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.