Modernizing Marriage

Time magazine’s “gender and sexuality” columnist Stephanie Fairyington thinks it’s a shame how technology has simultaneously made it easier for unfaithful spouses to find opportunities to cheat while making it easier for the jilted spouse to find out about it.

Despite the frightening and ever-expanding ways to electronically snoop, in order to fully modernize marriage we need to resist the degrading urge to spy on our spouses and acknowledge, in radical opposition to our times, each individual’s right to privacy within matrimony, including the right to act in our own sexual and romantic self-interests independent of our partner’s knowledge or consent. (Bear with me.) (Emphasis and parenthetical in original)

Once you’ve deconstructed marriage, unmoored it from its foundations, and stripped it of its very meaning, what’s left to be faithful to? In the end, what will be the point of marriage at all, in this twisted world view?

Our New Family Vehicle: 2015 Ford Transit Wagon

At the end of May we purchased a new family vehicle, a 2015 Ford Transit Wagon, to replace our aging Buick Terraza minivan. It’s quite the upgrade.

We’d had the Buick for about 10 years and we have been talking about replacing it for the last five years. The biggest problem was that even as a minivan, it’s capacity was limiting. We literally could not fit another child into the car and even with just the five kids, we moved Isabella out of her booster and Sophia and Ben out of their car seats into boosters before we were supposed to. We couldn’t take long road trips because the poor kids were so cramped and there was no place to put stuff. But we managed to endure until we took the Buick in for some repairs. Our great mechanic told us that we need to replace struts, wheels, and brakes and do major work on the air conditioner, all of which together would cost about $3,000. Truly, it was time to move on.

I knew we needed to move up to a larger vehicle and because the Transit was Ford’s newest version of the full-size van we settled on that, finding a couple of recent vintage with low miles locally.1

There’s a lot to like about the van. It doesn’t have a lot of frills, but it does have a very nice rearview camera in the bumper. If you’d asked me whether it was something I would want in a new vehicle I’d have said No, but after a couple of months with it, now I want it on my Honda. The camera is especially useful on the Transit because there is almost no view out of the back window. The design of the pillars in the rear doors is unnecessarily bulky, I think, so you can hardly see anything. But with the rear camera and the very nice side mirrors, that’s not a real issue. The side mirrors offer both a big straight up rear view mirror and a concave mirror that lets you see all around the side, removing blind spots, but also making parking within the lines easier.

The view from the driver’s seat is pretty good overall. It sits high up and the front windshield is a large expanse of glass, while the nose of the van is quite short, giving you an excellent view. There are several storage space and cup holders in easy reach of the driver and front passenger, but not much storage in the back and while there’s several cup holders in back, not one for every seat.

There are only two windows that roll down, the front passenger and driver and only half of the windows roll down. It’s kind of odd how much of the window doesn’t go down.

IMG_0868 (1)

The passenger version of the Transit comes in a number of seating configurations, holding up to 15 people, but ours seats 10.2 This gives us a big space right inside the sliding door, behind the front passenger where we can put all kinds of gear. The nice thing is that the two in car seats, Anthony and Lucia, are right behind the driver and passenger. In the next row, Isabella, who used to be cramped in the middle in the back of the old car, now has a glorious row to herself. And Sophia and Benedict are in the back without anyone competing for arm rests.

As a full-size van, we have new considerations like the height of the van. It’s taller than the minivan at 6-feet, 11-inches and won’t fit in some garages, a problem which Melanie ran into recently. And it’s certainly bigger all around when you’re maneuvering.

Overall, though, it’s been a very nice upgrade so far. I wish we could have done it earlier. I’m looking forward to really putting it through its paces in August when we take it for a week of camping.

  1. I think we got a pretty good deal on the van we purchased, if the sour looks and attitude of the finance manager were anything to judge by. He was especially unhappy when I got him to admit that the “couple bucks a month” extended warranty would be $5,000 extra — and he was going to finance it to boot! No thanks. ↩︎
  2. It can come with seating for as few as 8. To seat 12, you need the long wheelbase version and for 15, you need the extended-length version. ↩︎

Be A Gardener, Not a Carpenter

Alison Gopnik argues that we shouldn’t use the word “parenting” to describe the act of raising a child. After all we don’t turn “husband” or “wife” into verbs. But the use of “parent” as a verb suggest that we’ve turned it into a job with tasks that can be followed to arrive at a desired result, like a cabinetmaker building a chair.

“The promise of ‘parenting’ is that there is some set of techniques, some particular expertise, that parents could acquire that would help them accomplish the goal of shaping their children’s lives,” she writes. But that would only work if children were a “thing”, a machine whose nuances could be learned. But that doesn’t work. Not even if you think of them as incredibly complex machines. Yet this is what very often how we see other people around us, as bundles of facts and inputs and outputs and data. I know I often feel like a faceless bundle of systems whenever I enter the healthcare realm.

People, including children, are spiritual/physical hybrids who are constantly shifting and changing and each one is utterly unique. You can’t read a manual or take a class that teaches you the successful technique for raising a child, because it’s impossible for such a thing to exist.

We’re supposed to “be parents”, not “parent”. A parent is someone who is, not just someone who does. We learned to raise children by being raised, by seeing other children raised, by participating in the raising of other children in our families, by being around and seeing the children in our community being raised.

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An App for Tracking Your Children’s Ailments

Finally. For years, Melanie and I have bemoaned the lack of an app to help parents track their children’s sicknesses over time, like heir temperatures and what medicine you gave them and when. It’s especially difficult when you’ve been up all night and you have multiple kids sick at once. And then you’ve both been giving out the meds.

It looks like Feevy is the answer.

The app lets you track a child’s temperature on a graph over time, so if you take their temperature every few hours, you can go back over all of your recent readings and see if their temperature is holding steady, trending up, or trending down at a glance. You can also add things like medications that you’ve given them and when, so you make sure not to give them too much in too short a time period, and add notes about how your child is feeling at various intervals.

It lets you sync the data with someone else as well! It’s $2 right now. iPhone and iPad only.

One Year After Obergefell

At the end of another disastrous Supreme Court term, one in which the judicial giant, Antonin Scalia, was lost, the Court handed down a terrible decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy that overturned Texas’ law that put abortion clinics under the same sort of regulations that other surgical clinics have to abide by. This sets back the cause of saving live of babies yet again and puts even more women at risk of another Kermit Gosnell mass murder situation.

It’s been a year since the end of the previous Supreme Court term, in which they disastrously created a constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex and so I wanted to revisit some of my thoughts from then to show how terrible the current bench is and why it’s so important we get better justices.

"In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were." – Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing in the majority opinion of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Yes, that's called "children". The whole point of the State protecting and promoting marriage was to protect and promote children, which are vital to the continuation of the State. But ever since we legalized contraception, divorce, and abortion, we've eroded the reason and meaning of civil marriage. So now we come to this: Marriage now exists to magnify the most important thing of all: The All-Glorious Me! And children, for many people–heterosexual and homosexual alike–exist for the same reason: to reflect on Me! and how they make Me! feel.

The State will soon issue each of us a reflecting pool in which we can gaze at ourselves to our heart's content while everything crumbles around us, unheeded.

(Yes, infertile unions are still valid civil marriages because they bear the potential and the meaning of childbearing. It's a complicated philosophical thought. Just turn on MSNBC and don't worry about it.)

Let’s also heap scorn on Justice Kennedy's purple prose at the end of his majority opinion: "Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness." Yep, that's right. Suddenly the US Constitution's job is to ensure that people aren't lonely.

It's not the Nanny State. It's the Yenta State, validating your love and making sure you aren't lonely.

By the way, I wonder how all those happily single people feel about being "condemned to live in loneliness."

Finally, a few quick thoughts:

  1. It’s time for the Church to get out of the civil marriage business. See the Justice of the Peace to get the legal document, then go to the church for the sacrament.
  2. Homosexuals make up less than 3% of the population of the US. It’s not going to be a large number of marriages. But be prepared for advertisers and Hollywood to have them show up everywhere.
  3. We lost this battle when no-fault divorce was legalized and with the acceptance “sweet mystery of life” clause (so-dubbed by Justice Antonin Scalia) in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, not coincidentally also written by Kennedy: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” By that way of thinking, anything at all is permissible.

Study: Fewer Abortions, Less Contraception Mean Stronger Families

For decades, pro-lifers have repeated the mantra that abortion is bad for women and bad for children, while pro-choicers have maintained that access to abortion give women better outcomes. It looks like science continues to back the pro-life position.

Apart from the well-known health impact on women seeking abortion (and its obvious and tragic impact on their children), there are other consequences for women as well. In the Boston Globe’s “Uncommon Knowledge” column on Sunday, June 19, 2016, we see a small item on a new study that backs up the results of a two-decade-old study showing that where access to abortion and contraception is restricted, we find less single motherhood and more cases of mothers living with the fathers of their children.

“The results showed that women in states that removed public funding saw decreased single motherhood and increased cohabitation among women giving birth. Estimates showed a 13 percent lower chance of being single following a birth in a state where funding was removed. This policy impact is substantial. If the entire sample were to experience a removal of abortion funding, these estimates would imply that the probability of cohabiting or marrying among low-income mothers would increase by between 12 and 18 percentage points conditional on giving birth. These estimates mean that among the children of low-income mothers, the fraction of children living with both biological parents at the time of birth would rise by 10 percentage points.”

It seems counter-intuitive, perhaps, because you would think increased access to abortion would result in fewer women giving birth, but as most pro-lifers know abortion doesn’t reduce the number of “unwanted” children. It just creates a vicious cycle of crisis pregnancies.

The reason why the decrease in single motherhood is significant is because of the well-attested data that shows single motherhood is a leading indicator for poverty for both women and children, that children who grow up in single parent homes are at risk for poor school performance, criminal behavior as both juveniles and adults, psychological and emotional difficulties, and more. (This isn’t to say that all children of single mothers end up this way, but that there is increased risk.)

As time goes on, it becomes more and more apparent that abortion breaks down the family and that the breakdown of the family causes a breakdown in the fabric of our society.

Babysitting 1.0

A new dad who happens to be a software engineer leaves hilariously detailed instructions for the babysitter of his newborn son:

“Hey, this is a quick primer on dealing with an infant. Hope it’s useful for you.

  • He gets a bottle every 2 hours (today, he started at 9:30a)
    • 3 oz, warmed to blood temperature in microwave in mug of water
      • In your Microwave, this proved to take about 30 sec
    • During feeding, Wiggle the nipple gently until you can tell he’s getting suction
    • The vent will be dry
    • You’ll see bubbles rising to the formula’s surface inside the bottle as air enters via the vent
  • In case of crying
    1. Is his diaper dirty?
      • Simple test is if the front feels swollen; if so, he’s peed at least.
      • Poop will have a distinct smell; carefully open the back and look for signs
        • He poops every other day, so it probably won’t be an issue
      • See [Skills/Changing a Diaper]”

And so on …

Why We Homeschool

Washington State has issued new standards to public schools on teaching kids as young as kindergarten about the myriad of genders we have invented:

Beginning in Kindergarten, students will be taught about the many ways to express gender. Gender expression education will include information about the manifestations of traits that are typically associated with one gender. Crossdressing is one form of gender expression. […]

Fourth graders will be expected to “define sexual orientation,” which refers to whether a person identifies as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual; they’ll also be taught about HIV prevention. Children in fourth grade will be told that they can choose their sexual orientation.

Whether you are morally opposed to homosexual activity or not, so-called gender identity is not an appropriate topic for five-year-olds. And certainly, the discussion of any sexual activity is not appropriate for 10-year-olds.

It seems like alarmism and hysteria to declare we live under a totalitarian system, but how else to describe a system of indoctrination under governmental authority that declares parents and their professed moral views to be irrelevant to the greater need of society to shape children according to the social re-engineering principles in vogue.

The Story of Tonight

Joe Posnanski takes his 14-year-old daughter to see “Hamilton” on Broadway, spending a small fortune to do so. He takes her because she is obsessed with it.

Elizabeth is one of several million people — so many of them teenagers — who have become obsessed with the Broadway show “Hamilton.” It is funny, if you think about it. Kids all over America are smitten by a show about a previously minor Founding Father who probably would have gotten chucked off the $10 bill had it not been for the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

When I was Elizabeth’s age, we all wore Rush and Black Sabbath T-shirts and sang about how Mommy’s alright and Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird.

These kids are singing about Alexander Hamilton’s argument with Thomas Jefferson over a plan to establish a national bank and assume state debt.

But he also takes her because he’s a dad who recognizes the passage of time and the need to occasionally make tentpole memories with your children, memories that will stand out as they look back in life. You can’t have a lot of tentpole memories or they won’t stand out, but just a few. It’s why you sometimes see middle-aged dads with a gaggle of girls at Bieber or Taylor Swift concerts. (And I would add that not every teen obsession is deserving of a tentpole memory.)

But she will remember. That’s the thing. She will remember every detail. She will remember it the way I remember what it was like inside Cleveland Municipal Stadium with those stupid steel beams blocking every view of the field and the wind howling off of the Lake and the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke. She will remember every little thing about that theater, about that stage, about Lin’s voice, about my jacket being around her shoulders, about Burr’s unplanned little laugh when watching King George dance, about that night.

And perhaps she will tell the story of that night for a long time to come. As a father, I wholeheartedly understand.

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