Voluntary Simplicity

May 10, 2010

I just finished reading/skimming Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich. I liked this book because it doesn’t try to define “simplicity” as a list of specific items that one must follow. Instead simplicity is viewed as a state of mind; almost a type of self-actualization:

“The hallmark of a balanced simplicity is that our lives become clearer, more direct, less pretentious, and less complicated.”

A few other characteristics of simplicity:

  • ecological
  • a state of awareness/living consciously
  • a lifestyle; a process to get there
  • anti-consumerism, a “new definition of quality”

This book is ultimately a philosophical manifesto and not a how-to guide. It is inspirational for those of us who are consciously trying to embrace a life of simplicity. But the downside of not defining simplicity as X, Y and Z is that the reader might be left inspired, but still not sure how to get the goal.

I am consciously trying to reject consumerism, but gosh it is hard to do!  I know that the problems with the consumerist lifestyle are many, yet it is still quite a challenge to confront. Thankfully this is a process, and I am slowly becoming more aware and beginning to redefine what I consider quality. From a spiritual standpoint (and the spiritual aspect is considered from all angles in the book) I think that simplicity is very important: cluttered lives contribute to cluttered minds. I don’t know about you, but both my life and my mind feel pretty cluttered these days.

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Book Review: Bedtiming

March 18, 2010


snoozing Calvin

I read about this book on Moxie and was intrigued since it purported to take a developmental approach to sleep issues. There are some interesting developmental resources available on infant/child sleep… Moxie herself has some of the best resources on this. But I was still curious about seeing a more comprehensive study of such issues. The premise of this book is that if you want to make sleep changes that happen easily and that will stick, you need to do it in the right developmental window. Since I have tried to make changes before – and I’ve usually failed miserably – I thought that this sounded like good information to have.

I should note that Calvin and I had been experiencing sleep hell when this book arrived. I was really at my wit’s end – what was going on with my little guy who was previously so content to nurse a bit and then go straight back to sleep? Now he cried and squirmed and tossed and turned. It didn’t matter if he slept in his own bed, or in my bed… no matter what I tried, he could not sleep. He was nursing at night more than a newborn and still he could not sleep. I am so thankful that Moxie had several great posts on the 18 month-old and how he didn’t want to sleep. Misery loves company.

So you can bet that upon receiving the book I quickly flipped to the section that would address my current woes. According to the book, 17-21 months is not a good time to implement changes because of the toddler’s fear of separation and his determination to hold his own in conflict situations. Instead, stay consistent in bedtime routines and just wait it out. I really was not surprised by the advice because it was exactly what I was experiencing. While I would have liked a solution, I can definitely appreciate the fact that what I was experiencing was normal.

In the end though, I didn’t feel that this book  really had a lot to do with sleep. Instead the book is a developmental overview up to age four. The developmental stages are loosely tied to sleep issues. Sleep is really only mentioned at the very beginning and the very end of the book. I think this would be really helpful information for new parents who don’t yet know much about developmental stages. Otherwise, I think that Moxie’s information about sleep regressions is every bit as helpful – and I’d even venture to say that it’s probably more helpful.

The second to last chapter is devoted to a brief analysis of the major “sleep training” techniques: CIO a la Weissbluth, CIO/gradual extinction a la Ferber, and no-cry solutions a la Pantley. The authors contend that there is no best way to help your baby sleep so they run through the major options and leave it to the parent to choose. I am anti-CIO (I particularly abhor Weissbluth’s method), but I do appreciate the way that the authors handled these topics. In the CIO section they are careful to point out that there is nothing wrong with nursing or rocking your baby to sleep and that indeed, this is often a very enjoyable activity.

Long story short: Take a look at this book if you want a good developmental overview that can be related back to sleep issues. There is a little chart in the front of the book that is especially handy for quickly determining whether or not your child is at a good age for changes. There was once a time when I thought that I would easily go on nursing Calvin at night until he was no longer interested… that time passed. There will most likely come a time when you want to make changes to help your child (and you!) sleep, so be prepared beforehand.

Books – 2009

November 22, 2009

Back in the beginning of the year, I decided to participate in a “50 Books in a Year” group. I’ve been a bad participant though – haven’t updated the group and have barely even kept track of the books I have read. Here are the ones that I remember, in no particular order:

  1. Quiverfull (just finished this the other day, so it’s still on my mind)
  2. Find Your Strongest Life (eh)
  3. Making the Terrible Twos Terrific (pretty good)
  4. Becoming Orthodox (basic overview of Orthodoxy)
  5. Eastern Orthodox Christianity (excellent!)
  6. Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells (also excellent)
  7. Mere Christianity (some parts great, others dull)
  8. The Duggars: 20 and Counting (entertaining at times)
  9. Food Matters (very eye-opening and challenging)
  10. Skinny Bitch (terrible)
  11. Unconditional Parenting (rocked my socks off. Highly, highly recommend)
  12. Mitten Strings for God (really good book for mothers – will definitely re-read)
  13. Our Babies, Ourselves (amazing. will challenge your views on how we raise our babies)
  14. Raising Cain (liked it a lot)
  15. Feast of Faith (basic overview of Divine Liturgy)
  16. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (yes, a self-identified AP mother reading Ferber…he did give me some good ideas on things such as sleep associations, etc.)
  17. No-Cry Sleep Solution (pretty good ideas here)
  18. No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers
  19. Bringing Up Boys (terrible, do not recommend)
  20. The Continuum Concept (this books gets lots of praise in AP circles, but I found it hard to follow)
  21. Dead Man Walking (really challenged me)
  22. The Wet Nurse’s Tale (fun, beach-read type novel)

Still in progress:

  1. The Feminine Mystique

I’m not sure if there are any more. Twenty-two books really doesn’t seem like much, but keep in mind that this is what I’ve manage to read while mothering a young child and working part-time.