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 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.