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."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In Need of a Song

I thought I had my poem all picked out this morning.

Then, well, you know. The day did not go as planned.

Not that it was a nightmare day. It wasn't a bad day, as days go. Just didn't go as I had planned.

I was feeling in need of a pick-me-up, yes-I-can-ignore-my-trashed-house type of poem. Honestly, I didn't even realize my need for such a poem until I opened the poetry book my older children are using for school this year.

It dropped open to this poem. It caught my eye. It made me smile. It made me realize I needed a fun-make-me-smile-and-realize-this-day-was-fine-if-not-as-planned type of poem.


Song of the Pop-Bottlers
by Morris Bishop

Pop bottles pop-bottles
in pop shops;
The pop-bottles Pop bottles
Poor Pop drops.

When Pop drops pop-bottles,
Pop-bottles plop!
Pop-bottle-tops topple!
Pop mops slop!

Stop! Pop'll drop bottle!
Stop, Pop, stop!
When Pop bottles pop-bottles,
Pop-bottles pop!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sonlight Box Day!!

We FINALLY opened the boxes!

They've been sitting in our living room, staring at us, silently begging me to open them - urged on by the audible pleadings of my children.

But other things had to take priority - until this week.

We are preparing for overnight guests, so I motivated my children to clean their rooms with a promise to be allowed to help me unload those Sonlight boxes in the living room. (For the record, this is a job I usually keep to myself, so it's a BIG DEAL.)

The girls' room was cleaned in record time.

The boys missed out. Although they tried to sneak in here and there.

Anna's job was to unload the boxes and show me the books so I could check the packing list.

Lydia's job was to take pictures.

It got a little crazy, especially since we had to chase the boys out of the living room about every 15 minutes (usually after Anna or I or Lydia would exclaim loudly, "Wow! Look at this book!")

But, the books are on the shelf, ready for school Monday. Last years' books are packed away, waiting for their turn with the younger two.

My friend Barb even stopped by yesterday to help me put together the Instructor's Guides, although I didn't get any pictures.

The best part was this morning, when Isaac said to me, "Mom, why can't we start school today? I mean, I'm getting bored of summer break."

I mollified him by listening to him read Nate the Great out loud.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

These Houses

As I child, I longed for cousins on the Nyberg side. It was just my brother, sister and I for so long.

I remember being in my aunt's wedding, and counting down the very long days before a cousin would come. To a girl of seven, three years is an eternity!

Once Matthew came, the cousins started coming - thick and fast, you might say. Eight cousins in nine years - my siblings and I were in heaven.

Aren't they so cute? We spent so much time with them when they were little... then right about the time they were really growing up, I went to college, got a job, married and moved to Florida. Busy with my own life, I missed out on significant parts of their growing-up years, thus my cousins are much closer to my siblings than to me.

Still, I adore them. And now, as our family celebrates their marriages, births of their children, their engagements - not even the rapid growth of my own children makes me feel as old as these events.

Today's poem is for my dear Nyberg cousins: I love you. I am praying this for you as you stretch your wings, choose your life-long mate, raise your precious babes.

Prayer For This House
Louis Untermeyer
May nothing evil cross this door,
And may ill-fortune never pry
About these windows; may the roar
And rains go by.

Strengthened by faith, the rafters will
Withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill
Will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
Touching your lips with holy wine,
Till every casual corner blooms
Into a shrine.

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout
And, though the sheltering walls are thin,
May they be strong to keep hate out
And hold love in.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Best-laid plans

Kelsey & Ryan

Isaac & Mary

Priscilla & Lydia

the first-cousins-once-removed (except Elijah & Ben)

Great-Grandma Nelson

What a beautiful wedding! But what a weekend!

We were all so excited to be helping my cousin Kelsey celebrate her marriage to Ryan this past weekend. The girls had their beautiful dresses picked out (Lydia chose to wear the one Kelsey herself wore as the flower girl in my wedding), the boys were grudgingly planning on wearing ties for the occasion. We were excited to see first cousins, first-cousins-once-removed (ie, my cousins), second-cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles.

Then we ate dinner Friday night. The first sign that something was wrong came Saturday morning. Anna started throwing up. Then Glen wasn't feeling well, but would not allow himself to admit it. We made alternate plans - Glen would take Nathaniel (whom we thought had pink eye) and Anna home. Lydia & Isaac & I would take the train from Battle Creek back to Chicago.

The three of us attended the ceremony - beautiful! So wonderful, beautiful setting, perfect weather, happy couple, happy family. We missed the other half of our family, but were glad we could attend.

Then, at the reception, I started not feeling good. I couldn't eat anything and could hardly put two sentences together. Then Lydia started throwing up. Nearly in tears, I called Glen, "Please turn around and come get us!"

He did, bless his heart. We left the wedding early, turned on the TV in the hotel room for the children, and crashed.

There's always drama at a wedding. Just wish we could have been left out of it. (As a side note, at Kelsey's sister's wedding, little Mary was throwing up & sick. Molly missed that one. I decided that at the next Nyberg wedding, my sister Carrie needs to have the drama. Not that I wish it on anyone...)

The good news is that the rest of the wedding went very smoothly and all the cousins, first-cousins-once-removed, second-cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles had a wonderful time. I've seen the pictures.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Finding Normal

I've logged on to write this post about three or four times this week, but always something more pressing comes my way (making dinner, bedtime, work), and I close blogger without writing anything. I've missed three Poetry Wednesdays now, which means I have to write it on my calendar now, or I'll never remember to post on Wednesdays again.

So much has happened - Glen and I have been to Alaska, Canada and back. My parents survived a week and a half with our boys, including a week of Cousins' Camp (with 8 grandkids, ages 4-12), our girls have been to overnight camp in Indiana and back. The children and I babysat a friend's toddler so her parents could go to Great America on Tuesday - and then we spent the day there yesterday.

We are wiped out. Tomorrow, we all leave for Michigan (lower peninsula this time), for my cousin's wedding. We are so excited!

And to top it all off, I have two Sonlight boxes in my living room just dying to be opened. My 10yo keeps asking if she can bring up the books for her younger siblings.

"I'm looking for something to read, Mom, and I know you'll let me read their books since I can't open my school books."

When will we get settled into our routine? Who knows. I hope to have my official "Sonlight Box Day" next week (I'll post pictures!), and we plan to start school August 16. (Public schools start on the 18th.)

I'll stop writing now, and leave you with some of my favorite pictures from the last few weeks. I'll try not to be excessive... but we were on an Alaskan cruise after all! :)

This is just the children's luggage. Packing was a nightmare!

But worth it! The flowers in Anchorage were gorgeous.
Here we are at the Hubbard Glacier
Pitchfork Falls outside Skagway, AK

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, AK
It rained all day - we were soaked!!

All the cousins at Papa & Nana's

Anna (in pink) & Lydia (in yellow) at overnight camp