Archive for Book Reviews

Simplify your life

I just found this blog entry in my drafts and realised I never published it at the beginning of the year! I generally try to avoid New Years resolutions but this year I really felt God encouraging me to simplify my life.  In the beginning of January, I read Mark 10 v 13-16 where Jesus tells us thatanyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” To me that speaks of simplicity and innocence, no worries and full trust for provision. Last year, Dan and I needed to replace our drinking glasses, which were so tarnished by the dishwasher. Instead of buying three different sizes as we usually do, we bought twelve of the same which avoids lots of arguments between our kids about “who has the most coke” and removes at least one decision from our lives! We also have started shopping more regularly at Lidls. In the beginning, it was to save money but I have also realised how it has saved me time and hassle.  They don’t offer 20 choices of tinned tomatoes, just one so I don’t spend time agonising over what is the best quality for the best price, I just pick up the one tin! As someone who finds decision making difficult, I have turned a two hour shop into one hour door to door!

To help me on my journey, I am working through a book by Joyce Meyer called 100 Ways to Simplify Your life. The first thing – Do one thing at a time – is something I think us mums particularly are really bad at! We think multi tasking is a good thing but I am actually coming to realise that it means I don’t do anything well, or even worse, I don’t finish anything!  I am also really getting into decluttering thanks to a free kindle download called Decluttering your life. Looking around my house today, in the middle of the summer holidays, you might not think its made a difference but I do think its an on going battle! The less clutter, the easier it is to find things. The simple my life is the less stressed I should feel. I’ll let you know how I get on!

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How to be an Amazing mum when you just don’t have the time.

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I will never forget the day when we were visiting someone else’s house and Andrew, who must have been aged two or three at the time pointed to her ironing board that she was using and asked innocently "what’s that?" I remember babbling something about only ironing when he was in bed asleep but I don’t think she was convinced! The truth is I hate ironing and would  rather kill the ozone layer with my tumble dryer than stand all day getting rid of creases. And ironing is one of a long list of jobs that we, as mums, have to pack into a already crammed day. So when I recently came across a book by Tanith Carey called How to be an "Amazing Mum" when you just don’t have the time I grabbed it off the shelf. The subtitle is the Ultimate Handbook for hassled mothers  Basically its a book packed full of  short cuts and tried and tested advice on containing mess, quick lunch boxes , my favourite, faster laundry and other things. You won’t find it all helpful to your own lifestyle but I like the woman’s thinking – we all need more time on the important things like spending quality time with our kids so try this. WARNING – this isn’t necessarily a cost saving book as a lot of her time saving devices cost money but don’t let that put you off.

Obviously if ,as you read this, the beds are made and the lounge isn’t covered in lego then this isn’t for you but for the rest of us – it could save you some precious minutes of sanity.

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Routine -  to have or not to have seems to be a big question that a lot of pregnant mums to be ask me.  Some health visitors are for it, some against it. In most cases you will be told to demand feed for the first couple of weeks (feed your baby every time it cries) and so will some books. Other books will tell you to have a routine. It can be very confusing!

What is important in the first few weeks is to teach your baby how to feed, particularly if breastfeeding. Both you and your baby need to get used to how it works. I personally believe that some form of routine is good, but during the first few weeks, you aim for a routine more than have one. Having some form of structure does help as it makes you feel like you know what you are doing and helps you to spot if something is wrong. If not, it can be difficult to know why a baby is crying. If you have fed and changed your baby, you know that it can’t be either of those so that leaves you with either wind, a tired baby or potentially a sick child!

There are a few books that will help you establish a routine. On becoming baby wise is one (see previous blog entry) or The Baby whisperer (Tracy Hogg) is very similar. (My midwife was very anti Gina Ford but a friend of mine with twins found it invaluable!) They suggest a 2 1/2 to 3 hour cycle for feeding a newborn with a routine of feeding, wake time, and sleep. So you feed your baby, wind, change the nappy, have some “play time” and then put them down to sleep. If the baby doesn’t wake up around 3 hours after you began your last feed, they suggest you wake him up for a feed and repeat the cycle again. That way your baby doesn’t go too long between feeds but long enough for you both to rest.

The Baby whisperer uses the acronym E.A.S.Y. Eating – Activity – Sleep – You

These books also give you ideas on how to keep the baby awake during feeds and how to calm a fussing baby.

Parenting books that promote a routine have been severely criticized for not allowing for motherly instinct. No where do I see that. As you spend time with your baby you will learn what is “normal” for your baby and what isn’t. Obviously feed earlier if your baby appears hungry. Just try to avoid “snacking”. – 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. It makes sense that a baby will be more content on a full stomach and therefore sleep longer. And if they sleep longer, so can you!

Now my boys are older I am very grateful for the routines I established early on. Bedtime and mealtimes are never a real issue ( although tIMGA0133he number of ways boys can think of to extend bedtime is amazing!) and I think it helps to bring some sort of order very early on in a child’s life.

Dominion and awe belong to God;
   he establishes order in the heights of heaven.  Job 25

We serve a God of order so we should aim to bring order to our parenting!

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Next steps after LoveLife!

At Every Nation we have just finished a fantastic series called LoveLife where we have looked at relationships, based on the book from the bible called Song of Songs. If you missed it , why not catch the downloads at our Every Nation website.

I am sure most of us  feel we could invest more in the most important relationships in our lives. One way to prioritise your spouse next year might be to enrol on the Marriage course. We have one that starts Wednesday 19th January from 7:30 to 9:15, for 7 week in Twickenham, hosted by James and Megan Lyell. You can find the details at If Twickenham is too far then you check out other courses running in your area at Marriage course website.

The next best thing would be to read the book. The Marriage book by Nick and Sila Lee is packed full with fantastic advice on keeping your marriage healthy.

Not sure if marriage is the next step? Check out  Look before you Leap – J. John. Described as "A practical guide to one of the most difficult life decisions with humour". You can then enrol on a Marriage preparation course which  is designed for any engaged couple or couples looking towards marriage,  who want to build a strong and lasting relationship.

Every Man’s/ Every Womens battle are great books for both marrieds and singles, focusing  on how to deal with the battle of sexual purity. One review I read said about Every Man’s battle that “It’s just simple, straight advice about how to live the sort of life the Bible calls us to, in a society which gives us every opportunity not to”.

Hope for the Separated – Gary Chapman. Contains sound and practical advice for those who are separated to know how to give their marriage the best chance of being restored.

Finally, for those who have been through or are going through the pain of divorce or separation Holy Trinity Brompton run The Divorce and Separation Recovery course . The course is run three times a year and is both practical and supportive, giving any separated or divorced person the opportunity to discuss the challenges they are facing and the tools to deal with these effectively.

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The Parenting Book

imageI cannot believe that I haven’t yet blogged on my most favourite parenting book of all time. Someone mentioned it to me last week and it reminded me how rem iss I have been!  "The Parenting Book" by Nicky and Sila Lee really is exceptional. After their success with The Marriage book, I knew it was going to be good but it really has exceeded my expectations. It is a compilation of the parenting course and Parenting teenagers course that they run at Holy Trinity Brompton. Proverbs 24 v 3 states "Through skillful and godly Wisdom is a house (a life, a home, a family) built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation]". (Amp). This book contains so much of the skilful and Godly wisdom that we all need to establish good foundations on which to build our family. The couple share very honestly about their struggles as well as their successes in bringing up 4 kids in a flat in London. I think that is what is so appealing as you can relate so much to their situation.

Although it looks quite a tome, you will find it is a book you will dip in and out of, as you go through different seasons with your kids. a sort of Parents reference book. I found the chapter on Sex and sexuality very helpful when we recently found ourselves needing to have “The Discussion” with our 7 year old! That deserves a whole blog entry of its own another time.

You can find more information, extracts and where to order it on their family life website

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Top 100 books

One thing I adored as a child, and still do is books. My childrenCIMG0085 are not quite as passionate as I was at their age but they do love bed time reading. I was therefore interested in Junior magazines top 100 book list, as voted for by the readers. The competitive side of me just had to go through and see how many were on my children’s book shelves! With the summer holidays looming it may just be time to dust off the library cards and seek out some of the recommended titles that we have not seen! Take a look yourself at junior magazine website.

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Potty Training

If there is one thing I get questioned about the most it is the subject of potty training! With two boys who seem unable to aim down the pan and regularly spray anywhere but, I would encourage you to keep your children in nappies until they are 18! As that is probably socially unacceptable and also expensive, here are my views on making it as stress free as possible!

Having gone through it with two children I would say timing is everything. All the books will tell you not to start potty training a few months before or after any  major events or changes. We did not heed this advice and started potty training Andrew 3 months before Matthew was born. He was almost dry during the day except the odd accident now and then. Then Matthew came along and it all went haywire. I thought my mum was going to kill him as he would wait until I sat down to breast feed and then would wee all over the lounge ( laminate flooring is a blessing at these times!). As he was not yet three, the health visitor advised we put him back in nappies and try again in a few months. We did and it was plain sailing the next time. With Matthew we waited until he was so obviously ready and with his more structured loving nature, he was a breeze. Having an older brother also helps!

So how do you know they are ready? The best book I have found is “Potty training in one week ” by Gina Ford. She gives clear guidelines on when to start looking for the signs that you child is ready and then how to prepare them for their first big day without a nappy. Then when they are ready, you chain yourself to the house for about a week as your child exercises bladder and bowel control. It sounds too good to be true but if you follow the guidelines and prepare well, by the end of 7 days your child will be nearly accident free. Check out the Gina Ford website for FAQs

If that all seems too structure for you try looking at ” on becoming toddlerwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. As mentioned before, this book give 3 different methods of potty training so you can choose which one suits you and your child best.

Whichever method you choose be comforted by the fact that most teenagers do not start university wearing nappies! Some kids take longer than others but they all get it in the end.

A couple of practical tips which I found helpful

1) Make sure you have plenty of pants/knickers. They can be cheap and cheerful but buy them in size bigger than your child needs. This means they are easier for them to pull up and down.

2) Invest in a portable potty. This is an amazing invention which you can get in Tesco or Mothercare. It consists of a sturdy plastic ring with foldable legs that you attach a plastic bag onto with an absorbent pad. The child sits on it like a potty but the mess goes into a bag that you can detach and throw away and it collapses into a changing bag. Brilliant! It saved me many a red face or wet seat in the car!

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