Tuesday, December 28, 2010


As a high school student and a journalism major in college, I took several different probability and statistics courses. I'm NOT a numbers person by any stretch of the imagination, but I was fascinated by how numbers can be manipulated - especially in polls, just by how you word your questions.

When I saw Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife (who, incidentally, is a journalism professor) on my library shelf, I picked it up.

I'll be honest with you. I got through the first 80 pages before putting the book down. It's actually very well written, and I like the terms Seife gives to different types of 'number-laundering.' Terms like fruit-packing, apple-polishing, and cherry-picking.

And Seife gives plenty of real-life examples from recent years of how different people manipulated the numbers to support their opinion.

I had to put the book down because, first of all, it's all about numbers (and numbers are not my best friend) and secondly, because of the holidays. I was too tired to follow his book when I had time to read. I knew it would take me too long to read through this book.

But I was impressed enough that I wanted to remember the title. I thought this book would be a great foundation for a class on understanding and analyzing how numbers are used in our society. (I even started creating a syllabus in my mind.)

Proofiness is a book I want my children to read in high school - especially in conjunction with a probability and statistics or a media analysis class. And if you are a numbers person, Proofiness is a book you would enjoy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Birthday Girl(s)

The above are some of my favorite pictures of my birthday girl over the past year.

She doesn't clamor for the spotlight (like her little sister). She quietly works hard on her housework, her schoolwork, her piano and her crafts. She loves to take pictures of her sister on her camera - they work well together. She loves to take pictures, her little sister adores posing.

She also loves little ones - always taking responsibility for watching the littlest ones in our family gatherings. When she was about three or four, I remember my sister-in-law suddenly panicking at the table, "Where's Ben? What's he in to now?" (Ben must have been about one or one-and-a-half at the time.)

She rushed downstairs and came back up just as quickly with a look of relief on her face. "Anna's downstairs. He's fine. She's keeping an eye on him."

I think she was born responsible.

She also shares a birthday with her lovely great-grandma (below). I remember calling home from the hospital in Florida when Anna was born. "Hi Dad! You have a granddaughter now!"

"Oh, born on Grandma's birthday? That's great! Now you need to call her Eldora Charlotte after her great-grandma." I groaned inwardly, knowing he was just kidding, but wondering about Grandma's expectations.

Then Grandma got on the phone. "Don't do it Michelle! You don't need to name her after me!"

I think she saw the smile of relief over the phone.

Anna will share the spotlight with Great-Grandma today. The big bonus of sharing with Great-Grandma is that everyone who is able will be at Nana's tonight to celebrate both 'girls.' Anna's the only one of our children who will celebrate with 26 of her family members at once.

Happy Birthday to my dear Anna and
beloved Great-Grandma Eldora Charlotte Gustafson Nyberg Nelson!

Merry Christmas
from the Leichtys!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Joy

My children are eagerly counting down the days until Christmas - and trying to fill the time so it will go quickly.

Unfortunately, they either fill the time chasing each other around the house, yelling at the top of their lungs (which drives me crazy) or fighting and whining at each other (which also drives me crazy).

I did have a few hours of quiet this morning as the boys were working on Lego creations and the girls went outside to sled. Now it's lunch time and they are all dying to watch one of the movies I checked out from the library this week.

But my rule is: everyone has to go outside and sled for at least a couple of hours before the TV goes on.

(We'll see how that goes. Right now, one is in tears because his sister is trying to build something with a few of his thousands of Legos. Deep breath, Mommy, deep breath!)

Switching gears - here's a song one of my angels chose last night as a part of our evening sing. There are so many good Christmas carols I could never choose a favorite, but this is in my top 10 for sure.

Angels from the Realms of Glory
James Montgomery

Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth:
Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant light:
Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Wise men, leave your contemplation,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star:
Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King.

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ the newborn King.

Wishing you a wonderful, lovely, stress-free, harmonious and joyful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming

I just sat down at my computer, wondering what poem I would choose today for Poetry Wednesday. I grabbed the hymnal (conveniently located because of the season), and opened it to the Christmas hymns. These are always great 'go-to' poems during the Christmas season.

The hymnal opened to #174 "Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming." This is not a song which I remember with great fondness from my childhood. I barely remember hearing it until I got First Call's "An Evening in December" album early in my marriage.

Now it is one of my favorites. Perhaps because I appreciate the words; perhaps because I adore their acapella rendition of it.

As a read over the words today I thought, "I wonder if I have a picture of a rose somewhere I could use?" Then I remembered snapping a few pictures of the last of the roses from my dad's bushes.

(Just as an aside, it's amazing how parents change as they grow up. My dad always mowed the lawn, but that was it. Since he retired from his summer job several (many?) years ago, he's now more than a lawn-mower. He is an avid gardener. It's amazing. These rose bushes have been at the side of their house since I was eight and we first moved there. With my dad's recent attention, they are producing beautiful roses, and nearly every year bloom until the beginning of November. I never would have guessed my dad would turn into a gardener.)

The rose above was one of those November blooms which graced the table of our fall family gathering the first weekend of November. Beautiful, isn't it?

Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming
Traditional German Carol

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half-sprung was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind.
To show God's love aright
She bore to men a Savior,
When half-gone was the night.

The flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens every load.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

I really should be checking schoolwork right now, but I'm sneaking onto my computer for just a few minutes.

The first week of December is always, always, always the busiest. I've just returned from my third Christmas party in as many days. I enjoy parties as much as the next gal, but a part of me wants to sit in my living room when it's dark with a warm cup of tea and just bask in the lights of my Christmas tree.

If I could, I would do that morning and evening, every day of Advent. (And, honestly, I'm trying to figure out a way to keep my lighted tree up until the end of February. I think it would help my attitude in the dead of winter. But then it wouldn't be so special in December. You see my dilemma.)

You can see by my pictures we tend to be kid-centric around the holidays. I've always wanted nativity sets, and I've ended up with three. I could never justify the expense of a beautiful, adult nativity with four young children dying to put their hands all over the figurines. I could, however, justify buying nativities on which they could lay their hands.

Once the tree is up and decorated, the next thing my children look for are the nativities. They've been spending quite a lot of time in the living room, under the Christmas tree, playing with these sets, even though they are past the can-I-fit-baby-Jesus-in-my-mouth stage. (OK, way past that particular stage.)

And every evening, we eat by candlelight, read a short devotional and chose our favorite Christmas songs to sing. And we sing every, single, solitary verse. Even in The First Noel, which has about 500. Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating, but just a little bit.

This week, I got to chose my favorite:

O Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus (#168 in our old church hymnal)
Charles Wesley

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel's Strength and Consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou Art

Dear Desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child, and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious Kingdom bring

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone.

By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Enjoy other poetry here.
(And one day, I will get an official, grown-up, adult nativity. Promise.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Song for a Little House

I searched for a Christmas poem to share today, but my mind is still on Thanksgiving. I've been thinking about family - again. 'Tis the season, right?

I looked for a poem which expressed the joy I feel when I spend time with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, nieces, nephews, and first-cousins-once-removed (my cousin's children). I even toyed with the idea of writing one.

Fortunately, for you and for me, I did not write a poem - or attempt to do so.

We spent a lot of time at home this Thanksgiving, which is unusual for us. My sister-in-law had very kind words about our house (which I feel is a hodge-podge of various hand-me-downs which don't quite fit together). She helped me look with new eyes at our house, and realize it really is rather comfortable, although it seems much smaller when we cram six or eight more people in here. Somehow, we managed.

Above is my favorite picture of the house. Probably because the focus in on the daffodils instead of the house. We had snow flurries today - so, I feel obligated to include my favorite picture of the view from my front door below. Soon, our front yard will look like this again.

Meanwhile, we are thankful for our snug little house which keeps us warm during these cold winter days.

Song for a Little House
Christopher Morley

I'm glad our house is a little house,
Not too tall nor too wide;
I'm glad the hovering butterflies
Feel free to come inside.

Our little house is a friendly house,
It is not shy or vain;
It gossips with the talking trees,
And makes friends with the rain.

And quick leaves cast a shimmer of green
Against our whited walls,
And in the phlox the courteous bees
Are paying duty calls.

Read more poetry here for Poetry Wednesday.

Now, just because, some of my favorite pictures from the weekend, thanks to our resident photographer, my beautiful sister-in-law, Molly. Be prepared for lots of pink.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Earliest Thanksgiving Memory

I looked around. All the adults were preoccupied - either watching the football game, playing with the baby or reading the newspaper. My brother & sister were playing a game.

I quietly crept up the stairs to the kitchen. My mom had made my most absolute favorite dessert bar ever - Special K bars. Special K, peanut butter, and corn syrup, topped with melted chocolate chips. Just thinking about them made me drool.

The pan was on the counter. We had already had dessert, so I was safe sneaking one without anyone making a fuss. Mom would think one of my aunts or uncles took it.

I slid my finger under the piece I wanted and eased it out of the pan.

Where to eat it? It was too cold outside. I decided the bathroom. I could savor it, and if any adult came looking for me, it was a good excuse to be gone from the family gathering. Then I could wash the evidence from my hands and mouth.

I still remember sitting on the edge of the tub in my newly-married aunt & uncle's rented house, savoring that bar. We were celebrating Thanksgiving with Neil & Becky, my mom's brother and his new wife. My Aunt Lyn, Uncle Dave and cousin Matthew were there too, along with my grandmother and my family.

We were a much smaller family then. I was eleven, so Matthew was about 18 months that Thanksgiving. Now, I'm *eh-hem* older. Uncle Dave & Aunt Lyn had three more boys, Uncle Neil & Aunt Becky had four children - over the next eight years I went from having one Nyberg cousin to having eight. And I loved it.

And every year we would descend upon Uncle Neil & Aunt Becky's house in Battle Creek. Not just for Thanksgiving, but for a whole weekend. I remember camping out on the living room floor, the family room floor. I even slept under the dining room table a couple of years.

After entirely way-t0-many years, the family decided that Neil & Becky needed a break from hosting our family - which had grown from ten people to about 30, depending upon whose significant other was going to join us in any given year - or which cousin had gotten married.

(And in case you're wondering, yes, we would all stay with Uncle Neil & Aunt Becky. For two nights. In their house. In recent years, their very generous, and out-of-town neighbor allowed the family to use their house for sleeping, which helped keep the sleeping bags out of the living room.)

This year, we're carrying our Thanksgiving traditions to Rockford, where my grandmother and her husband recently moved into a retirement home. It will be a different location, but we will still sing the doxology in four-part harmony, Uncle Neil will still read Psalm 100 before we eat, and we will still share around the tables for what we are thankful this year.

Then, out-of-town family will descend to my mother's house, and to my house, for two nights. Because, you know, that's tradition. And because we love to be a family together.

In the midst of the hurried "can-I-figure-out-how-to-keep-it-warm-tomorrow" pre-baking, in the midst of the hurried "children-will-you-please!" cleaning, I remember the reason why I'm doing all this.

Because my family - my grandmother, my aunts & uncles & cousins, my brother, my sisters, my nieces and nephews - so enjoy each others' company that one day is just not enough.

What a blessing.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Poetry Wednesday
photo property of D Sharon Pruitt, flickr.com

Friday, November 19, 2010


For some reason, I've been attracted to books about the Middle East, Islam and especially women's experiences as Muslims.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a new book out titled Nomad, which I picked up off the shelf at our library. However, when I read the front flap, I realized she had written another book titled Infidel. It sounded like I should read Infidel first, so I did.

I appreciate Hirsi Ali's brutal honesty throughout this book. She describes her childhood - born in Somalia, moved to Saudi Arabia, Kenya, back to Somalia, then back to Kenya. She struggled in school, her mother physically abused her, and she worked hard to be a good Muslim.

Her story of how she escaped her father, an unwanted marriage, and her religion held my attention throughout the book. What I didn't know is that she is such a controversial figure in Dutch politics, which is all explained in the book as well.

I appreciate books like this which helps me to understand different perspectives of people in our world. In addition to a better understanding of the Somali culture, this book highlights the struggles Muslims face when confronting the west. Hirsi Ali helps us to understand that Muslims deal with the dissonance between what they're taught and what they encounter in very different ways. She also stresses the importance of integrating Muslims into Western culture instead of allowing refugees to isolate themselves into Muslim enclaves.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I'm feeling particularly poetically challenged this week.

My older children dissected poetry last week. This week they are learning all sorts of methods of writing poetry (I'm not sure what else to call them). Things like imagery and personification, of which I am familiar. Today we (as in ME TOO) learned about apostrophe.

And here I thought it was a simple punctuation mark.

It is, but in poetry apostrophe means something else entirely. It's when a poet speaks directly to an object in the poem. Then my children, poor things, had to write a poem using apostrophe.

They tried hard, and I give them credit for that. Tomorrow, we discuss theme.

Personally, I'm looking forward to getting back to standard essays - especially those factual ones, like compare/contrast or classification. Those, I can handle.

All this dissection of poems, etc, is making me look for simple little rhyming poems that give me pleasure. Like this one I found on the back of a bookmark we picked up at our library (sorry the picture didn't scan well):

Nancy Giffy

In fall every
leaf is
fiery jewel
down the
The sunset
our day
We study
our lessons
we can

And then, I think perhaps I am learning something - because I'm seeing the imagery (use of sound & senses) in the following poem. Things I wouldn't have particularly noticed before attempting to teach my children about poetry.

November Night
Adelaide Crapsey

Listen. . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

Perhaps there is still hope for someone like me. Maybe I should find the Poetry for Dummies book at the library (surely there is one!) to supplement our homeschool. Then again....

Here are poems other, more poetry-savvy bloggers chose for today, Poetry Wednesday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding & the Meaning of Things

It's interesting that this book review comes after my selection for Poetry Wednesday and the issue of contentment. I think the two subjects are intimately intertwined, but I have yet to see any books, studies, or articles discussing the relationship between contentment and our (America's) continual pursuit of stuff.

There is no question we in America are blessed - or is it a curse? If you’ve ever watched Hoarders on A&E or Peter Walsh on TLC’s Clean Sweep, you know that some Americans are buried under their stuff.

Now Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee delve deeper into hoarders attachment to their stuff in Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Frost and Steketee keep this from being a dry, textbook look at hoarding by taking readers into the homes and lives of many of their clients. Throughout the book, they give us somewhat of a history of hoarding (who knew it’s been a problem for centuries and not just decades?) and the story of an infamous pair of brothers in New York whose home could only be entered through a third-floor window.

I found this book quite interesting, and a little bit horrifying. I have a small (and now, not-so-secret) fear of becoming as attached to my possessions as their clients. So I continue to clear out my house of things I don’t need anymore.

As I was reading this book, my other reoccurring thought was, “How do I help my children from becoming hoarders?” Fortunately, the authors include a chapter about children who hoard.

Unfortunately, they don’t offer much hope for the recovery of hoarders, especially if they’re forced to clean out their houses. The authors recently started working with children hoarders, so while they’re hopeful children will be more open to therapy and recovery, they don’t have much hard evidence that hypothesis is true.

This is not a self-help book designed to help you get your stuff organized and sorted. This is more of an analysis of people who hoard and their relationship with their things. I picture this book being used for a college-level psych class, although it is very readable for the average person (like me). If you have a hoarder in your family, this book will help you understand them, their attachment to their things.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rum Tum Tugger

This week, I have learned more about poets than I have for a long time. My older two have had to dissect a poem yesterday and today (thankfully it was a poem, and not a pig!), and then write one of their own.

(I was hoping to share their original poems today for Poetry Wednesday, but... well, I think they inherited their mother's poetic gene. That is, they have none. But bless their hearts, they tried!)

Both poems they dissected have been about cats. I like cats. If I were to have a pet, I would like to have a cat. They're so furry and cuddly (if you have the cuddly kind).

However, I'm allergic to cats, so I will continue to live in a pet-free home. Which is OK with me. Costs less that way, plus less mess. (I think. With four children it's hard to believe this house could get much messier, but I suppose it could.)

I enjoyed the first stanza of The Rum Tum Tugger quite a lot. As my father would say, "I resemble that remark." This cat is never content - often too true of my life as well. And that's all I'm going to say on that particular subject.

The Rum Tum Tugger
T.S. Eliot

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat;
If you offer him a pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he'd rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he'd rather chase a mouse.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat -
And there isn't any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He's always on the wrong side of every door,
As soon as he's at home, then he'd like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can't get out.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat -
And there isn't any call for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish then he always wants a feast;
When there isn't any fish then he won't eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;
So you'll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn't care for a cuddle;
But he'll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there's nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat -
And there isn't any call for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

No One Would Listen

I picked up No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos with trepidation. I had heard about Bernie Madoff and the huge pyramid scheme he ran under the cover of a hedge fund. However, not being a financial guru, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to follow the story.

Markopolos does a very good job of focusing on the people involved in the Madoff scandal. Because of the subject matter, he does have to delve into the financial and investment world, but he does his best to simplify it for the average reader. I still don’t understand all the jargon surrounding investing or hedge funds, but that didn’t hinder my ability to understand the drama unfolding.

Markopolos is uniquely qualified to write a book on the Madoff scandal because he spotted Madoff as a fraud years before the pyramid scheme finally collapsed. He tried to warn the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) about Madoff more than a half-dozen times, but no one would listen to him.

The fall-out of the scandal is heart-breaking. Markopolos introduces us to several of the people he personally knew who lost millions and millions of dollars.

Since reading this book, I’ve read several articles in my local paper about people losing millions of dollars in locally-run hedge funds which turned out to be pyramid schemes. The lesson I’ve learned? Don’t invest in a hedge fund unless you can follow the money and the transactions.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Light is Sweet

This morning we were all so cranky from late nights and too many sweets I wasn't sure we would last the day. I hate bickering, it makes me even more cranky and short-tempered. The fact that the morning was cloudy and dreary added to my bad mood.

Fortunately, we managed to turn our attention from the minor frustrations of the morning to our schoolwork. All bickering was forgotten in the quest to complete schoolwork and chores before 11:30, when my good friend picks up the girls on Wednesday.

My 10-year-old is her 'mother's helper' and my 9-year-old is a 'mother's helper's apprentice.'

(OK, this is totally not relevant to my topic today, but I just have to tell you this story:

My friend and I meet about once a week to pray together. My kids usually come along to play with her kids. Last week, Anna was caring for her baby, my Isaac and her Ezra were playing, and my Lydia was playing with her Lucy. My friend walked into the bathroom after we left to find long strands of Lucy's hair on the bathroom floor.

"Lucy, what happened here? Did you cut your hair? I want you to tell me the truth."

"Will I get a spank Mommy?"

"No, honey. I just want the truth."

Pause. "Will Lydia get a spank?"

"No, honey. What happened here?"

"Lydia cut my bangs."

My friend called me laughing hysterically. (I am SO GLAD she wasn't mad!) "I promised Lucy Lydia would not get in trouble for this. And I think that Lydia has a future in cosmetology - she did a really good job cutting her bangs. But please ask Lydia not to do it again."

At dinner that night, I related the story. "Lydia, what happened?"

"Well, Lucy wanted me to cut her bangs. I tried to say no (keep in mind here: Lydia is 9, Lucy is 3), but she just insisted!"

I tried not to laugh. "Honey, this is why you are a mother's helper's apprentice!")

I'm glad that my friend was willing to give Lydia another chance at being a mother's helper's apprentice today. And so was she.

With the distraction of schoolwork and chores, and a warm cup of tea, my mood lifted. Then, joy of joys, the sun came out! I never take any peak of sun for granted since moving back to Illinois, especially in the fall or winter.

All afternoon, I've tried to find excuses to sit on the couch in my living room, enjoying the sun streaming in through the window. One of my excuses was to find a poem about the sun for Poetry Wednesday. As I paged through the poetry book, I came across this short poem, from the Bible. I have no idea the reference, the poetry book doesn't give it.

The Light is Sweet
The Bible

Truly the light is sweet,
And a pleasant thing it is
For the eyes to behold the sun.

What more is there to say?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We enjoyed a late fall visit from good friends last week. They came from Indiana to our house - the first time ever.

Nathaniel's friend is an avid fisherman. Nathaniel had won a free dozen bait minnows at a community event this summer, and immediately thought of his friend.

While his friend was here, we picked up the minnows, borrowed fishing poles from the Wauconda Park District, and headed off to the fishing pier.

The weather was beautiful, but the fish weren't biting. Nathaniel, who didn't know how to operate the fishing pole, had some theories as to why. His friend also had some theories. I wonder as to whose were more accurate?

Either way, the biggest attraction for all five boys were those minnows, swimming around in the big orange bucket. The younger three had a hard time keeping their hands out of the bucket, even after repeated admonishments from the older boys that "just putting your hands in the water will kill them! So will touching them!"

I've got to give my girlfriend credit. She helped Nathaniel bait his line, taught him how to use the pole and cast the line. I watched from a safe distance and managed to avoid touching any of the fishing equipment or, more importantly, the minnows.

John Keats

...Swarms of minnows show their little heads,
Staying their waxy bodies 'gainst the streams,
To taste the luxury of sunny beams
Tempered with coolness.
How they ever wrestle
With their own sweet delight, and ever nestle
Their silver bellies on the pebbly sand.
If you but scantily hold out the hand,
That very instant not one will remain;
But turn your eye, and they are there again.
The ripples seem right glad to read those cresses,
And cool themselves among the em'rald tresses;
The while they cool themselves, they freshness give,
And moisture, that the bowery green may live.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When Mother Reads Aloud

When Mother reads aloud, the past
Seems real as every day;

I hear the tramp of armies vast,

I see the spears and lances cast,

I join the trilling fray;

Brave knights and ladies fair and proud

I meet when Mother reads aloud.

When Mother reads aloud, far lands

Seem very near and true;

I cross the desert's gleaming sands,
Or hunt the jungle's prowling bands,

Or sail the ocean blue.

Far heights, whose peaks the cold mists shroud,
I scale, when Mother read
s aloud.

When I first read this poem, a face popped into my mind. I enjoy reading to my children, and they enjoy it too. But one of my children seems to engage in a way the others do not.

Perhaps it's because he's the youngest, and has been listening to me read for several hours a day since he was one-year-old, when I made him sit on my lap while I read to his older siblings. There was no way I was going to use my precious nap time for school!

Perhaps it's because he has a vivid imagination. Or perhaps because he's, well, himself.

Isaac, my seven-year-old, constantly amazes me with the connections he makes, the vocabulary he uses, and the context he has for life.

What other five-year-old would recruit his friends to play "the North and the South," complete with flags for both sides (fairly accurately drawn too)? What other seven-year-old would say, "That news distresses me!" at the dinner table? What other seven-year-old, when asking for a short bedtime story, pulls out the Usborne Book of World History so I can reread two pages of history to him?

In a world this vast, I'm sure there are others. But let me share with you why I think my little boy is unique.

His older brother and sister are studying world history this year, and one morning, their Usborne Encyclopedia of World History was sitting on the coffee table after school.

Isaac spotted it. "Oh, this is so cool!" he said, and started looking through it. Pretty soon, I hear him yelling, "MOM! Come here! You gotta see this!"

I go into the living room, and he points to the picture at the right.

"Isn't this neat, Mom? I was just looking at this page about the first cities, and they have a pyramid in it! One that reminds me of the ancient Egyptians and the Aztecs! Isn't that neat?"

I stammered something intelligible in reply. "That is neat. Archeologists call it a ziggurat, and that's a picture of Ur, Abraham's home town."

(Just in case you think I'm smart, I had just read those pages to his siblings in school a few moments before.)

One of my friends, after hearing this story, told me, "You have a treasure!" I agree - each of my children is a treasure. And I having a feeling that trying to teach Isaac is going to be like trying to stay ahead of an avalanche.

But I think I'm up for the challenge.

Poetry Wednesday

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There Isn't Time

It's amazing how many clocks are in our house - all reminding me how quickly time is passing.

Today, I'm trying to ignore the headache I've been nursing for about 36 hours. I told my husband this morning that I think I'm stressed because of everything I have going on this week.

He very nicely said, "Duh."

As we started our fall activities, my very-wise-dear husband pointed out to me I have too much on my plate. Yes. I admit it. I do. But what could I give up?

Not teaching my children at home.
Not leading women's Bible study at church.
Not attending Bible Study Fellowship.
Not singing on Sunday mornings when asked.
Not my Shaklee business.
Not my writing/video business.
Not my chamber involvement.

So. In the future, I have agreed to not say 'yes' to anything without discussing it with him first.

In the past, I was the one saying to him, "Please do not say yes to anything without discussing it with me first." I guess the old adage is true: "What goes around, comes around."

The ongoing struggle - managing my time wisely, managing my energy wisely, managing my family, home, church activities wisely.

This week, I give myself an "F." Hopefully, next week will be better.

There Isn't Time
Eleanor Farjeon

There isn't time, there isn't time
To do the things I want to do,
With all the mountain-tops to climb,
And all the woods to wander through,
And all the seas to sail upon,
And everywhere there is to go,
And all the people, every one
Who lives upon the earth, to know.
There's only time, there's only time
To know a few, and do a few,
And then sit down and make a rhyme
About the rest I want to do.

Enjoy more Poetry Wednesday selections here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Red Pyramid

My older children and I have greatly enjoyed Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a series of books about the Greek gods in contemporary world by Rick Riordan. So, when my son came home from a library book club excited about a new series of books “Just like Percy Jackson Mom, but with the Egyptian gods!”, I looked forward to reading the book too.

The Red Pyramid is the first book in The Kane Chronicles, the newest series by Rick Riordan. My son read it first, and loved it. I read it next, and was horrified.

Don’t get me wrong: Riordan is a wonderful writer. He writes The Kane Chronicles from the perspective of Sadie and Carter, two siblings who don’t see much of each other. Carter travels the world with his father, while Sadie lives with her grandparents in London. On their biannual visit to Sadie, Carter and his father take Sadie to a museum. Something strange happens, and Carter’s dad vanishes. Carter and Sadie escape, and end up discovering some pretty strange stuff about their parents - and their heritage as descendants of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

Riordan included some great themes about courage, family and loyalty in this book. So what horrifies me? The relationship between Carter, Sadie and the Egyptian gods.

Carter and Sadie discover they have great power because they each have an Egyptian god inside them. They travel great distances in short amounts of time, they converse with these gods in their minds, and learn the gods’ perspective on world history.

Their experiences are too close to reality for my taste. And not enough reality as well. At the end of the book, the children take off their Egyptian amulets, and walk away from the Egyptian gods, for now.

Please understand the perspective from which I am writing. As a Christian, I believe that there is real evil in this world. I believe Satan is real, and that demons are real. And I believe that demons can inhabit people. And from what I’ve read in the Bible, and from what I’ve read about other people’s experiences with demons, it is impossible to just decide to walk away from them when they’ve started to inhabit you.

The experiences Carter and Sadie have in The Red Pyramid are eerily similar to experiences I have read former witch doctors describe in other books. That fact alone is enough for me to caution parents and children greatly against this book and this series.

Does this mean I will forbid my children from reading them? No, but I will require that I read it too and we discuss the book when we’re done. I would rather they know what other people are reading and talking about and what a Biblical perspective of that is, than to completely shelter them from it. And, I will require them to read the books about witch doctors I mentioned earlier, so they can see the similarities themselves.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Shattered Silence

It took a lot of courage for Melissa Moore to write about her childhood and her relationship with her father in Shattered Silence. She is the daughter of the "Happy Face" serial killer, who killed women up and down the West Coast.

My heart ached for Melissa, as she remembered loving - and fearing - her father throughout her childhood. She tells of her parents' divorce, her mother's poverty, living in her grandmother's basement. Her mother's remarriage to an abusive man, and she and her siblings attempts to escape from their home.

That Melissa has endured so much, and is able to write about it without bitterness, is amazing to me. She has narrowly escaped the cycle of abuse, taking control of her own life and coming to grips with the fact she is not responsible for her father's crimes. She also realizes that she's not responsible for her mother's choices, even though they greatly affected her.

Shattered Silence is the story of a girl who had to fight her way through every step of life to find herself and a future not defined by her past.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


I am enjoying a rare moment of quiet in my house. As you can see the three children home are eating lunch, reading books at the same time. And it is lovely.

This morning was a series of door slamming, baby crying (not mine, a friend's), feet running, children crying (mine and my friend's), boom box playing loudly noises.

Every time I get irritated by the noise, I remind myself that soon - sooner than I can imagine - my house will be quiet. Very quiet. My children will be grown, and it will be just my husband and I.

I can hardly imagine it.

In the meantime, I live in a world of extremes.

James Whitcomb Riley

A little boy once played so loud
That the thunder, up in a thundercloud,
Said, "Since I can't be heard, why, then
I'll never, never thunder again!"

And a little girl once kept so still
That she heard a fly on the window sill
Whisper and say to a ladybird, -
"She's the stillest child I ever heard!"

(As an aside, both my boys are loud, but only one of my girls is quiet. However, that doesn't keep me from enjoying this poem!)

Read more poetry here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The past couple of years, September has felt more like August - the heat and humidity of a Midwestern August hanging on much too long.

This year, September surprised me. Labor Day weekend was beautiful and - boom! - it was fall. Before I was even ready for it.

Not that I'm complaining. I love fall weather! Cool mornings, warm mid-days, t-shirts and sweaters. This September has been particularly beautiful - sunny day following sunny day with the autumn crisp in the air.


The kids are anxiously awaiting for the trees to lose their leaves. They love to make 'leaf houses' and 'leaf towns' and play outside all afternoon.

It's lovely for me too.

In honor of September:

Helen Hunt Jackson

The goldenrod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in the apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quoth the Raven

I'm not very inspired today. All my creative energies went into a piece I wrote for the writer's group at the library last night.

I tend to write best on a deadline, but I really cut this one close. I wrote the whole thing Monday afternoon - half of it while my children were asking, "What's for dinner Mom?" "When are we going to eat Mom?" "Are we going to be late for AWANA tonight Mom?" "We need to eat NOW!"

They got fed, they were on time, I e-mailed off my article. Whew.

Lucky for me (and hopefully for you), I have created a file on my computer of poems I like but haven't yet shared. Today's poem came from that file.

I read quite a bit of Edgar Allan Poe in junior high. Doesn't that seem the perfect age for his short stories and poems? A bit creepy, a bit scary, a bit thrilling. Just like junior high. Although I think they call it "middle school" now.

In eighth grade, I was in the advanced English class. The librarian taught the class - my sister could tell you her name. (I could too, if I took the time to dig out my junior high year book. Not gonna do it though.)

I remember stop-motion animation projects (pre-computer days), IQ tests, vocabulary words like harbinger (The robin is a harbinger of spring.), Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, and Edgar Allan Poe. Particularly this poem. I love the repetition of the line "Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'"

I suppose I should understand it at a deeper level now that I'm ahem years older. But I've not really thought about it. I enjoy the rhyming, wording & cadence of it. I hope you do too.

By the way, it's a really, really long poem, so I've just included my favorite stanzas here. (I think that's what you call them. We'll pretend I'm right. And after you enjoy this poem, you can read more poetry here.)

The Raven
Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
‘ ‘T is some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door -
Only this and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
‘Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou’ I said, ‘art sure no craven,
Gastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore -
Tell me what they lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’
‘Prophet!’ said I, ‘thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

‘Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked, upstarting -
‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’

That totally awesome, amazing photo came from kevindooley on flickr

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ancient History

I had an epiphany this week.

Yesterday, I started back at one of my favorite places, Bible Study Fellowship. I'm so excited because they're offering a new study this year - the book of Isaiah. I love studying the Old Testament, and am looking forward to digging into this year.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down in my living room and read the introductory notes on Isaiah. In a part of the notes, it discussed different enemies of Israel that Isaiah prophesied against over the course of his 60-year ministry in Judah.

Here's the epiphany: I recognized every single name on that list!

That may not seem amazing, but I feel like a lightbulb has turned on! I'm going through World History again with my older two children, just finished a 2-year World History study with my younger two. So, discussing places like Ur, Babylon, Nineveh, Egypt, Assyria, etc, is almost second nature to me. Names are my downfall, but something must be sticking.

I love homeschooling! I have learned so, so, so much, and this year I can sense it coming all together.

My older kids and I are in the middle of reading a fabulous historical fiction book called God King (watch for a review on KidsBooksThatRock.com). Some of the minor characters in the book are key characters in the Old Testament - King Hezekiah, Isaiah, Sennacharib.

This morning, I opened the poetry book I read with the younger two and found this poem. I was as surprised as you are.

The Destruction of Sennacherib
Lord Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay wither'd and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he pass'd;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there roll'd not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

By the way, you can read about Sennecharib & King Hezekiah in various places in the Bible, including 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 32:1-23, and Isaiah 36-37. It's a very interesting story - and I like Byron's perspective.

You can read more poetry here, for Poetry Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers
Christopher Morely
Animal crackers, and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers, I think;
When I'm grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.

What do you choose when you're offered a treat?
When Mother says, "What would you like best to eat?"
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It's cocoa and animal crackers that I love most!

The kitchen's the cosiest place that I know:
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.

Daddy and Mother dine later in state,
With Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait;
But they don't have nearly as much as I
Who eat in the kitchen with Nurse standing by;
And Daddy once said, he would like to be me
Having cocoa and animals once more for tea!

We read this poem in school yesterday morning. It's a fun poem to read, fun to think about, but it was made even more fun by our company yesterday.

We were watching my friend's daughter, Kaylee, who is almost two and a half. She was hanging out with us in the living room, playing with the Little People princesses, horses and castle. She was so quiet, I almost forgot she was there.

Then, I read this poem and a little voice piped up.

"Does Kaylee want animal crackers? Yes please!"

Don't you love how toddlers ignore pronouns? So cute! I told her she may after I was done reading the poem.

The next time she heard 'animal crackers' in the poem she repeated herself, "Does Kaylee want animal crackers? Yes please!"

We had to interrupt the poem, find Lydia who could dig in the diaper bag for animal crackers for Kaylee's snack.

In three years, when I read this poem again to my younger children, I'm sure I'll still hear the little two-year-old Kaylee's voice, asking for animal crackers.

I love making memories.

Enjoy more poetry here in honor of Poetry Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nothing to Envy

This book nearly screamed at me to grab it off the shelves of my local library. In Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, author Barbara Demick weaves together stories from the lives of defectors from North Korea, based upon hundreds of interviews she conducted while living and working in South Korea.

The book immediately drew me in with a satellite photo from NASA of the Korean peninsula at night. The contrast is startling. I thought I knew something about North Korea - but that picture told me how little I knew about this hermit nation.

North Korea is like a black hole - virtually no lights on throughout the entire country.

South Korea is lit up like a Christmas tree.

Demick starts telling us how darkness can be a blessing to some in North Korea and then takes us into the lives of Mi-Ran and her boyfriend, Jun-Sang, as well as four other North Koreans.

Their stories completely pulled me in. I found myself fascinated with their journeys, their struggles, their triumphs, their pain. I knew that North Korea had experienced a famine fairly recently, but knowing it as fact is completely different than feeling it through the lives of these people.

Demick expertly weaves the stories together, along with the history of the Korean peninsula, North Korea in particular.

I nearly cried so many times during the book. I raged at the selfish pigheadedness of the North Korean dictators. When my husband's cousin mentioned pulling weeds and throwing them over the fence of their backyard, I immediately thought, "That's what the North Koreans would gather and try to cook for something to eat."

Thank you, Barbara Demick, for introducing me to these ordinary people who fought so hard and lost so much. It's changed my outlook on life, and helped me realize how blessed I am.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Bridge Builder

I went to the farm this weekend. In my husband's family, that means either his parents' house on 1000 West in Rensselaer, Indiana, or his uncle's (now his cousin's) house in West Liberty, Ohio.

In my family, it means Stillman Valley, Illinois, southwest of Rockford.

My mother's uncle and his wife farmed the land on that Nyberg farm for as long as I can remember. And Uncle Len and Aunt LaVerna would have us out for a Memorial Day picnic every year when I was little.

I hunted out these pictures at my mother's this afternoon. This is what I remember of the farm - playing with the cats, eating Aunt LaVerna's homemade Swedish pastries, playing by the creek, driving a tractor, and hay rides.

Most of all, I remember big hugs and big laughs from Uncle Len. Uncle Len was my grandfather's youngest brother. I don't remember my grandfather much because he died when I was six. Yet, there he is in the bottom picture, in the little jalopy, sitting up behind my dad.

I do remember Uncle Len. Dear, laughing, teasing, oh-so-much-fun Uncle Len. I took three of my children to Stillman Valley this weekend to remember Uncle Len, who died a week ago. I had not seen him in a very long time, but he's the closest I remember to a Nyberg grandpa.

And I feel so lucky to have him.

Our visits slowly stopped after Uncle Len's son, Dan, and his family, moved out to the farm when I was about 10. I remember feeling an insane amount of jealousy towards those tiny little kids I didn't really know. I wanted to live on that farm so badly!

Uncle Len's presence in my life lives on. His family chose to include this poem in the program for his memorial service. I was amazed at the words, and how they describe my great-uncle. Uncle Len chose to build a strong bridge into my life and the lives of my siblings, I think, especially after my grandfather died. I appreciate him so much for that!

At the farm, after the service, I overheard my mother's cousin, Marsha, telling Aunt LaVerna what she remembered about the poem. Marsha's dad, Uncle Phil, was another Nyberg brother.

"I remember being out here on the farm, and Uncle Len and Dad had figured out a way to build a bridge across the creek. So they started every single engine on the farm and lined them up along the bank, not because they needed them, but because they could. They had a crane from somewhere and dropped an I-beam across the creek, and my father stood there, next to the bridge and quoted this poem. Then, Aunt LaVerna, you were the first to cross the bridge and you fell off into the water!"

Aunt LaVerna laughed a big laugh. "That's true! I was stepping high, making a big show of it, and I lost my footing and fell in that creek! Oh, your memory is amazing."

My family is amazing. Amazing that I knew every one of my great-aunts & great-uncles on both the Nyberg and Gustafson side, and can probably name most of my mother's 20-something cousins on each side. Amazing that we all consider family so important that Aunt LaVerna said to us, "Relatives are the most important. I am so glad to see you all could make it."

Uncle Len and Aunt LaVerna never met a stranger and couldn't count the number of friends they have. Yet, they still value us, as distant relatives as we are. Dear Aunt LaVerna recognized me as soon as she saw me and could name all four of my children by name.

Family is so important. Thank you Uncle Len and Aunt LaVerna for all the wonderful memories you created through your love, laughter and hospitality. I love you dearly.

The Bridge Builder
Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide --
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pit-fall be,
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."