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.