Friday, September 27, 2013

One More Book Review

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been reading a book called The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, by Leslie Vernick.  She is a Christian counselor, so her approach is a little different than Lundy Bancroft's.  This book is written directly to the abused woman. 

The first section of the book is to help the woman see her marriage clearly--is it in fact emotionally destructive?  Vernick has a checklist of standard questions to ask.  In her definition, "emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused."  It is like psychological warfare involving not merely a single instance of sinful behavior, but rather "repetitive attitudes and behaviors that result in tearing someone down or inhibiting her growth.  This behavior is usually accompanied by a lack of awareness, a lack of responsibility, and a lack of change." (pg. 11)  The abuser is seeking to control his wife and exercise broad decision-making powers over her. 

Vernick then discusses three essential ingredients in a healthy relationship--mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom--and five patterns that destroy a relationship and damage people--reactive abuse, controlling abuse, deceit, dependence, and indifference.  In each of these areas, Vernick gives specific examples and uses lots of Scripture on which to base her statements.

Before a woman can know what steps she can take in her marriage, she needs to examine herself, seeing what sinful patterns may have developed especially in response to martial suffering and disappointment.  Since our hearts are deceitful, Vernick says the woman needs the help of God's word as well as feedback from wise friends, not just relying on her feelings.  Relying on the truth of scripture will help the abused woman see that her husband is not the final word on her personhood and worth.  Her core value rests on God's love for her.

One really interesting point Vernick makes is that marriage can be an idol.  When a woman becomes so absorbed in preserving her marriage, then she begins living by fear, not by faith, allowing sinful behavior in her husband to go unchallenged, which hurts not only the woman, but the husband too, since it prevents him from becoming the man God wants him to be.  Vernick writes, "How can you tell whether or not your marriage has become and idol (too important)?  The biggest red flag is when you fall into deep despair or panic when your husband fails to love you well.  For example, what happens to you and in you when your husband disappoints you over and over again?  when he doesn't treat you like you want him to?  when he won't stay present and work things out during a conflict?  when he lies or cheats on you or mistreats you?  Any wife would feel disappointed, hurt, and angry.  But if you find yourself becoming increasingly despairing, fearful, controlling, or resentful, it's time to pay attention.  Those negative emotions are a good indicator that your desire for a good marriage has become too important."  (pg. 87)  The woman needs to center herself in God, with knowing and glorifying him being her primary purpose.  Then she will have the strength to forgive--but also to set appropriate boundaries and consequences.  She will be able to love without being enabling.  She is trusting God for the outcome of her marriage.

The next chapter, chapter 6, is called "When Trying Harder Becomes Destructive".  Most Christian women in difficult and abusive marriages are counseled to "try harder"--be more caring, submissive, respectful, encouraging, positive, attentive to their husbands' needs, and so on.  But in emotionally destructive marriages, this kind of behavior does not bring about a reciprocal response in the husband.  Instead, it "feeds the fantasy that the sole purpose of your life is to serve your husband, make him happy, and meet his every need.  It feeds his belief of entitlement and his selfishness, and it solidifies his self-deception that it is indeed all about him.  When destructive behaviors are a regular pattern in your marriage, understand this important truth:  Your husband doesn't want a real wife who will reflect to him her pain when he hurts her or God's wisdom when she sees him making a foolish decision . . . Trying harder to become the fantasy wife is not helpful to your husband or your marriage. . . The more you collude with his idea that he's entitled to a fantasy wife, the more firmly entrenched this lie becomes.  You will never measure up to his fantasy wife because you, too, are a sinner.  You will fail him (as every partner does in a marriage) and won't always meet his needs (or wants).  In addition, you are created by God as your own unique, separate person.  Therefore you will have feelings of your own and won't always agree with everything he says or wants.  Trying to be his fantasy wife not only hurts him, but it hurts you too.  It diminishes the person God made you to be because your husband has now become your god.  He dictates who you are to be and what you are to do.  And when you bow to this god, you soon become ruled by fear, not God's love.  Your spirit becomes deformed, and you will never grow to be the woman God created you to be."  (pg. 91-93)

Vernick brings up the Hebrew word for helpmate, "ezer", which is a military word denoting a warrior.  She concludes, "Your husband doesn't need you to indulge his fantasy or collude with his internal lie that says he is entitled to the perks of a good marriage while sowing the seeds of destruction and selfishness.  What he needs most (for his welfare) is a real wife who is a godly woman.  He needs a wife who will love him enough to tell the truth and to respectfully challenge his selfishness, his self-absorption, and his self-deception.  That indeed is risky love and redemptive love, and it's difficult to do with the right heart and actions.  It's the laying-down-your-life kind of love because you do not know how he will respond or what will happen to you or your marriage once you do it."  (pg. 94)

The next thing for the woman to do is to strengthen her inner mental, spiritual, and emotional core.  I love this quote from page 104:  "Sacrificing yourself by allowing someone to sin against you to keep peace in your marriage is never a wise choice--not for you, not for your husband, not for your marriage.  God calls us to be biblical peacemakers, not peacekeepers or peace fakers."  Vernick goes on to list out and expand on four core strengths that are essential in building this inner health.
  • Committed to truth and reality
  • Open to growth, instruction, and feedback
  • Responsible for myself and respectful toward others without dishonoring myself
  • Empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me
 After the woman has developed this core, she can prepare to confront her husband wisely, making sure she has developed a safety plan.  There are other things she needs to do before confronting, such a document behaviors, build a support system, and consult with a lawyer.  Vernick details these suggestions.  The next chapter is "Learn how to Speak Up in Love", and she uses Abigail as an example of a godly, courageous woman living with a selfish, destructive man.  Vernick then discusses godly ways to stand up against the destruction, including some suggestions of things to do if it doesn't go well and a discussion of consequences if the husband does not change his ways. 

The next chapter continues the discussion of "When There is No Obvious Change".  Vernick presents a choice:  either stay well (not remaining bitter, spiteful, resentful, and angry), again using Abigail to flesh out her points, or separate well, and Vernick gives some basic rules for separation.  The last 2 chapters describe necessary changes for a marriage to heal, which were basically the same ones that Bancroft describes in Why Does He Do That?, and what restoring the destructive marriage looks like.  Vernick is blunt to say that safety always comes first when restoring a destructive marriage, because there can't be any constructive conversation about any other marriage issue if one person isn't safe to tell the truth or disagree without fear of some kind of retaliation (even "just" emotional).   She also has a huge list of lies that the husband specifically must refute to have a healthy marriage (many of which again were listed in the Bancroft book).  As Bancroft did, Vernick says these lies must be confronted in individual counseling, not in couples counseling.  Couples counseling will be ineffective and destructive in itself if the husband will not take responsibility for his own wrong thinking, beliefs, or attitudes, because everything will be blamed on the woman.  "Sanity for your husband means that he must take the time to examine his unrealistic expectations of marriage and of women, and expose his underlying attitudes of entitlement.  He must come to understand the truth.  There is no perfect wife or marriage.  He must come to value his wife as a separate person, not an object.  She has her own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and needs.  She can't and won't meet his every need or always revolve herself around his wants.  He needs to recognize the lie he tells himself that he's entitled to the perks of married life no matter how he treats you.  Or that he shouldn't have to experience negative consequences as a result of his behavior, or that forgiveness means automatic restoration with no consequences, no amends, or no work.  Sanity means he must learn to take responsibility for his own thoughts and his own behaviors without blaming others.  He must also learn to handle his emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, anger, and hurt, in new ways that don't damage people, things, or relationships.  If he wants to have a good relationship with his wife, sanity means that he now understands he needs to take responsibility for his part and do the work to make that happen."  (pg. 200) 

Vernick says that if the couple has separated, then there needs to be concrete evidence showing that safety and sanity are in place before the couple begins living together again. Otherwise, the same patterns of abuse and destruction will just be repeated , so no new history can be built together.  Vernick says that if a husband is committed to change, then he will work to build new history with his wife BEFORE the separation ends, instead of not respecting the wife's boundaries, thinking only of his needs, blame-shifting, and so on.  She gives example conversations demonstrating no change, and also demonstrating small moments of stopping old habits and creating new ones, even if they are just baby steps.  "Creating stability in the aftermath of a destructive marriage is about rebuilding shattered trust.  We want to see evidence of 'Do you hear me?  Can you respect me?  Do you follow through on your promises?  Do you care about how I feel?  Can you take responsibility for yourself when you mess up?  Can I count on you to control your temper?  Can I trust you to tell me the truth?  Can I trust you to tell yourself the truth?  Will you be accountable?'"  (pg. 204)

Vernick offers a huge challenge to the woman as she considers making new history with her husband.  "Your anger is valid, but be cautious.  Feel it and use it wisely to help yourself get strong and protect yourself and your children.  Use it to speak up for yourself and stand up to injustice, abuse, and misuse of power and privilege.  But don't let it deceive you into thinking that you have no work to do if you want your marriage restored.  Someone once said it takes two to make a marriage, but only one to destroy it.  Sometimes when I see a husband get to the stage of being capable and willing to rebuild his marriage, his wife is unwilling.  She's exhausted and has lost her compassion.  She's allowed her anger to harden into resentment and believes it's now his responsibility to fix everything if their marriage is going to be healed.  But that's not true.  Just like it wasn't possible for you to fix everything when his heart was hard and he was unwilling, it's not possible for him to fix everything either.  Each of you must ask God to open your eyes to see what's going on in your own heart and habits.  Ask God to give you humility and wisdom so that he can take a marriage that was ugly and broken and create something beautiful for you, for your husband, children, and grandchildren, and ultimately, for his glory."  (pg. 205)

Vernick closes the book with this:  "It's clear from Scripture that God is on the side of the oppressed.  He cares for the victim and the helpless and calls his church to do likewise.  Don't be afraid to let the people of God into your messy marriage.  They are called by God to model a loving family to those who never had such an example, as well as model justice and protection when one of its members is destructive and unrepentant,  Just like you, they aren't perfect, but together we can work to bring hope and healing to hurting people and shattered families."  (pg. 209)

I felt like this book offered a lot of practical, Biblical suggestions for women in destructive marriages.  It gave realistic hope, but it also did not sugarcoat the unpleasant truth that change is difficult and may never happen.  I think a woman who reads this books and put into practice the advice here will be a stronger, more confidant woman of God, even if her circumstances remain difficult. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Angry Men

I have just finished reading a hard, yet very important book.  It's called Why Does He Do That?  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft.  Now let me clarify right off the bat that I was NOT reading this book because Bob is an angry, controlling man.  Not at all.  I am blessed with a husband who cherishes me as a partner worthy of his respect and honor, who apologizes when he is wrong and who does not think he is the utmost authority on everything.  We don't have a perfect marriage, of course, because both of us are sinners, saved by grace, but after reading this book, I am even more thankful for who Bob is.

I read the book because lately the Lord has been making me more aware of abuse, especially mental and psychological abuse, among women of my acquaintance.  In particular, a few years ago, I reconnected with a friend, Megan, from my high school years, through Facebook.  She actually escaped from an abusive marriage, and through her writings on her private blog, as well as on the blog A Cry For Justice, I had my eyes opened to this problem, even (especially??) within the church.  I read this book so I could be a more informed and helpful advocate for dear friends who are in the very situations described in this book.

Lundy Bancroft has worked with abusive men for over 15 years as a counselor, evaluator, and investigator.  He is not writing from a Biblical perspective, but his knowledge and experience with the mindset of abusive men is extensive and detailed.  The first section of the book details the nature of abusive thinking.  It turns out that abusive men are not abusive because they are angry and aggressive, need to get in touch with and more freely express their feelings, or were hurt by partners before.  No, "an abuser almost never does anything that he himself considers morally unacceptable . . an abuser's core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong".  (pg. 34)  Abusers are angry because they are abusive, and being abusive means he has attitudes of selfishness and entitlement that produce rage and fury when he feels his needs are not being met.

Bancroft details ten realities of the abusive mentality in chapter 3.  He expands on each point in great detail, giving examples, and making the thinking easy to recognize in situations you might have encountered.
  1. He is controlling.
  2. He feels entitled.
  3. He twists things into their opposites.
  4. He disrespects his partner and considers himself superior to her.
  5. He confuses love and abuse.
  6. He is manipulative.
  7. He strives to have a good public image.
  8. He feels justified.
  9. Abusers deny and minimize their abuse.
  10. Abusers are possessive.
The next chapter describes 9 different types of abusive men.  For example, "Mr. Right considers himself the ultimate authority on every subject under the sun . . ."  No one else's thoughts and insights have any value , and in particular, he thinks he needs to save his partner from the idiocy of herself.  He knows exactly how his partner should live her life, raise the kids, etc. He ridicules other's ideas, twisting them to sound ludicrous, because he is not actually interested in debate; he just wants to impose his own ideas.

Another example of a type is "the Water Torturer", who always stays calm in arguments, and "uses a repertoire of aggressive confrontational tactics at low volume, including sarcasm, derision, and cruel cutting remarks . . . he is relentless in his quiet derision and meanness".   This sort of abuse is difficult to put a finger on, and so the woman ends up blaming herself for her reactions, unable to turn to a friend for support because she can't even really describe what makes her feel so stupid and inferior.  This is the kind of man who carefully controls himself and doesn't let his abusiveness show in public, because that might turn people against him or get him into legal trouble.  I think this is one of the most dangerous kinds.  Bancroft repeatedly says that mental abuse is even more psychologically devastating to women than physical abuse, but this is the kind of thing that people outside the situation don't go to the trouble of digging deep enough to find out about.  Bancroft says time and time again--if a woman is consistently telling you about abusive situations, especially mentally abusive ones, do not just believe the man.  ABUSERS LIE.  CONVINCINGLY.  And they are really living in their own alternate reality, with their own value system that is completely unhealthy and wrong.  This is VERY different than a marriage just going through a hard time, or one that is just not living up to your hopes and dreams.  It is soul-crushing and relentless.

Bancroft then discusses how abuse begins.  On page 124, he asks the question, "Is the way he is treating me abuse?"  He then gives 12 subtle actions where mistreatment ends and abuse begins, including:
  • He retaliates against you for complaining about his behavior.
  • He tells you that your objections to his mistreatment are your own problems.
  • He gives apologies that sound insincere or angry, and he demands that you accept them.
  • He blames you for the impact of his behavior.
  • It's never the right time, or the right way, to bring things up.
  • He denies what he did.
  • He justifies his hurtful or frightening acts or says that you "made him do it".
  • His controlling, disrespectful, or degrading behavior is a pattern.
Chapter 6 looks at the abusive man in everyday life, including the tactics he uses in arguments, and the cycles of abuse.  Bancroft goes into a lot of detail to answer the question of why an abusive man is like that.  In a nutshell, he doesn't abuse because he has lost control of himself--he abuses because he has lost control of HER.  And keeping control is intrinsically very satisfying.  Bancroft points out that normally a relationship involves negotiating, hearing both partners' needs, and so on.  "Your happiness in a relationship depends greatly on your ability to get your needs heard and taken seriously. If these decisions are taken over by an abusive or controlling partner, you experience disappointment after disappointment, the constant sacrificing of your needs.  He, on the other hand, enjoys the luxury of a relationship where he rarely has to compromise, gets to do the things he enjoys, and skips the rest."  (pg. 153)  He gets someone to take out all his frustrations on, to blame for things going wrong, and his needs are always the center of attention.  Certainly self-sacrifice is Biblical--but if the partner is claiming to be a believer, and yet this is his attitude, then not confronting this is enabling him to continue in deep sin, and this marriage is certainly not an image of Christ and the Church.  In fact, Bancroft's definition of genuine love is "respecting the humanity of the other person, wanting what is best for him or her, and supporting the other person's self-esteem and independence.  This kind of love is incompatible with abuse".  (pg. 65) 

Bancroft gives the legal and common-sense definition of violence, which often differs from the abuser's definition.  Abusers minimize their behavior, and compare themselves to men who are worse than himself, so if he only threatens but never hits, then he is not abusive to himself.  Or if he slaps but doesn't punch with a closed fist . . . or punches but she never has broken bones.  These men are living in an alternate reality, truly.  Violence is behavior that does any of the following (from pg. 159):
  • Physically hurts or frightens you, or uses contact with your body to control or intimidate you.
  • Takes away your freedom of  movement, such as by locking you in a room or refusing to let you out of a car.
  • Causes you to believe that you will be physically harmed.
Bancroft says in all capital letters:  RESEARCH INDICATES THAT A WOMAN'S INTUITIVE SENSE OF WHETHER OR NOT HER PARTNER WILL BE VIOLOENT TOWARD HER IS A SUBSTANTIALLY MORE ACCURATE PREDICTOR OF FUTURE VIOLENCE THAN ANY OTHER WARNING SIGN.  So women must listen to their intuitions, and we as friends and supporters must listen to the women and take their concerns seriously.

The book has chapters about addictions, sex, allies of abusive men, and breaking up with abusive men.  There is also a sobering chapter on abusive men as parents, detailing the damage done psychologically to the children of abusive men.  Living with the stress and manipulation is so damaging in all ways to children.  One particularly sad point was in this paragraph on page 242:  "Children of abusers often find their father's attention and approval hard to come by.  This scarcity has the effect of increasing his value in their eyes, as any attention from him feels special and exciting.  Ironically, their mother can come to seem less important to them because they know they can count on her."  They often "have trouble paying attention in school, get along poorly with their peers, or act aggressively.  In fact they have been found to exhibit virtually every symptom that appears in children who are being abused directly.  The abuser attributes all these effects to the mother's poor parenting or to inherent weaknesses in the children." (pg. 243)  Children who grow up in an atmosphere where their mother is constantly belittled gradually come to look down on her in the same way, "having absorbed the abuser's messages that she is immature, illogical, and incompetent" (pg. 244).  Bancroft points out throughout the book that boys who grow up with abusive fathers are more likely to be abusers themselves.  It is a dangerous cycle--the sins of the fathers being passed down.

The most difficult chapters for me to read dealt with the abusers and the legal system.  Unfortunately, the legal system often acts as an ally for abusive men.  Bancroft brings up the point that not all policemen, judges, etc. are in their positions because they want to help people.  Sometimes they just like power and control, and so they are quite sympathetic to the thinking patterns of an abusive man.  But even when those in authority do not have this view of power, they often act in ways that do not give any protection to the woman who needs it.  The chapter details strategies and excuses that abusers use when police come to the door, or when he is in front of a judge or even on probation.  It is amazing how calculated these strategies are--these are definitely not men who are unable to control themselves, or don't realize what they are doing. 

The second-to-the-last chapter (14) is called "The Process of Change".    Bancroft is very clear that an abusive man changing is not impossible, but that it is very, very, very difficult and rare.  "The men who make significant progress in my program are the ones who know that their partners will definitely leave them unless they change, and the ones on probation who have a tough probation officer who demands that they really confront their abusiveness.  In other words, the impetus to change is always extrinsic rather than self-motivated.  Even when a man does fell genuinely sorry for the ways his behavior has hurt his partner, I have never seen his remorse alone suffice to get him to become a serious client."  (pg. 335)  Bancroft lists (and further explains) 13 steps in an abusive man's process of change, starting on page 339:
  1. Admit fully his history of psychological, sexual, and physical abusiveness toward any current or past partners whom he has abused.
  2. Acknowledge that abuse was wrong, unconditionally.
  3. Acknowledge his behavior was a choice, not a loss of control.
  4. Recognize the effects his abuse has had on you and on your children, and show empathy for those.
  5. Identify in detail his pattern of controlling behaviors and entitled attitudes.
  6. Develop respectful behaviors and attitudes to replace the abusive ones he is stopping.
  7. Reevaluate his distorted image of you, replacing it with a more positive and empathetic view.
  8. Make amends for damage he has done.
  9. Accept consequences of his actions.
  10. Commit to not repeating his abusive behaviors and honor that commitment.
  11. Accept the need to give up his privileges and do so.
  12. Accept that overcoming abusiveness is likely to be a life-long process.
  13. Be willing to be accountable for his actions, both past and future.
The key point is that "an abuser who does not relinquish his core entitlements will not remain nonabusive."  (pg. 345)  Abusers can spend time manipulating an appearance of change, but then quickly revert back to abusive patterns as soon as they get what they want.  Or they simply learn "kindler, gentler" ways to still control and manipulate the partner.  Or, since the abuser believes in his reality that his partner's behaviors are just as wrong as his, he will use his change as a bargaining chip.  "To him, these seem like fair deals, but in reality they require a woman to sacrifice her rights and freedoms in return for not being abused--a coercive bargain that is in itself abusive."

Here are the 2 main principles to remember when trying to assess if an abuser is really changing, from page 346:
  1. He cannot change unless he deals deeply with his entitled and superior attitudes.  No superficial changes that he may make offer any real hope for the future.
  2. It makes no difference how nice he is being to you, since almost all abusers have nice periods.  What matters is how respectful and noncoercive he chooses to become.
Here are a few example questions you can ask to help identify genuine change (Bancroft lists many more) from page 347:
  • Has he learned to treat your opinions with respect, even when they differ strongly from his?
  • Is he accepting your right to express anger to him, especially when it involves his history of mistreating you?
  • Has he stopped making excuses for his treatment of you, including not using your behavior as an excuse for his?
  • Does he listen to your side in arguments without interrupting, and then make a serious effort to respond thoughtfully to your points, even if he doesn't like them?
  • Has he stopped talking about his abuse as if it were an accident and begun to acknowledge that he used it to control you?
  • Is he actually responding to your grievances and doing something about them (for example, changing the way he behaves toward your children)?
  • Is he acting noticeably less demanding, selfish, and self-centered?
If you answer "no" to any of these questions, then your partner still has a lot of work to do.  Bancroft also lists several clear signs of an abuser who is NOT changing on page 350. 

Bancroft is absolutely against couples counseling in abusive cases like these because couple's therapy is designed to work on issues that are mutual.  "There can be no positive communication when one person doesn't respect the other and strives to avoid equality.  You can't take the leaps of vulnerability involved in working through early emotional injuries while you are feeling unsafe--because you are emotionally unsafe.  And if you succeed in achieving greater intimacy with your abusive partner, you will soon get hurt even than before because greater closeness means greater vulnerability for you."  (pg. 351)  A therapist may ask the victim to acknowledge her "role" in the abuse, leading the abuser to feel like his actions were completely justified.  "Change in abusers comes only from the reverse process, from completely stepping out from the notion that his partner plays any role in causing his abuse of her.  An abuser has to stop focusing on his feelings and his partner's behavior, and look instead at her feelings and his behavior.  Couples counseling allows him to stay stuck in the former . . . the more an abusive man is convinced that his grievances are more or less equal to yours, the less the chance that he will be able to overcome his attitudes."  (pg. 352)

Abusers need to be in specialized programs with 4 elements:  consequences, education, confrontation, and accountability. "An abuser only changes when he feels he has to, so the most important element in creating a context for change in an abuser is placing him in a situation where he has no other choice.  Otherwise it is highly unlikely that he will ever change his abusive behavior."  (pg. 360)

Bancroft has a whole section of chapter 14 dealing with "Leaving an Abuser as a Way to Promote Change".  This is something he recommends as an impetus for change, but he has suggestions, including being clear about what kind of contact you want to have during the separation.  It is generally best to have none at all.  Also, tell him you expect your wishes to be honored, and that the first way he can demonstrate his seriousness about changing is to give you the space you are asking for.  Stay away as long as  you can stand it, and if you do decide to get back together, be clear about rules.  If he violates any of the rules set up, then you must take another period of separation.  Focus on your own healing, so if he doesn't change, your life is still moving forward.

The last chapter is for people like me, people who want to see abuse end.  Bancroft has several suggestions for how to support an abused woman.  The goal is to be the complete opposite of what the abuser is, so be patient, address her as an equal, treat her as the expert in her own life, listen a lot and talk less, and think with her.  He also has some suggestions for reaching the abuser.  I love this suggested response when the abuser challenges you standing up against his mistreatment of his partner and says she's turned you against him:  "I am not against you; I am against your hurtful behavior.  What I am saying is that you won't be able to work out any of those other differences unless you first deal with your abuse problem.  As long as you keep bullying her, you are the number-one problem."  Do NOT be silent about abuse.  If you don't speak out, then you are communicating that "you see nothing unacceptable taking place.  Abusers interpret silence as approval, or at least forgiveness".  (pg. 287) 

Well, this was a very long post, and if you managed to read down to the end, I so appreciate it.  This has been such a burden on my heart lately.  To continue my education, I have started on my next book, which is The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, by Leslie Vernick, who is a Christian.  I am only on the introduction, but I think it is going to be an excellent book.  She says, "Marriage and family are important to God, but just as important to him are the individuals within those marriages and families.  God does not value men more than women, or the institution of marriage more than the people who are in it.  He wants to help you know how to heal and what to do to bring true restoration to your destructive marriage.  He also knows that because of the hardness of your husband's heart, true reconciliation of your relationship isn't always possible."  That is exactly the conclusion I have come to.  I highly recommend Why Does He Do That? to anyone who may be living with an abuser, or who may know an abuser or an abused woman.  It was difficult to read in parts, but very illuminating.  We are called as believers to stand up for those who are hurting and to confront sin.  Hopefully books like these will help us do that, so that marriages will be strengthened and be positive testimonies to Christ, instead of white-washed facades over a rotten, stinking core.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Week of Geology

 Yay--my TNT teaching is all done!  Last week we covered landforms, but this week's topic (for the same 1st and 2nd graders) was the 3 different kinds of rocks.  I scoured the internet and combined a few different ideas so that we had an edible "model" for each type of rock, models that did not need to be heated or cooled there on the spot, and also that did not include peanut butter! 

For igneous rock, at home I melted a bunch of white and dark chocolate chips, then poured that out onto a sheet of wax paper.  Just like lava!  I broke up the chocolate "lava" and gave each child a piece.

For sedimentary rock, I made rice krispie treats, mixing in M&Ms for some larger pieces of "sediment", like a conglomerate rock.  (And of course I gave each child a little piece.)

For metamorphic rock, I gave each child 2 Starburst of different colors, and by holding them in their hands (heat) and squeezing them together (pressure), they made "marbleized" starburst rocks (which they could then eat).  It was fun, and hopefully memorable.
After we finished talking about the different kinds of rocks, seeing (and eating) the models, and seeing actual rocks of each of the 3 types, I put a bunch of rocks on the floor on a big tablecloth and let the kids look at them.  I bought 4 of our magnifying glasses, which they loved using.  I wish I had more!  I know we have 1 more, but alas, I could never find it.  Christine let me borrow a big 50 piece rock collection that someone retiring from homeschooling had given her, and let me tell you, that was a treasure!  It helped me so much to see samples of the different kinds so I could more easily (but not easily, LOL) identify rocks we have collected over the years from who knows where, but the kids loved looking at all the different rocks.  I brought in our granite cutting board too.  There was a small piece of unpolished granite in the rock collection, so I thought the kids would get a kick out of comparing the polished with the unpolished.  I also brought a sandstone coaster (sedimentary rock, of course . . .) from Colorado.  The grayish striated rock up top is one Bob brought back from New Zealand.  Pictures don't do it justice because it really is pretty.  Metamorphic rocks brought out all the "Eskimo" punsters in the house this past week--"That rock is gneiss ("nice"), but that one looks like shist".  Ha ha.  I must admit I have never been really interested in rocks in the slightest, but spending this past week poring over library books and websites, trying to identify rocks, I have become much more enthralled.  Now I can't wait to visit Colorado again and go hiking!  I missed out!

After finishing at TNT, I came back home and taught at Rivendell all afternoon, first chemistry, then memory work.  The most wonderful thing about getting my TNT teaching out of the way so early in the school year is that the chemistry chapters and labs this week and last were ridiculously easy and introductory, requiring almost no thought and preparation from me.  I keep telling the boys, it will get harder, but for right now, it is such a review of Integrated Physics and Chemistry 2 years ago.  And that has been so nice for me!  But now that geology is over for me (the kids still have 2 more weeks with a different teacher), I can devote more time to chemistry.  And everything else in my life, LOL.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9 Month Drew

Drew turned 9 months on August 30, but I didn't get a well-baby appointment until this afternoon.  He hasn't had a well-baby appointment in quite a while, since he had his 3 month one around 5 months old, and I never got around to making a 6 month one!  He was sick with pink-eye and that pneumonia thing in June and into July, so we were already at Bethesda a few times, and I had no desire to make yet another trip!
After getting his vitals, we cooled our heels in an exam room for quite some time.  I didn't mind the wait--I read a book, and Drew crawled around and pulled stuff out of the diaper bag--but eventually a tech came in and asked if the doctor had ever come in.  No, and it turned out that the doctor we were supposed to see had gotten called away by an emergency, so we had to go to another room and see the staff pediatrician.  He was a nice older man who agreed that Drew was a totally well baby.  Drew is still small though--only 17.5 pounds.  We talked about that a bit, but when you can talk about 7 other healthy siblings who also hug the 5th percentile line, well, doctors tend not to worry so much.  We're the poster family for non-childhood obesity!  Drew is in the 54th percentile for height, which seems pretty normal as well.  Also, Drew eats well, a good variety of food and textures.  He loves table food so much more than pureed stuff, so maybe he'll gain more weight now that that is all he is eating.  Probably not, though, LOL.  The doctor and I had a fun time talking about genetics with such a large sample size!
I noticed last week that Drew has his 5th tooth in, another on up top, and the 6th one is close to coming through.  He has been pretty drooly lately!   He got some shots, so I guess if he is crabby, I can blame either the shots or the teething.
Drew still has made no moves towards walking.  He will move around holding onto things, but he will not let go, even for a second, without immediately dropping down to the ground.  I think he is going to be cautious, like Jonathan, who was my latest walker.  He didn't start walking until he was 14 months, and he only started then because Aunt Jane and Uncle Terry patiently worked with him when we were up at Idlewild for Bob's dad's company picnic that year!  Unfortunately, no aunt and uncle sightings are planned for anytime soon, so Drew will most likely just go on crawling because he's good at it, and he gets places fast.  Why bother with trying something new?!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Geology Lesson

Yesterday morning I taught at our elementary co-op.  We're starting off the year with a geology unit, which is definitely not my most favorite of topics.  But it will be so good to have my teaching there out of the way early in the year! 

Anyhow, I taught the first and second graders.  It's been awhile since I taught one of the younger tiers.  We made these adorable landform flipbooks from this blog, and they turned out so well!  The girls, predictably, loved them--all that cutting, coloring, and gluing!  Some of the boys were very diligent, and some of them spent their time throwing markers at each other and crawling under the table, LOL.  Now I have Micah, however, and I can fully imagine him being one of those boys in a few years, so no judgment here.  I am working on him though!!

I actually had a few other activities planned, but talking about the various landforms and looking at pictures, plus making these books, took all our time.  I forgot how long it can take first and second graders to do things!  They were so cute though.  What fun ages!

Did you happen to look closely at Grace, my lovely flipbook model?  Sunday night she had an unfortunate run-in with the concrete blocks we use as stairs for our trampoline.  They won.  This morning her black eye is even more vivid!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Diving Back In

Yesterday was our first day of both our elementary morning co-op, as well as Rivendell.  I think we were all not really ready to get back, but here we are--another year is starting! 

I keep telling myself that this year can not possibly be as stressful as last year.  I'm not pregnant, and we're not doing AP chemistry.  But still--last year was sooooo busy and stressful.  I'm not convincing myself, LOL.  I didn't even teach chemistry yesterday!  The boys just read the first chapter on their own!  See-easier already!  Also, the boys are going to be watching video lectures from DIVE, so I will mainly be facilitating labs and answering questions, utilizing that newly popular concept of the "flipped classroom".  Ha--we homeschoolers used that even before it was cool!  We will be prepping for the SAT II chemistry subject test, so I am going to be doing a lot of reviewing to keep the concepts fresh for the boys. 

Megan, our friend from church, is teaching literature/writing again for the high schoolers.  One of the books Nathan and Luke had to read over the summer was The Cherry Orchard, by Chekov.  They are not big fans of Russian authors, LOL, but they do enjoy discussing literature with Megan and the others!

Christine is finally teaching what she knows--economics!  She's teaching AP Microeconomics this year, and hopefully AP Macroeconomics next year.  Her first class got rave reviews from Nathan and Luke, who think it will be really fun and interesting.

Luke is taking Spanish III from Neissy, like Nathan did last year, and Nathan is FINALLY done with languages!  He is most happy about this!  Siri is teaching French II, but neither Nathan nor Luke are taking French.  We're going to start Caleb and Jonathan straight into French though, I think.  Siri can take them through AP French!

Due to some unexpected changes in Rivendell, Nathan and Luke will be trying out their first online class--US History with the Potters School.  We've heard nothing but good things about TPS classes, so hopefully this will be a good experience!  I'm a bit worried about the technical aspects.  Next Wednesday is their first class, so we'll see how it goes . . . 

Nathan is also taking AP US Government and Politics on his own.  I submitted the syllabus, and I planned out all the projects, but I'm not really teaching it, per se.  I've heard it is one of the easier APs to self-study, so we'll see if that is accurate for us!

I'm also "facilitating" a classical astronomy class this year using Jay Ryan's Signs and Seasons.  There is a small textbook, but most of the program is field exercises, where you really become familiar with astronomy you can see with your naked eye--what everyone used to know, like in Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.  I think and hope it will be a practical and interesting course.  I planned out a basic schedule of what exercises to do each month.  I just hope the weather cooperates, and we have enough clear nights!  Unfortunately we live in an area with an obscene amount of light pollution, so some things are going to be very difficult to see.

Going back to Rivendell classes, I'm again doing memory work for the younger kids in the afternoon--the last year where I actually had to come with it all, since we're working on a 4 year cycle!  Next year I'll tweak year 1's stuff, but I won't be starting from scratch!  We'll be memorizing Phil. 2:1-18 and 4:4-14, and we'll be reviewing the timeline, kings and queens of England, and US presidents, as well as learning the books of the Bible.  Science facts are from chemistry, as well as some earth and space science mixed in, since those never get covered.  For poems, we'll memorize "In Flanders Fields", "A Visit From St. Nicholas", "Jabberwocky", "A New Colossus", and "High Flight".

Another lady from our church has joined, along with her 3 boys, and Michele is taking over the 5th/6th grade literature/writing class that Theresa did for us our very first year.  I was listening to her first class yesterday, and I can tell she is going to do a fantastic job!  They are starting out with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which was one of my favorite books when I was a girl!  I still remember my wonderful 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Freeman, reading it out loud after lunch.

One very exciting thing about this new year is we got Rivendell t-shirts!  Christine found this cool cross with crossed swords image online, and we picked the motto of "Omnia ad Dei Gloriam" ("All things for the glory of God"), and of course we have our theme verse of Prov. 27:17.  They turned out so well, and we got an AMAZING deal from, using a groupon deal, as well as getting 50% off and free shipping by entering the site from   Now we need to get some field trips scheduled! 
So the new year has started . . . I'm teaching at TNT for the next 2 weeks, so I'll have to teach chemistry in the afternoon, then go straight into memory work.  Those will be tiring days, but at least I'll get the TNT teaching out of the way early this year.  And my unit doesn't have a 5th week activity!  Woo-hoo!  We're relying on the Lord for strength to get us through another year.  He was so faithful to us last year!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Weekend Retreat

 We had a wonderful weekend at one of my most favorite places in the world, White Sulphur Springs!  The Wright-Patterson chapels and OCF group had their annual retreat, so we joined them.  We enjoyed seeing my parents, as well as other old friends, including a USAFA classmate of Bob and his family (they also have 9 kids!)!

 The speaker was from Institute For Creation Research, so that was timely, what with all the AP biology last year!  Nathan and Luke sat in on his sessions, which were very practical and helpful. 

Even though we got up there Saturday at lunch and left Monday after lunch, there were still plenty of things to do--horseback riding, rock wall climbing, splitting wood, playing on the playground, square dancing--and Faith started riding a bike with no training wheels!  She asked me for help getting her started on Saturday afternoon, and then she was off!  This made Grace a little more motivated to actually do it herself, although she still is just too scared, LOL.  Faith is a little daredevil, and she zipped around the front driveway with her curls bouncing from side to side!
 Drew turned 9 months old while we were up there.  He eagerly crawled all over the place, but he still won't try to take a step.  He always sits down before moving his feet!  He has however mastered steps--going up them, that is!  Now I need to work on him turning himself around to go down.  He is eating pretty much all table food now, which is nice.  I am still forcing a baby food jar on him each day, though--I need 32 jars for a craft next week when I teach our elementary co-op!  I only need another 3-4 jars though.  Whew!  He'll be glad to just eat regular food, LOL.  He's a good little eater!  He's a happy guy too.  Hopefully he won't be as difficult and strong-willed as Micah is!
As always, our time up there wasn't long enough.  None of us wanted to come home!