Saturday, January 05, 2008

Family Books

My reading has changed over the past 3 to 4 years. I've mostly always been a big reader, but being mommy to 3 little ones has cut down my pace considerably ... when I have a real chance to read, I generally want a nap :) Anyway, my reading has moved from pretty much strictly fiction into pretty much strictly non-fiction ... information about children, nutrition, homeschooling, marriage, Christianity.

For Christmas, I got a large quantity of books. I love new books. Several of them were cookbooks ... the new Nigella Lawson cookbook for example ... yay! I love Nigella :) I also received Cheap. Fast. Good! which looks like a great resource for cooking with small children on a budget. I probably received 7 or so books, and only one was fiction (the new Jan Karon [grin)

The books I'd like to specifically discuss today, however, are Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl and Refined to Real Food.

The Pearl's books are definitely controversial. I didn't like their parenting book very much, it was too much discipline (and scary discipline in places) and too little grace. Its over the top "my way is God's only way" is off-putting. Many of their theological views, including an age of accountability, are simply wrong, in my opinion. And their over-emphasis on minors is disturbing. That being said, their emphasis on consistent training, teaching, and discipline of children is refreshing (whether I believe the *way* that is accomplished is right or not). As I hope you can tell, I do *not* endorse To Train Up A Child, although I think a reader can take some good away from it and leave the chaff. I was mostly curious about reading Created to Be His Help Meet, not necessarily wishing to purchase it myself. My Mother-In-Law, not knowing my interest, purchased copies for herself, her daughter, and me for Christmas.

The caveats to the above hold true: their theology is not the same as mine, their view that "our way is God's way" is over-emphasized, and the sinfulness of women is overemphasized while the sinfulness of man is underemphasized (women are almost always in the wrong here). There are bright spots and the Lord certainly used this book to convict me on some things (Being more cheerful, feminine, and less grumbling in my general demeanor, etc.) There are some helpful sections on practicalities (planning, food preparation, etc.) that I want to go back and restudy. I do like the emphasis that sometimes it is better to be wronged and let it go than make a mountain out of a molehill. And, last but far from least, this book helped me to appreciate my husband even more than I did before. I am thankful that he wants my input when he's making a difficult decision, I'm thankful that he is ready and willing to help me when I ask if I'm specific, I'm thankful for how he loves and plays with our children, I'm thankful that my priorities line up with his, and I'm thankful that he is happy to delegate things to me and doesn't even desire to micromanage our home and everything that is done in it. It took me reading about men who are so very overbearing in their homes for me to be more thankful for the husband the Lord has chosen for me.

Do I recommend this book? It probably depends on several factors: who is asking, how grounded are they in their faith and the scriptures, how is their marriage, how susceptible are they to taking an all or nothing approach to a book like this, how easily offended are they. There is enough good here if you can discard the dross.

The other book I read since Christmas is very practical to me as the main provider of food for my family. This past fall, I tried, for the first time, bulk cooking. So far it has really been a huge success and time saver. There are a few recipes we haven't liked/won't make again, and I need to do better about planning ahead to get things out of the freezer, and my final complaint is holes in the freezer baggies which have made a mess, but in general it has saved us trips out to dinner and my sanity. Anyway, I hope to incorporate some of the new recipes into this plan ... and try to do this better at the same time.

I also want to make sure I'm providing the most nutritious foods I can for my family. One of the quotes in this book that I really appreciated is, "... you are not what you eat. You are what you eat, digest, and absorb." Nan Kathryn Fuchs. I found this book to be balanced, easy to understand, and helpful in transitioning to a whole foods diet. There are great charts in this book detailing what foods fit categories, how to buy and prepare them, and outlining transitional stages. There are tons of reference points including a large listing of web sites in the Appendices that I will want to bookmark. IMO, this book is a better introduction to Whole Foods than Nourishing Traditions; I found it less intimidating, accusatory, and conspiratorial than Nourishing Traditions, although the cookbook portion of Refined to Real Food is small and not very fleshed out. I also thought this book has a more balanced view on the "raw milk" issue which, even if I wanted to go there, isn't legally available in my state. Other than the dinky recipe section, my only real complaint is that though there is brief talk of portion sizes (specifically in regard to meat), there isn't any real emphasis on how much of what should be eaten by whom. Is the USRDA a helpful guide here? This is a book I will get a great deal of use out of in the coming years.


  1. Hey! you must've read my mind, b/c Trish sent me that book, too, and I was going to email you and see if you wanted to discuss it! (I told Karen L. about it, and lent her my copy, so I could get her thoughts, too.) I never read the Pearl's child-training book, mostly b/c I had heard similar criticisms to yours, and agreed that I wouldn't like it, but also b/c I tended to compare what I'm doing with others and get discouraged b/c I feel like I'm not measuring up. (maybe I shouldn't put that in past tense, but I find I've improved much as my firstborn has gotten older, and the second has come along, so maybe the pattern will continue if, Lord willing, we are blessed with any more children.) on the consistent training thought, though, I am agree, b/c on the occasions when our kids are left with someone else, we almost always get positive comments about their behavior, etc. That is not to say that the kids or we parents are perfect,BY ANY MEANS, but that the sometimes frustrating, discouraging, and tedious times of explaining and disciplining for the same things over and over seem to be paying off. okay, this is getting too long, and I haven't even gotten to the point yet, so I'll stop here and make another, separate post.
    Michelle (I'm having trouble signing in, so I have to be "anonymous".

  2. Okay--hope you don't mind my rambling, but this has been on my mind a lot. it was very timely for Trish to send me that book, b/c, as you know, 2007 was very trying for us (partly why I was so relatively reticent when we first moved back.) The good about that book gave me a well-deserved kick in the behind, so to speak, but I pretty much agree with everything you have to say about it. Some of the (good) stuff she said I had been told before (even from my husband), and I hadn't wanted to hear it, but as she backed it up with specific scripture, I was very much convicted. wherever she injected personal opinion, however, I tended to disagree. I think she has a very strong personality, and would be able to stand up under such mean, overbearing husbands, but some women, who have very different, *God-given* personalities, may need to do things differently (as in "my way is God's only way" is not right!) There are also a couple of other things you didn't mention that I wonder about, though. As she says, we are created to be a help meet, and a support, to our husbands, and not their consciences, does that not mean there are times we should call attention, respectfully, to some things he might be doing that are sinful, even if they are not to the extreme of her examples (i.e. illegal or blatantly abusive)? I would think perhaps, but I don't know. Also, I strongly disagree that women should not develop close relationships with other women. Of course it can be taken to an extreme, as she suggests, or we can tend to gossip or complain about our husbands, but there are good examples of female fellowship in the Bible (e.g. Mary and Elizabeth, maybe even Titus 2).
    Also, every Godly, wise, older woman I know has told me that you shouldn't expect your husband to meet all your emotional needs, and having at least a few close, woman friends is good for you, and may give you some perspective. what do you think? okay, I'm done rambling!

  3. So, are you ready to let me borrow those two book? :) I really like the Nourishing Traditions book & we have been implementing a lot of it- I'm itching to read the one you recommended. GREAT review!
    - Heather

  4. I've seen several people mention about not having women friends, and just don't remember that. Maybe I skimmed it. Obviously, I agree with you! What you said about your husband telling you things and not wanting to believe it also resonates with me. I would tend to follow Martha Peace's (An Excellent Wife) instruction regarding correcting or rebuking a husband who is behaving sinfully rather than the Pearls'. I was trying to get at that when I mentioned how thankful I am for Jason and his desire for my opinion ... imagine only questioning my husband's choice 3-4 times in 35 years! That simply doesn't seem like a great relationship to me.

    LOL at Heather ... I almost wrote at the bottom of the post, "Yes, Heather, you can borrow them." I really think I liked this book better than NT, in the long run.

  5. thanks for the input. You know, I found An Excellent Wife a little hard to read, too, but mostly b/c it was so convicting. I think Mrs. Peace was a little harsh at times, but in general, stayed true to scripture and less with opinions. btw, I didn't mean to sound like I thought childrearing was always "frustrating, discouraging, and tedious", or even all parts of it, but the times when it is really makes me wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I wonder if this whole process of being a mother is what is referred to in 1 Timothy 2:15 ("but the woman shall be saved through childbearing . . ."). maybe I'm finally getting the idea of sanctification? Not that our children are our salvation, but through loving, teaching, caring for them, we are learning to die to self, etc. Or am I completely off track here?

    I'm not familiar with those other two books, but it sounds like they're talking about getting away from processed foods, and stuff like that? I try to feed my family healthily, but (especially being trained as an RN, you'd think) I could do a lot better than I do! okay, I'm done this time. really I am!

  6. I got 3 Georgette Heyer novels for Christmas =] I am a slacker!!


  7. Not a slacker, I just have lost a lot of taste for fiction recently [shrug]

    Maybe when I start sorting through my mom's large collection of Georgette Heyer books, I'll try some of those. I've never read her! They're all in the basement boxed away.

  8. I also enjoyed your book reviews. Refined Foods to Whole Foods sounds like a book I'd like to read. I do use my book, Nourishing Traditions often and would love to have more books on the subject of whole food nutrition. Created to be Your Help Meet is a book that I read during a difficult trial. I remember that it encouraged me at the time in my marriage and in my relationship with God. The marriages described in the book caused me to be especially thankful for the husband God gave me and to reflect on my attitude of submissiveness towards him or lack of it. I agree that the Pearls are a bit extreme. I have not read any of their child training books. I have my favorites that I like to stick with. I do not remember the part about not having good fellowship with other women. It should not overcome our lives but sharing life together as families is a blessing. God gave us our families and brothers and sisters in Christ to be a blessing to one another.


  9. Hi. Michelle sent me here to get a good review of the help meet book. In the process of reading that, I ran across your comment about how raising children is what is refining us and "sanctifying" us. I HAD to comment because I just told my husband almost that same thing this week! It has been a major revelation to me, too. I don't think you're too far off track. The comment I made to my husband was regarding children being called a "blessing" in the Bible. We usually think of blessings as riches or good, easy things handed to us. I'm not sure this is always what the Bible means. Sometimes a blessing can be a new "fruit" (of the Spirit) God gives us. And how does He give us those? It's often through trials. So I began looking at the whole kids being a blessing thing through that light. Sometimes, in the middle of mothering 4 kids between 6 yrs and 13 yrs, it makes much more sense this way. (smile) You're not alone on that thought.


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