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,

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?