I've been mentally composing this post for a while now but since I never seem to just get it out, (knuckles cracking) here we go.
What defines you.. as a mother, a wife, a daughter and just a woman in general (Sorry to any guys reading this, but this one is geared for my female friends)? I realize this question is deeper than you and I really care to delve into, especially on the world wide web. In short, I know who I am and more importantly I know who I want to be. Since I became a Christian, I've rediscovered books. Not just any books but (I guess they're categorized) "self-help" books to be more specific. When I was getting married, I submerged myself in successful marriage how to books. When I was pregnant with Ri, I dove back in but this time with parenting in mind. These books have given me a sense of confidence when I didn't deserve to have any, a sense of peace in the midst of kaos and just an over all sense of well-being. In my quest, I have been racking up a list of favorites that I would recommend to others. These books have shaped me into the mother/wife/woman I am today but even more they set a bar for self improvement and give me a tangible path to who I want to become. I realize that much of this content is subjective and there really is no "right vs. wrong" but the message in these books are right for me and my family. That does not mean it's right for everyone though. Without further adieu, here are my picks!
This is the book given to John and I from the officiant who married us for some pre-marriage counseling. During our engagement, John and I were litterally oceans apart. He was in Korea and so when I visited, we met a couple times with Chaplain Youstra for counseling but that was it. No extensive meetings so he gave the book to supliment the little counseling that we were able to do. This book helped me understand men and specifically, my man more. I learned the "golden rule" growing up.. Do onto others as you would have done to you. However, that is not the case when it comes to the opposite sex in a marriage relationship. What I want, to snuggle, to talk, to have his affection- he does not hold as dear as I do. His needs are different than mine! This was a great and eye opening book. It used a metaphor of a "love bank" and how everything you do is either depositing into your spouses love bank or withdrawing. John and I still kid about making a deposit in the "love bank!" This was our favorite marriage book we read and I did say we. John read it with me- which should speak volumes about the book.
This is similar to the above but it talked about everyone having a specific "love language" in which they give and receive love. For example, some people feel loved by gifts and others by time spent. This helped me evaluate what my love language is and what John's love language is so that we can understand each other better and we communicate effectively.
This book was derived from the movie "Fireproof." If you haven't seen it, you should. OK, the acting is a little cheesy but it's a refreshing movie that highlights virtuous marriage and urges not to give up in a sea of movies that make divorce look like the cool thing to do. This is kind of a daily devotional which just has small little excerpts everyday and gives you something to ponder throughout your day and even little challenges to do for your spouse. During the dating days, it's those small things that let you know that the other person cares and many times in a marriage the business of life sometimes cloud out those small things. It's fun to do the daily challenges and you're spouse will love all the attention they get from this and by the time the book is over, some of the sweet things you've done for the past month is committed to habit. Besides after you go through it, you can give it to your man and then you can be on the receiving end of all the love and sweet things done by your hubby!
I am a baby wise mom! I've learned since having a child and being introduced in the mommy world that Baby Wise is somewhat controversial. The premise behind the book is to get your child on a flexible schedule. Kids need order and structure and this provides both you and your child with that order. After my own experience and talking with other "Baby Wise" mom's, it never goes by the book but some principles can be applied and may help in your family dynamic. All I know is that I have two kids now and both of them have been sleeping through the night (from 10pm to 7am) by 9 weeks of age and because I am not one that does well without sleep, that is the best tangible plug I can give for the book!
Anther controversial book.. I'm on a roll. I am an advocate of James Dobson and the Focus on the Family Institute. Check out more on Focus on the Family here. I am not opposed to spanking. There. I said it. Don't judge me. That being said, I am not about to start wailing on my kids every time they annoy me or make me mad. In fact, that's the thing... Dobson's discipline style is to discipline out of love, NOT anger! He talks about different forms of correction, spanking being among the options, that need to be performed swiftly and lovingly. There are things that kids will do that you know better than they do and it's for their own good that they listen to you... but sometimes they don't. And unfortunately kids don't respond to reason and good intentions. I am just hitting the very tip of the iceberg in the whole willful defiance stage. This has always been my biggest fear of being a parent, is dealing with "bratty kids" and because it is what I have looked forward to the least, I've really been reading up on it to know how I am going to handle it. So take from it what you will. The Focus on the Family website also has tons of book recommendations on all different topics that you can check out.
This book is a very recent read for me. I have found that I actually LOVE Kevin Leman's parenting style. It makes the most sense to me. He is a loving and nurturing parent but not so sheltering that his children are left to make poor decisions once they are on their own. It is a balance of decisions and consequences which is a very real world concept. I know Kevin Leman has another popular book, "Have a new Kid by Friday" which I haven't read but I would recommend just based on this book. I'm sure it's more of the same thing... consistency, loving discipline, mean what you say and say what you mean! One practical suggestion I can recall is when you're kid refuses to clean his room, simply tell him that's ok and it's his choice. Then "hire" someone (even a younger sibling) to clean his room and take the money from his allowance. It's a real world way to handle the situation and I'd bet that he'll keep his room clean after that. I will be referring to this book over and over in the coming years!
This is a really fun book if you're looking for something fun to do with your toddler. There are TONS of craft ideas complete with a supply list and instructions for every day, no matter the weather. There are also great ideas like keeping a little To Go toy bag that you can grab on your way out the door to dinner at your kid-less friend's house or a special bag of goodies for when you're trying to cook dinner and the kids are demanding your attention. Many of these crafts are great for development and I've learned that they don't always go as I anticipate but I just roll with it and I think Riley still gets something out of it. The author of the book, Trish Koffner also has a busy book for preschoolers and one for physical activities too.
I was given this book as a gift when I moved from Ohio to Utah and was getting married. At the time, I looked at it and chuckled thinking "great... another book to collect dust on my selves." Don't get me wrong- it was a great gift for me because I am not an organized person by nature. But I've lived my life thus far just fine and maybe at times I'm in denial of the disarray I cause myself (good thing I married the best organizer on the planet). So the book collected dust on my book shelf for years! But after I had Riley, I'm not sure what provoked me but I pulled it out and started to look through it. This book is a gem! There are tons of quick read chapters (for the busy mom who can't find the time to sit down and read much) with great organizing tips. It covers anything from cleaning your house to finances to holidays and more. I liked that there are tons of tips on parenting too. Like how to get your kids to help out around the home, teaching them about money, summer projects to keep them busy and the dreaded preparing for travel with kids. The tips are quick but powerful. There are lists and how to's that make what feels like a big undertaking seem very manageable!
So there you have it. These are the books that have kept me sane over the years and that I will refer to as I approach loosing sanity in the coming years! I hope that some of you find this useful and if not, at least you have an idea of why I do the things I do.