Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poetry Wednesday

I'm on my way back from Christmas celebration with my mom's family in Tennessee. It's quite an event. At highest count on Saturday night, there were 36 of us. Three had to leave Sunday morning, which left 33 sleeping in two houses. Fortunately, 10 of those were children between 8 months and 11years old, so they didn't take much space.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology - namely my new iPhone and GoogleDocs - I can share a poem with you this Wednesday after Christmas and before the New Year. (Although it didn't work quite the way I wanted, so I had to fix it after I got home to my laptop.)

Behold I Stand
Gerard Kelly

When the night is deep
With the sense of Christmas
And expectancy hangs heavy
On every breath,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.

When the floor is knee deep
In discarded wrapping paper
And the new books are open at page one
And the new toys are already broken,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.

When the family is squashed
Elbow to elbow
Around the table
And the furious rush for food is over
And the only word that can describe the feeling
Is full,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.

And when Christmas is over
And the television is silent
For the first time in two days
And who sent which card to whom
Is forgotten until next year,
Behold, I stand at the door.

Here are the other selections for Poetry Wednesday.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Leichtys!
Here are my children looking their best on the Sunday before Christmas.
If you'd like a glimpse of real life at my house, feel free to browse our Picasa Web Album of the children playing around in our living room with my camera - of course.
Here's just a sampling:
Isaac running

Anna with an attitude

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birthday Girl


Anna plays with Kaylee, a little girl we babysit

I am now the mother of two children with double-digit ages. It's hard to believe that my oldest daughter today is now ten years old.

Sweet Anna greatly enjoyed her birthday celebration yesterday. Anna is easy to have around, be around, and is ever so helpful. She's quiet, not complaining much - but when she mentions she wants something, she has her quiet little heart set upon it. She is also, in her quiet way, a serious competitor - something I just learned this year.

We are blessed to have Anna in our family. Happy Birthday Anna!

Today is also poetry Wednesday, something in which I never, ever thought I would willingly and joyfully participate.

This poem comes from a book of Christmas poetry I picked up compulsively several years ago, thinking I would read it to my children.

Then life happens.

I've finally cracked open the book this Christmas season, wondering if I could find some poems to share here on my blog for poetry Wednesday. Today's selection, as well as the selections for the next two weeks come from this book, The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Poems.

U.A. Fanthorpe

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

Click here to see other "Poetry Wednesday" selections.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ad Nauseam

I thought the title of this book sounded intriguing: Ad Nauseam: A Survior's Guide to American Consumer Culture.

Apparently it's a compilation of content from a magazine called Stay Free!, which started as a music magazine, but has morphed into a satirical critique of, you guessed it, America's consumer culture.

I found most of the book interesting - especially the part about how children view commercials. However, after reading several hundred pages about advertising, our consumer culture and the latest techniques advertising agencies are using to get inside consumers' heads, I had to put it down. I felt like the book was continuing on and on and on, ad nauseum (ha!).

The last couple of sections of the book I just skimmed or skipped. Overall, I found the book interesting, but a bit overwhelming. I can see how digesting culture critique in a magazine form is much more palatable, than in book form.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Green Goes with Everything

I gave a friend a copy of this book, Sloane Barnett's Green Goes With Everything. A few weeks later, she told me she could only read it in small doses because she found it so alarming.

After I read it I understood what she meant. I knew most of this information in this book from various other resources, but reading it all together in one location can be overwhelming.

However it's information everyone needs to know, and Green Goes With Everything is worth the read.

I really like the way Barnett writes in this book. She's a news correspondent, and I can tell. She has an easy-to-read writing style - very practical, with lots of pop-out boxes of information you can look over easily. This would be an easy book to read in snatches of time - waiting in line at the post office or in the car for the children after school or the like.

In the interest of full disclosure, Sloane Barnett is the wife of Roger Barnett, the owner of Shaklee Corporation. She doesn't try to hide that fact - and addresses it in the introduction. The interesting thing is that this book is not a sales book for Shaklee. She mentions their products periodically throughout the book, but nothing like I expected.

Instead, she gives lots of research as to what goes into the cleaners available at the stores... and several different alternatives, including Shaklee's.

If you're wondering what the big deal is about non-toxic cleaners, and are convinced that your laundry detergent is "just fine, thank you," or love to put those plug-in fragrances all around your home, I'd encourage you to read this book. It will certainly give you something to think about.

I have an extra copy of this book I would like to give away to someone. So here's the deal - become a fan of my business, Healthy Homes, on facebook to enter a drawing. I'll have one of my kids draw names during the second week of January and send the winner the book.

That way you'll have all the information you need to get started on your New Year's Resolution to keep your house cleaner in 2010! (picture me grinning)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Help! Around the House

I am almost shivering in anticipation. I checked out a huge stack of books to read over the holidays. All of them are purely for pleasure... none business related. I can't wait!

However, I must finish writing about the books I've read already this fall. One of them is Help! Around the House by Don Aslett.

Aslett bills himself as America's #1 cleaning expert. He is certainly a hard worker and a prolific writer. I've read several of his books and it's amazing how excited he is about cleaning and finding the best, quickest and easiest way to clean.

He almost makes me want to clean. Almost.

Several years ago, I read his books and got on his e-mail list. At some point he sent me a survey to fill out. The topic was how to manage clutter and get kids to help around the house. The incentive was that if he quoted me in the book he was writing, then I'd get a free copy.

Well, I always have opinions on managing clutter and getting kids to help, so I filled it out, sent it in, and promptly forgot about it.

Some time later, I got my own signed copy of Help! Around the House in the mail. How fun! My name is mentioned in the credits, but do NOT ask me to find my quote. I paged through it then and couldn't figure it out. And now, many years later, I've finally read the book and still can't figure it out.

No matter what my quote was, the book itself is good. Aslett is a very engaging, easy-to-read author with a ton of practical hints, tips and ideas. The thing I like about this book is the many, many quotes from real moms with ideas they use. I also like that he doesn't hold up one system as the system to follow, but instead encourages us to find what works for your family.

I can't help but encourage families with children to choose non-toxic cleaners for your home. There are oh-so-many reasons to do so, which I won't go into right now. It's very important for the health and safety of your children. If you're concerned about costly or ineffective non-toxic cleaners, let me recommend Shaklee's cleaners. They work, are cost-effective and are safe. I grew up using them, and so are my children.

If you're a mom, or a dad, who would like to have a cleaner house, would like to have your children's help in getting the house clean, I'd recommend reading this book. You'll enjoy it, get some good ideas and even laugh out loud. I did!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bringing Up Boys

I first read Dr. Dobson's Bringing Up Boys when my oldest son was small - not quite ten years ago. I didn't remember much about it, except learning to allow my boys to play guns, be loud, and run a lot. That information was helpful as my boys went through the toddler, preschool and elementary school stages.

Now that my oldest is in junior high, I felt I needed a re-read of this classic.

It was a good reminder of the previous lessons learned - keep my boys active, allow them to be loud, send them outside as much as possible.

But this time, the thing that resonated with me the most was the idea of feeling isolated as a parent. For those who know me, I am not isolated. I have good friends, near and far, and a supportive family, both in my hometown and out. Then why do I still feel isolated?

Dr. Dobson quotes an essay by Ellen Goodman which, I think, nails it perfectly. It's too long to quote here, but you can find it on page 202 of the edition pictured here. It's worth a read - even if you just read it in the aisle of the local bookstore.

In it, Goodman talks about (in Dr. Dobson's words) "this battle to protect children from the harmful influences of our day."

Goodman says, "it occurs to me now that the call for "parental responsibility" is increasing in direct proportion to the irresponsibility of the marketplace. Parents are expected to protect their children from an increasingly hostile environment."

I cannot count the times I've had this conversation with other parents, shocked over the stories we hear on the news. "Kids these days," one of us says. Another says, "No, it's the parents. Parents have the responsibility."

Yes, we do. I agree. However, protecting our children in today's world is exponentially harder than it was for my parents when I was a child. As Goodman says, "Americans were once expected to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition."

And then, in Christian circles, we have debates over 'sheltering' our children from the dominant culture. So-and-so shelters their children too much. Such-and-such family allows their children too much freedom and doesn't shelter them enough. So much judging of each other instead of supporting and encouraging each other in an increasingly hostile world.

This whole discussion is not the focus of Bringing Up Boys, but one for which I obviously needed some clarity. It's especially important in raising our boys because of the wide variety of unhealthy, violent or just plain - dare I say it? - stupid role models for our boys today (what sit-com today doesn't spend most of its time poking fun at men?).

I am very careful what kind of TV my boys watch, video games my boys play, and encourage them to spend time with their dad, grandfathers and other men who I see are real men. Men who know being a man involves responsibility, hard work, caring for others, treating women with respect and gentleness. Bringing Up Boys gave me the vision for starting down this path, and reading it again has helped me to refocus on it again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing worldly minded,
For with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords in human nature,
In the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful,
His own self for heavenly food.

At His feet the six-winged seraph;
Cherubim with watchful eye,
Veil their faces to His Presence,
As with ceasless voice they cry,
"Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord most high!"

Thursday, December 10, 2009


My sister-in-law and her friends are participating in 'Poetry Wednesday' on their blogs, offering up cerebral offerings from e.e. cummings, Walt Whitman and the like.

I have to admit that I have never been a poetry reader. I took a poetry class in college, and spent most of the semester befuddled at what we were discussing - managing to squeak out a 'B' at which I am still confused.

I've not read poetry until I started teaching my children at home. We started with such simple things as Mother Goose, Eric Carle's Animals, Animals and the like.

While I am not the poetry connoisseur that Molly and her friends are, I offer up my simple selection (and yes, I am a day late, but 'better late than never!').

This is from a delightful little poetry book I am reading through with my older two children all the small poems and fourteen more by Valerie Worth. I enjoyed reading this poem out loud and hearing the sounds it made.


Which to prefer?
Hard leather heels,
Their blocks carved
Thick, like rocks,
Clacked down
Waxed wood stairs.

Or the pale soles
Of sneakers,
Worn smooth, soft
As mushroom caps,
Supple upon warm
Summer pavements?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Crazy Love

I have a stack of books for which I intend to write reviews. Literally - they're on top of my dresser, just waiting for me to find the time to sit down at the computer and write about them. Somehow, with Thanksgiving happening and Christmas coming oh, so soon! I've neglected my blogging. Now, I have almost too much to talk about, so I procrastinate. (Something I learned from my dear husband.)

But then I picked up Crazy Love; Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan from the library. It was exactly what I needed to read to get my focus back. As we read this morning in our devotions from Matthew 6:
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.

My 'eyes' had been bad - coloring my perspective on life with a dullness of 'making it through' rather than 'enjoying the moments.' Wondering 'how' and 'why' and, dare I admit it, 'what's in it for me?' instead of thankfulness, gratitude and wondering at the fact that God loves me - no matter what.

In Crazy Love, Chan focuses on God and on his 'crazy love' for you and for me. He reminds us of the majesty, wonder-ness and awesome-ness of God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And of how much He, the Holy God, loves you and me.

Then Chan turns his attention to our response - or lack-thereof - in the church today. He advocates a passionate response to God, one that makes most church-goers (including myself) a bit uneasy. He profiles the lukewarm Christian today and encourages Christians today to be obsessed with Jesus and following Him.

It may sound like reading this book could make you feel guilty for what you are, or are not, doing in your life. And to some extent, that's true. But Chan ends his book with this:
My hope and prayer is that you finish this book with hope, believing that part of your responsibility in the body of Christ is to help set the pace for the church by listening and obeying and living Christ. ... [Y]ou simply need to live out in your daily life the love and obedience that God has asked of you.

A breath of fresh air - and a great reminder to readjust my focus so my eyes see this life properly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Protect Your Child's Teeth

Recently the children and I went to the dentist’s office for our six-month teeth cleaning. (I didn’t take a picture of them there – but most of them are showing their ‘pearly whites’ in this picture.)

I have to say, I can’t remember being so excited to visit the dentist when I was a kid. My children looked forward to our appointments all week!

I sat in the reception room, waiting my turn while my children ‘visited’ each other as they had their teeth cleaned. (Did I mention how much we enjoy our dentist?) While I waited, I noticed a bulletin board with information about xylitol.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, except that I’ve heard a lot about xylitol recently and was interested that my dentist was promoting it.

Something I found quite interesting is that xylitol was first extensively in Finland during World War II. They were facing serious sugar shortages, so they took wood sugar from their birch & beech trees and converted it to xylitol (which literally means “wood sugar”).

After the war, Finnish dentists realized the children using xylitol during the war had exceptionally strong, healthy teeth. So, they started researching xylitol, and using it especially in their chewing gum.

Since then, researchers have discovered that xylitol ‘starves’ the damaging bacteria in your mouth which causes cavities… leading to healthier teeth. But that’s not its only benefit.

Xylitol is also a great low-calorie sugar substitute for diabetics because it doesn’t mess with glucose levels.

And researchers are looking into the possible benefits of xylitol in preventing osteoporosis and ear infections.

Of course, Shaklee scientists are keeping current with all this research, and Shaklee’s chewable children’s vitamins, Ocean Wonders, have had xylitol as a natural sweetener for years.

Incredivites, Shaklee’s newest children’s chewable, contains even more xylitol than Ocean Wonders, plus added Vitamin D and lactoferrin, both of which help support your child’s immune system.

And with winter officially arriving next month, Incredivites or Ocean Wonders are a smart investment in your child’s health.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

This year, my older two children and I are studying the Eastern Hemisphere in school. I was very excited to finally start this year's curriculum - I'd been looking forward to studying the Eastern Hemisphere since I first decided on using Sonight curriculum in our homeschool six years ago.

We've already studied Australia, Antarctica, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and Japan - now we're working on China. The books that Nathaniel and Anna read on their own for Language Arts incorporate the same countries we're studying in History.

I used to read all the books, but with four students at home now I don't have time to read every single one. The older two know this, and so Anna made a special point to bring me Sadako and the Thousand Cranes when she had finished reading it a couple of weeks ago and told me to read it.

"It's really good, Mom," she said. "You need to read it."

I found it last week when I was cleaning off the kitchen counter, and thought I'd take some time to sit down and read it. It's a thin book, written for upper elementary students, so it's a quick and easy read. I think it took me about an hour at most.

And Anna was right. It is a very good book. She asked me today if I had read it and I said that I had.

"Did you like it?"

"Oh yes, I did. In fact, it made me a little teary."

Anna nodded sagely. I think she felt the same way after she finished it.

Sadako is based on the true story of a little girl in Japan who was a baby in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb exploded. Her family thought they had escaped the dreaded 'bomb sickness', until Sadako was sent home after a bad dizzy spell at school. Her best friend tells her that the gods will grant her wish to get well if she makes 1,000 paper cranes, so she decides to do it.

It is very thoughtfully and gently written, so I believe most older elementary students will enjoy reading or listening to it. However, if your child is especially sensitive, I'd suggest reading it first so you can decide if s/he is old enough to handle it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Get Motivated

I have to admit, I'm a skeptic when it comes to motivational books. I've read quite a few, and it seems like they all say the same thing, just in a different way. Plus, most of the techniques feel very 'new-age' to me, and in reality some are.

Last month, my friend went to a motivational seminar produced by Tamara Lowe, the author of Get Motivated. I think she knew I am skeptical of those types of events, because we didn't talk about it much. However, our mutual friend filled me in when we were talking about my experience at the Shaklee national convention.

She told me about Lowe's book, Get Motivated, and the motivational DNA test you could take on her website. I was intrigued - mainly because I thought something must be wrong with me.

Why would I think that? Because the most valuable part of the national convention for me was reconnecting with people with whom I mostly interact on the phone. Otherwise, the focus on making the 'big money' in Shaklee during the convention meetings made me uneasy and uncomfortable. I was left wondering why I had taken the time, and money, to attend. (After sitting back and thinking objectively about what I had heard at convention, I realized that if someone is motivated by money and performance, that person could make a lot of money with Shaklee. It's amazing, really, but not motivating to me.)

During our discussion, she mentioned it sounded like I am motivated by relationships, and said a few words about what she had learned from reading Lowe's book. I immediately got online and requested it through inter-library loan.

Lowe's personal story is quite amazing, and her drive is impressive. I almost hate admitting that I enjoyed reading this book. Her idea of Motivational DNA is a new one to me, and it makes sense. I discovered my Motivational DNA is CSI (not like the TV show, but Connection, Stability and Internal). DNA, by the way, stands for Drives, Needs and Awards. Yes, a bit cutesy, but it is memorable.

I was looking forward to reading the section about motivating children, but after I read it I felt a little let-down. It was a very, very quick overview - mostly anecdotal of her relationship with her oldest son - of childhood stages. She mostly recommended reading certain authors for a better understanding of parenting techniques. They are authors I enjoy reading, for the most part, but I was hoping for a little more direction from Lowe about applying her theories.

Overall, if you're wondering why you're having problems getting motivated, or trying to figure out how to motivate employees or children, I'd suggest reading this book. It might even be worth purchasing, so you can have her run-downs of each motivational type.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Missed Opportunities

I missed an opportunity yesterday afternoon to take my Sunday afternoon nap. Actually, I made the choice to miss it - it was a beautiful afternoon and the sun sets so early these days. I figure it was the last beautiful day I'll see until probably April, so I wanted to take advantage of it.

Instead, I chose to sit outside for a few minutes and chat with my friend who stopped by to drop something off after church.

Then, I chose to take the boys to the forest preserve for an hour or so. I was planning on a hike, but then the girls decided not to come. The boys were dying for some time at a place they dubbed "Frog Falls" in a part of the preserve we normally do not frequent.

And I missed my opportunity to take pictures. I saw the camera on the counter, and decided not to take it.


Camera or not, I will forever remember my boys, eleven and six years old respectively, tromping alongside the creek with their sticks looking for frogs. Enjoying each other and enjoying the beautiful weather. Isaac, tromping through the woods, and coming out full of little sticky seeds all over his clothing. Then promptly stepping in the creek up to his ankles, and begging me please, can we stay? because it was an accident Mom!

Nathaniel, laying on a rock, diligently clearing leaves out of the waterfall so it will sound pretty Mom, and then realizing his actions always have consequences I didn't realize the water would start flowing so well, then ruin the little pond of still water where the frogs like to stay. Do you think they'll find a new place to hang out Mom?

I sat in my chair, soaking in the sun, reading my book between watching my boys be boys.

And you know what? I'm glad I missed my Sunday afternoon nap.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


This book turned out to be nothing like I thought it would. The title, Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family From Disasters, implies a sort of self-help book, helping you prepare for such disasters as you may face in your part of the country.

The book is far more interesting than that. It does have information on what supplies to have on hand - but that information is in the appendix.

Apparently, I didn't pay enough attention to the Hurricane Katrina coverage, or I would have been familiar with the author, Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré. He became the 'face' of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Apparently, he was all over the news. He explains his official role and job title in the book.

Survival is more like Honoré's autobiography - with "Lessons Learned" at the end of each chapter. He is certainly confident in who he is, if perhaps a bit egotistical. But, he makes some interesting, and good, points, even if I don't necessarily agree with all of his "Lessons Learned."

There are several things I appreciate about this book. First, for a military newbie, he has a semi-understandable explanation of the difference between the National Guard and the Army. He mentions the Posse Comitatus Act several times, which limits what the Army can do on US soil. I point that out, because when I was watching season seven of 24, one of the characters mentions it, and I knew what he was talking about - which I wouldn't have if I hadn't been reading this book. The complicated structure of command is still a bit confusing for non-military people, but I have a better understanding of the difference.

Second, Honoré continually stresses a culture of self-reliance and preparedness. Preparing my family for disaster is my job, not my government's job. Preparing the community for disaster is the job of local government officials, not the federal government. Honoré makes this point when he describes touring southwest Louisiana with President Bush after Hurricane Rita.
"It was obvious from [the local mayors] conversation with [Bush] that they were expecting miracles from the federal government. He wasn't responsible for not having enough gasoline or generators or high-water vehicles. He wasn't responsible for their lack of planning." (pg 188)
Third, Honoré advocates a culture of planning ahead for disasters, instead of scrambling to respond to them.
"The present disaster response system is based on the "pull" model of operations. An event happens, local authorities ask for help, and that help is pulled into the area. We have to base our response more on the "push" model. If we see an event about to occur we push resources into the area ahead of it. ... It's a basic concept of good planning and preparation." (pg 195)
Honoré admits this costs more money, but if this model had been followed, Hurricane Katrina wouldn't have been so devastating to New Orleans. It is especially ludicrous that experts knew what kind of devastation a hurricane could bring to New Orleans, but local officials didn't prepare for it. A great many people have suffered because of their own lack of planning, and that of their local government.

It reminds me of the difference between 'responding' and 'reacting.' What we saw with Hurricane Katrina was a 'reaction' to a disaster, instead of a 'response' - at all levels. A response is more planned, less emotional. A reaction is quick, chaotic and emotional. I prefer to respond to people and circumstances, rather than react to them. So I could relate quite well to Honoré's points in his book.

I also realized that Glen and I have some work to do to make sure that our family is prepared for disasters we might face here in the Midwest. Thanks to Honoré's clear outline in Appendix 5, we have a good starting point.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fall Days

We are serious about reading at our house!


Our neighborhood is not the best for trick-or-treating. Not many kids and the neighbors are far apart. For this reason, and a few others, we choose to take homemade treats to our immediate neighbors at Halloween. The children dress up in whatever costumes they can find around the house, and we go to four houses, carrying our cupcakes. They still get lots of candy from those four houses - and then we all go to Chuck E. Cheese for our annual outing there.

Isaac as a 'sheriff', Lydia as Mulan, Anna as Little Bo Peep, and Nathaniel - um, as himself.


This week, the older two have gotten into making "Homework Forts" in the living room during school.
They crawl in them and work on their school work while I read to the younger two.
Sometimes, I read to the younger two as they 'hide' in the forts with their siblings.
Today, I read to the older two while they 'hid' in their forts.

I love teaching my kids at home!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adventures at Home

Honestly, I do have a ton of books to blog about. I was, in fact, going to blog about one today, but then Nathaniel, Anna and I made dinner.

It may look just like a dish we've dubbed in our house 'The Great Rice-Mix Up" - basically rice with a meat and a veggie. But it's not that dish.

We made an Americanized version of a Korean dish - Kimchi Fried Rice. We're studying Korea this week in school, and this was the project that both Anna and Nathaniel decided they wanted to do.

"Great!" I thought. "Automatic eager helpers for dinner prep!"

And they were. I didn't think to take pictures of Nathaniel browning the ground beef (decidedly un-Korean), or Anna stirring in the ground beef to the rice, onion, garlic and kimchi. So you'll have to take my word for it.

I am blessed to have a cousin married to a Korean, and doubly blessed that they live nearby. So, Tuesday night we visited them and she generously shared her kimchi, so I wouldn't have to buy five pounds of it at the Korean market (which isn't local) and her sesame oil.

When the dish was ready, I thought we had made entirely too much, so called my parents in a panic, "Come over for Kimchi Fried Rice!" But they were at Wendy's getting burgers. Decidedly American.

Well, the dish was a hit! Anna gave it a thumbs up, Isaac said it was 'just OK' (thus the sideways thumb), and Nathaniel's reaction was a clean plate, which is even better than a thumbs up. (Lydia still had to finish her soup from lunch, so she's getting some leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Still waiting on Dad to come home and try it - but he wasn't too thrilled with the idea when I told him what was for dinner.)

I have to admit, it was good. I probably didn't add as much kimchi as I should have, but I added most of what I had. And, as long as none of the Kimchi Fried Rice goes to waste, I'm happy.

Mom did say she'd take leftovers...
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The pieces are put together (almost completely - just a few things on the tower to finish).

The swings and assorted playthings are hung (except for the tire swing and the button swing).

The children are enjoying their new-to-them playset!

Isaac asked me on Sunday, "Mom, is this an old playset?"

I am so thankful how God provides in amazing ways - even the manpower to get it put back together again! Thanks to Mark, John and Bob who gave up their Saturday morning this past Saturday to help Glen and Nathaniel put this gi-normous playset back together.

It's made my house more peaceful, in a very good way.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Morton Arboretum Adventure

We rushed through schoolwork this morning so we could have time for an Adventure - a fancy, more exciting name for field trips (thanks Aunt Carrie!).

Today, we went to the Morton Arboretum, courtesy of the museum passes from the library. My mom joined us, and as we walked in, she reminisced about the last time we were there - one Mother's Day when I was a child. She called it her most favorite Mother's Day ever.

It wasn't until we had been through the maze and were almost through the entire Children's Garden that I admited that particular Mother's Day I remembered as long, hot, tiring and oh, so boring. We laughed, and marveled at the fun my kids were having.

And they were having fun! We didn't have time to pull out our sketchbooks to draw what we were seeing, but they spent almost an hour drawing after we got home.

The maze and Children's Garden were great, and we all really enjoyed seeing the Animal Houses exhibit. Isaac's standing in front of the Pollywog Pond, created by an artist from good ol' Wauconda. They had 10 other 'houses' on exhibit - all interactive and great fun for the kids. Mom and I marveled at the creativity and work put into each of them.

The Animal Houses exhibit is only there until November 15th - so go soon!
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Murder of King Tut

I would dearly love to get my father's opinion of this book - James Patterson's The Murder of King Tut. My dad is a former junior high history teacher and an amateur Egyptologist.

So, I'd love to know what he thinks of Patterson's theories and ideas about the death of King Tut. I'm not sure what to think.

This is a non-fiction work by Patterson, a best-selling mystery writer. I don't recall reading any of Patterson's fiction, but may have many moons ago when I was single, working nights and reading lots more. (Yes, there was a time when I read more.)

In The Murder of King Tut, Patterson writes a story based on lots of research done mostly by Martin Dugard, who gets credit as his co-author. He weaves three stories into one - his theories about what happened in ancient Egypt, Howard Carter's famous life's search for a missing grave (which ended up being Tut's), and his own experience in researching and writing the book.

Generally, it's easy to follow, except when it comes to the ancient Egypt part. I would have appreciated a short genealogy and/or character list in the front of the book, so I could keep track of the ancient pharaohs whose names look so similar. I am somewhat familiar with Egyptian history, with my dad's intense interest in it and having taught it to my kids twice over in our home school, but I still felt confused as to exactly which pharaoh was which.

Overall, this book is easy to read, fairly easy to follow, and with interesting theories to ponder.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Culture of Corruption

My husband enjoys politics. He could talk politics all the live-long day, if he had an interested and participating person. I, unfortunately, am not that person. Quite frankly, politics bore me. Which is really quite ironic, considering I interned in my state capitol for a semester when I was in high school. Being a page during the annual fall veto session of my state legislature probably killed what little interest I had in politics.

Which makes me quite surprised that I actually picked up this book, and even more surprised that I not only started, but finished it. I probably did because even a non-politico like me has to start getting involved in state and national politics. We in Illinois have the dubious distinction of sending one former governor to jail, and impeaching a sitting governor. Corruption is so ingrained in Illinois politics, it's hard to believe that anyone who has been involved in politics in the past 15 or so years in this grand ol' state is immune.

And considering that our current president is most recently from this grand ol' state of mine... well, you can connect the dots.

Michelle Maulkin connects the dots of corruption and 'pay-to-play' quite well in her book Culture of Corruption. This book is well-researched, well-documented, and should shock anyone lethargic about politics into action.

I will say that reading this book made me realize I am more of a big picture person than a detailed person. I completely got lost in the details of who got the job for this person, who in turn used their influence to acquire state contracts for that first person - or even more convoluted than that.

I did figure out that the big picture of Culture of Corruption is that Obama says one thing, and does quite another. As my parents always said, "Actions speak louder than words." And the actions of the current administration are quite sickening.

Let me point out that Maulkin is quite critical of the former administration too. "Pay-to-play" is not limited to the Obama administration - it's just much more prevalent and/or obvious this time around.

If you're politically lethargic like me (I want to point out that I do vote), this book will force you to pay more attention to those in power, no matter their political affiliation.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

5 Reasons to Trust Shaklee

Trust is a scarce commodity these days.

I was thinking about it because of a book I finished last night. The overall theme was that we cannot trust our government (I know - big news!).

Then with the banking & mortgage crisis, housing crisis – and remembering the Enron crisis and the ‘you-name-it’ crisis – it seems like there’s not a lot of places to put our trust these days. Especially when it comes to our money.

It’s not surprising that consumers are leery – wondering what companies they can trust, if any.

I’d like to propose that there is at least one company you can trust – Shaklee. I’ve been using Shaklee products for the better part of 30 years (my mom started me young). I didn’t really understand what a great company Shaklee is until I started investigating it as an adult.

Why should you trust Shaklee?

1. Shaklee is committed to quality. They conduct thousands of quality-control tests on their products every year. And they frequently double-check their results with independent laboratory tests.

2. Shaklee walks their talk. For over 50 years, Shaklee’s been committed to environmental stewardship – and not just making products ‘in harmony with nature’ (which they do). Shaklee’s headquarters uses the latest green technologies, and Shaklee is the first company to be certified climate-neutral, a certification it achieved in 2000. You can see Shaklee’s environmental stewardship history here.

3. Shaklee guarantees their products. Not just in word, but in deed. No company is perfect, and not every product fits every person. But you have no need to worry about wasting your money on any Shaklee product. If you don’t like something, Shaklee will give you your money back. With a smile – and without the third-degree.

  1. Shaklee’s products work. And not just because a university in Montana (or somewhere else) tested the efficacy of vitamin-C. Shaklee tests their specific vitamin-C product to make sure it’s getting into the bloodstream, where your cells can pick it up and actually use it. Then, they submit those tests to peer-review journals (read: scrutiny by many other scientists, not pay-to-publish). You can find all the references to studies published by Shaklee scientists at the end of Shaklee’s Product Guide.

5. Customers who start on Shaklee stay with Shaklee. Countless people have changed brands to Shaklee, and are still with Shaklee. The average customer has been using Shaklee for between 20 and 30 years. You don’t get that kind of customer loyalty without doing something right… OK, doing a lot of things right.

The beauty of it is that all you need to do is change brands. Most people know Shaklee as a ‘vitamin company’ or the ‘safe cleaner company.’ Shaklee is also a ‘safe weight loss,’ safe skincare,’ ‘safe make-up,’ ‘safe personal care products’ and ‘safe drinking water’ company. Products you buy every day at your local store, you can switch to Shaklee and have high-quality, safe products delivered directly to your door.

Changing brands can change your life. It has changed the lives of thousands of others. I think it’s worth the risk.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

For the past two years, Anna has been longing, longing, longing to be a part of the Mother-Daughter book club at the library. It is for girls in 4th through 6th grade. She's been waiting and waiting and now, tonight, will be her first opportunity to participate.

She is beyond excited.

And I, her mother, almost forgot to sign us up.

That would have been very bad. Fortunately, I did remember, so the library gave us a copy of the book we're discussing this month - Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, by Lauren Tarshis.

I'm always a little leery of book club books. I don't know why. I guess I'm a little nervous because I'm not familiar with the title, the author, or the plot.

Anna read it first and was so excited when a character in the book called Emma-Jean "Nancy freakin' Drew" because she knew that literary reference. When she was done, she told me I would really like the book.

I picked up the book yesterday afternoon, since I almost forgot that I had to read it too, in order to participate in the Mother-Daughter book club.

I discovered it is absolutely delightful! (I was tempted to use italics in that sentence too, but decided I've really already overused them.)

Tarshis does a wonderful job in this book. At first I thought it was going to be all from Emma-Jean's perspective, but there are a few chapters from Connie's perspective (a 7th-grade classmate of Emma-Jean's). The change in voice is complete, and the drama makes me giggle. Emma-Jean's helpful solutions to her classmates' problems are... well, logical if not a tad bit unethical (which she realizes toward the end of the book).

I think my absolute favorite part is the letter Emma-Jean writes to the mother of the man who rents their 3rd-floor apartment. I laughed out loud when I read it.

All in all, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree is a great book for any 4th grader on up to read. Probably girls would like it a bit more than boys, since the main characters are girls. But boys could appreciate the logic with which Emma-Jean approaches life and relationships.

I also think this book gave me a little insight as to how to interact with my younger daughter, who is probably a bit like Connie. Bonus!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Downtown Chic

I have this stereotype of the decorating gurus. You know - single, or married with no kids, unrealistic expectations of how a home is used. The kind with houses that are always showcase, picture perfect because there are no children around to mess them up... or if they have a child or two, everyone's gone all day long, so there's no time to mess it up.

My stereotype was completely blown out of the water when I read Downtown Chic: Designing Your Dream Home: From Wreck to Ravishing by Robert & Cortney Novogratz with Elizabeth Novogratz.

This couple, Robert & Cortney, are really down-to-earth people with an awesome eye for what works. They live in New York, of course. But they have six children. And their children share rooms!

I think I love this book for that very reason. I mean, I didn't know New York had any families with six children (two sets of twins, by the way). I didn't think anyone with the kind of income the Novogratz's have generated through their business had children who shared rooms. The four boys are in one room. I just thought you'd like to know that.

Granted - it's a large house. With a roof-top basketball hoop. The rooms the children share are probably bigger than my living room.

But they share. It's so out-of-vogue in the decorating books and magazines I've seen I can't hardly get over it.

I really like this book because Robert & Cortney are so real - especially for a couple who has a vacation home in Brazil. (Honestly, it blows my mind how a family of eight can afford to travel to Brazil more than once in a lifetime - guess that shows how small my world is.) Cortney shares how they kind of 'fell into' the business of redoing houses, even entire blocks of homes, in New York. Right place, right time, right synergy. I love that they realized their passion - they love traveling, shopping, renovating, and don't mind the mess.

The end result is stunning, but I wouldn't do well with the process. The process is where they seem to thrive.

A couple of things I missed in this book - perhaps because I read Sarah Susanka's Not-So-Big Remodeling recently. I missed a big picture of each house - the blueprints, more pictures of the interior living spaces. I don't feel like I could really replicate or even begin to create my own style with their sparse tips shared in this book. I think the main message is to allow yourself the freedom to experiment, make mistakes and surround yourself with what you love.

Perhaps that is something I can start doing.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cheer for a Rainy Day

I received this plant at a friend's baby shower.
I don't know what surprises me most,
the beauty of the blooms
or the fact that it's still alive several months later.

And, of course, I found more pictures on my camera...
I wanted to share a few.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thinking of Retirement - yes already

This is my most favorite picture of my grandmother. We were in Michigan, celebrating Thanksgiving. I have no idea what she and Isaac were so tickled about, but they sure are laughing.

What brought retirement to my mind? The cover of my US News & World Report, a conversation with my brother over breakfast, the slight panic I sometimes feel when I think about the future.

Glen and I figured out long ago that we won't retire... or can't retire. We never were in that DINK category - the double-income-no-kids. Plus, for the first 10 years of our marriage, we worked in ministry. An emotionally-rewarding, but notoriously low-paying job with few retirement benefits. No matching 401K funds for us. (Although we did manage to contribute to a 403B for awhile.)

I started feeling a little scared, or sad about the whole thing. But then I realized, retirement is probably over-rated, a modern state-of-being fed by the baby boomer generation which has defined our culture since World War II.

My grandmother retired from ministry, but has never quit working. No, she doesn't get paid, but she has been involved in the lives of many people in her church and her community - bringing neighborhood children to AWANA, probating the wills of I forget how many different people, and tons of other things I don't know about.

My dad retired from teaching. For about eight months. Now, he's the interim associate pastor at our church. He keeps saying he wants to retire - but I know he's enjoying what he's doing. It's been a learning curve for sure, but what is life if we stop learning?

So, yesterday I realized that I am investing right now in my future. Not financially - homeschooling four children and living in the Chicago suburbs on one salary means that line item had to be put off for now. But, in my daily choices - investing precious time in my children, in my own health and that of my family. Those choices will make a big difference in 20 years - when Glen and I, Lord-willing, are still healthy enough to keep working, to keep living a full and active life.

Just like my grandmother.