Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dominion Orientated Femininity - Part One

Well, I've misplaced my copy of Maidens of Virtue again.  I misplace most of the books I review on this blog at one point or another - but there is something about the Maidens of Virtue book that seems to make it disappear more.  I think it's because the copy I have is a hardcover book with a smooth cover so when I get frustrated and toss it across the room the book slides into weird locations.

I'm sure I'll find it.  Our house is not large and there are only so many places it can be.  Until I find it, I'm going to substitute a commentary on one of the Botkin Family podcasts available for free on their website at the Western Conservatory for the Arts and Sciences.   I picked "Dominion-Oriented Femininity" to transcribe in its entirety first because the topic sounded slightly more interesting than the other podcasts and because at 38 minutes it's about half as long as the other podcasts.

Transcriptions of speeches bring a few difficulties to the table.  Anna Sofia and Elizabeth are solid, if unremarkable, public speakers so I can usually figure out what they are saying.  I have not been able to determine which passages are given by which speaker because the two women's voices are very similar - a problem common among family members.   When converting speeches into written form, sentence fragments appear in the written form that were not glaringly obvious when spoken.  In other words, the flow of the transcripts is more clunky and less polished than the podcast itself.   In a similar vein, the choices of punctuation are mine.

The podcast itself is taken from a lecture given at a conference by the Botkin Family.  The lecture predates Anna Sofia and Elizabeth's second book as well as the collapse of Vision Forum (based on the glowing praise heaped on Doug Phillips in other podcasts).  The audience at the lecture is "family-integrated" or multi-aged because small children can be heard in the background occasionally.

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth are introduced by their father Geoffrey Botkins:

The following message is brought to you by the Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences.

 GB: I wanna introduce to you now two young ladies who have been giving some very serious thought to how they can even when they are in a family and even when they are under the jurisdiction of their father they can be leaders of society and culture. Not by lording it over men, not by teaching men but in the way that they carry themselves and the way that they speak. The way that they redefine things that have been grossly perverted in our day. Femininity. So now, ladies and gentlemen. Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin on dominion oriented femininity.

I'm bummed.  I will never receive an introduction as overblown, fulsome and smarmy as that introduction.   Geoffrey Botkin announced that his daughters are societal leaders and cultural arbitrators because of their posture and clothing choices!  The irony is killing me. The Botkin Family holds themselves up as the pinnacle of homeschool education and neo-Calvinist theological reform - but immediately falls back on the idea that outer appearance is the most important characteristic for women.

Geoffrey has never read -or failed to comprehend - the basic ideas in George Eliot's works.  The beauty of a woman may cause men to attribute positive character traits to her that are not present.  I'd hate to think that Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin are like Hetty Sorrel or Rosamond (Vincy) Lygate or even Mary Crawford from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.

The rest of the transcript for today the speech of either Anna Sofia or Elizabeth Botkin.

One of the themes I'm sure you've noticed is that we need to be prepared to face hard times ahead. America is scheduled for judgement. This is something that my father talked about. We don't know how severe. We don't know what it's going to look like. We don't know what it it will consist of. The future is very very uncertain for us. This is a subject that the men have been talking a lot about but you young ladies in the audience you need to be thinking about this too. Because even though it sounds like manly subjects judgement, war, the economy, all of those things are going to affect us too. We live in the same world that our fathers live in. And when we're married we are going to live in the same world that our husbands live in and the hardships that they face we're going to face them too so these are topics that we are not too young to be thinking about. We're not too girly to be thinking about. We really need to be focusing on these things too.

Most CP/QF families can live within modern society, gently disdaining the rest of us, but not waiting with bated breath for the destruction of the United States of America.  Heck, sometimes I think mildly judgemental tolerance of others is a national characteristic. No, the Botkin clan and their ilk hopes for the day that the US society is thrown down so that these ambitious members of a very small religious minority will receive the recognition and adoration that they so deeply crave.

The Botkin Family must know on some level that they are woefully unready to become leaders in the society in which they live now.  Their theological qualifications are so weak that I can poke holes in their theological rationales - and I'm a theological bantamweight.   Their education is so flimsy that they would struggle in a basic college level course.  To the best of my knowledge, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth have never earned income at a job of any sort.   I suspect that the entire family is being supported between the income from T. Rex Arms - the younger brothers' CNC accessories for guns business - the residuals from the sisters' books and whatever freelance work the oldest three boys can cobble together.     That sounds grim - but I suspect many CP/QF families lives are quite grim financially.

The repeated statement that that women live in the same world as men jarred me at the beginning of the podcast - and it didn't get less jarring over time.   I am completely aware that I live in the same world as my father, brother, brothers-in-law and son do, thank you.  It's a world that I live in and am quite capable of navigating as well.

One of the things that concerns me most about America's future is the fact that most women - but not all - do not know how to be strong any more. And they are not ready to deal with hard times. And they are not ready to deal with hardships the way they used to be. When you look at pictures of the Pilgrim mothers and of the woman that settled the Wild West and the woman that settled Plymouth you see strength and you see virtue, something that women don't have today. Women just don't have the moral stamina to face the trials and the hardships that they faced two hundred years ago. We've lost the strong moral character and the sturdiness that American women used to be known for.

Whoo-boy!  Let me get this straight.  In terms of strength and moral stamina, the Pilgrims come first, the Botkin girls et al. come second, and I come in last.

Nope.  Not even close, ladies.

I am hard-pressed to come up with two young women with less practical strength or moral stamina than the Botkin sisters.  Neither Anna Sofia nor Elizabeth has ever had to stand up for their beliefs in in the secular world.  See, they pride themselves on standing aloof from a society that reviles and hates them - but that's giving far too much importance to their views.  Let's say that both young ladies are forced to earn a living starting tomorrow.  They could get a job at the local grocery store as cashiers.  I'm sure they would breathlessly explain how important it is for both of them to dress modestly in long skirts - but how would they respond to the normal response of "Yeah, that's fine as long as it's khaki or black"?  I'm sure they would enjoy explaining the minutia of their beliefs about emotional purity to the coworkers at break time - but what happens when the coworkers say, "Oh, that's nice" and move on to a more interesting topic.    I'm sure they would eagerly await positive feedback from coworkers when their coworkers recognized them as the authors of two ground-shaking books.    They expect adoration or hatred - but can they deal with boredom, apathy and mild pity?

Strength and stamina aren't built when two young women are the unquestioned princesses of a religious movement; those are built when hard times are faced and overcome.

Let me talk about the Pilgrim women for a minute because the fact that we even have an America to talk about it's a testimony to the dominion oriented femininity of the Pilgrim women who sacrificed their lives for other people that they would never see. And they were willing to go through hardships that we cannot even imagine we selfish spoiled women in the 21st century cannot even imagine the hardship that they went through. They cared more about people they would never know than they did about their own comfort. That's something that cannot be said about women of today. They were willing to make their lives harder for the eternal good of those who would be coming later. And if you go to Plymouth, there's a monument to the Pilgrim mothers which is inscribed with these words right here, "They brought up their families in sturdy virtue and the living faith in God without which nations perish"

Two centuries later when Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville came to the United States in the 1830s he was struck by the superior strength and character of the American women and this is what he said about them, " If I were asked now that I am drawing to the close of this work in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans to what singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly be attributed I would reply, ' To the superiority of their women"."

Perhaps we could imagine the hardships better if Anna Sofia or Elizabeth told us about the hardships.  Oh, wait.  That never happens.   Learning about those hardships would require reading a book or two or looking at an encyclopedia before writing this speech - and Lord knows they don't do that.

Surprisingly enough, I do know about the hardships that the Pilgrims faced - and why they left the Netherlands in the first place.  The Pilgrims were not as worried about mythical future generations as they were worried about their children who were growing up to be more Dutch than English.  The Pilgrims faced the perennial concerns of immigrant parents who worry about children growing up in a culture that is foreign.  Unlike most immigrant parents, the Pilgrims decided risking their families' lives in a new settlement was worth it because they would have more control over the upbringing of their kids.  (Not quite as noble and sexy when it's laid out like that, is it?)

The Pilgrims faced a lot of problems - and a good portion of them were of their own making. They landed in the US in the fall and didn't have enough food for the winter.   The Pilgrims were not farmers, but they were dependent on their own farming efforts for food. (This is a point that the pastoralist-idealizing CP/QF families should think long and hard about.)  Disease and deaths in childbirth were always a risk prior to the advent of modern medicine, but malnutrition and famine worsen the death toll.  The Pilgrims were strangely slow to realize that Native Americans were going to be vital allies in a colony where help from Europe was over a year away.  (And let's be honest.  If the population of Native Americans west of the Mississippi hadn't already been decimated by European diseases brought by previous European expeditions, Europeans never would have landed a foothold on the Western Hemisphere.)  Even without those problems, life as a colonist was physically crushing.  Everything required manual labor and there was rarely enough food to offset the sheer amount of physical labor done.

I adore how the Botkin Family cannot keep to their own reconstructionist history.  The Botkin Family history of Calvinism goes as follows.  Calvin good.  Europe lost Calvinism which was kept by the Pilgrims.  Pilgrims good.  The second generation of Pilgrims were losers who destroyed US Calvinism. Boo. US becomes the heathen birthplace of all that is wrong with the world.  Fast forward to Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin who independently rediscovered Calvinism. 

Throwing a quote from de Tocqueville in the 1830's messes up the whole story.  How horrible could the US be if he thought the women were amazing?    What exactly intervened in the US between 1830 and now that destroyed everything?

What does that say about the women of today? When we think about the state of America now if you were to ask me now to what I would attribute the growing apostasy and weakness of America I might say, "To the selfish and pettiness of their women." And the products of feminism 21 century women - that's us - we're not just lesser or weaker in so many ways we are the opposite of these women. We are weak in all the ways that they used to be strong. When these women used to make sacrifices, daily sacrifices for their children, women of today sacrifice their children killing them in the womb as a sacrifice to their own selfishness and it's just it's really sad. We need to understand how much we've lost.

Excuse me a moment.  *hands baby to her husband and ties her hair back into a ponytail* 

You want to question my mothering ability? Come at me if you're hard enough.   I'm dead serious.

You know nothing of sacrifice. 

To keep my son alive, I left him at a hospital for 107 times.  I'd recite "Good night, NICU!" to him, tell him I loved him, made sure he was all snuggled up in his bed, give him one last pat (when he was in the isolette) or a kiss, and didn't cry until I was in the hallway out of sight and hearing.

When my son was having a bad day, I spent hours sitting with my hands cradling my son inside the isolette while staring blankly at the dinosaur pattern on the fabric cover of the isolette.  He became agitated whenever we lifted the cover to look at him so I sat hunched over with my nose an inch away from a blue brontosaurus. 

When my son was having a good day, I'd do skin-to-skin for as long as he tolerated it which was generally 3-4 hours.  Since he was still on a ventilator, I had to keep his head in alignment with his ET tube.  To do that, I had to sit perfectly still.  I eventually learned how to shift the position of my legs a bit, but my torso needed to stay in the same spot.  Since I was breastfeeding him via pumping, by the end my breasts would be overly full, aching, and dripping.  Hearing his alarms go off - and Jack loved to set alarms off - and not being able to move sent my anxiety creeping upward. 

For three months after Jack came home, my life revolved around him.  Oh, some of it was the normal demands of a newborn - but most of it was making sure he had 24-7 coverage of an adult in the same room who was infant CPR trained.   I slept.  I got a daily walk without him.  The rest of the time I was "on" because if Jack had one of his choking attacks I needed to get him breathing again. 

What have you sacrificed?  Nothing except becoming an adult woman.  You live comfortably without the work of earning a living.  You hide behind "emotional purity" and "courtship" to prevent potential heartbreak in falling in love.  You receive accolades for self-publishing two books and wearing pretty clothing. 

Grow up before trying to give advice to real adults.

And most of us in this room would probably like to say that we've rejected feminism but I've I bet we all wrestle with the weakness and myopia that we've inherited from that legacy. It's hard for us to think 200 years ahead. It's hard for most of us to want to even think about living the way that Pilgrim women lived. To think about the sacrifices that they made the hardships that they went through. And when it comes right down to it, we're still confused about the most basic principles of family relations, gender roles. And even the very meaning of womanhood. God has put us into a very unique time in history. We are living in a generation that has no concept of what it means to be a woman. This is singular. I've never seen this in any other generation. Even the word "femininity" means nothing any more.


It's a piece of cake to think about 200 years in the future; that's fantasy. Your father created an entirely fantastical Excel document where he plotted out the estimated dates of the births and marriages of his future descendents.  Since he's at least 10 years out, how accurate was his fantasy world?   

It's a piece of cake to dream of living like the Pilgrim women; their greatest fears of death by illness or starvation have been conquered in the US.

Anna Sofia/Elizabeth's assertion that we're living in a singular time is a great example of how trifling their education has been.  Women have gone through several cycles of greater freedom and participation in the economic world and times of reduced freedom in the twentieth century alone.  These cycles happened during the 19th, 18th, and 17th centuries as well.    This isn't a big secret.  The Botkin sisters would have figured this out if they embarked on an in-depth study of US history.  For most people, finding time to read college texts and all of the scholarly publications written for mainstream audiences before diving into primary sources would be an issue.  The Botkin Sisters, though, should have several hours free a day to pursue academic research - even if they are helping out at the family business, keeping the family home up or caring for their nephews or niece.

This next bit is priceless especially when I was transcribing it at half the speed of the original MP3; the reduced speed made the speaker sound drunk.

I can remember when Elizabeth and I were working on our book and we kept putting the word "femininity", "Biblical femininity" just all through the book and Mom came and said to us, "I don't even know if I like the word femininity. What does it mean anyway? And it has such bad connotations. What does it mean? And Elizabeth and I thought, "Ummm, uh, I don't know." It's an interesting thing.

Really, that paragraph is less unsettling if the speaker was drunk. 

One of the Botkin Sisters just admitted that they were dropping the jargon "Biblical femininity" all over "So Much More" while having no idea what it meant.   That's disturbing on a whole number of levels - but not surprising if you've read their books.

The next post in this series begins the process of unraveling what "Biblical femininity" means....kind of.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter Eight - Part Two

Steven Maxwell is facing a dilemma in the second part of this chapter.   Exhortations about the importance of salvation and teaching kiddos to do chores is standard rhetoric in CP/QF families and shouldn't cause revulsion or cognitive dissonance  in his readers.   When he wades into television usage, however, he's moving into stormy waters.  CP/QF families are solidly united on the dangers of letting children (or adults) watch television shows that haven't been screened for moral purity.   Many families, however, use the television to watch movies or documentaries that have deemed wholesome,  beneficial, educational or edifying.   Other families ban television all together.

Now, Maxwell is in the "total ban" of television camp which is no surprise to anyone who has read along in his book so far.   If Maxwell simply states that he's against all forms of television, there's a potential issue.  The families who choose to let their kids watch TV would be left to made decisions on their own!  The families would need to think about their values, their goals for the family and create an action plan to suit their situation.   Maxwell needs his readers to avoid that slippery slope.  After all, people who purchase a book called "Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family" are already more than halfway to joining Maxwell's personal cult.   Rather than risk losing adherents, Maxwell spitballs a series of rules about safe television watching for kids.
If you choose to let your child watch videos, then I have a few cautions. Only let him watch them on rare occasions such as a holiday or when he is ill. Get rid of all cartoon or humanistic videos. If your child is going to watch something, let it either be educational or devotional. (pg. 112)

I think being sick as a kid is bad enough without the threat of being forced to watch a devotional video as well. 

Maxwell has wisely decided not to wade into the terrifyingly divisive debate over whether watching documentaries that have a strong evolutionary bent - like "Planet Earth" - is allowed or not.  Instead, he's left a hole large enough for a truck to drive through.  The anti-nature documentary folk can label the videos as being "humanistic".  The pro-documentary camp can label them as "educational". 

Whew! Crisis averted.

The last theme in the chapter is Steven Maxwell's convoluted rationales for why kids should totally be allowed to use computers as long as the program is not reminiscent of a game or a video.   Honestly, he's simply labeling anything he lets his kids use as "good" and anything he doesn't want them using as "bad" and torturing the rationales to meet the outcomes.    The first part shows Maxwell's limited understanding of educational practices or developmental psychology:

We have chosen not to purchase video games because of the negative appetites they develop. Most educational programs are more "game" then educational because they are designed to appeal to the average child. Unfortunately, that means the software was created for a child who has been raised on TV. It requires a lot of "razzle dazzle" to hold their interest. We want our children to think of the computer as a tool not a toy. (pg. 113)

If educational software programmers were copying television to keep the interest of children, all educational software would be made of videos with minimal interaction with the program.  Instead, educational software uses interaction with the software to keep the student engaged while learning new material.   And, yes, this often means playing a game.  Playing games is an excellent way to increase the speed at which a person recalls facts or applies a new concept.   Most elementary school kids learn the times tables for 1 through 12.  There are lots of ways to memorize those facts, but timed games have been demonstrated repeatedly to greatly decrease the amount of time it takes students to recall the facts.   The bonus of doing this on a computer is that the student is only competing against themselves, not other students or their siblings. 

The next quote demonstrates Maxwell's slim understanding of how children acquire reading skills:

When one of our children expresses an interest and is showing some manual dexterity, we will let him begin to type. At six years of age, Jesse was mastering both reading and typing. He spent many hours using the typing program and word processor. Think about it. Here was a six year old boy having a great time learning. We have found that it does not require foolish, eye catching graphics for a child to learn new skills. If you teach your child using all of the stimulating "eye candy," then be prepared to keep it up as he grows older. Why not let him find out how good it is to learn without all of the glitz? (pg. 113)

Fun fact: people can learn to write without knowing how to read.   The process of copying a letter does not require understanding the sound that a letter stands for let alone understanding what a word means.   Unless the Maxwells are using a really spiffy typing program that makes kids learn to type from listening to dictation, Jesse was not necessarily learning how to read OR write while he was learning how to type. 

Now, if Jesse was using the word processing program to write stories or sentences, that would be an example of Jesse learning to write - but I'm struggling to see how a typing program teaches reading skills.   When I observed students who were learning to type, I would ask them to tell me what the paragraph they typed rapidly in the final part of the lesson was about.   Most students had no idea; they were so focused on typing rapidly that they didn't process the meaning of the paragraph they typed.

Maxwell shares his shaky grasp of how internal and external motivation works next:

This is a very important concept for you to grasp. The benefits in a child's life will never stop if he's able to learn on his own. Later, when he has graduated from high school, he won't have to be enticed or spoon-fed to learn. It may make the difference between your spending vast amount of money on instructor-led classes versus your son being able to dig information out of a textbook on his own. This concept is foundational and can pay huge dividends through your child's life. (pg. 113).

People rarely learn about a subject in the complete absence of internal motivation.  For example, I know nothing about the Kardashian Family because I have no reason to focus long enough for any information about the family to pass into my long-term memory.   

On the other hand, external motivators can help keep a person motivated in the early stages of a learning process when the person's skill level is too low for the activity itself to be rewarding.  I first learned how to code HTML/CSS through Codecademy.  Since the first stages of learning how to code are rather exasperating, the program gives lots of positive feedback in the form of badges during the early stages.  As I got better at coding,  I received more positive feedback from the output that I created rather than through badges and this eventually lead to finding the process of coding pleasant. 

Interestingly, Maxwell confuses motivation type with the method by which a student learns.  A student could be internally motivated to learn the statistics program R! because they enjoy statistics or externally motivated to learn the program because it's a requirement for a job they want.   When I took a statistics class on R!, I was an internally motivated student who felt that an instructor-guided method was the most effective way to learn.   When I was done, I loaned my textbook for the class to a friend.  She was an externally motivated because a project she was working on used R! and she felt that a textbook would teach her what she needed to know faster than a class.

I'll discuss it more in a future post - but CP/QF bloggers and writers never discuss the opportunity cost of lost wages or lost time when a person decides to take a longer period of time to learn a subject rather than pay a fee to take a class.

This last quote is my favorite because it sounds adorable and Maxwell works up quite a sweat justifying it.

When Mary was four she would spend hours using the "Paint" program that came with the computer. It isn't much different from drawing with " electronic" crayons, but she was teaching herself about the computer by using it. She was at ease with the computer and finding learning to be enjoyable. As long as children don't have access to games, real learning is very attractive to them. It can help build the right kind of appetite for the future. (pg. 113-114)

I have no moral objection to small children using computers for the sheer fun of it - and a four-year old playing with Paint would be great!   I'm hoping that Steve's description of Mary being on the computer for hours at a stretch is hyperbole.  Playing with crayons develops a wide array of fine motor skills that using a computer does not. 

Pretending that Mary was "learning" rather than "having fun" is ridiculous.   She learned to use a mouse to interact with a GUI on a program.  That's a good goal - but she didn't need hours of time on Paint to achieve that.  (She probably knew how to do that simply from watching siblings use the computer, anyway.) 

Well, we've learned all there is to know about preparing 3-6 year olds to work.  Next up is the age span of 7-12.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter 15

Following the importance of raising good little homemakers, "Lady of Leisure" in Stacy McDonald's "Maidens of Virtue" is a realistic fiction morality tale.  I think the intended moral is that lazy, self-centered young women are not attractive to men - but the moral I got was that a stay-at-home daughter with absentee parents can get away with doing nothing of value for months at a time.

The writing in this section is solid since the genre is playing to Mrs. McDonald's strengths.  The main issue for me is that Mrs. McDonald's vignettes of farm life range stretch believability. 

The main thing I enjoyed about this section is that the female lead character is a full-blown narcissist.  She's a complete mental case - and I doubt Mrs. McDonald meant for her to be written like that.   This chick is totally unconcerned with anything that does not directly and immediately affect her and has an overblown sense of her own importance.   Mrs. McDonald implies that these characteristics are due to Ashley's habit of reading novels, but personality disorders do not spring from a healthy mind even a healthy mind with a habit for romance novels.

This is a bit of a first, but I don't have any direct quotes from the chapter.

The story starts with Ashley (who is 22) resting in a hammock while reading a book on a nice, if somewhat hot, day.   Her mom and sisters start planting a garden behind the barn.  Ashley decides that the female members of the family decided to start planting right then specifically to guilt-trip Ashley into helping them out.   Don't worry; ol' Ashley's smarter than that!  She decides to go into the house to finish her book.

Personally, I'm think Ashley's probably right about her family's motives.  Unless her mother and younger sisters (Emmaline, age 19 and Rachel, age 12) adore working in direct sunlight and heat, I have no idea why they would start planting a garden in the middle of the day.   I arrange my outdoor chores so that hot, sunny chores are done first thing in the morning or in the evening; in the middle of the day, I do chores in shade or in farm buildings.

Ashley enjoys a lemonade indoors and brings some out to her sisters and mother who are still working in the garden.   In a completely unconvincing moment, Ashley feels a twinge of guilt at not working with her family and far more convincingly collects the glasses and dashes to her room to read in peace so she doesn't get trapped into making dinner. 

Ashley's got avoiding work down to an art.  What I don't understand is why her mother (or mostly absentee father) doesn't nip this insane level of laziness in the bud.  Ashley's a fully emancipated adult; her parents have no legal obligation to provide anything for her.   In CP/QF land, her parents have a moral obligation to provide for her and keep her "safe" under their roof until she marries - and Miss Ashley's milking that obligation for all it is worth!

The door rings and eventually Ashley decides to answer the door.  A young man is waiting there who Ashley doesn't seem to know.  Louis is the orphaned adult son of a man who has a large family and a mother who is an invalid e.g., the standard stock family of handsome, virtuous young men in Victorian novellas.   (rolls eyes)  Louis is going to be working on Ashley's dad's farm for the summer in exchange for learning how to run "heavy equipment"(pg. 137) that Ashley's father owns. 

My take-away from this section is that Ashley's dad is taking advantage of a local dead farmer's son.  Look, Ashley's and Louis' families are part of the same community and the only rule in farming communities - the only rule -  is that you help out other families when tragedies strikes because your family could be next.   If Louis needs to learn how to run farm equipment to keep the farm going after his dad died, another farmer would teach him - for free - and would be horrified at the idea of accepting money (or work) for that right away.   The payback would be when Louis helped someone else out who was in need. 

In reality, the immoral actions of Ashley's dad happened because Mrs. McDonald knows nothing about farming.  Running equipment takes some practice for sure, but it's not the most important part of running a farm.  The make-or-break part is knowing what to plant, when to plant, when to harvest, and how to control risk.  Now, we never hear how old Louis is, but my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law were making decisions about planting and ration choices for dairy cows at age 14.  Clearly, that's not ideal for a lot of reasons, but in emergency situations teenagers can keep small farms running fairly well.   Since Louis is of marriageable age and inherited a large farm, he would not be taking a summer job at Ashley's dad's farm; he'd be learning on his own farm.   Now, make Louis a teenager who is the younger son on a small farm with an older brother who took over the farm and this makes more sense. 

One more issue and I'll get back to the plot line.  Who is going to inherit Ashley's family farm?  The time period on which this story is set is kept vague.  There is never a mention of any sons in the family so presumably one of the girls is the next presumed heir of the farm. 

Back to the story.  The next scene shows that Ashley is so self-centered that she cannot follow a conversation during a family-style meal where everyone is talking about their day.  She jarringly interrupts everyone to discuss how she made the salad that they ate at lunch once everyone else was talking about using ornaments to keep birds from eating tomatoes (a problem I've never had...) and about an escaped cow coming on their property.  The cow had another neighbor's apron snagged on her head.   (That story was pretty funny - although nothing like really trying to catch and escaped cow with something trapped on their head.  Ask me how I know :-) ) 

Apparently, making a fool of herself in front of guests finally makes Ashley's mom realize that Ashley needs to be assigned chores daily.  Of course, there are no consequences attached to not doing any chores so Ashley proceeds to ignore the assigned list.    Truthfully, Ashley's behavior makes more sense to me than the behavior of the rest of the family.

Time passes.  Ashley decides Louis really came to the farm to be with her rather than train.  This would be an unbelievable plot twist for most characters, but since Ashley's a raging narcissist I'm more surprised that this outcome has taken this long to develop.  Of course Louis would be pining for Ashley!  Ashley's the center of the universe and everyone shines in her brilliant light!

One morning, Emmaline and Rachel are sitting nervously in the kitchen.  The two other sisters function entirely as foils to Ashley.  They are hardworking, reliable, skilled, pleasant, and completely undifferentiated characters.  The girls are nervous because their parents and Louis are talking alone in the parlor!  The younger girls are worried that something happened to Louis' invalid mother - the one who has been left alone at home during this whole story - while Ashley's calmly confident that Louis is finally asking her parents for permission to marry her.

Needless to say, the invalid mother is fine...somehow.   Louis has asked permission to marry the angelic shadow being known as Emmaline which Ashley learns by eavesdropping on Emmaline and their mother.  Apparently, Louis was impressed because she was Godly, pretty in a standard feminine way, didn't rock the boat and knew how to work hard.   (Seriously.  That's the answer to "Why do you want to marry my daughter?" apparently.)  No idea how Emmaline feels about this because the story pans back to Ashley sitting alone eavesdropping on the conversation.

In a believable moment, Ashley is enraged!  Not so believably, Ashley is enraged at herself for having foolish fantasies.  Sorry, Mrs. McDonald, but that's not how narcissists work.  In real life, enraged Ashley would go tearing into the library or parlor or wherever the people were and rip Emmaline to shreds, imply that Louis was a mistaken idiot for getting the two of them confused, and launch into planning for the wedding of Louis and Ashley.   Ashley is the CENTER of the universe - and woe betide anyone who forgets that! 

The chapter ends with Ashley having a heart-changing come-to-Jesus moment where she realizes her own weaknesses and decides to change.   It rings completely untrue.   Best case scenario would be that Ashley devalues Louis to a peon-yokel and simply makes everyone miserable as a bridesmaidzilla.  Worst case scenario - well, don't let Ashley near Emmaline's food or drink, ok? 

I wonder how often something like this happens in CP/QF families.  The toxic theology of forgiving means forgetting is bad enough with healthy people involved.  The absolute lack of boundaries combined with no consequences can lead to an unbalanced person holding the entire family hostage.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

CP/QF Crazy: Family with 9 Kids Lives in Garage.....

Large family blogs - regardless of whether they claim the Quiverfull name - are a quirky blend of great ideas mixed pell-mell with horrible ideas.   Amy, who blogs at Raising Arrows, often has sensible tips for organizing spaces - but this old post slides rapidly into "Yeah, that's illegal under housing codes and CPS have a field day with this one."

Posted two days before Christmas in 2005, Amy rhapsodizes about the minimalist simplicity that a family of 11 has achieved by living in a two-car garage to save money while building their dream home which will "hopefully" get finished next year.   The family has three-tiered bunk beds with a crib at the end for all their kids!  They have food storage and cooking equipment on self-constructed shelves!  Their living room furnishings are a couch, a chair and a chest!  It's great because the garage already has a built-in bathroom plus kitchen equipment and laundry hook-ups!  Couldn't we all learn from the simplicity of this family?

No.  This is a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad idea.  Let's discuss why for anyone who hasn't run through why we don't all live in garages.

First, Amy works hard at making the garage seem livable by claiming the built-in bathroom plus kitchen set-up and laundry room is an  "apartment" which is always described in quotation marks.   That's a bad idea because rental units like apartments often have much stricter housing codes to follow than a "dwelling" so let's call it a "dwelling" because it's not going to make the easier codes for a dwelling. 

I've pulled up the APHA-CDC recommended minimum housing standards from 1986.   Now,  as long as the bathroom has a shower and sink, the garage manages to have the basic facilities and equipment required for habitation. 
Things fall apart in the "Fire and Safety Section".

  •  A dwelling has to have two separate exits to ground level in case of fire - which many garages do not have.   
  • Bedrooms located below the 4th floor of a building have to have a window large enough to act as an emergency egress.   We don't see that often on garages here in Michigan.  
  • All external doors have to have a deadbolt lock or equivalent which is hard to do on a garage door.
In the "Lighting and Ventilation" section,  a dwelling must have windows in all non-bathroom spaces that are equal to at least 8% of the total square footage and the windows must be openable to allow ventilation.  In my experience, garages tend to either have horrible ventilation because of too few windows or are drafty.   The drafty ones might survive the ventilation section, but I think they will get dinged later on.  

I don't know where Amy lives - but dwellings have to have a dedicated source of heat according to Section 7.  This heating unit must be able to keep the entire living space - including the bathroom - at 68 degrees F for families that don't include the elderly, ill, or infants.  Since the family idolized in the post contains a 10 month old infant, the internal temperature must be at 70 degrees F.   In my experience, that's going to be one of the biggest challenges for this family if they want to live in the garage legally, let alone comfortably.  Garages are not generally insulated very well - or at all.  Any heat generating unit is going to bleed heat outward through all three or four external walls much faster than a standard house would.   If the family lives somewhere really warm where homes are not as heavily insulated as they are in the Great Lakes, they might not freeze to death - but the family is going to be in a world of hurt in the summer!    

The first problem my husband and I thought of when making a long list of why people don't live in garages is that the folding doors that let cars in and out of garages are impossible to rodent-proof or insect-proof to the requirements of dwellings.  I grew up in the city where we had more mice brought in the house by senile cats than entered on their own; my husband grew up in the country where people get a few mice in the house every year regardless of the number of cats they have.  We both remember seeing mice in our respective garages.    Truthfully, my bigger concern would be rats.  They have two kids sleeping at the floor level and an infant in a crib - and no one needs to wake up from a rodent bite in the night.     I can't even imagine trying to keep the garage free from ants.  Every crumb of food would need to be swept up and placed in a sealed trash can, the entire floor mopped and everyone vacuumed to remove any crumbs of food from their clothes after every meal.   

At this point, I'm thinking that the family would be better off sleeping in tents, honestly.  At least then they would have food and sleeping areas separated which would make infestations a little easier to control.

Under the "Space" requirements, the minimum square footage allowed is equal to 150 + 100(n-1) where n is the total number of occupants.  The family has 11 people in it so that's a minimum square footage of 1150 feet.  The minimum size of a two car garage is 20' by 20'  which is 400 square feet or nearly 1/3 of the minimum square footage.    For the family to fit, they would need a slightly larger than average four-car garage.

The original post was written in 2010 - but the comment section is revealing as well.  Lots of people wanted an interview with the family who did this.  Amy has had some difficulty getting the family to submit pictures or answers to questions asked by the readers.   I can think of two reasons for that.  The one that sprung to mind right away was being investigated by CPS or DHS for neglect - but Amy swears that the family is now living in a lovely, code-compliant home.  There is one other potential issue: if the family has been living in the garage and the garage is truly code-compliant, they are now  living on a property with two dwellings - which often brings an entire new set of zoning and taxation issues. 

My send off for this post involves sleeping arrangements for the parents.  Amy and her family were all over at this adorable, amazing "apartment" for 11 - but she never mentions where the two parents sleep.    Is the sofa a sleeper sofa?  Are the parents sleeping in a car away from their infant?   Do they have an air mattress?  Where do they fit in this whole mess - and were the kids being adequately supervised at night? 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter 8 - Part One

Whew!  Now that we broke free of the chapter on "Perfectly Harmless Activities that Steve Doesn't Want His Family to Do"  we arrive at the beginning of the chapters on how Steven thinks people should raise sons divided into age groups.    The first age group he covers is three to six years of age.

 Not surprisingly, this leaves me with a few questions right off the bat.  Are children aged 0-2 years solely the domain of the mother or are the details of child rearing before age 3 the same for boys and girls?

I hope it's the latter.  My husband has been very involved with our son since the day he was born.  I was so sick after Jack was born that I could only see him for an hour or so every day before I'd be exhausted and having my blood pressure skyrocket again.  My husband roomed-in with me in the hospital on a tiny couch and visited Jack three to four times a day.   When Jack came home, he was a very labor-intensive baby because of his medical needs - although thankfully he's always been a very easy baby personality-wise - so my husband cared for him from when he got home from work until he went to bed.  He also did the first morning feed with Jack and prepped his bottles.   Jack's much less labor-intensive now, but my husband has continued spending a lot of time caring for Jack.  This is good for both my husband and my son - and it gives me a break from childcare and taking care of the house.

The chapter is pretty long, so this post is going to cover the first two topics: religious education/training and doing projects with your son. 

The section on "Salvation" is by far the longest one in the chapter - and that's a weird idea for me - but not for my usual issues around being saved.  Cradle Catholics are usually baptized in infancy and that's the only sacrament they receive until they are in 1st-2nd grade.  In the intervening seven or eight years, the kids are learning how to be good human beings.    Parents are working on issues like "Use your words, not your hands (or teeth) when you are angry" or "When you pushed Johnny, he got hurt and felt sad."  Parents are demonstrating why lying is wrong, why we should respect each other and why we should respect other people's property.   Yeah, most little Catholics will pick up a few prayers along the way and are probably hearing sanitized versions of Bible stories, but the major gist of faith formation during this time is helping kids move beyond the age-appropriate self-centered viewpoint of a small child into a small human who thinks about how actions affect others.

Here's Steve's starting point on salvation:
Most of my children have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior around the ages of 5 and 6. Be careful not to push a child or force him towards salvation in any way. For your child to recite a Salvation prayer without a change of heart does no one any good. (pg. 105)

Duly noted.  Look, the only two examples I can think of from my life of parents forcing their kids to do anything involving religion is 1) dragging pre-teens and teenagers to Mass every Sunday and 2) requiring their teenagers to get confirmed. 

My parents expected us to attend Mass every Sunday while we lived at home.  Looking back, this wasn't about religion nearly as much as it was about having one family event a week.  Well, that and teaching my youngest brother that choosing to stay out past curfew on Saturday night was not an acceptable reason to skip out on Sunday requirements.  Of course, my brother had the last laugh.  One Sunday morning after a long Saturday night, he skipped breakfast and passed out cold just before the Liturgy of the Eucharist began.  Since he was sitting in the front row of seats that didn't have a railing in front, he did a header onto tile stairs.  The edge of the step hit him right between the eyebrows and split the area right above his nose down to the skull.    That's also how we met an attending doctor whose graduate stipend work including socializing Koko the gorilla.....but that's another story.  Either way, I doubt that attending Mass once a week was a real hardship for any of us. 

Forcing teenagers to get confirmed, on the other hand, lead to one huge mess at my parish.  Our home parish was huge.  I was in a Confirmation class with 55 other sophomores.   Of the 55 teenagers, exactly five of us were there by personal choice.   Hell, even my twin sister was there under parental dictates.   The  first-time instructor was completely overwhelmed.   In a class that was supposed to be preparing us to be adult members of the Catholic church, we had lost the "privileges" of using writing utensils and sitting on chairs by the end of the second week.    Week three's class involved sitting on risers in a music/utility room listening to the instructor read a children's book on St. Francis of Assisi.  Eventually, I joined my best friend and another girl in a "book club" where we worked our way through the catechism on Confirmation and discussed what we thought the Sacrament meant. 

The major difference between my two stories and Steven Maxwell's exhortation is the age of the people involved.  Life with pre-teens and teens is dragging reluctant teens to do things that are "good for them" because they are in a very peer-focused period of life.  Kindergartners are completely different critters - and anyone who feels like coercing their kid into a salvation event at that age needs to take several developmental psychology classes.

The next story is Jesse Maxwell's salvation story.   The story manages to be sweet and completely exasperating at the same time.  It's adorably sweet because Jesse's a normal elementary school kid and exasperating because Steven Maxwell is involved:

Six year old Jesse was our most recent child to be saved. He had been mentioning for several months that the Lord was talking to him about salvation. Each time he came to me, I told him that that was great, and we could talk about it when he was ready. I wanted to make sure this wasn't "false labor." I waited until he couldn't be put off any longer. Finally, he came to me and said, " Dad, I really want to talk to you about being saved. Can we talk about it now?" I said we would discuss it after supper.(pg. 106)

Steven Maxwell gives me whiplash - and not only in "Preparing Sons to Provide for Single Income Families".  The Maxwell family LOVES creating cold-calling conversion events - but when a kid in the family shows signs of readiness for being born again, feet dragging commences.   I don't understand why Maxwell dawdles so long on this.  In the Catholic Church, kids have to have reached the "Age of Reason" (usually around age 7) before receiving the Eucharist.  The rationale is that kids have to have reached a certain level of cognitive and moral development before they can have a basic understanding of what the Eucharist is and why it is important.    Maybe Steven Maxwell is waiting for a similar developmental milestone to be passed - but how would he know if he's not talking to Jesse about salvation one-on one?   

I'm also confused about who is the gatekeeper for salvation - Jesus or Steven Maxwell?  If Jesus is telling Jesse Maxwell that it's time for him to be saved, why is Steven Maxwell getting in the way?  I thought that being saved was one of those things that people can do one-on-one with Jesus anyway.  It's surreal to me because Maxwell has essentially re-created the ecclesiastical  governance found in Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Episcopal Churches in himself without the oversight and appeals process available in those denominations.

We went down into my office and closed the door. I asked Jesse a number of questions to determine if you really understood what the Lord has done for him. Did he understand sin and the consequences of it? Did he understand the Cure for sin? Was he able to earn salvation in any way? After I was satisfied he had a good comprehension of salvation, I asked him to go to his room and pray about whether he really wanted to become a Christian. He came back eight minutes later and said that he was sure.(pg. 106)

In this section, the capitalization of "the Cure" is from the book.  Every time I read it, the song "Friday I'm in Love" gets stuck in my head....followed immediately by a bunch of songs from "The Clash" because my dyslexia causes those two bands to get mixed up in my head.   Oddly enough, the Clash's "Do I Stay or Do I Go?" is apropos for this section. 

I wish Maxwell had included Jesse's answers to the first two questions.  The idea of an "Age of Reason" in my church includes the modern understanding that early elementary school kids are in a very concrete stage of moral decision making.  The level of understanding that a kid is supposed to have prior to receiving the Eucharist is that they can label a fairly cut-and-dry moral situation that they've been exposed to before as being moral/good or immoral/bad.   An example would be something like "Bob wants to play on the swing set, but all of the swings are full.  Should Bob push a small child off a swing so Bob can swing?" 

This also recognizes that kids will often default to very black-and-white thinking about more complicated moral situations like "Franz's family is starving.  He walks by a bakery that has lots of bread in the window.  Should he steal the bread?"  For early elementary school kids, they will often answer that Franz shouldn't steal the bread because stealing is wrong; they are too young to have a sense that stealing bread to save lives may be moral.

Since Jesse is allowed to be saved at the end of this, he must have answered "No" to "Can you earn salvation in any way?" - but my sense of humor wonders what would have happened if he had answered "Yes.  You have to convince your dad you are ready to be saved!"  :-P

I love the idea of a six year old praying really hard for eight minutes while deciding to become a Christian.   Absolutely sweet little guy!

I then asked if he liked people telling him what to do. He said, " No." I explain that salvation meant Jesus becoming his boss. I ask Jesse to go pray again about whether he really was willing to make Jesus his boss. He went away and came back four minutes later. " Yes!" He wanted Jesus to be his boss. I asked whether he would like to have Mom with us when he prayed, and he thought that would be a good idea. We went upstairs to the living room and knelt at the sofa. I prayed for him, then let him in prayer. At that moment, Jesse Maxwell became a child of God. (pg. 106)


Imagine Jesse's utter desolation when he realized that his parents were still able to order him around!  He had gone through all that work to make Jesus his boss only to find out that Jesus subcontracted the work!

Be very careful using metaphors with small children; they are not the best at abstract thinking at age six. 

The last section is on doing projects and chores for kids.  Surprisingly, Maxwell and I are on the same page with this one.   My parents expected us to pitch in around the house in an age-appropriate manner starting from.... well, I don't remember not being expected to pick up my own toys and put dirty laundry in a hamper so I'm assuming we started as toddlers.  My little guy is too young to do anything around the house yet - but I already explain to him that he helps me out when I'm doing chores by either playing quietly by himself or telling me stories - which is what I call when he babbles to me while I clean the kitchen.  :-)

This next story sounds like something I did with my parents when we were kids:

This morning well our family was over working at Nathan's house, six-year-old Jesse spent the longest I'm picking up sticks in the yard and bringing them to me. He was so pleased to be able to help, and he was performing and needed to ask. One of my jobs was to break the sticks up into small pieces for the trash bag. He loves seeing a pile of sticks need to grow before me. We had great " fun." Joseph and John, the older now, we're also over there glad fully working with us. (pg.108-109)

Lots of CP/QF bloggers discuss endlessly the importance of teaching kids to have a good work ethic - and my two-cents is the best way to do that is to working hard and willingly yourself and have the kids join in as they are old enough.   My parents kept an eye on our elderly neighbors and did their yard chores.  Looking back, it was never something my parents discussed with us kids.  The people next door were too old to safely mow the lawn, rake leaves, and shovel snow; we were young and healthy so it was only sensible that we took care of their lawns, too.  We were free to complain about taking care of our home yard - but I don't remember ever complaining about taking care of Vivian's yard next door.   Complaining about that would have been insulting to her - and a sign of severe ingratitude for the fact that we were healthy and strong. 

We also learned by listening to our parents the importance of allowing people we helped to keep their pride.  Vivian was always extremely thankful that we cared for her lawn - and we kids always pointed out that raking her lawn gave us HUGE leaf piles to play in and snow for snowball fights.  As we outgrew "playing" as an excuse, we shifted to "I need more exercise" or "it's good cardio-training for soccer".

Fun is fun - and work can be fun, too.  I completely disagree with Maxwell's theory that the only way people will find working fun is if they don't have access to entertainment like TV, movies or fiction to read.   I spent several hours yesterday planting twelve fruit trees around our yard.  Raising perennial fruit crops is a lot of work, but it's a work that I find deeply satisfying and that increases the amount of fruit my household eats.  Ditto for raising chickens, planting a vegetable garden or crocheting dish towels.

Maxwell and I may be on the same page, but he includes an anecdote about his impatience with his kids in a "Oopsie" lightweight manner that is completely different from his tone in discussing his wife or children's foibles:

I have discovered that I get more than I bargained for when I have young children helping me on projects. If the project has any degree of difficulty, I have the opportunity to work on my character! You see, I become impatient when trying to answer a million questions while concentrating on my work. Little boys ask questions like," Daddy, why did you break that bolt off?" or, " Why can't we do it this way?" If I don't mentally prepare for the fact that the task will take longer with my son's participation, I will become frustrated. Then, instead of having a wonderful shared time, we are both unhappy. Therefore, make sure you begin a project with proper expectations. (pg. 109)

Ok, Steven.  You find it frustrating when you have to multitask with small children around.  Welcome to adulthood, dude.

Pause for a moment and imagine what Teri's life must be like while you were off at work.  She was trying to homeschool the older kids, wrangle the younger kids and keep up a home....with little voices chiming in their two cents all_the_time.   If "Why did you break that bolt off?" is annoying, imagine "why did you break that cup?", "why are we having eggs for breakfast?", "why can't I go outside?" and three million other questions every day. 

Makes having a kid underfoot while repairing something around the house take on a different light....

This last story is terrifying:

A family we know shared with us how one of their young sons stuck a drill up his younger brother's nose and pulled the trigger. The mom said she had never seen anything bleed so profusely. Please do not underestimate your child's ability to do something he shouldn't. Exercise much caution. (pg. 110)

Small children are extremely bad at judging relative risks.   They have no life experience and are still equally connected between fantasy and reality.   Small children and hand tools are a bit risky even under adult supervision - but small children should never ever be left near power tools even with supervision.    My dad directs plays for local high schools so we spent lots of Saturdays playing in the seating section of the auditorium while Dad and high school students built set on the stage.   Notice the clear spatial division between the kids and the power tools; the tools were located on a raised stage that we were not allowed to be on (or even the steps up to the stage) unless Dad told us we could come up.  We were allowed to come up once all the tools were secured OR if Dad needed us to sit on a piece of lumber to act as a counterweight while he was cutting it. 

Hopefully, the drill only had a short bit for driving screws on it.  That can mess up the soft tissue in the nose - but a longer bit could start ripping into the internal bony structures in the sinuses - and that's a whole new level of nasty complications......

Friday, March 16, 2018

CP/QF Crazy: Civil War Conspiracy Theory Writ Large

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Those good ol' days weren't so good.

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


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

Paul had different instructions for young maidens:

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

Where should I start this time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter Seven - Part Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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