What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul Tripp
I started this book way back in August and finally just finished it in March. I would recommend it to anyone married, getting married or who may ever get married. There is no shortage of marriage and relationship books on the market but I have a feeling that most of them skirt around the biggest marital problem. The book I read in premarital counseling before I got married seemed to suppose that most marital problems stem from stereotypical communication breakdowns between men and women. I won't deny that communication is difficult. I have had enormous trouble trying to communicate what kind of haircut I want. I don't know what words I should use to convey that I don't want to look stupid. Anyways, I digress, but if it's difficult to communicate regarding a haircut, then certainly these troubles will be magnified when you're actually trying to build a life with someone. But that's not the main problem. Tripp proposes that our main problem in marriage is that we're sinners. Sinners married to sinners. There's no way that's going to turn out well without 1) God and 2) hard work. This book cuts to the chase. It debunks the popular "happily ever after" myths surrounding marriage. It's not that marriage can't be" happily ever after" but it's not going to get there on its own without some good old-fashioned elbow grease. He points out that most marriages don't end dramatically as the result of a devastating betrayal or offense. Many simply whither out of neglect. Marriage is usually either made or broken not in a few watershed moments but in ten thousand little daily occurrences. It really encouraged me to try to make every moment count towards strengthening my relationship to Peter and not to excuse even small moments of selfishness or laziness. (I have a long way to go in this arena.) Though I do highly recommend it, I will say that it is a little long and can be wordy (much like this review) and repetitive at times.
Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur
This was the March read for my church's book club. It is about 12 women of the Bible. Each chapter is devoted to one woman. John MacArthur points out what we modern women can learn from each of their stories. While reading this I wasn't too excited about it. I felt like I'd heard most of it before and I just wasn't clinging to every word. At the book discussion I found myself liking it more as I heard other people's thoughts. There are some jewels of insight in it but overall I wouldn't say that it is a must read.
I've been really interested in learning ways that I can structure our (my and John's) days. I never was a structure person before I had a baby. But now I have come to value routines. Currently we have a schedule that I really like but no schedule lasts very long in childhood, I think. I'm trying to prepare for the next stage. As he enters toddler hood I want to incorporate activities that will direct his burgeoning energy and mobility in constructive ways. I also want to teach him to sit quietly and play independently. That said, I think I have my work cut out for me for the next few years. I read the next two books to learn more about toddler hood and get ideas for activities for us.
On Becoming Toddlerwise by Garry Ezzo
This is a quick read but I found it pretty useless. It does have some ideas for structuring a toddler's day but overall I didn't get much out of it. Also there's a chapter in which they're encouraging parents to consider why they're doing what they're doing rather than just how to do it. For example, consider why you're choosing one method of discipline over another rather than just learning how to carry out the particular method you've chosen. There seems to be some merit in this advice but they presented it in a weird parable with talking parrots and owls. I found it strange.
Creative Family Times: Practical Activities For Building Character in Your Preschooler by Allen and Connie Hadidian and Will and Lindy Wilson
This is a short little book that I really liked. It's only 63 pages. Each of the 12 chapters describes a "practical activity for building character" in preschoolers. Some examples: play time, tape time (perhaps mp3 time for our generation), sit time, prayer time, scripture memory time, mom/dad time. Some of these suggestions are similar to those in Toddlerwise. But, for some reason, I was way more inspired while reading this book. I loved a lot of the ideas. Some can be started early, some later in toddler/preschoolerhood. Having not put any of these ideas into practice, I can't speak to the ways that they've personally effected us but I do plan to start incorporating some of them into our days. I would recommend this book for anyone at home with small kids wondering "what do I do with them?" Like I said, I haven't actually used any of the ideas and I don't anticipate using all of them exactly as described. But the book is a good springboard for thinking creatively about how to use our time intentionally.