - but they generally ignore how much work she completes.  The cost of child-care for an infant or preschool child is often equal to or more than the amount that most women can earn plus we would need to factor in the cost of a cook and a maid to do basic cleaning.   Plus, women nowadays have far more time and energy available to interact with their young children than they ever have in the past.  I suspect young children spent far more time under the general supervision of their mother or older sibling while the older members of the family worked on food production, food preservation and the never-ending process of creating cloth from fibers or skins.

For unmarried women or women whose children are older than 4, the historical model was far more tilted towards working.  Women worked on their farm, in the homes of wealthier people, or in industrial settings.

Really, the dependent adult woman model that underpins both the SAHD movement and the CP/QF married woman ideal is far more of a historical abnormality than the "feminist" model of recognizing that women work throughout their lives in and out of the home.

I feel like I've read and wrote about this quote before:

[...] although, before the dawn of our modern egalitarian leanings, women and men occupied completely different roles in society, we have the legacies of women like Abigail Adams, Sarah Edwards, and Anne Bradstreet, and others to show us that this position was not one of mental or spiritual inferiority, but one of order. (pg. 26)

Is there a Vision Forum brochure somewhere that writes about the glorious anti-feminist views of Abigail Adams, Sarah Edwards and Anne Bradstreet?   I feel like I've run into this sentence - or one strangely similar - in the Botkin Sister writings somewhere. 

Regardless of where they got this drivel from, it's still wrong. 

Abigail Adams wrote her husband frequently to tell him push the rights of women to vote.  To point out the obvious, her candid and fervent requests to her husband didn't lead to women voting during her lifetime - or the lifetimes of her immediate descendents. 

As for Sarah Edwards, I can't find more than a few surviving letters she wrote to her children.  The stories of her life that are embellished and shared among conservative Christian women are second-hand accounts of how nice she was to visitors to her home and how much her husband worried about her when he was dying.  All of this is nice - but it's a far cry from understanding how Sarah Edwards felt about her life personally and privately.  Her daughter Esther Edwards Burr left a far more honest set of journals prior to her death at age 26 and she struggled mightily with the stresses of being a wife and mother.  Cynic that I am, I often think that Sarah Edwards' main selling points to the CP/QF crowd is her convenient silence on troubling ideas combined with the fact that her descendents are both numerous and include some famous people. 

Anne Bradstreet works for CP/QF families as long as they pick the poems she wrote carefully.  If they stick to "To My Dear and Loving Husband", she is completely unobjectionable.  If they include "Before the Birth of One of Her Children" where she implies that her husband might remarry someone who abuses her children after she dies or "In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth of Happy Memory" where she explains that women can be excellent warrior rulers, she becomes much more objectionable.

In the next section of the first chapter, Ms. Baucham begins explaining the rationale of being a stay-at-home daughter which will lead to our next post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Joyfully At Home: Chapter One - Part One

Hello, everybody!  I wrote this post in bits and pieces over a week-and-a-half so forgive me for the jump backwards to before Spawn's surgery!

Life continues jogging on in Michigan. 

This has been a rapid descent into winter year where we got accumulating snow starting in early November instead of early December.  The accumulated snow has not been terribly deep, thankfully, but it's been just consistent enough to be annoying.   I dawdled at mowing my lawn in mid-October and now I've got a six-inch long lawn growing underneath snow.  Two nights ago, we had strong winds caused by a warm front that brought our daytime temperatures from the high 20's-low 30's to the high 40's - low 50's.  That's ideal grass-cutting temperatures, in my opinion, but we had a slow, steady rain that prevented me from doing any lawn work.  Right now, I'm afraid to step on my lawn for fear that it's become a bog that will swallow my legs to the knee.

On the flip side, the hard freeze has stopped my seasonal allergies dead - so that's been marvelous.

Spawn's eye surgery is next Monday.   He's been medically cleared for everything.  After a 90 minute long opthamology appointment where three highly trained doctors had to independently verify that his eyes are still crossed AND a team of super-technicians had to take photos of his eyes looking in eight different directions, I declared that insurance claims departments should have to provide their own people to take the photographs. This was universally acclaimed by eye doctors of toddlers.  My son is a very mellow tot who seemed to think this was another example of adults acting weird - but trying to get a not-yet-verbal kid to understand that he needed to look up and to the left is a Sisyphean task.

The best advice we got from the cadre of people in the eye doctor's office on applying eye ointment was to do it as sneak attacks while he was sleeping in the morning and nap time.  He's going to be awake and fighting at bedtime - but my husband and I are both home then so we'll just immobilize him and swoop in. 

On a positive note, after a week of eye ointment, I think Spawn will look more kindly on his physical therapist.  She - after all - does not attack him with eye goop when his guard is down like his psychotic parents.

After reviewing two Maxwell books in a row, I needed a break.   A friend recommended reviewing "Joyfully at Home" by Jasmine Baucham.  Ms. Baucham was a featured spokeswoman for the Stay-At-Home Daughter (SAHD) movement after she was interviewed by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin for their documentary "The Return of the Daughters".  I own a second-hand copy of "The Return of the Daughters" but I have not been able to force myself to watch it yet.   "Joyfully At Home" was written after the documentary was filmed and was published in 2010 when Ms. Baucham was 20 years old.  In 2013, she graduated from Thomas Edison State University's online program - possibly through the use of College Plus.  If Ms. Baucham did use College Plus, she is the first person I've heard of to successfully earn a degree using that program.    In 2013, she met Phillip Holmes who she married in 2014 - which means she's the first SAHD published author I've heard of who got married.  Currently, she has a little boy who is close in age to Spawn and she appears to be pregnant with her next child.  Mrs. Holmes teaches two days a week and looks forward to homeschooling her kids once they are old enough.

The first chapter of "Joyfully At Home" is pretty much the standard overview of why Western Civilization is falling apart due to evils like feminism and how being a stay-at-home daughter is part of returning the US to its rightful path.   The section on feminism is strangely similar to writings by the Botkin Sisters:

Feminism is poisonous.


If feminism was simply the notion that women are of equal worth to men, it would be something that I supported wholeheartedly. (...)

But, also, as Christians, we need to be aware of the dangerous side of feminism: Egalitarianism, for instance, or the idea that men and women are interchangeable. Androgyny - the eradication of gender lines. A sense of entitlement - saying " I deserve this or that" or " I am woman, hear me roar!"(...) Sexism - the sneaky idea that women are of more value than the messy, awkward, mentally inferior, and naturally chauvinistic men in their lives. Defensiveness- the idea that women have to fight for their rights because men are hardwired to dominate and abused them. (pg. 25)

Feminism is the idea that women and men deserve equal rights.   That's it.  As ideologies go, it's very simple.   The bit that conservative Christians dislike is the practical applications of equal rights for men and women - like women should receive equal pay for equal work.   Conservative Christians are equally freaked out by the idea that leadership and authority should be a meritocracy where the people who have the most skills should lead rather than an assumption that men should always lead instead of women.

The rest of the ideas that Ms. Baucham stated are a part of feminism are a mix of straw-men and strange definitions. 

Egalitarianism is actually the idea that all people deserve the same rights. I don't like using the term "interchangeable" because it implies that people are like the parts in a machine and can be swapped out willy-nilly.   People are more more complicated than mufflers on a car.  No, egalitarianism could better be described as not letting arbitrary reasons like race or gender exclude people from opportunities. 

Androgyny means a mixture of male and female characteristics or more broadly that some people don't fit neatly into a binary gender system.   I'm not sure why androgyny is so scary to conservative Christians; letting someone else be outside a binary gender system doesn't force conservative Christians from being as gender-conforming as they want to be.  The Botkin, Duggars, Maxwells, Mally and Ms. Baucham can all live in pink floral dresses with long hair if they want.

A sense of entitlement is a genuine problem for practicing Christians - but what does feminism have to do with that?  I find CP/QF wet-dreams of an uneducated man earning enough income to support a 12 or more person family to be far more entitled than the idea that a woman could be president of the US.  Or how about the recent election whining spate of QF families who want parents to be able to vote for their minor children so that conservatives can win election again?  That's insanely entitled - and insanely self-centered.  I also feel compelled to point out that CP/QF families have been frantically breeding since the late 1980's-1990's and have failed to breed/keep enough members to be an actual political force - just ask the Santorums or Duggars.

I adore how feminism is always accused of being sexist.  It's as tone-deaf as the white conservatives who keep blabbing about people of color are really the racist ones......

Eh...the defensiveness isn't because men are hardwired to abuse women; it's because societies tend to have institutionalized ideas that disproportionately harm women, people of color, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ persons.   Ironically, I think Mrs. Holmes has come to realize that as she's stepped out of the hothouse that protected and insulated her as the daughter of Voddie Baucham.   She's mentioned on her website that being the only African-American girl at those purity balls was not fun; I wonder if she's realized that the Botkin Sisters' adoration of Rushdoony means that the Botkin Sisters were more than willing to be Jasmine's friend - but Jasmine marrying Noah Botkin would be viewed as immoral because Rushdoony condemns interracial dating and marriage.

Ms. Baucham has plenty more to say on the topic of feminism - but I'm going to stop here so I can cover her next few ideas in the depth they deserve. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Fast Update: Spawn's Surgery

Good news!  Spawn's surgery went just fine.  He had a 9 AM surgery and we were home by 2PM. 

I should have a new post in the next few days, God (and post-surgical toddler) willing!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: The Appendices

I like to learn something new every day.  Today, I learned that there are two plural possible for the word "appendix" in the English language - and that the one with the "c" is more commonly used when describing added materials at the end of books.    For the title of the post, I originally entered "appendixes" which didn't look entirely right - but I couldn't explain why either.  I think most of my confusion came from the fact I'm certain I've ran into both spellings before but seen the "x" version more frequently due to my science education background.

The Maxwells end their self-help book "Making Great Conversationalists" with three appendices.  Appendix A is a list of questions to teach kids to ask other children.  Appendix B is a list of questions for children to ask adults.  Appendix C is Steven and Terri's testimony about becoming Christians.   There is a LOT of overlap in the questions from Appendices A and B from earlier chapters so I'm going to simply highlight the really, really, really bad ones.

I'm skipping Appendix C because a testimony about being saved written in first-person plural by two very straight-laced people is exactly as dull as it sounds.

Appendix A only had one new area that surprised me:

Vocations (for older children)

If you could spend your life doing any job, what would that be? Why?

What do you want to do in life?

Why do you feel God might be calling you to that? (pg. 206)

These questions are strangely open for the Maxwells. 

The Maxwells espouse that daughters should marry and raise children while sons should be small-business owners in areas that require no post-secondary education or training that can't be done at home.  Now, the Maxwells have failed to launch any of their daughters into their "adult" roles of wives and mothers and their sons have an equal track record of business failures as successes - but equally importantly, the Maxwells strongly believe in sheltering their kids from any ideas that might draw the kids to different paths or goals.    Did Steven and Teri Maxwell really want to risk little Mary, Anna or Sarah being told by a friend that she was going to be a teacher, a dancer, a doctor or a business owner when she grew up?  How awkward was it when Christopher was telling people that he really wanted to be a EMT or rescue pilot when Steven was working on crushing that dream through emotional manipulation?

See, resilience is a trait that extreme sheltering misses.  Kids who are exposed to a wide variety of ideas since childhood usually maintain basic levels of calm in the face of a new, foreign idea.   When I ran into kids or teens who espoused strict gender roles, my reaction was "That's odd and a bit disturbing" but it didn't really shake my core beliefs.   Keeping kids in a stripped-down, sterile intellectual environment where they are only ever exposed to the "correct" viewpoint leaves them highly vulnerable to throwing out their entire belief system when exposed to the broader world.

CP/QF people instinctively understand this because have terrible rates of converting and retaining believers.  That's why Christian Patriarchy has accepted Quiverfull beliefs so enthusiastically.  It's the only way of keeping their churches going.


Where are you going to be in a million years? Why?

Have you been saved? Would you tell me about it?

Do you read your Bible everyday? What are you reading now? Anything special you can remember from recent readings?

What person from the Bible would you most like to have a conversation with? Why? (207-208)

The first question messed with my brain.  Assuming that people believe that God and heaven exist outside of the physical universe that means that time ceases to exist after death.  It's kind of like asking "what color is a transparent object?"   Maybe that confusion is the point; the CP/QF kid can swoop in with some tracts and high-falutin salvation spiel while the other person is trying to figure out what the question means.

Please do not ask people for their salvation stories.  The fall before I met my husband I went with my best friend and her mom to a "Harvest Festival" in a local rural community.  At this point in my life, I was a confirmed urban or blue-collar suburban resident - but I did think that the pole barn that we were setting up various dishes we brought seemed suspiciously clean.  There were no oil stains on the floor.  There was no lingering smell of rotting vegetation or animal dung. 

Turns out that the "Harvest Festival" was a two-part gig. 

The first half was a tasty potluck and social event only marred by a daft, intrusive game where we got signatures from people.  Normally, I like games like that - but I could not ask anyone "Were you saved after age 30?" or "Are you a single person over the age of 25?"  Admittedly, I didn't have to ask the second question since my bestie and I simply signed for each other - but I signed that for a lot of people by simply saying "I fit number 18 if you've still got that open."   The process was weird - but not nearly as weird as watching a guy who thought he could recite the Gettysburg Address panic or when the enthusiastic announcer recommended that the single people over the age of 25 look around for potential marriage partners out of the other singles there.  I felt a bit better when I happily yelled back to the announcer that all of the single people there were ladies - so they must have been in favor of homosexual marriage, yes?  In hindsight, the ten or so people in charge of the party spent most of the night wandering around telling their salvation stories to anyone who would listen while the 90 or so locals avoided them like the plague.

Second half of the night was a play put on by the local youth group about how great it is to die as a teenager when you are saved.   Just say no.

I learned an important lesson that night - when locals leave a party en masse, follow them.  The locals knew about the crappy salvation pitch after dinner and made a hasty escape.  I also learned that hearing salvation stories is so unpopular that only hosting a meat-heavy potluck can get new blood on your property.

The questions about the Bible makes me wonder how many people who do honestly read the Bible blank out when asked about it.  On the flip side, I can talk fluently on my Bible readings - but I don't read the Bible every day.

I'd really like to visit with Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law.  I'm fascinated by the amount of intelligence and planning she used to get pregnant by Judah when Judah refused to do his duty to her by giving her his last surviving son in marriage.   Oh, wait.  Is this appropriate for children?  No - but most of the Bible isn't child-appropriate.

The remainder is from the appendix B - or question kids should ask of adults.  Personally, I survived by answering the adult's standard questions about my schooling and after-school activities then went on my merry way. 


Do you enjoy your work? Why? Why not?

What are the biggest challenges of your job?

Do you plan to continue with this job long-term? (pg. 208)

Let's not encourage burnt out adults to unload on kids about what they dislike about their jobs, ok?  I've always thought the "kids should interact with all ages without restraint or preference" theme in sheltered homeschooling to be bonkers - but I assumed that adults were still expected to filter their thoughts and experiences when around kids.   Similarly, the ability to filter out emotional content from adults' work experiences is a lot to ask of a teenager let alone a kid.  Teens learn through interactions with peers and overhearing adult conversations that sometimes people need to vent about negative experiences at work - but venting doesn't mean that the person's job is horrible or in trouble.  Kids don't have that kind of filter for experiences so listening to Steven Maxwell describe all of his horrible coworkers may scare kids or make them think Maxwell's job is hideous when more mature listeners would take the same story with a large grain of salt.


What is the most difficult thing you have ever had to do? (pg. 208)

People, do not ask this question of others! 

This strikes me as a question that a trained therapist in a solid relationship with a patient might ask cautiously due to concerns about the strength of emotions that could be unleashed.  Teaching children to ask this question of others is cruel in two respects.  The more obvious cruelty is towards the person asked the question.  No one deserves to have memories of having an animal put down, ending a long-term relationship, dealing with medical crises or being abused dragged up by a random kid.  It's especially insulting since the reason these questions are taught is because the kid's parents are too high-strung and controlling to let the kid watch TV, read books or participate in activities that most kids talk about freely.  Nope, they don't want their kid exposed to that - so it's ok instead to teach your kid to drag up memories of cutting off relatives who are addicted to drugs as a conversation starter!

The second cruelty is what happens when an adult with poor boundaries replies to a child who asked this question.  For example, if asked this question I would reply something like "My son was very sick when he was born and that was hard - but he's healthy now and I'm happy about that".   An honest although inappropriate response would be to describe what it was really like when my son coded in my arms.  Should I describe the horror of having your baby go from pink and wiggling to grey, unmoving and limp in less than a minute?  My mute desperation that I might be watching my baby die?  My terror that I may well go on breathing for decades after my son stopped breathing - and how could I survive that?  Should I tell a kid that I believe I aged 10 years in the two minutes from when his nurse called a code to when he was breathing again?   Do they need to know that I've spent hours working through the panic and helplessness I felt that day in therapy? 

Obviously, a kid - or even a teenager - doesn't need to know that.  Dropping my emotional burdens on a minor would be irresponsible - but so is teaching your kid to ask people extremely loaded questions.

We are done - DONE! - with this book!  My next review will be "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine Baucham.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: Chapter 12 - Part Two

We had a lovely and quiet Thanksgiving this year! 

I've enjoyed large family gatherings from both my family and my husband's family, but since my son was born we've found it easier to stick to small family holidays.  My husband and I have stronger emotions this time of year around our son's birth, NICU stay and first year so we celebrated with our families of origin before Thanksgiving and just as our little family unit on Thanksgiving.

My son and I celebrated Black Friday by going to an indoor playscape at a local mall followed by lunch at the food court while my husband was working on fixing a condenser unit at a farm.  We had a blast.  Spawn was clambering all over small climbing obstacles while watching the kids who could walk, run or jump like they had superpowers.   He got so excited when I bought a slice of pizza to split that he made an elderly woman laugh as she watched him try to grab the pizza while I strapped him into a high chair.

I found myself laughing over the CP/QF stay-at-home daughter movement assumption that college makes you incapable of running a home.  In the last five days, I've dehydrated 24 pounds of potatoes as hash browns and slices that cost me a total of $5.97 thanks to pre-Thanksgiving sales.  I wrangled a 23 pound frozen turkey that cost $5.86 and managed to defrost it.  I prepped it by stuffing the cavities with chopped citrus fruits, rosemary and pepper.  Because I find it fun, I placed thin orange and lemon slices under the skin.  The turkey was marvelous - and I've got ~12 servings of breast meat and 24 servings of dark meats packed in broth in the freezer.  Oh, and when my son fell in love with a weighted toddler shopping cart at physical therapy, I made one at home using a $3.00 toddler wheelbarrow from a thrift store, 24 pounds of dumbbells I have and a quilted blanket to keep my son from playing with the dumbbells and crushing his fingers.

But college ruined me :-P

Thankfully, we can discuss how the Maxwells have ruined conversations forever thanks to the last two dialogues in Chapter 12 of Steven and Teri Maxwell's book "Making Great Conversationalists".  The first conversation is all about how much more effective the business pitches of teenage sons can be when they are well-spoken.  I'll save you the teenage pitch which is for the same lawn mowing service run by the Maxwell sons. The kid explains that his bid is lower because he walks to the houses; presumably that means that the homeowners are providing the equipment and fuel which means the quote might not be as low as it seems - but I digress.  The rest of the conversation is between his neighbor and the teenager:
The woman takes the flyer and says,"As a matter of fact, I have been worrying about our yard this year. My husband had a heart attack a month ago, and he has been put on limited activity. I was getting ready to call a lawn mowing service, but I was concerned about what they would charge since we are on a fixed income."

"Wow," Matthew responds. "That must have been very difficult to have your husband have a heart attack. What a blessing that he is still alive. I will pray for his complete recovery and for the needs you have while he still isn't feeling well. I would be happy to give you an estimate to see if it would work within your budget."

"Yes. Thank you. An estimate would be great. Thank you for praying, too. We need all the prayers we can get," the lady concludes. (pg 189)

Let's see.  We have a teenager who lives at home while being homeschooled.  Presumably, he is earning money for some future goal - not an immediate need.   If he was my kid,  he would have know that the correct answer to "Family in medical crisis with limited income needs a skill I can do" is "Ma'am, I can mow your lawn for free if you purchase the gas.  If I do a good job, I'd appreciate being able to use you as a reference for future customers."  Boom.  You are offering a reasonable service while explaining how the set-up benefits the budding business owner, too.

The summer my son came home from the hospital we were so busy managing his medical needs on top of having a newborn that we did not have time mow our lawn.  I am extremely grateful to a local teenager who took over mowing our lawn from spring until August when I could do it again. 

I hope that this is what the Maxwells would do in real life - but the book simply concentrates on how much more business a well-spoken teen can get than a hesitant one.

The next quote is about how much easier talking with your teenage daughter is when she's a good conversationalist.  In the bad conversation, April's mom asks what April's doing in school and gets a non-answer.  April's mom follows up by asking April if she's practicing the piano and has written a letter to her grandmother.  April pretty much grunts a non-response at which point April's mom gives up.  Personally, I blame April's mom for half of the bad conversation; teenagers do better with highly specific questions like "How did that project in history turn out?".  I get that homeschooling mom can be very busy and lose track of who is doing what - but I found the fact that April's mom seemed lost about what April was doing unsettling.  Ideally, a teenager who is being homeschooled can work independently most of the time, but the teacher of that subject still needs to be checking in at least weekly to be sure that the teen is making adequate progress and not completely lost. 

After using the Maxwell's methods, April and her mom have an absolutely delightful conversation that leads to April independently realizing that she's morally required to write Grandma a letter and practice the piano.   Honestly, I'd prefer the previous conversation for my kid. What I enjoyed most about this conversation is the carefully revised history of Amy Carmichael that the Maxwells use to avoid implying that women should do anything outside of their immediate family:

"I was reading a wonderful missionary biography about Amy Carmichael. She was an amazing woman of God. Did you know she has an accident and spent many years bedridden?" April replies.

"I think I remember reading that about her."

"Even when she was in bed, she ministered to the children who lived at her home, and she also did a lot of writing. I would love to have a heart for the Lord like she did."

"How do you think you would get a heart for the Lord like that, April?"

"I am sure it is by reading my Bible and then doing what it tells me to do. Amy Carmichael didn't complain about her pain and being bedridden even though she frequently prayed and asked the Lord to give her mobility until she died. I know there is a verse in Philippians that says we shouldn't complain. She probably read that verse and decided she would trust in the Lord even when it wasn't the way she wanted it to be. What do you think, Mom?" (pgs. 190-191)

The Amy Carmichael of the Maxwell's retelling is the perfect heroine for stay-at-home daughters.  She is trapped in her own home, unable to leave until forces beyond her control intervene to change her life.  This Amy Carmichael simply has to endure silently and happily until freedom comes. 

Thankfully, the real Amy Carmichael lived a very different life.   She was born into a family that valued service towards the less fortunate.  Ms. Carmichael worked with poor girls who worked in mills from her late teens until her early twenties.  After a few false starts due to ill health, she settled in India where she founded an orphanage and training school for poor girls involved in prostitution.  She adopted Indian clothing and expected Europeans who worked at her institution to do the same.    The fall that left her bedridden happened when she was 64 which means she had spent around 40 years in active service in India prior to becoming an invalid.  Ms. Carmichael remained in India for the rest of her life writing and publishing books to raise funds to help poor Indian children.

Ironically, I find April and her mom's plan to "get a heart for the Lord" by reading the Bible and then applying the precepts to their lives insulting.  There's nothing wrong with writing letters to Grandma or practicing the piano - but the Bible is pretty consistent that Christians are required to help the poor, the widowed, the orphaned and the strangers around them.  Is it too much of a stretch for April to round up some friends and go play music at a local nursing home?

Excellent news: One post more and we are finished with this book!  Yay!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: Chapter 12 - Part One

Life continues well here in Michigan.  My Spawn-baby is almost two now!  The sudden onset of winter always reminds me of the days and weeks after he was born.  Man, those first few weeks were rough - but I have so many amazing memories, too.  Seeing his eyes unseal and open for the first time.  His left eye took 10 days longer to unseal than the right.  Holding him for the first time when he was 8 days old and feeling the Spawn-shaped hole in the middle of my heart fill in again.  Learning that he preferred to lay on my chest in a Superman position and drum his tiny fingers on my collar bones during skin-to-skin.  He was so tiny - when he'd grab my index finger his entire hand barely reached from one side to the other.  Seeing him move his eyes without moving his head at 30 weeks and realizing that he couldn't move his eyes in their socket before that.  Spawn was out of an isolette by 31 weeks gestation which we were told was surreal.  Turns out he's a little polar bear like I am.

 Right now, I'm listening him thump his crib upstairs - God only knows how he's doing it now - between giggles 90 minutes after we put him down to sleep.  He laughs a lot at night; we joke that his preferred stuffed animal Kitty-Kitty tells him jokes after sundown.  We find him cuddled up in the cutest ways with Kitty-Kitty.  My favorite is when he's sleeping in a face-down Superman position with Kitty-Kitty under his head or chest.  My husband calls that a visible explanation as to why we obeyed safe sleep guidelines rigorously when he was an infant.

The world is a mysterious place.  I'm happily raising my dear son while substitute teaching.  Sarah Maxwell, who is about six months younger than I am, is about to publish her 12th novel-length children's book.  I know my dreams have come true.  I hope she's living the life she dreams of, too.

We've made it to the last chapter in Teri and Steven Maxwell's self-help book "Making Great Conversationalists."  Near as I can tell, this chapter is about how good conversations can...convert people or at least build your personal business.  Maybe both.  It's not the most coherent theme - and with the Maxwells that's a low bar to miss.

The introduction was completely forgettable - but one section made me laugh:
We did a survey asking Christian families questions about conversation skills to try to determine exactly what people felt was important in a conversation and what made someone a great conversationalist. In that survey, one of the things we asked the respondents to do was to rate their conversation skills from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. The average was 7.5. That really surprised us, considering the difficulty we have in getting people to talk to us when we are at conferences. (pgs. 187-188)

My Master's degree research includes both a closed-ended survey with  opened-ended questions and a semi-structured interview with participants.  I'm relatively new at collecting information by surveys - but I can confidently say that the Maxwells are bonkers. 

There's nothing wrong with choosing the participants in a survey from a defined group of people - but it's best if every member of the group has a chance to participate.  Now, I guess it's ok if the Maxwells reached out to every person they knew through their conferences and/or ATI-based events - but if they skipped some people for any reason, the validity get shaky pretty fast. 

The Maxwells have never published this survey so we can't discuss the good and bad points of the survey design itself - but the fact that the Maxwells used an average on an ordinal data set that's probably very small and very nonparametric is not a good sign.  I really want to know the range and modes on that data set as well; I'm betting the data is highly skewed towards "I'm a good conversationalist" with very few people giving themselves low marks.   There are lots of ways the Maxwells could have corrected for that effect - but all of them do require spending a solid chunk of time reading books on survey design and statistical analysis before making the survey in the first place.

Maxwells' shock that the average was 7.5 tells me that the family didn't attempt to run the survey on a few sample people outside of their family before moving to a broader group.  Personally, I feel like that average is lower than I would have expected - but false modesty is more strongly rewarded in CP/QF land than it is in the rest of the US.   Plus....I doubt the Maxwells have been shy about their feelings about how crappy everyone else is at conversations.

In open-ended interviews, I am fascinated by the way people deal with cognitive dissonance.  As part of the interview, I present people with a series of facts that will shake a common understanding of how science works.  Some people discard their previous understanding.  Some people modify their previous understanding.  Some people double-down on the previous understanding by rejecting the facts. 

So far, no one I've interviewed has doubled-down as hard as the Maxwells did when confronted with the results of their surveys. 

Before the survey was dreamt up, the Maxwells found that people are not interested in talking to them at conferences.  The Maxwells told each other repeatedly what great conversationalists they are and decided to teach all the other weak conversationalists by writing a book.  They write a survey and tally the results.  Imagine the horror and confusion when the Maxwells realize that the people they meet at conferences self-assess their conversational skills as pretty good.   What does this mean?  Could this mean that the Maxwells are not seen charismatic in the CP/QF society?  Does this mean that the problem lies with the Maxwells rather than everyone else in their lives?  What does it mean if the Maxwell Family has a fundamental flaw visible to everyone else they know? 


The Maxwell clan was presented with a fact that undermined what they believed about themselves - or in fancier terms - experienced cognitive dissonance.  They could have accepted the new belief by saying, "Huh.  Other people think they converse well.  Maybe there's a different reason people avoid talking to us at conferences."   They could have adapted their previous belief to something like "People think they converse well - but maybe in higher-stress environments like conferences they don't converse as well as they do in other settings. That's why we are so isolated at conferences" or even "People think they converse well - but they'd rank themselves lower if they realized how much they are missing out on by not conversing like the Maxwells do". (Notice that the adaption doesn't necessarily have to be true or grounded strongly in fact - the adaptation just needs to make both the model and the facts seem plausible enough for the person undergoing cognitive dissonance.)  The Maxwells decided, however, to discard the survey results in order to preserve their personal model of the world where not only do the Maxwells converse better than everyone else, but everyone else is waiting for the Maxwells to teach them how to converse better.

Really, the saddest bit is the fact that the Maxwells keep telling us that no one wants to talk to them at conferences.   I've never had that problem before as a conference attendee and certainly not as a presenter at a conference!   And the Maxwells have no plans to change anything about their lives - and that is the most depressing thing of all.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: Chapter Eleven - Part Two

I had an interesting week.  Two of my subbing positions were standard secondary classroom positions - nice kids, interesting enough lessons, but nothing much out of the ordinary.  The other two days I subbed in an SXI (severe multiple disabilities) classroom for 3-5th graders and as a gym teacher for K-5th graders at a regional EI (Emotional/Conduct disabilities) program.

 I had an absolute blast in both programs! 

The SXI classroom had six kids who each had a slew of goals for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, academics and living skills.  Two of the kids were working at speech and academic goals of 3-4 year olds while the rest were at goals between a few months to two years.  As I'm writing this, I realize this sounds rather grim on paper - but the kids had lots of fun during the day.  Each kid spent at least an hour a day integrated into a traditional classroom.  I worked with the most severely affected kid - and she loved having a third-grade buddy who would read her stories.  Her third-grade buddy was super-excited when I showed him that the other student could pick between two books if he held them about three feet apart.  Most of the day, the students were in a self-contained classroom within a 4th-5th grade building.  Students from that building would volunteer to take the students to play in the gym before school, eat lunch together and take the kids in wheelchairs for adventures during recess.  The biggest help was having a mass of helpers to keep track the one boy who was independently mobile.  He was the littlest kid in the class, showed the most skill at pre-planning escapes and was a fast and silent runner.  The only problem I had was that when chasing our little escape artist, I tripped over a PT mat, flew through the air and landed on the mats.  If all of me had hit the mats, I'd have forgotten the incident by now - but my right thumb landed between two mats.  The mats held my thumb in place while most of my body weight crashed down onto my thumb while my thumb twisted slightly.   I managed to sprain both of my thumb joints on that hand about two hours into the day.  This greatly messed with my ability to fasten the scads of belts and harnesses needed by the kids when they were in various adaptive devices.  Luckily, the kids were big enough that I could use my forearms as the main lifting points under their arms rather than hands/thumbs.

My day at the EI program was pretty much the same as every other gym class I've ever taught.  The youngest group of K-2 (who were mostly 2nd graders) enjoyed trying to shoot baskets and working at dribbling basketballs.  The oldest group of 5th graders took to shooting soccer balls and passing back and forth like future soccer phenoms.   The group of 3rd and 4th grade boys played more tag than I've played in years - and they were very careful to avoid touching my visibly bruised and taped right thumb.

I had a blast - and I feel kind of sad.  See, both programs had an insanely hard time recruiting subs and paraprofessionals.  I look at all the blogs of stay-at-home daughters who are young, unencumbered by needing to earn enough to live independently and bored out of their minds waiting at home for someone to marry them - and I wonder how much more enjoyable their lives would be if they filled one of those empty parapro positions in a local school.   Sure, sure - they wouldn't want to parapro in a "traditional school" since that would be turning their backs on homeschooling as the only way to Jesus - but working in a self-contained classroom with severely disabled kids is so clearly one of those Christian things to do that only a lunatic would object to that.  Plus, it's so very motherly; I joked that both days I pretty much did what I would normally do with my son - but for cash.

Seriously - what's a better preparation for being a wife and mother: writing occasional blogs / instagram posts / vanity-published books while mostly doing nothing at home OR helping kids learn the skills they need in day-to-day life?

This struck me as I was reviewing this chapter.  Steven and Teri Maxwell spend most of chapter 11 in "Making Great Conversationalists" explaining that the major goal of conversation is to convert random stranger to fundamental evangelical Christianity.  Now, I've never hidden my skepticism around the likelihood that these methods provide any long-lasting conversions to Christianity.  Reading this chapter failed to change my mind mainly because the following conversation feels so contrived:
Bob goes to church with his wife, but over time it has become obvious to Jim that Bob doesn't have a relationship with Jesus. Jim has been praying for Bob's salvation ever since he realize the Bob wasn't saved. Today appears to be the perfect time to share the gospel with Bob. After some small talk, Jim decides to take the plunge.


"Bob, I used to go to church just like you, but there came a time when I realized heaven isn't just a matter of going to church. That was the best day of my life, and that is what I wanted to talk to you about. I'd like to share a few of the Ten Commandments with you and ask how you have done in keeping them. Bob, have you ever told a lie?"

"Sure I have, Jim. Hasn't everyone?"

" Bob, I have too, but that doesn't mean it is acceptable to God. God's law says," Thou shalt not bear false witness," which means to lie. If we have ever told a lie, we have broken one of God's commandments. Have you ever stolen anything, even a paperclip? (pg. 179)

Yup.  Every bit of that conversation feels so natural and realistic, doesn't it?   No, seriously, this reads like how the Maxwells' dream of conversations going instead of the normal response of people visibly trying to get out of a conversation that has turned awkward as hell without insulting the other person. 

Let's run over the weirder bits one by one. 

People inside CP/QF land - heck, evangelical Christians in general - must not realize how arrogant they sound when they decide that another person must not be a saved Christian in spite of the target attending a Christian church.   Here's a little hint: the idea of needing a personal relationship with Jesus that includes a deeply emotional moment where they realize how much of a sinner they are is a relatively recent construct in Christianity.  This idea popped up in a few different Protestant branches.  The older denominations including Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Coptic Churches along with the majority of Protestant denominations do not require moment of being born-again for salvation to occur.   The absence of born-again theology in the largest groups in Christianity doesn't mean that being born-again is a bad thing; the experience is clearly deeply moving and important for many Christians.  My issue comes when people decide that their salvation requirements trump the requirements of the church that a person belongs to.

Bob launches himself into "The Good Person Test" disseminated by Living Waters Ministry.  If you've never taken "The Good Person Test" the link above takes you to an entirely online version.  The Maxwells drag Jim through recognizing that he's a thief and a liar and stop before Bob attempts to convince Jim that Jim's an adulterer, a murderer and a blasphemer. 

There's a reason the Maxwells stopped there; the test falls apart hilariously over the next few steps in real life.  See, the test becomes super-creepy when a random person starts pressing in casual conversation to make the other person admit that they've looked at another person with lust.   The conversion-hound is forced to imply the other person is lying or change the meaning of "lust" to include "desire".  The Bible, of course, views desire as being natural and healthy.  Lust requires treating the other person as an object for the purpose of sexual pleasure only - and that's not a major issue for a lot of people.

Let's say the conversion-pusher gets through adultery and decides to try to convince the other person that the fact that they've been angry means they are a murder.  People who have read the Bible realize that the conversion-o-holic is really stretching Jesus' teachings to make that connection.  A more accepted understanding is that a person who allows anger to mutate into hatred and a desire for revenge is moving in a dangerous direction.  Jesus spends most of the Gospels being angry.  He's angry at his disciples for being prats, at various religious groups for being judgemental, at religious authorities in general and goes a bit bonkers on the money-changers at the temple.  Christians are allowed to feel anger when treated unjustly or when seeing others being treated unjustly.   Anger can be a motivating force - but it must not be allowed to change into hate. 

The blasphemy bit is relatively easy. 

Most of the time the conversion target will simply nod along while regretting letting this person into their life.   Added fun occurs, though, when the target refuses to play along.   One option is arguing about the meaning of the verses as I did above.  A more amusing option is to ask the conversion-eer if each of the statements about them is true since they've been saved.   Imagine if Jim - poor Jim who was expecting a social conversation with Bob - asked Bob if Bob has lied since he's been saved.  Bob, I assume, would say "no".  What if Jim pushed a bit?  After all, this entire test is a series of lies.  Bob lies when he says that his goal is to talk to Jim about what commandments Jim has disobeyed; Bob's goal is to convert Jim.   The Maxwells lie by omission all the time when it suits them.  The Maxwells set up a balloon animal and face-painting booth at the county fair every year to attract people to give out informational fliers to.  That's a pretty mundane and harmless activity - except that the Maxwells allow their daughters to paint images that the Maxwells view as improper for their own family to view.  The Maxwells teach that professional sports fandom is a one-way street to alcoholism, underemployment and marital discord - but they let Mary paint little Kansas City Royals logos on kids' faces in hopes the kids will pick up a tract.   That's a bit discordant, isn't it?

I hope someone calls Steven Maxwell on the hypocrisy of using this test when he dishonored his father and mother in "Preparing Sons....Families".   In that lovely book, Steven Maxwell blamed his dad for Steven Maxwell's teenage drinking.  Was his dad abusive?  Neglectful?  Absent from the home?  No, Steven Maxwell's dad let young Steven have a sip of his beer when Steven brought him one from the kitchen.   That's insanely disrespectful towards his father because I also had sips of alcohol as a kid....and didn't drink prior to turning 21.  Steven Maxwell didn't drink as a teenager because his father gave him sips of beer; he drank because he wanted to drink beer. 

According to the online version of the test, eventually the converter will lead the convert-mark through a theological awaking of their need for Jesus.   I've never made it to that part because I leave after pointing out that the other person's born-again moment didn't seem to make much of a difference if he or she is still a lying, murdering adulterer who is also saved. 

After getting "The Good Person" test out of their system, the Maxwells gush over "Roman's Road" (sic) as a method of conversion.  The Maxwells lost me as soon as they misspelled "Romans' Road" - the book of the Bible is the Letter to the Romans so the correct possessive form is either "Romans'" or perhaps "Romans's". 

Personally, I've got a soft spot in my heart for Romans' Road because some of the most fun I've had with former evangelicals is asking them to remember the verses in Romans' Road after trying to remember how many verses are in Romans' Road.  As a Catholic for whom Romans' Road is supposed to magically lead to born-again salvation, my experience is that even the most excited Romans' Roadie gets completely turned around and lost by about the third verse in.   I don't blame my roadie friends for that; the verses are taken from all over the Letter to the Romans so there's not a very good connectivity between them.  That lack of connectivity also makes it nearly impossible to finish if a person completely forgets a verse.  Since Romans' Road has five, eight or ten verses that need to be delivered in the correct order, I'm always amazed that anyone thinks that this is likely to end well.

Added bonus: getting out of a Romans' Road conversation is so easy! 

  • Option one: When the person is struggling through a verse, say "I don't think that's the right verse.  I'll catch you later." and run away.    
  • Option two: Wait until the person is visibly lost in the middle of a verse, get their attention and say, "Wait, I was just thinking about the previous verse, but I can't remember the exact words.  Can you tell me that one again?"  Then loop to option one.   Ok, it's a bit mean, but no one practices Romans' Road in reverse.   
  • Option three can be used if the person includes the chapter and verse and makes it to the third verse.  The first verse is from chapter 3 followed by a verse from chapter 6...then a verse from chapter 5. Remark on that fact then ask, "If this is such an integral part of the Letter to the Romans, why are the verses so scattered and so out of order?"  
  • Option four is for church members who listen to entire chunks of scripture at church each week including Catholics: When you get bored, interrupt the person and remind them that your church reads ALL of the Letter to the Romans yearly.  Follow up by asking how the person thinks the Romans' Road fits in the broader theme of the salvation of Christians through the salvation offered to the Jewish people found in the Letter to the Romans.
  • Option five - Romans' Road Drinking Game!  One drink of whatever you have handy for each awkward pause in a verse. Two drinks every time the person starts a verse over.   Three drinks if they realize the verse they are reciting is out of order.    Another drink for every less than smooth explanation of what the recited verse means.  One drink for every nervous gesture, tic or involuntary bodily reaction like sweating the other person shows.   Finish the drink when the other person gives up in exhaustion. This is a good option when you feel sympathy for the other person and want to seem engaged....but you know it's not going to end well. can spend a lot of time trying to teach your offspring hokey or misleading ways to convert random stranger or you could teach them the skills needed to genuinely help other people.  Use your time wisely.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: Chapter 11 - Part One

I apologize for the sporadic posting recently.   Life is good - and rather busy right now.   Because of the severe teacher shortage in my state, I've been subbing 4 days a week on top of multiple-medical appointments Tuesday with my son. 

Honestly, the added income has been nice. I know in CP/QF land the fact that I'm working outside of the house while my husband looks for more steady employment is supposed to end in affairs, divorce, wayward children and the complete collapse of Western Civilization - but this seems to be a tenable and fairly pleasant situation for us.   My husband misses having a consistent job - but I think he'll be settled into a new industry pretty soon.  I find working out of the house to be invigorating and allows me to enjoy the time I spend with my son more.  My husband is really good with our son - and he and Spawn are getting even closer as my husband is the primary caregiver more of the time than I am.

 My son is doing well across the board. Weekly PT has greatly increased his torso strength and I suspect he'll be walking independently in 3-6 months. His current goal is to get his physical therapist to admit that she's really a demon sent to torment him - which is deeply ironic since she'd go to the gates of Hell and back for him.  Toddlers may not be the best at judging people.   ( :-P )   He'll be having eye surgery in early December.  Patching and glasses have corrected his lazy eye a bit - but not enough, so his opthamologist will be performing outpatient eye surgery to loosen a muscle in each eye to correct his vision.   I'm amazed what a difference nearly 2 years makes; if he had needed surgery when he was tiny, I would have been a nervous wreck.  As the mother of a robust, thriving toddler, my main concern is that applying "eye ointment" for a week after the surgery sounds....gooey.  (I think my actual words were "Man, that's a skill I was hoping to wait for the next kid for.")

And then our house was hit by the plague.  There is some evil, evil cold going around that hit my husband hard and had me laid up for the better part of a week.  The little guy, however, seems to be getting over his bout with it in good time so we are very, very grateful for that.

And then I realized that I managed to erase the few thousand words of transcription I had done for the blog before the plague hit.   Turns out that while my transcription software is good there is no software good enough to handle Michigander accent complicated by stuffed-up nose.   Today is the first day my transcription equipment was reasonably accurate so I can start blogging again!  Hurray!

More good news: The end of this book rapidly approaches!

Chapter 11 of Steven and Teri Maxwell's work "Making Great Conversationalists" has a title of some kind - but it should be titled "How to Lose Friends and Isolate Yourself through Evangelizing Badly".   Here's the very beginning of the chapter where little Thomas approaches his grandmother with CP/QF created fear:

"Why, Thomas, you are way too young to be worried about anything. What is bothering you?" Grandma asks.

"I have been thinking about how Jesus saved me last month. I was so excited when I prayed and asked Jesus forgiveness and accepted him as my savior. I have Jesus living in my heart now. I haven't heard you talk about Jesus saving you, though. I am worried that you don't have Jesus as your savior and that you won't go to heaven when you die but will go to hell! Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I love you so much, and it scares me to think of you not being in heaven with daddy, mommy, Christie, and me. Grandma, are you saved?" (pg. 177)

Thomas should be doing normal little kid things like convincing Grandma that an extra chocolate chip cookie is critical for his optimal growth or trying to pet Grandma's ancient, ornery cat.   Being terrified that Grandma isn't going to be in heaven when she dies isn't normal.  It's certainly not healthy for Thomas.

This kind of fear-mongering-meets-childish-pleas-for-others-salvation places the adult in a super-uncomfortable situation.  What is Grandma supposed to do?  If Thomas was an adult, I'd pull out the Bible and read through Matthew 25:31-46 which is the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  Once we've read that, I'd point out that on Judgement Day God seems to put no stock in how often a person talked about having Jesus in their heart but relied on whether they helped other people.  Because of that, I don't talk much about having Jesus in my heart but instead work on helping others.   Thomas, though, is a kid.  Am I supposed to tell him that his parents have mangled the Gospels beyond all understanding and are using him as a form of emotional manipulation? Am I supposed to flip the emotional manipulation around and ask him how he feels about the fact that I doubt his Mommy and Daddy are going to heaven - but there might be time to save Thomas and Christie if they get to work now?    See, I feel queasy and slimy at the idea of doing that - but the Maxwells encourage their followers to do the same things with their children.

I wonder how much of the "success" of cold-calling evangelical techniques is due to the fact that most people are far too polite to tell their neighbors or random strangers that their sudden impulse to "share the Gospel" is as obnoxious as if I tried to convince the Maxwells that they need to start watching Star Trek - right now!

 Here's a great example of why neighbors in Maxwell-land learn that no good deed goes unpunished:
When John was 14, we had a neighbor who was unsaved. The neighbor was retired school teacher who asked John to help him troubleshoot a problem with his lawn mower. While they were working, they talked. John was able to lead the discussion to spiritual things and eventually present the whole plan of Salvation. The neighbor rejected what John told him, preferring to remain agnostic, but he John knows he did with the Lord wanted him to do. (pg. 178)

The Maxwells are so oblivious to other people that it makes my eyes water.

Why did the retired school teacher ask John to troubleshoot a problem on his lawnmower? 

Teachers know people in the community and finding someone to fix a lawnmower is not hard so if the retired schoolteacher asked John to help him, we can safely assume there is a better reason than that the best choice was the local 14-year old.

 Most, if not all, of the Maxwell boys had lawn mowing businesses during their teenage-years; the Maxwells include daily schedules for Joseph and John with "mowing" time in "Managers of the Homes" and "Managers of their School".   Asking the neighbor's teenage kid to "help" you fix an issue you are pretty sure you know how to fix on a lawnmower would be a nice way to give them some more business while showing the kid a new skill.  Plus, teachers like to teach so an afternoon or two with a teenager fixing a mower is likely to be fun for the retired teacher as well.

How do the Maxwells repay him for this kind - and rather sweet - act?  They remind John that the guy is an agnostic and have John try one of the Maxwell traps to convince people that they should be saved. 

Ironically, as a retired teacher, I'm sure the Maxwell's neighbor has been a mark for salvation attempts before.   I had well-meaning students try and save me in alternative-ed so I'm assuming it happened to this guy, too.  Personally, I fell back on a very dry, detailed and dull explanation of the separation of church and state and how I choose to keep my religion (if any) out of the classroom to prevent undue influence on minor students.  The important part is to keep talking about minutia until the teen's eyes glaze over just a bit before changing the subject to the next task at hand.

In the next post, we'll see how the Maxwells think "The Good Person Test" and "Roman's Road" should be used - and yet they have no examples of anyone being converted by either test.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

CP/QF Crazy: Follow-up On Family of 9 Living in a Garage

How freaking crazy can you be?  No, seriously. 

Lots of people dream of living a completely debt-free life.  In the absence of being independently wealthy, most people decide to manage debt responsibly by restricting debt to secured debt like loans to purchase a new or used car or a house, debt that raises the income of the person like educational debt and limiting the amount of unsecured debt like credit cards.  On a more personal level, people committed to living debt free chose to delay child-bearing until one or both people are in secure careers and often choose to limit their family size.  Homes are quite expensive and large families cost more money. 

On the other hand, a lot of CP/QF large families live in poverty while idolizing families who live in even more extreme circumstances.   A common lament of huge CP/QF families where the mother is reaching the end of her reproductive years is that domestic foster care and adoption has ridiculous requirements like that prospective adoptive families who will be adopting unrelated children can show income over the federal poverty level for their new family size.   For new readers, the federal poverty income guidelines in the US are agreed to be absurdly low by people who work in poverty prevention.  A good rule of thumb is that most families need at least 200% of the poverty guidelines to live a frugal middle class life - so the US poverty guideline of  $20,730 for a family of three should be closer to $42,000.    To size this up to QF families, Kimberly at Raising Olives used to complain that their family of 12 kids and two adults couldn't adopt domestically because the family lived on less than $72,620 per year. 

Back in 2005, Amy at Raising Arrows wrote a blog post about a family she idolized who had nine kids living in a garage for one year so they could build the home of their dreams.   In 2018, I wrote my response to the major reasons I could think of why living in a garage is probably illegal; my more obvious concerns were a lack of exits, too little area of windows,  too little square footage per person, infestation prevention issues and the fact that the taxable value of the land is affected by having a second dwelling onsite.  It turns out that Amy managed to get a hold of that family and write a follow-up in 2017; I'll refrain from guessing as to why it took 12 years to catch up with them. 

Turns out some of my unspoken assumptions were just plain wrong.  Silly me - I assumed that living in the garage would start when the family had all of the money set aside to build the house so that the time living in the outbuilding would be limited to a single building season.  Oh, boy, was I naive!  FIVE YEARS!  The family lived in a garage for 5 freaking years! 

I'm still shocked and horrified - so I guess I'll start with the size of the garage.  The family says that the garage was 24' by 30' and at least partially built to purpose for living in.  The square footage is 720 square feet.   Now, the 1986 guidelines for safe living spaces stated that the minimum square footage could be calculated by 150 + 100(n-1) so a family of nine would need 150 + 100(8) or 950 square feet minimum.

Now, if I was living in a garage, I would be on like 5 forms of birth control - including "we're not having sex until we get a real house or apartment" followed by 4 other forms.  Apparently, I'm crazy because the family happily admits that two children were conceived and born while living in the garage.  That pushes the minimum square footage to 1150 feet - but I'm more horrified at the idea of adding two newborns sequentially to a garage home.   The family mentions that the time they lived in the garage was extended because of unexpected building costs and high medical bills.  I wonder how much of those medical bills were due to two labor and deliveries; childbirth is expensive even when everything goes perfectly.

In terms of exits, the garage did have two external doors that were not garage doors.  Assuming the drawing provided by the family was reasonably accurate, the garage was not compliant in terms of emergency window egresses from the bedrooms.  Personally, I'd be very worried about exiting from the kids' bedroom in case of a fire.  There was one small window, an internal exit towards the main area of the garage and an external exit across the room where the washer, dryer and hot water heater were located.  If anything happened involving the washer, dryer or hot water heater, the kids' fastest exit would be compromised. 

Speaking of the garage doors, the "front" of the garage included a large standard garage door.  This threw me a bit at first; why would a family waste that much wall space on a garage door when they were making plans like building 10 foot ceilings on the garage to make it a workable future temporary home?  Then I remembered - the local tax authority would notice in real time if a family wanted to build a second home on a plot.  Silly me and my beliefs about obeying civil codes and taxation.

Really, the author of post sums it up better than I can.  The 5+ years of living in the garage are great in hindsight.   Looking back at my life, I have a lot of memories that are far more fun in hindsight than they were at the time.  After all, memories allow me to enjoy the fun, exciting or satisfying bits without reliving the pain, frustration or tedium.  For example, I chaperoned a group of teens on a mission trip to Beaver Island when I was around 26.  I had lots of fun on the trip - but I also broke my tailbone early in the trip, one of the other chaperones was having what I can only describe as an untreated manic episode, and I was going on slightly less than 5 hours of sleep a night for over a week.   My memories are of teaching my small group to pain sets and watching sunsets over the lake - not the pain of hiking miles each day with a light pack with a broken tailbone. 

Be cautious of taking advice from people who enjoyed an experience only in hindsight.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Making Great Conversationalists: Chapter 10 - Part Three

Subbing for a few middle school classrooms last week brought back memories of how new, wonderful and completely exasperating the waves of adolescent emotion are.  Watching and dealing with pre-teens and young teenagers was rather tiring for me - but that's nothing compared to the exhaustion that comes from managing the sudden thirst for independence that hits right around the time that young people first look at another person in their age group and think, "I really want to kiss them!"  One of my strongest memories was of a substitute teacher we often had.  Most of the other students didn't like her because she was rather strict, but I liked her because she generally brought a knitting or crocheting project to keep her hands busy.  In other words, pre-teen Mel saw a kindred spirit.   One of my compatriots asked her if she missed being in junior high.  Without missing a stitch, she laughed and said "Never.  No one could pay me enough to be a junior high school student again. I know well meaning people are always telling you that you have it made - no job, free schooling, no worries - but I found junior high to be one of the most frustrating and least enjoyable experiences of my life.  High school was better.  College was much better - but being an employed adult was far better than any of those times."   Hearing that was such a relief to me!  I wanted to do more, to know more, to be more - but I didn't know if I was ever going to feel less haphazard, lost and angst-ridden.  What if the rest of my life I kept feeling like I did at 11 or 12 or 13 - but picked up more responsibilities?  Would I ever be able to talk to a boy without turning beet-red and alternating between awkward silence and a torrent of words?  Would a boy ever like me?  Would I find a boy that I liked - and who liked me?

Everything felt completely overwhelming at the time - but looking back 25 years later I have to admit that the substitute teacher's statement that junior high sucks was dead-on.  Academics got harder as time went on, but I also became much more skilled in logic, mathematics, critical thinking, research, writing and speaking so the overall process was easier.   Working at a job did bring different demands, but even being a bagger-utility-worker-janitor brought a feeling of satisfaction and spending cash.   As I became more skilled at communicating with boys I was attracted to, I realized in hindsight that I probably could have gone on "dates" - such as they were - with 4-5 of my classmates in junior high if I had recognized the fact they were attracted to me.  The biggest breakthrough I made in my life was realizing that if I avoided romantic relationships to prevent the pain of a broken heart, I'd end up suffering more pain by closing down otherwise healthy, happy relationships.  I'd be paying interest on a debt that never came due.   Equally important was the realization that broken hearts heal.  I've had more crushes than I can remember, more first dates than I can remember easily, and a handful of long-term relationships.  Obviously, all of those except one ended.   Sometimes I was crushed, but the pain does fade over time.

Presumably if you ask Steven and Teri Maxwell or Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin to honestly recount their romantic experiences prior to marrying their spouse, you'd get a story not dissimilar to mine.  Lots of crushes, some dating experience, dating your future spouse and eventually marrying your spouse is a pretty standard trope.   And yet, they state that the dating process has ruined marriages beyond repair.  They've created an alternate, non-standard form of romantic pairing known as "courtship" that is supposed to protect the hearts and bodies of their kids prior to marriage - but the track record on protecting hearts, protecting bodies and finding suitable marriage partners is shaky at best.  The Maxwells have married off four of their sons, leaving one son and three daughters unmarried.  The Botkins have fared worse with three married sons along with two unmarried sons and two unmarried daughters.  Sons have a better chance at marrying for a few reasons.  Males are allowed to earn a living which takes them out of the family enclave into the wider world where they can meet eligible women.  Males are allowed to initiate courtships without the involvement of their families of origin.  The reproductive penalty of age is much weaker for men than women so that a CP/QF man who decides to marry at age 35 could still have a very large family if he marries a woman in her early twenties.  For example, Sarah Maxwell's brother Christopher married a woman nearly 10 years younger than him when he was 32 and they currently have 5 children.   Meanwhile, Sarah is unmarried at 36.

I bring this up because the Maxwells use the end of Chapter 10 to harp on the importance of deciding in advance how unmarried children should deal with conversations with people of the opposite gender.  The Maxwells try to seem impartial, but based on the stories they chose to share, they show a tendency towards preventing communication between girls and boys.  Let's move into the quotes:
We encourage families to discuss and to set guidelines for boy/ girl conversations. Some think nothing of girls initiating conversations with boys or vice versa. Other say that they shouldn't be allowed until the young people are ready for courtship. Some families only want their children involved in conversations with the opposite gender once a courtship is started. (pg. 170)

The first memorable fact in this quote for me was the fact that the guidelines that my husband, myself, and everyone I know from our generation who is happily married was completely skipped over.  My parents didn't worry about me talking to boys.  I could initiate the conversation or the guy could.  They trusted that my crushes of my tween and early teen years wouldn't kill me - and emotional purity wasn't on their radar.  Actually, it was barely on anyone's radar since "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" wasn't written until 1997 when I was a 9th or 10th grader.

The second interesting idea for me was how absolutely silent our junior high years would have been if only guys were allowed to initiate conversations with girls.  Looking back, there were two...perhaps three.... guys in my class of 34 6th graders who might have been brave enough to start a conversation with a girl.  Not letting girls start conversations with boys is crazily archaic - and I'm pretty sure it would make a church youth group an ice-cold war zone with all of the girls staring wistfully at boys who are mostly oblivious to the romantic longings of the boys.  Since the girls can't talk to the boys to realize that the boys are just not that into them yet, the girls would end up jockeying for position with other girls to catch the boy of their dreams.

CP/QF land has a truism - no matter how crazy one idea is, there is someone who holds a more extreme idea that make the first crazy idea seem sane.  Teaching daughters to let guys lead a conversation seems surprisingly sane compared to making them wait to talk to boys until the teens are courtship age....or actively in a courtship.   I'm assuming most families put off courtship until a teen is of marriageable age so I'm thinking there are families that instruct their teenagers to avoid conversations with the opposite sex until age 18-20.  For the Maxwell males, courtship age is based mainly on their ability to own a home outright which means they can't court until they are in their early 20's.   Many people put off dating seriously until at least their early twenties - but I've never met anyone who avoided conversations with the opposite sex before then.  I'm sure people of certain groups who prefer extremely structured arranged or semi-arranged marriages do that, but I've never known someone from one of those groups well. 

Putting off any conversation with the opposite sex until a young adult is in a courtship sounds like a recipe for disaster for fundamentalist Christians.   The leaders creating the courtship models are trying to force the most extreme form of parental involvement available in arranged marriages along with highly chaperoned interactions with the opposite sex without changing the US narrative that people fall in love first and get married second.  Let's write out what that looks like in the ideal outcome: two extremely sheltered young people who have had very little experience outside of their own family system are talking to each other trying to decide if they should get married.  That would be insanely awkward at best - and a total train wreck at worst.

For any poor deluded souls who think like I do, the Maxwells spell out the possible consequences:
Please realize that there can be dangers with boy / girl conversations. While it starts innocently, heart attachments can easily grow. That is a total unknown when of the first conversations occur. Many grieving parents have come to us when a child has become emotionally and then sometimes physically involved. That could have been avoided if the family had boy/girl conversation policies in place and adhered to. (pg. 171)

The Maxwells must have much looser standards for physical intimacy than I do.  I can safely say that I've talked to a few hundred thousand men in my life between school, church and, oh yeah, working as a cashier/bagger/pharmacy clerk/ men's department clerk for eight years.  Of all of those men, I probably went on dates with 15 of them total and have had sex with one of them.   In other words, talking with a guy - even an attractive, funny, smart, kind guy - is not even associated with sexual activity in my life let alone a causal effect. 

The emotional purity component is even stupider.  Why are romantic attachment the only form of relationships that "give pieces of your heart away"?  The only time I've felt like I lost a chunk of my heart is when I had my younger brother die and when my best friend died.   I have fallen deeply in love with men other than my husband and the break-up of those relationships hurt - but even that pain paled in comparison to losing a sibling and a friend who was like a sister to me.   

I love my husband in a way that is similar to and yet completely different than the ways I loved other men.  We had that whole infatuated-walking-on-air-he's-the-bestest-person-ever phase that I've had with other men - but my husband is the only person I've built a life with.   We own a home together.  We've weathered career changes together.  We've cared for elderly relatives together.  We produced an amazing child whom we are raising together.   None of those life-giving activities have been undermined by the fact that we had kissed other people (and each other) before we married. 

Our last vacation together before our son was born was a trip up to Mackinac Island.  We had both been there previously with other people we were dating - and our trip together was phenomenal!  Being up their gave us a chance to share all of our previous memories with each other and create new ones.  Awesome new memories like trying to help a guy in a rented surrey get his understandably confused horse to turn left.  See, the guy was reining his horse in and holding the reins out to the left which made the horse stop while failing to signal the horse to go left.  We explained that he needed to release the reins so the horse could move its head, then gently pull the left rein back so the horse could move her head to the left and her body would follow.   My husband and I started encouraging the horse to move left by talking calmly, but firmly to her like "Hey, now, boss* now.  Let's go left, girlie.  There you go.  Goooood, boss. Gooood, boss" while pointing left.  The horse looked relieved like "Oh, Thank you, Horse God for sending these nice people to help the weird stranger to stop pulling my head back."  The horse was easing into a nice left turn when the driver decided to pull back on the reins again causing the horse to prop to a stop.   We wished him a nice day and wandered off since we only had so many times we were willing to help someone who wasn't listening to directions :-).   

Guess what?  That's a unique memory that I share with my husband that is completely different from my memories of other trips to Mackinac.  Corollary: If I am widowed or divorced someday, I may well remarry.  Visiting Mackinac with my second spouse would be equally awesome because we'd create our own memories separate from our previous relationships. 

I'm so over this EmoPure crap. 

In case there was any question about where the Maxwells fall on the spectrum, they included this lovely guideline from some other family shared with them.

Here's an example one family shared with us on the boundaries they place on the boy / girl conversations for their family. " When we hand out tracts or do any ministry, we always pair the children. Even in business, we try to have Isaac talk with a male customers and Morgan with the female customers. We know there could be danger with lengthy conversations with those of the opposite gender." (pg. 171)


Here's a conversation that's never happened to me in 8 years of customer service:

Me: "Hello!  Did you find everything you needed today?"

Customer: "I sure did!  You are so great!"

Me: "That's great.  Can I interest you in a fountain pop?"

Customer: "I love you so much!  I want to spend my life with you!"

Me: " that's a "no" on the pop, I guess."

Customer: "Ha, ha, ha!  No pop - just a lifelong romance with you!"

Me: "Huh.  I could do worse, I guess.  Let's have sex.  I'm scheduled for a break in 20 minutes."

Yeah, that's palpably absurd - but it's the type of situation that the Maxwells and Maxwellite followers imply will happen if Morgan is allowed to give out tracts to men or Isaac answers a woman's questions at his family's business.    I'm starting to believe that the CP/QF folk have much lower boundaries for sexual activity to occur since they live in dread fear that their kids will have sex with random business customers if left to their own devices.

Good news: The end of this book is rapidly approaching!

*I'm really not a horse person, but I'm aware the term "boss" is supposed to be used for cows, not horses.  Since I spend most of my time around cows, "boss" just slipped out.  Ironically, most of the people who staff stables during the busy season on Mackinac Island are ex-Amish or Mennonites who speak Pennsylvania Dutch so the horse visibly relaxed when I said "boss" because the professional teamsters pronounce "horse" as "hoss" from the horse's point of view I must know what I was doing.