Thursday, December 29, 2011

7 Tipping Points that Saved the World

One thing I love about homeschooling my children is that it supplements my own education - especially in history.

I appreciated how much history I had learned when I read 7 Tipping Points That Saved the World by Chris and Ted Stewart.

Their focus is on freedom and individual liberties.  They make a good argument in the introduction that we live in a very unique time in history in which liberty is the norm.  The purpose of their book is to point out specific moments in history which could have destroyed the foundations of our liberties if the outcome had been different.

The cool thing, for me, is that I was familiar with each of the events - not from my own schooling, but from teaching my children at home.  Even if you're not familiar with the historical events, you will enjoy this book.

This is not a dry, technical history book.  The Stewarts incorporate narratives, bringing readers to the time and place they are discussing in that chapter.  Then they include relevant historical information, and make their claim that if the outcome had been different, the world as we know it would not have been.

I'm looking forward to reading their first book, Seven Miracles That Saved America.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Once in Royal David's City

Once in Royal David's City
Cecil F. Alexander

Once in Royal David's City
Stood a lowly cattle shed
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed;
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav'n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
When like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Sir Winter

When I think of winter, this is what I imagine: the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2011 last February.

Thankfully, we've had no such snow this winter, and I'm not sure we're expecting anything like this (much to my children's chagrin).  They would love winter to be snow this deep every day.

Quite frankly, if it weren't for the digging out part, I would too.  Because then my children would be outside every day, playing in the snow.  Playing outside in the cold, without snow, does not hold the same charm or excitement.

So far this year, we've been fortunate.  We've had relatively mild weather and only a dusting of snow (which does not make for dramatic pictures).  But this week it's starting to get colder and colder.


Sir Winter
Jean Kenward

I heard Sir Winter coming,
He crept out of his bed
and rubbed his thin and freezing hands:
'I'll soon be up!' he said.

'I'll shudder at the keyhole
and rattle at the door,
I'll strip the trees of all their leaves
and strew them on the floor.

'I'll harden every puddle
that Autumn thinks is his - 
I'll lay a sparkling quilt of snow
on everything that is!

'I'll bring a load of darkness
as large as any coal,
and drive my husky dogs across
the world, from pole to pole.

'Oho! How you will shiver!'
- And then I heard him say;
'But in the middle of it all
I'll give you


Yay for Christmas!  As the radio is playing right now, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

Monday, December 05, 2011

If you're lucky enough...

... to live near a Trader Joe's, or know someone who does...

And if you love peppermint tea...

I highly recommend you high-tail it to your nearest store,

or politely beg your friend or relative,

for Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea.

I read about the Candy Cane Green Tea in the holiday Fearless Flyer, and thought, "Well, if it tastes half as good as they say it does, then I'll probably enjoy it."

Oh. my. word.

Best peppermint tea I've ever tasted.  Hands down.  Sending my dear husband for another box before they're gone (maybe the rest of the store's inventory?).

And don't ask for some when you come visit.  I'm not sharing mine.

(Unless you're Dawn Swendsen.  Cause she's having twins, so she's special.)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Breaking Stalin's Nose

Interesting title, isn't it? Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin is a children's book, written from a young boy's perspective during the time of Stalin's rule of the USSR.

Sasha Zaichik is about to join the Young Pioneers - and he cannot wait! He writes a letter to Stalin as he waits for his father to come home from work. His father works in State Security, and Sasha is proud of the work he does, rooting out traitors from their country.

Suddenly, his world changes completely. The Secret Service comes and arrests his father. Sasha is shocked, and he immediately tries to go see Stalin, the great leader.  Sasha is sure Stalin would realize a big mistake has been made, and would immediately release his father.

However, things do not go as planned, and events go from bad to worse when Sasha makes his way to school the next day.

Yelchin does a masterful job of slowly exposing Sasha's naivete' throughout the course of the book - and exposing the sinister underpinnings of the system Sasha trusted explicitly. Yelchin grew up in the USSR, and used his own experiences to write this book - which he explains in an afterword.

Because of the disturbing nature of peer pressure, group-think, and manipulation, children should not read this book without an adult. (Which is why I'm reviewing it here instead of on my kid's book review blog.) However, with an adult's guidance and discussion, this book can be a powerful tool in helping children (and adults) understand how people survive in hostile dictatorships.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I found this wonderful poetry book at my library last week.  I can't tell you how hard it is to find poetry books I like (really, really hard).

It's called she walks in beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems by Caroline Kennedy.  I have realized that I enjoy anthologies more than a single poet.  And I tend to prefer older poems to newer ones.  (The ones I've read are rather depressing!)

I can't say I've read every poem in Kennedy's book, but I've found a bunch I like to share for Poetry Wednesday - and that in and of itself is an accomplishment.

I had found a few I liked, when I came across this poem - which I loved.  You who know me know why.  And it has a lot to do with the picture up there.

So, enjoy the poem.  I'm going to dig around and find something in my stash to satisfy my craving.

And if you're craving more poems, check out Poetry Wednesday.

Rita Dove

Velvet fruit, exquisite square
I hold up to sniff
between finger and thumb - 
how you numb me
With your rich attentions!
If I don't eat you quickly,
you'll melt in my palm.
Pleasure seeker, if I let you
you'd liquefy everywhere.
Knotted smoke, dark punch
of earth and night and leaf,
for a taste of you
 any woman would gladly
crumble to ruin.
Enough chatter: I am ready
to fall in love!

By the way - if you know of a really excellent Christmas poetry book, let me know!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


 Grandpa & Grandma Sabourin

 Grandma (Nyberg) Nelson (and Anna)

 Grandma Marce

Grandpa & Grandma Cotterman
(with all their great-grandkids)

We will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow with Grandma Nelson and Grandpa Roy.  The family who can come will converge on Rockford - Fairhaven Retirement Community - where Grandma & Roy live.  Not everyone will be able to be there, but I think we'll be almost 30 for dinner tomorrow - including one of my mom's cousins and family.

I'm so incredibly thankful for my family.  I know I am blessed - not only to be a part of my family, but also to marry into my husband's family.  Even though we cannot see them all tomorrow, all are in our thoughts.

I admire all of our grandparents so much.  So many times I've thought of Grandma Marce reading to Uncle Junior as she washed the dishes - remembering to be thankful I have the opportunity to cuddle on the couch with my children because the dishwasher is running in the kitchen.

This Poetry Wednesday, I dedicate this poem to my grandmothers especially - all four of them.  Even if they didn't all work the ground as this poem suggests, they all worked very hard and raised wonderful children.

Margaret Walker

My grandmothers were strong.
They followed the plows and bent to toil.
The moved through fields sowing seed.
They touched earth and grain grew.
They were full of sturdiness and singing.
My grandmothers were strong.

My grandmothers are full of memories
Smelling of soap and onions and wet clay
With veins rolling roughly over quick hands
They have many cleans words to say.
My grandmothers were strong.
Why am I not as they?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

As I was browsing the shelf of new books at my library, several books caught my eye - and this was one of them.  The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon tells the story of Kamila Sidiqi, an Afgani woman who came of age just as the Taliban took over Afganistan.

Kamila had just graduated from a two-year teacher training course, despite of her country's civil war.  She was looking forward to teaching at one of the many schools in Kabul, but soon after her graduation, the Taliban moved into the city, closing schools and forcing women indoors.

Kamila's story is one of courage, strength, and taking reasonable risks - all while trying to live within the rules imposed upon her as a woman.  Because of past political affiliations, Kamila's parents had to leave Kabul for the northern part of the country.  The journey was too dangerous to take all their children with them, so they left Kamila in charge of her younger siblings.

The responsibility became heavy as the streets were too dangerous for the young women to venture out.  Kamila and her sisters became bored and restless, and Kamila became anxious as she watched their reserves and savings dwindle.

Kamila searched for a solution, trying several ideas before deciding to start making dresses.  She risked the marketplace, found a buyer, and started a business which kept her and her sisters busy at home.  Over time, she hired more help, and then started an apprenticeship school for younger girls.

Kamila's story is remarkable.  Her drive, energy and determination are admirable.  But I especially admire her desire, and ability, to start a business within the severe restrictions imposed upon her.  Instead of fighting, and losing, a battle with the Taliban, Kamila worked hard to quietly pursue her dream - and she succeeded.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Habits of the Hippopotamus

I was going to share a somber poem, and write a book review of the latest book I've finished.

Then I looked outside.  Oh, such somber, yucky weather.  Amazingly, the sun peaked through the clouds at just the right time to illumine the books I was reading to the older two.  We paused and drank in its delicious beauty.  Then it was gone.

So, instead of a book review, with it's accompanying serious poem, I present to you this delightful poem which I read to the younger two this morning.  They enjoyed it, but could not fully appreciate its fun plays on the word 'hippopotamus.'  I hope you will!

Habits of the Hippopotamus
Arthur Gutterman

The hippopotamus is strong
And huge of head and broad of bustle;
The limbs on which he rolls along
Are big with hippopotomuscle.

He does not greatly care for sweets
Like ice cream, apple pie, or custard,
But takes to flavor what he eats
A little hippopotomustard.

The hippopotamus is true
To all his principles, and just;
He always tries his best to do
The things one hippopotomust.

He never rides in trucks or trams,
In taxicabs or omnibuses,
And so keeps out of traffic jams
And other hippopotomusses.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


I had my poem all picked out for Poetry Wednesday last Wednesday.  Honestly, I did!

Then our day got CRAZY.  We read our schoolbooks, I dropped the younger two a friend's house, took the older two to a corn maze, went to the library to write my lecture for Bible study, picked up the older two, picked up the younger two, home in time for Anna to be picked up for AWANA, dinner, clean up, kids to bed, run out to pick up Anna, get home and COLLAPSE.

So, no Poetry Wednesday last week.

This week, I'm in my sweats.  At home for most of the day.  School books read.  Dinner planned.  A couple of errands to run later.  Time to breathe, and time for a poem.

We read this poem last week in school.  It's a lot of fun, and rather difficult to read aloud if you go too quickly.  Enjoy!

Laura E. Richards

Once there was an elephant
Who tried to use the telephant -
No! No!  I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone -
(Dear me! I'm not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)

Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed to telephee -
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I mentioned last week I've been feeling particularly uninspired this fall when it comes to poetry.  I even checked out a poetry book from the library last night - but I didn't particularly like his poems.  Rather depressing.

This morning, I read Wynken, Blynken and Nod to my younger two children in school.  I decided to glance at the other poems we have read and found Twins.

This poem made the three of us laugh when we read it.  When I glanced at it again this morning, I was reminded of my friend Beth, whose Wonder Twins have just turned four.

My grandmother was a twin, I have twin boy cousins, and I lived in constant fear with each of my pregnancies that I would have twins.   A few months ago, my friend Dawn and I were sitting at her kitchen table, discussing her newly-discovered pregnancy.

"I'm afraid I'll have twins," she told me.

"Don't worry," I said.  "I had that fear as well.  I'm sure it'll just be one baby in there."

I spoke too soon.  Way too soon.  Dawn and her husband are not only expecting twins, but they found out last week, they're expecting twin boys.

I think they should name one of them John.  Don't you?

Henry S. Leigh

In form and feature, face and limb,
I grew so like my brother,
That folks got taking me for him,
And each for one another.
It puzzled all our kith and kin,
It reached an awful pitch;
For one of us was born a twin,
Yet not a soul knew which.

One day (to make the matter worse),
Before our names were fixed,
As we were being washed by the nurse
We got completely mixed;
And thus, you see, by Fate's decree,
(Or rather, nurse's whim),
My brother John got christened me,
And I got christened him.

The fatal likeness even dogged
My footsteps when at school,
And I was always getting flogged,
For John turned out a fool.
I put this question hopelessly
To every one I knew -
What would you do, if you were me,
To prove that you were you?

Our close resemblance turned the tide
Of my domestic life;
For somehow my intended bride
Became my brother's wife,
In short, year after year the same
Absurd mistakes went on;
And when I died - the neighbors came
And buried brother John!

Poetry Wednesday

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Republic

I've been struggling to find poems this fall.  I had a few earlier - in August and September, but since then this well has dried up.

I had been counting on the poetry books from our homeschool curriculum.  Unfortunately, my older two were scheduled to repeat a book (second time for them, third time for me.  I love reading, but that was too much), and my younger two have a rather small poetry book, from which nothing has stood out so far.

One thing we are doing is singing our way through Wee Sing America - a collection of songs tied to our nation's history.

This morning, it struck me:

Songs are poetry put to music!  (Yes, I knew this.  But I was excited to remember it.)

I took a few pictures of my younger two, belting their hearts out, singing this week's song The Battle Hymn of the Republic.  They were singing so well, I also took some video.

They were so amazed and excited to find the song in the old church hymnals I have on the shelf for singing Christmas carols, they pulled them out this week to use instead of the tiny little Wee Sing America songbook.  (I'm not sure they understand that you would find a hymn in a hymnal.  They're of that generation, you know.)

I hope you enjoy their rendition of this Civil War era song.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Julia Ward Howe
(historical note: Howe heard the Union soldiers singing "John Brown's Body," a popular Union song.  The melody stayed with her and during the night she got up and wrote the words of this song.)

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord;
He has trampled out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loos'd the fateful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

(my favorite verse is the last:)
In the beauty of the lillies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom
That transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free,*
While God is marching on.

(*newer hymnals say "Let us live to make men free", but it's not historically accurate.)

Poetry Wednesday

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Look at that!

This week has been bee-u-ti-ful! The sun is out, the weather is warmer - it's been lovely.

It almost makes me forget how downright cold it was for the previous three weeks. And how it rained for nearly eight days straight.


But, there's a silver lining to every cloud, isn't there? Last Thursday, when I despaired of ever seeing the sun again, it peaked out from behind the clouds at just the right time.

The weather forecasters had been promising us a change from the dreary days, and then Thursday afternoon it poured and poured. Just before sunset, as I was on my way to Bible study, this is what I saw. Amazingly enough, I even had my camera in the car to capture it.

Beautiful! What a great ending to the dreary days.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wedding Celebration

After we returned from our big trip to DC and Ohio, we had a few days before we traveled again. This time to Wisconsin for another big celebration.

On 9/10/11, we celebrated the marriage of my cousin Erik to his bride Meaghan. It was a beautiful wedding - outside on a farm with lots of friends and family.

these two pictures courtesy of Molly Sabourin

I'm partial to this musical act.
My aunts & uncles sang the same song at my wedding 16 years ago.
It was just as beautiful this time around.

My parents


loving cousins

Charis, Erik's niece, would not cooperate for me.
Molly, however, was able to take this precious shot of the littlest flower girl:

The bride and groom especially thought of the children - most of them their first-cousins once removed, but including a niece and nephew. Hay rides, badminton, pinata, croquet were just some of the activities included in the afternoon - all accompanied by various bands or musicians, friends of Erik's.
It was a beautiful night - the perfect ending to a perfect wedding celebration. Welcome to the Nyberg-Neave family Meaghan! We're so glad you're a part of us.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family Reunions

The end of August and the beginning of September were big weeks for us. We had so many big events crammed in so few days it's taking me quite awhile to catch up.

At the end of our trip to DC, we stopped in Ohio for our annual family reunions with the Leichtys and the Cottermans.

Here are some highlights:

Leichty 2nd cousins

Sweet Grandma Marce

2nd cousins Lydia & Lena

That goofy Paul!

Equally goofy little brother Brady!

Nathaniel & Anna enjoyed the pool table
(until we were informed it was only for 14yo & up)

Highlight of the weekend: West Liberty's Labor Day Parade.
If you love antique tractors, come out next year.
There were about 240 tractors in the parade.
Every year, Uncle Jake pulls all the cousins in the parade.

Glen's cousin Jon and his boy Conner.
That tyke can name every tractor in the parade.

Grandpa got to drive the Farmall!

This year, Nathaniel decided to sit out the parade.
He collected candy instead.
"It's hard work Mom!"
He was sweating. It was HOT.

You know you're getting tall when...
you're almost as tall as Grandma Marce.
You know you ARE tall when....
you are taller than Grandma Marce!

Glen and Grandpa Jake.
What is Grandpa Jake laughing at?

These crazy kids sitting on each other!

The next day we drove an hour south of the Leichtys to spend the afternoon with the Cottermans. While Saturday was HOT, Sunday was rainy and chilly. Not a great day for a picnic, but we stuck it out anyway.

Rain, rain go away.
But while you're here,
I'll sit and play


Our family

The Pennies

The Roses & Wicklines

The Jarretts

Grandpa & Grandma

Two of my boys!

Glen's sister's family - the Dingers

Great-Grandpa & Great-Grandma Cotterman
with all their great-grandkids

As I was looking through my pictures I realized that I have no pictures of Aunt Judi. I'm sorry we missed you Aunt Judi!

(Look at that - you get a special mention, by name, because you're not in the pictures.)