Unsolicited reading recommendations for ya

Some of the bloggers I follow like to end each month with a "What I'm into this month" type post. I always find them interesting! I don't think I could ever do it, however, because some months it would read more like cricket chirps than a blog post (the month of February, every year), however this month I'm feeling inspired to pass on three books I've discovered in the past year. They've each inspired me in different ways and made both my life and parenting better. So much better that I've become a bit of a walking advertisement for them. Allow me to pester you with some recommendations!

1. The Joy of Less; a minimalist living guide.

You guys. This is not a parenting book by any means, but of all the books and articles I've read, this book has strangely impacted my parenting the most! I am not a super clean and tidy person, but if my house is too cluttered I feel very stressed and become a cranky mom (and wife?). It turns out that kids are the best at making messes and the worst at cleaning them up. A few months into Arie's homecoming, I felt like I was spending half my life separating out the duplo blocks from the Mr. Potato Head pieces and the Little People from the music toy box.

I know what you're going to say. Just leave them! They always get mixed up anyway. 

I can't do it. And besides, I've found that when kids walk into a disaster of a playroom, they don't know where to start playing and they get cranky too. It's just not good.
One part of parenting for which I was not prepared: the gifts. So many toys! Challenging the best of my organization skills. 
So I determined to simplify. Inspired by the Year of Less blog (which still up, but has sadly been discontinued), I bought the book and used it to help me minimize. I started by pairing down the playroom. I got rid of about half our toys and put the other toys into a closet, to be rotated out every few weeks.

Life changer.

No matter how messily Arie plays, it only takes about 15 minutes to clean up! Right now he has these toys out:

- duplos (currently his favorite)
- music toys
- blocks
- books
- 3 trucks
- play kitchen and play food
- train set

He is happy as can be. I could actually probably put the music toys and blocks away right now as they have fallen out of favor, but my closet is still a bit of a mess and I don't have the space. Ha!

I've been working my way through the house and pairing down whatever I can. My kitchen cupboards have fewer dishes now and it is much easier to both find things and put them away. My dresser and closet are tidier because they have fewer clothes to make a mess. The laundry loads take less time to fold! I purged 5+ years worth of old lotion bottles and lipstick tubes and nothing falls out on me when I open my bathroom cupboards anymore. It's amazing. I'm not "done" minimizing my house, but I feel so much better about being in it.

The side effects of living more minimally are freedom and peace. Freedom from that desire to want more and that feeling like I don't have enough. And the peace that comes from being contented with what I have. As I've discovered in the book, living minimally doesn't mean living in a sterile white place; it means living intentionally with the stuff that makes your life better, more beautiful and nothing else.

I could write more, but I'll just encourage you to check out the book for yourself.

2. Bringing Up Bebe.

When John and I were in Moscow adopting Arie, I was deeply encouraged by how optimistic the Russians we encountered seemed to be about children. Coming from the States where parents seemed to be deeply concerned (anxious?) about how their kids were turning out, the attitude surprised and refreshed me. Our facilitator especially was filled with stories about children, formerly institutionalized and subsequently adopted, were thriving in their new lives. Even when she would talk about her own (adult) son and his childhood, she was always relaxed and joyful.

I remember at the orphanage one of Arie's nannies giggled with our facilitator about Arie's lack of participation in the little group "gym" class they had. He stubbornly refused to kick the ball when it came his way. Our facilitator and his nanny smiled and raved about Arie being too "intellectual" for sports and gushed about how smart he would grow to be. I could only think to myself that in America, parents of non-paticipatory kids would be heading to their computers, worried, to research social behaviors and methods to improve their child's coordination.

As I read the reviews for the book Bringing Up Bebe, I noticed that French parenting seemed to embody that same kind of optimism. Excited by the connection, I ordered and devoured the book. It was fascinating. The author does not write from a "how-to" perspective, so don't go into this book thinking that it is a parenting book. It is a book that describes French parenting and makes fascinating comparisons to American (Canadian, English etc) parenting. As I read I felt challenged to evaluate my parenting from a new perspective and encouraged to make positive changes.
I don't know. This is me, camping and unglamorous, reading the book. Only photo I had for this section. 
Here's the change that most helped me: as I've remarked previously on this blog (and via at least a half dozen facebook and instgram posts), Arie tends to be a picky eater. He has not gained one single ounce since he's come home. Granted, he was a chubby baby and he has grown two inches, so we're not into medically concerning territory, but still- I wanted to see him eating more and with greater variety.
He was home for about seven months when I read the book and I knew we were not dealing with post-institutionalization food issues like texture or temperature problems.

I discovered through this book that not only do French mothers not walk around with granola bars and bags of goldfish in their purses, but they (adults and children alike) eat only a schedule of breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner.

What about the mid-morning snack? What about the snack before bed? What about if you're at the grocery store and your kid starts melting down and you don't have CANDY for them??!

Inspired by the beautiful descriptions of foods which French children readily gobble up, I determined to feed Arie more like the French. Breakfast at 8, lunch at noon, snack at 3 and dinner at 6 or 7.

He is like a new kid.

You know that mid-morning snack? I've discovered that it was throwing off his entire day! He was always just satiated enough that he easily rejected new foods at lunch. And then was so hungry by snack, that he'd fill up and not want dinner. *Duh* Probably should not have taken a book to get me to realize this, but I'm just so happy to have figured it out!

Now he gets breakfast and is hungry enough by lunch that he will try almost anything without a fight. He won't always eat the whole serving, but he knows that if he doesn't eat, there won't be any goldfish to fill his belly later. He gets a nutritious snack at 3 and he's hungry enough to eat his whole dinner. Since he goes to bed at 7:30 or 8, he doesn't need another snack and *surprise* he wakes up hungry and ready for breakfast. If he under eats and gets hungry early, he gets a piece of fruit or- if we're out- he gets an opportunity to learn patience.

Again, I could go on and on about all other parenting ideas I learned from this book, but you will just have to head on over to your local library or amazon yourself.

3. Lastly, I have to pass a cookbook on to you. John, Arie, and I spent a few days at our friends' cottage last week and our friend Paul cooked us meals from Super Natural Everyday. Before I finished eating the second meal, I knew I had to have this book. In fact, I ordered it from my phone before we even got home.

I've had the book in my possession for eight days and I've already cooked 5 meals from it. They are all extraordinary. Fresh, extremely flavorful, simple to prepare, very nutritious, and made with real, whole foods (no cream of mushroom soup cans!).... this is my new favorite cookbook. I cooked three of the five meals for my sister and her boyfriend when they came to visit last week, and they also raved about the recipes.

If you've been feeling a little uninspired in the kitchen lately, I can't recommend this cookbook enough! And at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, NOW is the time to buy it because you can get so many of the ingredients fresh and local at your farmer's market (which incidentally Arie's has adorably been calling the "Farmik Farmik" lately. Ha!). Do it now and come back to tell me how you love it.
John, Justin, and sister Jenna at the Farmik Farmik last week. 
Nervously giving a dollar to one of the street performers at our market. 

Now that I've filled you up with suggestions, pass some on to me! What have you read and loved lately?




  1. In line with The Joy of Less, Jen Hatmaker's "Seven; an experimental mutiny against excess" is EXCELLENT. I'm looking forward to reading the F

    1. Oops... I'm looking forward to reading the french book about parenting. Sounds fascinating.

    2. I actually read that on the plane on our first trip to Moscow! Ha! Another great one; very different style of writing but same principles. Enjoy reading!

  2. in line with the French book. Our 5-year old son (home now for 5 months)has been to summer camp in France and also in the UK (similar to US when it comes to kids) In France they just got on with it, I'm sure it was not easy for them but they understood this was his first camp and they made the best of it. No incidents were reported and when I asked they would smile and say it was ok, he's energetic but it was fine. In the UK every time we went there was a big report waiting for us to sign and they would start with: we had an incident today. My brain already in overdrive thinking he'd done something horrible but he had pinched a child. It was just so over the top and I didn't like the attitude. Of course he should not pinch but I know my son and know if he gets excited he may just give a little pinch. The French are far more relaxed about many things and food wise yes quality over quantity! Incidentally on his last day of summer camp (he went to three over the holiday period so far and the last one was again in France) he said to me: Mommy I not pinch everybody today! I am about to start a book called The Post adoption blues which has been highly recommended. I love following your blog and FB posts, Arie seems to be doing great!

    1. Heidi what an interesting comment! The author of Bringing Up Bebe talks about school trips (overnight) and makes exactly the point you do: everyone is very relaxed about it. She said she often didn't even need to sign a permission slip. So different! Where do you live that you are sending your son to all these amazing places??

    2. We are a Belgian (me), British (hubby), Indian (our son), Dutch (dog), French (cat) family so we spend time in France, England, Belgium and also the US every year. So our son will be home schooled combined with different schools in the world. I know it's challenging but so far all is going well :) I remember reading somewhere you have Dutch in your family?

  3. Anonymous8/02/2013

    Will definitely be checking out these books, thanks for the recommendations!

    Another great book is Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. It has a section on toys and is consistent with what you're finding of too many toys is too much choice! It also goes into detail about what kinds of toys are good and which to ditch which I found very helpful. Beyond that, there are a lot of good examples of schedules and routines and how you can have too much going on, just like having too many toys.

    1. That sounds like a great book! I'm going to see if my library has it. Thanks so much!

  4. Just requested the first 2 from my library! Thank you for the recommendations. And I wish I had one for you...but honestly it has been far too long since I have read a book. Sad but true:)

  5. I love these recommendations! I'll start with the last one first. Super Natural Every Day is one of my most favorite cook books! I have cooked so many dishes from there and they are all so good. Have you tried the Simply Curry? So yummy! And it's easy to sub in different vegetables or meat if you are so inclined. The Joy of Less reminds me of Simplicity Parenting which you would also probably enjoy. I just finished it and loved it. It gave me the nudge I needed to finally get rid of some toys I was hating but felt obliged to keep. And lastly Bringing Up Bebe sounds good too. I do not have a picky eater, but I also realized as I read your review that I feed my son on that exact schedule. I'm not the mom carrying around snacks and he does eat very well at meals. I think he's naturally not picky, but I bet the meal thing plays a part too.

    1. I have not tried the curry yet but it is now on my list! Thanks! Simplicity parenting also now on my reading list.

  6. Anonymous8/02/2013

    I highly recommend that you read LOVE DOES by Bob Goff! ...amazing! Also Bread and Wine ...one of my favorite reads this summer!

    :) Blessings

    1. I just read a quote by Bob Goff the other day that I really liked and didn't know who he was! Might have to check that out! THanks!

  7. Ran across your blog through Pinterest. All three of these books look excellent and right in line with how my husband and I are trying to parent. We're new foster parents of littles (3 and under) so anything that can help create simplicity and peace at home is top priority for us, since the day-to-day can get pretty wild around here. I'm off to put these on hold at the library! Thanks for sharing :)

    1. Congrats on becoming foster parents! Busy home and full hearts with that young bunch, I'm sure. Thanks for visiting my blog! Hope you come back :-)

  8. Anonymous8/05/2013

    I loved Bringing Up Bebe! And my husband actually willingly read it too :) I also read "French Kids Eat Everything", which is similar but just goes more in depth about French eating habits and attitudes surrounding food and mealtimes in French families. Definitely an interesting read!

    -Jackie :)

    1. Thank you for passing that other book along- I want to read it now!


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