The 2013 Measles “Epidemic”

In light of my last post, I thought it might be timely to republish this article from September of last year…

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a CNN article entitled: U.S. measles cases in 2013 may be most in 17 years.  To anyone sitting on the fence, wondering if they should vaccinate their child, there’s a lot of scary-sounding information in that article:

This year is on track to be the worst for measles in more than a decade, according to new numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

There were 159 cases of measles in the United States from January 1 through August 24

This is very bad. This is horrible,” said Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University who was on a telephone briefing with the CDC Thursday morning. “The complications of measles are not to be toyed with, and they’re not altogether rare.”

“According to the CDC, one to three out of every 1,000 children in the United States who get measles will die from the disease, even with the best of care.”

“Even if complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis aren’t deadly, they can make children very sick; in 2011, nearly 40% of children under the age of 5 who got measles had to be treated in the hospital.”

STOP RIGHT THERE!  I’m calling my doctor… we’re getting the kids vaccinated RIGHT NOW!

Or not.  Lets take a closer look at those statistics, shall we?

According to the article: “one to three out of every 1,000 children in the United States who get measles will die from the disease, even with the best of care.” Okay… and how many children in the US get the measles? Again, to quote the article “159 cases of measles in the United States from January 1 through August 24.”

So in an EIGHT MONTH period 159 out of the roughly 74 MILLION children in the US got measles. Lets give that a visual:

This map comes from the CDC website published August 24, 2013

Number of measles cases (N = 159), by state — United States, 2013:

The figure shows the number of measles cases, by state in the United States during 2013. During January 1-August 24, 2013, a total of 159 cases were reported to CDC from 16 states and New York City. The largest numbers of cases were reported from New York state (65), Texas (25), North Carolina (22), and California (15).

Pretty scary stuff.  Especially for those of us living in Kentucky.

But what about all these bad, horrible, “not to be toyed with” complications?  What about the deaths?!

If, according to the article, 1-3 (we’ll estimate high and go with the number 3) out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from measles and only 159 children got the measles in an 8 month period, that means roughly ONE child will die of measles every FOUR years.(Actually, there hasn’t been a measles death since 2003, despite years and years of “outbreaks.”)

And all those scary side effects that land so many kids in the hospital every year?

“Nearly 40% of children under the age of 5 who got measles had to be treated in the hospital”

For the sake of argument, lets say that all 159 children who have gotten the measles this year were under the age of 5.  63 of those children (40%) had to be treated in the hospital.  63.  Can we stop and think about that for a second?  63 out of 74 MILLION children in this country had to be hospitalized because of the measles.

Pretty scary stuff.  Statistically speaking, my children have more chance of being bit by a poisonous snake, drowning in a pool, or being killed by a tornado than they have of getting (and having complications from) measles.  (Not to mention the fact that vaccinations aren’t always effective.)

Now lets compare that number with a much, much scarier number. 1 in 88 kids in the United States are suffering from autism.  ONE IN EIGHTY-EIGHT.  Don’t think vaccines cause autism?  Here are a number of studies that show otherwise.  It’s the largest epidemic in the history of the world.

Where are the CNN articles reporting on THAT?  

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Related Articles

Dear parents, you’re STILL being lied to … Exposing the threat of measles, mumps and hippopotamuses on vaccinated children and the unsupportable claims of a pro-vaccination scientist.

(outside links):

The Myth of Herd Immunity

Why All The Measles Outbreaks?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Dear parents, you’re STILL being lied to (rebuttal to Jennifer Raff’s unsupported pro-vaccination claims)

 http://consciouslifestyles.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/vaccine-baby-cry.jpg?w=224&h=224In 1994, a song written by a jam band called Blues Traveler came out and was played in clubs and on radios across the nation.  It made the top ten charts and remains one of the most memorable songs from the 1990′s.  That song was entitled Hook and the lyrics of the song assert that even if what a singer sings about is effectively meaningless, listeners will keep coming back to it so long as it’s articulated in a way that makes listeners feel “some inner truth of vast reflection” is being conveyed.  Most listeners didn’t even pay attention to the lyrics, but sang along anyway.  Well, folks, that’s exactly what’s been happening recently with an article on vaccinations that’s been making the rounds lately.  Welcome to information age, where a blog post can be shared all over cyberspace and receive over 10,000 “likes” on facebook and say very little that is actually useful.

Entitled “Dear parents, you are being lied to,” Jennifer Raff lists all the vaccination-related arguments she’s heard over the years from (presumably) those who choose not to vaccinate (she simply addresses a collective “they.”)  What makes this article so appealing is that she doesn’t bog us down with details.  She simply lists her points statement-rebuttal style and includes a few links to her pro-vaccination statements.  The problem with this is that when you take the time to dig down into the details, you soon realize she’s wrong.  By exaggerating the information cited in each argument, she makes what is (judging by the popularity of the article) an apparently compelling argument to those unwilling to dig deeper, but is essentially a straw man once the surface is scratched.  In some cases, she uses studies from countries as far away as Bangladesh and Scandinavia to prove the efficacy of vaccinations and includes illnesses and deaths due to diseases found nowhere on the recommended childhood vaccination schedule to show that the message against vaccines is having “dire consequences.”  In other cases, she links to articles that have absolutely nothing to do with the points she’s trying to make.  Like many such arguments, she sets up a very clear “us” vs. “them” theme and attempts to draw black-and-white conclusions from what is, essentially, a very gray area.  No matter which way you look at it, this article, although written by a scientist, is not scientific.

Raff’s article and the popularity it has gained make it glaringly obvious that we simply don’t pay attention.  If someone writes an article claiming something as “fact” and adds a reference at the end, we don’t bother checking the reference.  Rather than study information for ourselves, the vast majority of us essentially want others to take responsibility for our safety – especially in the areas of food and medicine.  If the FDA says it’s safe and effective then we believe it’s safe and effective no-questions-asked.  The reality that Raff ignores is that this debate is not about the  “pro-vaccine” camp vs. the “anti-vaccine” camp, it’s about evaluating what our children need, and determining who gets to answer that question.  Does the government get to decide what our children need, or do parents get to decide, based on the research available to them?  Do we, as parents, sacrifice our responsibility to think on the altar of science’s ability to make stuff?  Should we be required to take what the government, the FDA and the CDC hand to us, simply because it’s offered?  Or should parents exercise their right to examine research on their own and choose methods of care for their children according to what they believe is best?

Below, I have gone through Raff’s article in its entirety, point by point, revealing the details that she has neglected to give us and including information that is glaringly absent from her article.  To the best of my ability, I have quoted only articles written by the CDC, FDA, pro-vaccine websites/publications, and articles whose facts can be easily verified.

Raff’s information is grouped according to subject and presented in blue.  Quotes are indented.

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Claim:
Illness is dangerous!
People could DIE!

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  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS OUTBREAKS OF MEASLES ARE ON THE RISE

“In light of recent outbreaks of measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses, and the refusal of anti-vaccination advocates to acknowledge the problem, I thought it was past time for this post.”

“Recent outbreaks” according to the linked article: 189 (out of roughly 300,000,000) people in 2013. 

To put this in perspective, that’s 1 out of every 1,500,000 (1) in the United States.  That’s hardly an epidemic.

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT NOT VACCINATING PUTS OUR CHILDREN’S LIVES AT RISK

“You are being lied to. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk.”

“At risk” according to the linked article: an interactive map from weather.com that shows “vaccine preventable” outbreaks around the world.

Number of outbreaks in the US since 2008, according to the article:

Whooping Cough: a whole bunch (more on this later)
Mumps: 3726
Measles: 663
Chicken Pox: 141
Tetanus: 3
Rubella: 0
Polio: 0
Diptheria: 0
Rotavirus: 0

Let’s consider this information for a moment.  First of all, this website deals with the total number of outbreaks across America – counting both adults and children.  Second of all, (putting aside whooping cough for a moment – more on that later), lets look at the disease with the most cases of illness – mumps.  Not only does the CDC admit that mumps outbreaks often occur in highly vaccinated communities, they also state that side effects from mumps are extremely rare.  If we consider the number of mumps outbreaks in the United States over a five year period we find that 1 in 400,000 (2) people in the United States are at risk for mumps each year.   1 in 400,000!  Every year! And the risk of contracting measles or chicken pox is even lower.  Is this really a “risk” I should be concerned with?

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT MEASLES IS A DEADLY DISEASE

“They say that measles isn’t a deadly disease.
But it is.”

According to the linked article:

- Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
– In 2012, there were 122 000 measles deaths globally – about 330 deaths every day or 14 deaths every hour.

Please note that both of these statistics deal with the global implications of measles.  When you factor in the poor diet and lack of sanitation often seen in third-world countries, it’s not surprising that the number of measles deaths are so high.

In the United States, however, the CDC estimates the death risk of measles to be 1-2 out of every 1,000 who get the disease (and only about 150 people per year even contract measles in the US!)  In fact, according to the CDC there has not been a single death in the United States from measles since 2003.  Calling measles “deadly” is like calling bunny rabbits “deadly” because they can spread tularemia.

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT CHICKEN POX CAN BE A “BIG DEAL”

“They say that chickenpox isn’t that big of a deal.
But it can be.”

From the linked article:

- Varicella (chickenpox) is a highly contagious disease that is very uncomfortable and sometimes serious.
– The number of people who get chickenpox each year as well as hospitalizations and deaths from chickenpox have gone down dramatically in the United States.

Since there’s not much information in the link provided to support her claim that chickenpox is “a big deal” I thought I’d do a little digging of my own:

- “In the pre-vaccine era, there were 3-4 million cases a year.  What people may not have realized, every year, about 105 people died of chickenpox.  About half of those were children.”

That’s a much better statistic.  So chickenpox at it’s very worst killed 50 children every year.  Depending on your definition of “big deal” that may support her claim… at least, it did a decade ago.  What’s interesting to me regarding this statistic is that even at its height, people were still more likely to die from drowning, choking or, if you happened to live in Africa, being mauled to death by a hippopotamus.  So is chickenpox a “big deal?”  Yes.  And so are hippopotamusses.

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THE FLU IS DANGEROUS

“They say that the flu isn’t dangerous.
But it is.”

I’m not sure if Raff linked to the wrong site here or what, but I couldn’t find anything on her link to show that the flu is dangerous.  However, I did some digging again on her behalf and here is what I found:

“The CDC reports that about 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year.”

The CDC also reports that how well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. The vaccine’s effectiveness also can vary depending on who is being vaccinated. “At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or ‘match’ between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community. During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.”

The CDC also states that: “While the flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu, protection can vary widely depending on who is being vaccinated (in addition to how well matched the flu vaccine is with circulating viruses).”

In other words, although the flu can cause serious complications in immune-compromised adults and children, vaccinating against the flu is a gamble, at best.

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS WHOOPING COUGH IS BAD FOR CHILDREN

“They say that whooping cough isn’t so bad for kids to get.
But it is.

I’m not even going to bother providing information from Raff’s link because while I agree that whooping cough is a serious disease and a threat to children in the United States, the whooping cough vaccination is not only ineffective against whooping cough, but that vaccinated children can actually spread the disease! Since that fact is worth repeating, here is the section of the FDA article in full:

“The FDA conducted the study in baboons, an animal model that closely reproduces the way whooping cough affects people. The scientists vaccinated two groups of baboons – one group with a whole-cell pertussis vaccine and the other group with an acellular pertussis vaccine currently used in the U. S. The animals were vaccinated at ages two, four, and six months, simulating the infant immunization schedule. The results of the FDA study found that both types of vaccines generated robust antibody responses in the animals, and none of the vaccinated animals developed outward signs of pertussis disease after being exposed to B. pertussis. However, there were differences in other aspects of the immune response. Animals that received an acellular pertussis vaccine had the bacteria in their airways for up to six weeks and were able to spread the infection to unvaccinated animals. In contrast, animals that received whole-cell vaccine cleared the bacteria within three weeks.
This research suggests that although individuals immunized with an acellular pertussis vaccine may be protected from disease, they may still become infected with the bacteria without always getting sick and are able to spread infection to others, including young infants who are susceptible to pertussis disease.”

In light of this, I have to ask… whose children are putting whose “at risk?”

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Claim:
Medical science holds the answers
and vaccines protect us

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  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT VACCINES ARE EFFECTIVE AT PREVENTING DISEASE

“They say that vaccines aren’t that effective at preventing disease.
But 3 million children’s lives are saved every year by vaccination, and 2 million die every year from vaccine-preventable illnesses.”

From the linked article:

“With regard to past evidence, several data from the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries show that the widespread use of smallpox vaccination starting at the beginning of the nineteenth century resulted in a marked and sustained decline not only of smallpox-related deaths, but also of the overall crude death rate, and contributed greatly to an unprecedented growth of European population. As to the present, it is estimated that 3 million children are saved annually by vaccination, but 2 million still die because they are not immunized. Tetanus, measles and pertussis are the main vaccine-preventable killers in the first years of life. Data from Bangladesh show that full implementation of EPI vaccines has the potential of reducing mortality by almost one half in children aged 1-4 years.”

I won’t argue whether vaccines have saved the lives of children in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Europe, and Bangladesh, but I still question their needfulness in the United States today.  Consider, for instance, the fact that the mortality rates of many childhood illnesses were well on the decline BEFORE vaccines were introduced:

v5

But even putting this aside, is it possible that vaccines are helpful at certain times, in certain circumstances, and not in others?   Are there any immunizations that “science” comes up with that people in the United States should consider not taking?  Consider, for a moment, vaccinations against yellow fever, malaria, and typhoid.  Adding them to the vaccine schedule would be akin to advising every United States Citizen to dig a well in their back yard in order to get clean water.  Although much-needed in some countries, it’s just not necessary here.  Is it possible that we’re still vaccinating for illnesses we don’t need to vaccinate for?  What are the criteria for determining when a vaccination is no longer necessary?  At what point is enough enough and who gets to make that decision?

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT VACCINES ARE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS WE CAN DO TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

“The truth is that vaccines are one of our greatest public health achievements, and one of the most important things you can do to protect your child.”

Aside from the fact that it’s well documented (as Jennifer Raff herself admits) that vaccines aren’t 100% effective, I absolutely agree with Raff that vaccines can save lives.  The next time I’m headed to Africa, I may very well inoculate myself against Yellow Fever and Malaria.  The question I have to ask myself as a parent is: which vaccines should I subject my children to?  I mean, I could vaccinate them against yellow fever, malaria and typhoid even before our next safari, but is there a good enough reason to?  Likewise, is there a good enough reason to vaccinate infants against the sexually transmitted disease hepititus B, or two-month olds against tetanus?  Is there a good enough reason to inoculate children against measles, which adversely effects only 63 (out of 74,000,000) children each year and hasn’t taken a life since 2003, or chickenpox which at it’s heyday was killing less children each year than accidental drowning?  What about mumps, a disease the CDC admits has a very low complication rate, or the flu which vaccines are only sporadically effective against?  That’s a question every parent must answer for themselves.

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT NATURAL INFECTION DOESN’T WORK AS WELL AS VACCINATIONS

“They say that “natural infection” is better than vaccination.
But they’re wrong.”

The study Raff linked to here has NO information whatsoever as to whether natural infection is better than vaccination!!!  Instead, it briefly mentions “measles parties” and goes on to describe the symptoms and complications of measles.

Interestingly enough, however, I did find the following information on a different page the author herself linked to:

“Research shows that people respond better to some types of risks than others. Natural risks (such as infections for which there are no vaccines) are better tolerated than manmade risks (such as vaccine side effects).”

Hmmmm…

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT NATURAL AND ALTERNATIVE REMEDIES DON’T WORK AS WELL AS SCIENCE-BASED MEDICINES

“They say that ‘natural’, ‘alternative’ remedies are better than science-based medicine.
They aren’t.”

First of all, the article linked to specifically deals with natural treatments for autismThere is nothing in this article refuting the benefits of alternative remedies for any other illness, including those we currently vaccinate for.  To link to this article as a statement that ‘natural’ and ‘alternative’ remedies don’t work is irrational at best, deceptive at worst.

To use an example she herself uses, how does Raff explain the antibodies present in breast milk, that act as nature’s own vaccinations and will, in fact, reduce the efficacy of medical vaccinations if “natural remedies” don’t work?  Maybe we should eliminate breast milk and give them something scientifically formulated instead.  Oh wait… we did that, and it killed our kids.

Furthermore, if Raff is going to deny the effectiveness of natural remedies vs. “science-based medicine,” I’d love for her to explain the placebo effect which utilizes sugar pills as a “remedy.”  In some cases, these placebos actually work better than scientific remedieseven when patients are told they are taking a placebo!   To state that natural and alternative remedies don’t work is not only entirely false, but also completely disregards the brain-body connection.

 

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Claim:
Vaccines are safe

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  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT VACCINES ARE RIGOROUSLY TESTED

“They say that vaccines haven’t been rigorously tested for safety.
But vaccines are subjected to a higher level of scrutiny than any other medicine. For example, this study tested the safety and effectiveness of the pneumococcal vaccine in more than 37,868 children.”

Considering that prescription drugs are the 4th leading cause of death in America, and that over 100,000 people die every year from adverse reactions to prescription drugs, the fact that the vaccines are “subjected to a higher level of scrutiny than any other medicine” doesn’t inspire much confidence.

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  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT SEVERE SIDE-EFFECTS FROM VACCINES ARE RARE

“They will say that doctors won’t admit there are any side effects to vaccines.
But the side effects are well known, and except in very rare cases quite mild.”

Raff’s point here is that the known side effects of vaccinations are mild except in rare cases.  I counter that the complications due to vaccine-preventable diseases are mild except in very rare cases.  Should we put our children at risk for complications due to vaccinations to prevent the possibility of risk due to illness? 

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM

“They say that the MMR vaccine causes autism.
It doesn’t. (The question of whether vaccines cause autism has been investigated in study after study, and they all show overwhelming evidence that they don’t.)”

I’d be interested to know who funded those studies… here is a list of over 80 studies that show otherwise:

No Evidence of any Link

They say that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism.
It doesn’t, and it hasn’t been in most vaccines since 2001 anyway.

See Here for information indicating otherwise.

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT ALUMINUM FOUND IN VACCINES IS NOT HARMFUL

“They say that the aluminum in vaccines (an adjuvant, or component of the vaccine designed to enhance the body’s immune response) is harmful to children.
But children consume more aluminum in natural breast milk than they do in vaccines, and far higher levels of aluminum are needed to cause harm.”

First of all, lets consider that in the study Raff sites, the amount of aluminum present in breastmilk was determined by taking multiple samples over the course of four months and ranged from 0.004 mg to 2.67 mgNow lets consider that according to the recommended vaccination schedule, a child will get 29 doses of a vaccine before the age of six, each dose of which contains anywhere from .17 mg to .85mg of aluminum.  This means that, taking only the very lowest numbers of aluminum present in vaccines (4.93,) children are injected with twice the amount of aluminum as that present in the very lowest numbers of breastmilk (.012 over the course of a year.)

Secondly, allow me speculate for a moment on the safety of aluminum in vaccines by asking a question to you gardeners out there…

Which is better for the soil, NPK fertilizer or compost?  While it’s a pretty well-known fact that healthy soil includes nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, it’s an equally well-known fact that if you extract those three elements and introduce them into soil on their own, you actually destroy the soil.  This begs the question… does the method of delivery of certain substances effect the reaction to the element being delivered, and the consequences thereof?  What else is there in breastmilk that effects how an infant’s body reacts to aluminum?   Show me how vaccines are like breast milk in ways other than the aluminum content and I’ll be much more likely to consider them “safe.”

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT VACCINES HAVE NEVER BEEN PROVEN HARMFUL

“They say that the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (and/or the “vaccine court”) proves that vaccines are harmful.
It doesn’t.”

Agreed… correlation does not equal causation.  That’s true for both sides of the argument.

  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT THE NORMAL VACCINE SCHEDULE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED

“They say that the normal vaccine schedule is too difficult for a child’s immune system to cope with.
It isn’t.”

Hat’s off to Raff as she makes another good point here and links to a site with actual scientific evidence to support her statementI am, however, curious as to what she’d say regarding the normal vaccine schedule in light of the fact that breastmilk has been shown to negatively impact the potency of vaccinations.  Should we delay vaccinating our children until we’re finished breastfeeding, or wean them early so that they can be “protected?”

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Claim:
If you don’t vaccinate your child,
my child will die.

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  • JENNIFER RAFF SAYS THAT UNVACCINATED CHILDREN ARE PUTTING EVERYONE ELSE’S CHILDREN AT RISK

 “They say that if other people’s children are vaccinated, there’s no need for their children to get vaccinated.

This is one of the most despicable arguments I’ve ever heard. First of all, vaccines aren’t always 100% effective, so it is possible for a vaccinated child to still become infected if exposed to a disease. Worse, there are some people who can’t receive vaccinations, because they are immune deficient, or because they are allergic to some component. Those people depend upon herd immunity to protect them. People who choose not to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases are putting not only their own children at risk, but also other people’s children.”

What does it mean to put someone “at risk?”  Am I endangering someone if I carry a gun?  The answer is yes.  Technically, I could shoot someone.  Should I give up a freedom because someone else is afraid it might hurt them?  Should I start making decisions regarding my own child’s health based on someone else’s fears and concerns?  Not only is the “risk” unvaccinated children pose statistically insignificant (I’m actually putting more children “at risk” by owning a bee hive than I am by not vaccinating my children,) but the logic behind this argument simply doesn’t make sense.

Let’s take that same logic and apply it in a few more ways…

FACT: Breastmilk inhibits the effectiveness of vaccines
FACT: Children who are not effectively vaccinated against disease can spread disease
CONCLUSION: Mothers should not breast feed their children

FACT: In the United States, most of the measles cases result from international travel.
FACT: Both vaccinated and unvaccinated children and adults can contract and spread measles
CONCLUSION: United States citizens should not travel to other countries

FACT: Children who are vaccinated against whooping cough contribute to the spread of whooping cough
FACT: Unvaccinated and vaccinated children can contract whooping cough from vaccinated children
CONCLUSION: Parents should stop vaccinating their children against whooping cough

(Personally, I think that last one is spot-on.)

And although I have tried not to use pro-vaccination websites to make any of my points, this article addresses the so-called “herd immunity” myth and is worth reading.

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Claim:
Non-vaccinators are lying bullies
who don’t know anything!

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“I can predict exactly the sort of response I will be getting from the anti-vaccine activists. Because they can’t argue effectively against the overwhelming scientific evidence about vaccines, they will say that I work for Big Pharma. (I don’t and never have). They will say that I’m not a scientist (I am), and that I’m an “Agent 666” (I don’t know what that is, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not one).”

I won’t accuse her of any of these things.  I will, however, accuse her of writing a biased, unscientific article with a myriad of references that have nothing to do with the points she tries to make.

“None of these things are true, but they are the reflexive response by the anti-vaccine activists because they have no facts to back up their position. On some level, deep down, they must understand this, and are afraid of the implications, so they attack the messenger.”

On the contrary, we are armed with the same types of information that the pro-vaccine side is armed with.  Incomplete studies, biased doctors and researchers and statistics that can show correlation but not causation.  What it all boils down to in the end is that we don’t know.  We don’t know what causes autism and we don’t know whether vaccines contribute.  We don’t know how frequent the adverse reactions to vaccines are, and we don’t know how effective they are against disease.  For every study “proving” one point, there is another “proving” the opposite.

“Why are they lying to you? Some are doing it for profit, trying to sell their alternative remedies by making you afraid of science-based medicine. I’m sure that many others within the anti-vaccine movement have genuinely good intentions, and do honestly believe that vaccines are harmful. But as a certain astrophysicist recently said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it”. In the case of vaccine truthers, this is not a good thing. Good intentions will not prevent microbes from infecting and harming people, and the message that vaccines are dangerous is having dire consequences. There are outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses now throughout the United States because of unvaccinated children.”

We’ve already covered some of the “dire consequences” of not vaccinating children, but here is another faulty link from Raff.    The link takes you to an “anti-vaccine body count” listing the number of preventable illnesses and deaths from June 2007 to March 2014.  Among those listed include illnesses and deaths due to California serogroup virus disease, Eastern equine encephalitis virus disease, Powassan virus disease, St. Louis encephalitis virus disease, and Western equine encephalitis virus disease, among a host of other diseases found nowhere on the recommended childhood vaccination schedule.

The article she uses to site “outbreaks” of vaccine-preventable diseases itself states:

“It’s true that we’ve yet to see measles outbreaks on a massive scale – what counts as a major outbreak, these days, is the 20 confirmed cases in New York City.

As for all those speaking out against vaccinations and attempting to make a profit… can we really use this as an attempt to discredit them?  After all, if we flip that argument around what does that say about the multi-billion dollar vaccine industry?

“In only one respect is my message the same as the anti-vaccine activists: Educate yourself. But while they mean “Read all these websites that support our position”, I suggest you should learn what the scientific community says. Learn how the immune system works. Go read about the history of disease before vaccines, and talk to older people who grew up when polio, measles, and other diseases couldn’t be prevented. Go read about how vaccines are developed, and how they work. Read about Andrew Wakefield, and how his paper that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been withdrawn, and his medical license has been revoked. Read the numerous, huge studies that have explicitly examined whether autism is caused by the vaccine…and found nothing. (While you’re at it, read about the ongoing research to determine what IS the cause—or causes —of autism, which is not helped by people continuing to insist that vaccines cause it).”

I agree that every parent should research this for themselves and I am convinced that two people can do the same amount of research and come away with completely different opinions as to whether they should vaccinate their children. AND THAT’S OKAY. Parents have to make the decisions they feel most comfortable with. But scare-tactics such as those in this article don’t help parents to make informed decisions and it’s unfortunate that this article has gained so much ground among parents.

“That may seem like a lot of work, and scientific papers can seem intimidating to read. But reading scientific articles is a skill that can be mastered. Here’s a great resource for evaluating medical information on the internet, and I wrote a guide for non-scientists on how to read and understand the scientific literature. You owe it to your children, and to yourself, to thoroughly investigate the issue. Don’t rely on what some stranger on the internet says (not even me!). Read the scientific studies that I linked to in this post for yourself, and talk to your pediatricians. Despite what the anti-vaccine community is telling you, you don’t need to be afraid of the vaccines. You should instead be afraid of what happens without them.”

I agree that you should do the research for yourself.  And unlike Jennifer Raff, I believe that the research supports BOTH sides of the vaccination argument and that it’s up to every parent to evaluate the risks and decide for themselves.  Yes, it will be a lot of work, just as it’s been a lot of work to check out all of Raff’s references and discover that over half of them have been used to exaggerate her claims or have little to do with the information she has given us.  But it’s worth it.

 

Whew!  I’m exhausted, what about you?  To bring this full circle and hopefully help you end with a smile – here is a song for your enjoyment … and research verifying my claims! ;)

 

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(1) Thank you to the person who pointed out my mathematical error… I had written 1 out of every 15,000,000 when it should have read 1 out of every 1,500,000.  It has since been corrected.

(2) 3,726 (number of outbreaks since 2008) divided by 5 (number of years [which is actually underestimated, since they also include part of 2004]) = 745 outbreaks each year.  Rounding the current US population (313,000,000) down to 300,000,000 means that an average of 745 out of 300,000,000 get the measles each year.  300,000,000 (number of people in the US) divided by 745 (number of people who get the measles each year) = one out of every 402,684 per year (I rounded down to 400,000)

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Related Articles:

The 2013 Measles “Epidemic”

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Response to Dear parents you are being lied to
Rebuttal of Dear parents you are being lied to

 

Posted in Parenting, PERSONAL | Tagged , , | 51 Comments

Is it possible to know Jesus AND be homosexual?

I asked a friend this question several months ago.  To my way of looking at things, it was simply impossible.  But then I had a conversation with a man I respect deeply.  A man who, when we were in high school together and I was busy being more psychologically and intellectually advanced than the sunday school hicks around me who needed a “higher power” in their lives, consistently impressed me by the choices he made and the moral high ground I saw him taking in every possible circumstance.  To be honest, when I started to suspect he was gay (several years after high school) I thought for sure he had abandoned his faith.  During our recent conversation, however, I heard his integrity and deep faith in every word that he spoke and to be honest, I was dumfounded.

It was then I realized that the question I needed answered was not whether a homosexual can know God, but rather how does God want me to see the homosexual?  What does He want to show me when I look at these people whom He has created and loves deeply? 

It’s an issue I’ve struggled with for a long, long time.  When I first became a Christian, I lost my best friend because I didn’t know how to deal with the fact that she was gay.  Later, I practically ruined relationships with several of my family members for the same reason.  It grieves me deeply and I’ve long since asked forgiveness, but the underlying question is still there.  How does God want me to see my homosexual friend, family member or neighbor?

Last night, God showed me something that will forever change the way I see the world around me.  For the friends and family members reading this, please understand that it is my belief that homosexuality is not God’s will and that homosexual behavior is a sin.  As I describe what I felt last night, please keep that in mind because my intention is not to offend – the very opposite, in fact.  That being said, the essence of what I feel God showed me holds true whether you believe homosexuality is a sin or not so please hear the spirit behind what I have to say, even if the way I say it doesn’t line up with your own beliefs.  It’s certainly applicable to many more issues than this one.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
- Jeremiah 17:9

Humans are incredibly proficient in the art of self-deception.  There are myriads of things we blind ourselves to, because to open our eyes and look ourselves dead in the face would mean to admit our flaws, our sins, our imperfections, our glaring grotesqueness in light of God’s perfectness.  We hide.  And often, when God wants to show us our own hideousness for the sake of helping us to become more like Him, He must do it little by little, a piece here and a piece there.  At least, that’s how it is for me.  And there have been times I’ve wept bitter tears over God’s revelation of the ugliness that is inside of me, and other times when I’ve done absolutely everything I can to ignore what I know God wanted to heal in me because I was too afraid to see it.  It’s often only through hindsight that I can see how patient He’s been with me, and how He’s chipped at the rocks and boulders and mountains of my sins little by little, one tiny piece at a time, skillfully working until the whole fell away and I could finally see what He wanted to show me.

And yet, during all the time I’ve lived in the midst of lust or pride or hate toward those around me – murdering them in my heart with my thoughts – I never once doubted my own Christianity.  The bible, however, tells me that whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar  (1 Jon 4:10.)  And ooooh, have I hated my brother.

I’m skilled in the art of self-deception.

We all are.

In light of this, I ask you to imagine with me for a moment…

What if the things inside your heart that God wanted to change embodied the very essence of who you believed yourself to be?   What if it touched virtually every aspect of your life?  What if it dictated who you felt capable of loving and building a life with, the type of physical closeness you want to have with someone, the type of life you envision yourself having?  What if it was one of the most important things about how you relate to the world around you?

Would you see it as a “sin?”  Would you be willing to change, or even entertain the possibility that you should change?

With all the hideousness that’s in my own heart, with all the self-deception and hiding and ignoring that I do in my own life, how can I possibly believe that someone who practices homosexuality can’t know Jesus? 

I can’t.

How does God want me to see the homosexual?

With unmitigated, unbiased, unconditional, LOVE.

To the friends and family members whom I have hurt with my hypocrisy, I am deeply, deeply sorry.  You do not deserve my condescension.  There’s an old, worn out cliche “hate the sin and love the sinner” and I admit that while we do purposefully remove ourselves from some activities our friends and family members participate in (i.e. christmas,) I have never denied any of them the closeness of my heart based on the things they do that I perceive to be sinful.  And yet, I have denied you that closeness.

I ask your forgiveness.

In closing, I want to share what my friend from high school wrote, the night we had our conversation about this.  It is one of the most compassionate and convicting things I’ve ever read on this subject:

It’s a tough issue. I respect those who follow interpretations that are both for and against homosexuality. I’ve read intelligent posts on both sides and I fight strongly for individuals rights to believe and interpret their faith without interference. The thing that I loathe is persons espousing Christ and using his name as a weapon of hatred. I think it’s exactly what is meant by using the Lord’s name in vain. Anytime we treat our fellow men with anger and disrespect but use Christ as the reasoning, I think it hinders the Gospel. There is so much cultural warmongering when we all have enough personal spiritual development to focus on. God will be the final judge and only then will all things become clear–with none being able to stand righteously on their own merits. Christ was humble and not militant. His only anger appears at the persons profiting in vain under the name of the Father. It breaks my heart to read hatred within a cloak of Christ. The world is so broken and these things pain me terribly. Everyone is so quick to speak for God and judge in His name. That is all I really meant by ignorance. I pray for peace and charity for us all.

Posted in Love, Marriage, PERSONAL | 2 Comments

The incredible burden of the old testament law … or …

Whenever I have a conversation with someone about keeping the Old Testament commandments, Christians who don’t keep them (and in many cases haven’t even read them) inevitably start talking about the “burden” of the law, how “impossible” it is to keep and how we are no longer under that “oppression.”  It’s pretty common knowledge that the Old Testament laws were horrific and unjust, backbreaking and cruel.  In fact, from speaking with Christians on the subject, you’d think that keeping the commandments is all but booking yourself a trip to Dante’s Seventh Hell.  The thing that I can’t figure out is exactly which commandments they’re talking about being so “burdensome.”  Is it the one that admonishes us not to reap the edges of our fields?  Or the one that tells the priest what to wear inside the temple?  Or maybe it’s the one that governs how we’re to treat our oxen.  I don’t know, I just can’t figure it out.

Every day in this country we voluntarily place ourselves under and follow thousands upon thousands of laws, never protesting how “burdensome” and “oppressive” they are.  The number of laws that govern traffic alone give us more rules and regulations to follow than the entire Old TestamentWe’ll willingly and without protest obey the United States cultural laws not to eat dog or cat, but not the biblical law to abstain from pork. We’ll even place ourselves under unspoken codes of society and wear shoes when we go to the store, dress up when we go to a wedding or use proper table manners at a formal dinner. But do something out of a desire to obey the words of God that happen to come from the first half of the bible instead of the last half and suddenly I’m being burdened and oppressed. This is ridiculous.

Want some examples of real oppression?  How about being told what kinds of structures you can build in your own back yard, what kinds of animals you can keep, and what kinds of activities you can participate in according to where you live?  Or how about being forced to give the government money to subsidize things you don’t believe in?  Or how about debt?  That has to be the most oppressive system in our culture today, yet we voluntarily sign up for that yoke of slavery without a second thought.

You know what else is oppressive?  Trying to keep the commandments as a vehicle for salvationThat’s why the Jewish leaders were so determined to keep the commandments “exactly right.”  Why they had entire books devoted to rules governing the Sabbath, regulating everything from exactly how far you were allowed to walk to (nowadays) whether to tear toilet paper off the roll after a Saturday poo.  THAT, folks, is oppression and it’s exactly what Peter meant when He said “why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10… the topic in question: whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be saved.)

You know what’s NOT oppressive?  Taking a Saturday off work to be home with your family, eating turkey instead of pork and refraining from s*x with your sibling.  Of the 600 or so commandments found in the Old Testament, only a handful of them actually caused Jon and I to change anything about our lives when we started keeping them, and every single one of them was a simple change.  The vast majority didn’t even require much thought.  Don’t reuse a clay pot after a rodent dies in it?  I can handle that.  Don’t eat an animal I find dead in a field?  No real sacrifice there.

In this country we are required to obey thousands upon thousands of laws, and in the vast majority of cases we keep them without protest of any kind.  God gave His people (roughly) 600.  This hardly consists of “oppression.”  So please, while I respect the opinions of those who choose not to keep the commandments (including the vast majority of my friends and family members,) let’s not have any more irrational talk about what a “burden” it is to keep the commandments.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day...

Psalm 119… 176 verses about how much David loves keeping the law.

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Related Articles:

Our Take on Torah

Peters Vision

Posted in Consecration, Miscellaneous, PERSONAL, Salvation | 2 Comments

Why we don’t allow our kids to read Hunger Games, Divergent or The Dairy of Anne Frank

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Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love before the proper time.

Song 8:4

I recently had a conversation with my mom regarding all of the false ideals we often enter marriage with.  Children today have it especially hard, in my opinion.  Not only are they bombarded with s*x and romance in the media, but they also participate regularly in what one pastor rightly called “divorce training.”  Engaging in romantic relationships as early as elementary school and losing their virginity by as young as 14 years of age, kids today hop from one relationship to another all through their most formative years, learning early on that the easiest way to fix a relationship that isn’t meeting all of their expectations is to end it.

From the time most children are in their teens, they have already formed a myriad of expectations regarding what a s*xual encounter should look and feel like.  Thousands of times they’ve experienced the hormonal butterflies the popular books, movies and songs of today are designed to elicit and often (subconsciously or otherwise) set this up as the standard by which their own relationships should be measured.  And when what they experience with their spouse doesn’t measure up, it’s easy to find those relationships lacking.

Personally, I have no desire to see my children walk down that path.  I want my children to have no hollywood-inspired fantasies regarding love and physical intimacy.  I don’t want their heads filled with angst-ridden love songs and romantic ideals.  I want them to go to their marriage beds completely pure – without images in their heads of men other than their husbands or women other than their wives and unrealistic ideas of what intimacy is.  I don’t want them to expect their spouse to kiss them or touch them in certain ways because they’ve seen it on the screen or read it in a book, I want them to be clumsy on their honeymoons and discover things with their spouses “thinking they were the first to know, believing they had reached heights others have never known.” (link)

This is one reason (among many!) that we censor what our children read, listen to and watch on the screen.  Will we always censor what they’re exposed to?  Of course not.  But it is our goal to provide them with a foundation while they’re young that will eventually lead them to censor these things for themselves as they get older.  We hope to teach them in a meaningful way that “the eye is the lamp of the body” and that some things just aren’t worth reading/watching, even if they’re on the top of the best seller lists and the rest of the world calls them “classic.”  We hope to teach them that mental purity is just as important as physical purity.  We hope to raise them to want to go to their marriage beds completely innocent, without ideals, expectations and mental images gifted to them by mainstream media (and pray God will send them wives and husbands who have been raised to feel the same!)  If that means they never read Pride and Prejudice or watch Gone with the Wind, that’s perfectly fine with us.

“When I travel to find a certain new specimen for my garden, or to purchase seedlings, or obtain a cutting or start of some plant I want to try, I go to extreme lengths to give that plant all the help I can to make sure it begins its life in a healthy manner. Whatever strength it will carry with it throughout the remainder of its existence depends on the help I give it in its first year or two. What I must do mostly at first is protect and shelter it from all sorts of effects that would kill it if left to itself – snow, frost, wind, pests, various fungi, rabbits, deer, snails and so on. I am extremely protective of my young plants, and often I cover them with small shields until they are well under way. I also fertilize and prune as needed. I spare no effort during the critical first two seasons.

“You see, it’s all a matter of getting their roots deep into the good, rich soil so that the growth of stalk and trunk and stems and branches and leaves above ground is vital and healthy. Without deep roots, and if outside influences continually come to eat and destroy the first tender green spouts, a long and healthy and productive future is doomed.

“I happen to believe that the same thing is necessary in the matter of one’s children.

- The Eleventh Hour by Michael Phillips

 

Note: I’ve heard many parents say that there are important lessons to be found in some books/movies with questionable content (The Diary of Anne Frank, for instance) and I agree.  In such cases where the good heavily outweighs the bad, pages can (and, in my opinion, should) be skipped and scenes forwarded through.  Our prayer is that through careful teaching, character building and censorship when they’re young, they will do these things on their own when they’re older (I actually have a friend whose oldest daughter is a huge Hunger Games fan, yet stopped reading the books halfway through because she felt the scenes between Peeta and Katniss were too intense.  That kind of self-restraint is, in my opinion, a manifestation of excellent parenting.*)  While our children are young it seems best to us to simply avoid those books/movies for now and in the case of many “classic” and best-selling books and movies firmly establish the following precept:

Don’t go searching through the trash in hopes of finding a good apple.

Some books aren’t worth reading, and some books are worth waiting until maturity for.  There are myriads of books that can teach and inspire our children toward greatness and don’t include glorified, glamorized violent or sexual content.  And plenty of these are written by and about true life heroes, in real-life circumstances.  Those are the types of books I hope my children will grow to love.

*I don’t mean by this that no child should ever read the Hunger Games, but that it’s impressive that a child who wanted to read it stopped reading it because she felt convicted about it.

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Related Articles:

The Greenhouse Effect (why we shelter our children)
On romance and love and not marrying my soul mate and an attack on poor Mr. Darcy

Entertainment: does it have a place in the Christian life
I didn’t marry my soul mate… was I supposed to?
Want to rekindle your romance?  Don’t sell yourself short!

A Husband for Lara Rose (outside link)

Posted in Discipline/Discipleship/Raising Godly Children, Femininity and Womanhood, Marriage, Parenting, PERSONAL | 1 Comment

“Momma’s sick, and she’s putting onions in the fridge. I think she’s pregnant.”

From the mouths of babes.  :)

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In honor of our most recent pregnancy, (yes, that’s an announcement!!!) I thought it would be fun to give our answers to some of the most common questions/comments aimed toward families with lots of kids.  Most of these questions don’t bother me unless they’re presented sarcastically (and some of them often are) but it’s funny how many people have NO IDEA how many times we hear these questions/comments over and over again!  So here is everything you really want to know, but are too polite (or not!) to ask….

Are you catholic?

No, but we do tend to side with catholic teachings in this regard.  Few people realize it, but up until 1930, all christian denominations considered birth control a sin.  In fact, the use of contraceptives was once illegal in America.  It wasn’t until the Lambeth Conference in 1930 that the Anglican church, swayed by social pressure, announced that contraception would be allowed in limited circumstances.  Soon after, all other Protestant denominations followed suit and in 1938, in large part thanks to a woman named Margaret Sanger, the federal ban on birth control in the U.S. was lifted.  While we don’t go so far as to say that all forms of birth control are a sin, we do believe that children are a blessing (Psalm 127) and that God desires married couples to have children (Mal 2:15.)  I also believe that the practice of separating the act of sex from the conception of children has led to the huge rise in our culture of abortion, divorce, pornography and promiscuity.  But that is fodder for another post.

Do you use birth control?

From even before Jon and I got married, I knew that I never wanted to use birth control, because it’s exactly that.  Birth. Control.  How could I ask Jesus to be Lord of my life, and then set myself up as lord of my own procreation?  I feel this is something God is supposed to be in charge of.   After all, what else in this life has more eternal significance than the number of children we bring into the world, and how we raise them?  And yet, many self-professed Christians never even stop to consider how many children God may want them to have.  That way of doing things was and still remains foreign to my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  Having said that, however, I’ll admit that I get just as frightened as anyone else over the prospect of another pregnancy and at times even just plain selfish (I had no desire to get pregnant in the middle of training for a marathon, for instance.)  So at various times in our lives, we have used birth control in the form of Natural Family Planning or abstinence.  Without going into too much detail, we have gotten pregnant under some pretty incredible circumstances through which God has made it obvious that He is personally responsible for the number of children we currently have and I’m comfortable with the way we currently do things.  Every now and then I’ll get scared and take back control, and God will gently remind me (usually with another pregnancy!) that He wants to be Lord, even in this.

How many kids are you going to have?

I have no idea… see the two answers, above.

How many kids do you want to have?

It sounds pretty trite to say that we want “as many kids as God wants us to have.”  The truth is that with every pregnancy, Jon and I both have to go through a bit of a mental adjustment.  Jon, especially, as he’s 11 years older than I am and worries about leaving me with young children some day.  How many do we want to have?  Well, currently, we’d be pretty happy with eight.  :)

(Upon hearing that we’re pregnant AGAIN): Are you excited?

As I said, there is often an adjustment period for us when we first find out we’re pregnant, and the measure of how excited we are often depends on how selfish we’re being at the time.  When I found out I was pregnant in the middle of training for a marathon I was pretty upset about it, to be honest.  At other times, I’ve been thrilled.  Once the initial shock wears off, we’ve always grown more and more excited over the course of the pregnancy and there is nothing like holding a newborn in your arms.  Whether it’s number one or number 7, it’s the most beautiful, wonderful experience in the world.  Every. Single. Time.

Are the kids excited?

Every time, and the older they are, the more excited they are.

Are any of them twins?

No.

How old are they?

Currently, they are 12, 10, 9, 7, 5, 2 and 18 months.

How far apart are they?

Our closest (#1 and #2) are 15 months apart, and our furthest (#6 and #7) are 29 months apart.  This next one will be roughly 26 months apart from his/her youngest sister.

How many girls/boys?

Currently, five girls and two boys.

Are they all from the same marriage?

Jon and I have seven children together, and I also have a stepson who lives with his mother in Tennessee.

How do you afford it?

If we waited until we could afford it, we would never have had one child, let alone seven.  It’s been our experience, and that of the other large families we know, that “whom God sends, He also provides for.”  Being open to having children is an act of faith, perhaps the most significant and far-reaching act of faith in our lives, and God has never let us down.

Are you on welfare?

No, we’re not on any form of government assistance.

What does your husband do?

He’s a nurse.

I bet you get a huge tax return!

Actually, only three of our children have social security numbers (before we knew better,) so we get virtually none of the tax benefits of having lots of kids.

(From the comments section):
Why don’t your kids have social security numbers?  Isn’t it required?

With all the problems social security is currently facing, we want our children to be able to decide for themselves whether or not to participate in it. Considering the fact that the government is taking wages out of our paychecks each month to support a crumbling system, we think it’s THEIR decision to make, not ours.
As for being required, it’s absolutely NOT. It is, however, required for tax purposes (which is why we don’t get a tax break for our children who don’t have SS numbers. This is one of the ways the government convinced virtually all American citizens to enroll their kids in it.)

Do you drive a bus?

No, we drive a fifteen passenger van and are trying to fill it and get our money’s worth out of it. ;)

How old are you?

I’m 33, Jon is 44.

Wow, you look too good/too young to have so many kids!

Okay, so in reality no one has ever said this to me, but it sure would be nice if they would!

Are you competing with the Duggars?

Haha, aren’t you clever.  No.

Are you working on a basketball team?

Um… no.  But it would be pretty cool to have a family like this:

Without all the bluegrass, that is.  ;)

Don’t you think (insert number of current children here) is enough?

This is another sarcastic remark veiled as a question, but to answer:  Yes.  Since we firmly believe that God is invested in how many children we do or don’t have, and He hasn’t yet informed us of the total number of children we’re going to have, I am positive that our current number of children is exactly enough for now.

Oh my goodness, I only have [insert number here] and they drive me crazy. How do you do it/How do you manage?!

I drink. Copiously.
(kidding)
I manage the same way everyone else does, whether they have one child or 20.  One day at a time, some days better than others, and some days I feel crazy, too!  I’m not a saint, my kids aren’t perfect, and I’m far from the perfect mom.  But what seems chaotic to someone else is just my “normal.”  God (usually!) sends them one at a time, and you simply adjust.

And to those who look at their two or three children and think they could never handle 7 or 8, keep in mind that I probably don’t do for my 7 children all that you do for your 2, especially if your children are young.  All of our older kids have responsibilities around the house, and they’re all incredibly helpful.  Our oldest kids are even starting to cook more often, simply because they want to, and that in itself is a HUGE blessing.  My children are also able to entertain themselves with very little (we don’t electronics at all and watch very little TV) and, of course, they always have someone to play with.  So I actually feel like my job is easier than it was 8 or 9 years ago when we only had three.  Don’t get me wrong – my house is almost always a mess and we can never find anything, but now my life is crazy thanks to my compulsion to complicate it with goats and cows and puppies, and not so much because we have another child every couple of years or so.

Do your older kids help a lot?

Yes, they do, and something that our society can’t understand is that my older children don’t consider it a burden to help.  My two oldest have recently taken over a lot of the cooking in our house because they want to and they recently asked if they could start milking the cow, because we only have one goat in milk right now.  Our third daughter loves to “babysit” her youngest sister, and even changes her diapers on occasion, simply because she thinks it’s fun.  That’s not to say they don’t have chores that they don’t particularly enjoy, but that’s another great thing about having so many kids… everyone only has a few things to do in the morning outside of their own self-care such as brushing teeth, hair, etc. because there are so many of us here to do them.  So yes, my older kids help a lot.  All of my kids help a lot.  But that’s because we’ve raised them to consider helping a joy and an act of love.  And trust me, if you could see our house 6 out of 7 days of the week, you’d know that none of us are doing an excessive amount of cleaning!  ;)

Did you always want a large family?

HA!!!  No!  When I was younger, I wanted a large family but by the time I was in high school, I was swearing I’d never have ANY children.  Never say never.  :)

Do you homebirth/homeschool?

yes and yes

Do you breastfeed/how long do you breastfeed?

Yes, and with our first three we were lucky to breastfeed past six months or so (mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing,) and with each child after that it’s gotten progressively longer.  I usually start weaning around 18 months.

Haven’t you heard of overpopulation?

Yes, and it’s a lie, the explanation of which would also require a post of its own.  But even if it weren’t, I’m convinced that the rising rate of couples with two jobs, two cars and huge houses; singles who leave their homes at 19 or 20 to get their own places and marry late in life; and the vast number of parents who buy myriads of toys and clothes and electronics for their 1.2 kids contribute far more to the “carbon footprint” than my family living under one roof with one breadwinner, very few electronics, a small number of clothes (from thrift stores) and our own milk cow.

Don’t you know what causes that?

This has to be the most hated, over-asked question OF. ALL. TIME.  This is either a question that people A. ask to be funny (it’s not) or B. comment out of pure sarcasm or C. ask to hide what they really want to know which is: how often do you guys have sex?!  Answer: unless you are a very, very close friend (you know who you are!): absolutely none of your business.  But I’m going to answer this anyway, because many of my friends with multiple children would answer the exact same way.  Contrary to popular belief and assumption, we probably have sex a lot less often than you think (Jon’s first words when we found out about the baby were [jokingly] “how did this even HAPPEN?!”)  As I mentioned before, God has made it very clear that the number of children we have is the number of children He wants us to have.

And to those who ask this question in a sarcastic, smarmy kind of way as if we belong in the circus or a mental institution, I’d like to ask you a question:  Why aren’t you planning to have more children?  Why are you stopping a natural function of your body from doing something it was made to do?  Why are you surgically altering your or your spouce’s body, using chemical hormones that are known to cause abortion or minimizing the intimacy you have with your spouce by wearing a condom?  Just curious.

Do you have any regrets?

I have absolutely no regrets and I think that we’re giving our children an absolutely incredible childhood.  I do occasionally struggle with feeling guilty, however, especially as I watch friends struggle with infertility and know that the pregnancies I seek to avoid (ie while training for a marathon) are pregnancies they would give anything to be “burdened” with.
I also struggle with feeling misunderstood and ridiculed because we live in a society that doesn’t welcome children on a large scale basis and assumes hurtful things about our family (ie. we must have sex all the time, or we must be in poverty, etc.)
Lastly, I regret my own perceptions of family and what it means to have a happy, fulfilling life.  I have to admit that the idea of having small children in the house when I’m fifty doesn’t appeal to me.  At some point I’m supposed to be free of the responsibility of raising children.  At some point, I’m supposed to only have to cook a meal for two and do laundry for two and be able to look out my living room window without the haze of fingerprints obscuring the view.  Right?  And yet if family was really the most important thing in my life,  I wouldn’t ever seek to be free of that “responsibility.”  I’d seek to live close to my children, and have the privilege of helping with their children (which is a dream of mine, and one of the reasons we’re doing our best to learn to farm.)  My oldest kids already talk about living close together and helping (and receiving help!) with each others kids.  Taking care of children shouldn’t be a responsibility I seek to be done with.  What else am I going to do with my time, anyway?

So there you have it.  If you have any other questions that don’t pertain to the number of times my husband and I copulate on a monthly basis, feel free to ask in the comments section.  :)

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Quick Takes – March 2, 2014

— 1 —

We have a new baby on the farm!  I walked outside to feed the animals a few days ago and heard the bleating of a lamb!  He was cold and shivering and his momma didn’t seem terribly interested in him, so we brought him inside to dry him off and milked a little colostrum from Momma before putting him back in with her.  She’s still ignoring him and not allowing him to nurse, so it looks like we have another bottle baby on our hands (can you hear the lack of enthusiasm with which I say that?)  :)

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— 2 —

We had a HUGE scare with Lucy this week.  I went to take the puppy out early one morning and Lucy was laying flat on her side (never a good thing for a cow – they can die within hours in that position.)  She was lowing in the same way she did when she got caught in the electric fence, only very, very softly… as if she hardly had the strength to call loudly anymore, and she didn’t seem to recognize me or be aware of anything.  I really thought she was going to die and chances are, had our dog not needed to go potty when she did, she would have.  I ran to get Jon and he and Bunchkin were able to get her up on her side while I called our neighbor and our vet.  After a little while we were able to stand her up in the same way we usually do when she’s down (twisting her tail to give her the incentive to stand [it hurts] and then throwing our weight backward as she starts to stand, which seems to give her just enough leverage to stand up on her own.)  We gave her a steroid shot and a pain killer and babied her for the rest of the day.  She’s doing well now, and has been fine since then and my wonderful mom picked up a baby monitor for us in town (even though she wasn’t feeling well!) so that we’ll be able to monitor her better during the night.  It makes me sad that the inevitable end to all of this is going to be a trip to freezer camp, as we won’t be able to breed her in her condition and eventually she’ll stop producing (and we cannot afford to keep a pet cow, nor, probably, would we want to.)  The good news is that Gwendolyn is doing great and she’s getting huge and fat on her momma’s milk.  She’s a sweetheart and I’m really thankful to have her.

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resting after a very rough morning

— 3 —

Despite the trouble she had recently, Lucy has actually been doing really well up until this point.  We haven’t had to pick her up in a few weeks, and her milk production has been great.  Since we’re sharing milk with the calf (which means we only have to milk ONCE a day – woohoo!), we’re not getting huge amounts of milk, but she’s maintaining her body weight well on barley fodder and hay, unlike last year when we had to start feeding her grain.  Since grass-fed milk is so much healthier than milk from grain-fed cows, I feel really good about it, and I’m so grateful for every day that Lucy is up again and we get another jar or two of her wonderful milk.  The longer she can hang in there, the better off Gwendolyn will be and the better chance we have that Gwenny will also grow up to do well on grass (the loner a calf has access to raw milk, the better the rumen will develops, which in part determines how well they’ll convert grass to milk. Most dairy’s start supplementing with formula and grain pretty quickly, as it’s cheaper to keep the milk and feed formula than to feed the milk to the calves.)

— 4 —

Every  now and then I think of how much more milk we’d have if we sold the cows and invested in some standard dairy goats.  I think you can keep something like 4 standard goats on one acre (as opposed to one cow per acre) and if each goat is giving a gallon of milk… well… we’d get a whole lot more milk with goats!  But I just love having a cow.  In so many ways, a milk cow is the heart of a farm (or can be, anyway.)  She provides compost for the garden, milk, cheese and butter for us, whey from cheese making can be fed to chickens or pigs and extra milk can be used to feed the cats.  For the cost of a little bit of grass, a little bit of hay, and a little bit of barley fodder (optional,) we have an animal who can provide valuable inputs to an entire farm.  Pretty amazing, really.

(Okay, so technically, a goat can provide all of those things, too.  But a goat is not a cow.  And I love my cows!  They [goats and cows] each have such wonderful, different personalities and are each fun for their own reasons.)

— 5 —

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Our little puppy is doing great!  We decided to name him “Daily.”  My brother suggested that name many years ago for a little boy, and I always loved it.  We especially liked it for our puppy, to serve as a little reminder to us (Mat 6:11 and 34.) It seemed timely.

I’ve never had such a smart dog before!  He’s only had a few accidents in the house and every single time he’s tried to tell me he had to go out, and I haven’t been fast enough.  I won’t say he’s “housebroken” yet, since he’s only allowed access in certain parts of the house right now, but he definitely knows where he’s supposed to go. He also already knows several commands including “sit,” “look at me,” “yuck” (signals him to leave something alone,) “no,” “out” (to drop something in his mouth) and will touch my hand with his nose when I snap my fingers.  Right now we’re working on “come” and he’s almost got it!  Considering the fact that I just started working with him not long ago, I’m pretty impressed!

— 6 —

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Speaking of training Daily… to go along with my extreme perfectionist complex, there is something inside of me that is absolutely COMPELLED to make my life more difficult than it has to be on almost every possible occasion.  The other day, my dad came over and asked me “do you ever do ANYTHING normal?”  But really, I’m taking his training pretty seriously and trying my best to raise him right from the beginning.  We’ve had a lot of sad situations having to give up dogs in the past, almost completely due to my own lack of education and willingness to take the time to train them, and I’m determined that won’t happen with Daily!!!  I also want him to be a working dog.  He will have a job to do around here, hopefully several, so I’m determined to raise him right from the very beginning (one of the reasons we wanted a puppy and not an adult dog.)  I’ve been looking into a lot of training videos, and one of the main websites I’ve been searching on has been Leerburg.com (Ed Frawley has been working professionally with German Shepherd Dogs for over 30 years.)  Really great information there, for anyone interested in training their dog!

— 7 —

We’ve decided to feed Daily a raw diet and I’m pretty excited about it!  For one, it just makes more sense to me.  I’ve never seen a wolf eating out of a bag of dried kibble, that’s like feeding my kids a diet of nothing but lunchables.  Call it a “balanced meal” all you want, but I don’t think you can’t get good nutrition out of a package.  Second, research seems to back this up.  I learned alot about raw food diets for animals when I was looking up information on raw milk.  (((STUDY WITH CATS))))   Third, with all the animal byproducts we have (bones, organ meat, etc.) from processing our own animals, I’ll feel good that those parts that we would ordinarily waste will be put to good use. And fourth , if we shop the sales, it will actually be cheaper for us!

For instance, a store near us has chicken leg quarters for .59/lb right now.  In addition, our local butcher shop sells organ meat for .80/lb and bones for even less.  To give you an idea for comparison, we’re currently feeding our puppy Science Diet as we make the transition to raw foods, and it’s $2.60/lb!!!  Purina is .75/lb, Iams is .93/lb, Eukanuba is 1.33/lb (and that’s on sale!)  Even Old Roy (which we do NOT want to feed our dog!) is only a little bit less than the raw chicken quarters at .40/lb and that’s the nutritional equivalent of feeding  sawdust.

So I’m pretty excited about it!!!

Which leads me to a funny story…

I found the deal at our store through this website, and I called Jon to ask him if he could swing by on his way home from work and “spend all the money he has with him on chicken leg quarters!”  I started telling him the story about how much money we’ll save and we had the following conversation:

Jon: “I’m in a meeting, so can you give me the quick version for the rest of this story?”

Me: “Oh!  I’m sorry!  I’ll just tell you the rest later!”

Jon: “Don’t be sorry!  I work with crazy people all day long, it’s nice to get a phone call from someone who’s excited about the price of chicken quarters!”

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For more quick takes, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary

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