The first heavy frost has flattened all my perennials. Even my mums have fallen down around their pots. The stores are full of long lines of agitated shoppers, Christmas carols blaring everywhere, shopper's carts filled to overflowing---and all I want is sewing needles! We've checked the car for anti-freeze, and stored the garden tiller in the barn. We don't hear the turkeys gobbling in the backyard anymore, or the pigs vacuuming down their lunch. Secrets abound in the house as the children plan their gifts. I drag out the winter boxes from storage. Out come the coats, mitts, and hats. And out come the multiple layered skirt hangers to hang up sopping wet coats, mitts and hats. I place mats and trays by the front door for muddy boots. We long for soups and stews to heat us up and enjoy cooking 30 pound turkeys to heat the house up. One can hear, "Please shut the door!" and "No, you can't go outside in bare feet!" many times each day. The smell of hot apple cider and Mrs. Field's cookies (recipe later) are wafting through the house at this very moment, as I wait for Eldora (my second Mom) to come over for Christmas tea. Winter must be here and Christmas just around the corner.
Where did the summer go? Butterflies on my perennial bed. June 2006 (photo by 'Beka).
And that also means that it is time for me to post my yearly update to you, my dear friends and sisters in the Lord. So much to tell, and as usual, so little time to tell it all. Make yourself a cup of hot cider, add a Christmas cookie or two, and enjoy the news from the Aardsma family.
What a year this has been! God has blessed us with so many good things this year. There have been trials and heart pangs this year too, also sent from the Lord, to build our faith and keep us humbly dependent on Him.
My Second Family---The Five Still at Home
I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am to be a mother with five children yet at home! In many ways I feel like this "second family" is the most rewarding of my mothering years. Whether that is because God has given us a special blend of personalities in this last five, or because Gerald and I have become more accomplished parents with experience, or possibly even a combination of the two. Who can say? In any event, I'm so glad I had them all. Not only is it a reward to watch them growing physically and spiritually but it so healthy and wholesome for me as well. I don't struggle with depression, or spend my time wondering who I am or what I am here for. I am so thrilled to be a busy mother, so happy, so contented, so fulfilled, so needed, so loved. I praise God that I am a woman with an important job to do, a job that will make a difference for generations to come.
Caleb (7) is working on finishing 1st grade and starting 2nd. He is a hands-on-learner and has had trouble learning to read. This always tests my patience to the limit, but we are managing to get through it each day with our sanctification intact, usually. He loves to make things. Plasticine, construction paper, tape, scissors and pencils are usually nearby or in his hands. He plays with Plasticine while he does his Math. It seems to help him think! At this very moment he is learning to make Plaster of Paris molds with Rachel, who has been making molds of the our Christmas nativity figures. Caleb loves to sing and can usually be heard singing along with 'Beka as she practices her piano. He is a Type A, like me, very intense!
Caleb's triumph! An 19" bass, September 2006 (photo by Helen).
Timmy (9) is in 4th grade and enjoys Math and Science. He is always sharing what he is learning with us. He hates Language, writing poetry and essays. Matthew is his idol. Timmy is not a Type A, but a little further down the alphabet---very relaxed. That is good. Too many Type A's in a household
He is learning to do a lot of the outside work, and can do some basic repairs for me now. Timmy works in the lab for Gerald, having regular cleaning duties each day. He also does many of Matthew's animal chores, earning a little money from Matthew for his bank account which he opened this year. Timmy diligently reads his Bible every night, and is working on his second time through.
Timmy shredding onions for salsa using Gerald's chemistry mask! Summer 2006 (photo by Helen).
Rachel (12), is a Louisa May Alcott fan and has started her own Aardsma Weekly. She loves words and is always saying things like, "Cacophony--isn't that such a neat sounding word?" Rachel has read every book in the house (of which there are hundreds) at least once and some two or three times. She loves the library. We go there together every now and then so she can browse. I order books online for her through our library system. This keeps her in good books. Sad to say, the library has become a place which should be which should be labeled PG-115, as Gerald says. When the books that I have ordered arrrive, I am plagued to death until I go pick them up. When I get home, you would think that Rachel and the others had just been offered tickets to Disney World! Rachel is in 7th grade and enjoys---you guessed it---Language. Science and Math she dreads. She is also my social secretary, keeping track of everything I have to do; including my phone calls or e-mails coming in, and where I have to go, even if I don't need her too. She loves to sing. It is truly thrilling to hear her singing while 'Beka plays the piano. 'Beka and Rachel are learning to harmonize. Gerald and I just smile and listen from our bedroom when they sing in the evening. Rachel and 'Beka are best friends. It is fun to see them playing Dover paper dolls together, reading to each other, or doing each other's hair. Rachel has Bible verses taped all around her room, typed in big letters. She is memorizing these verses. Here is a sample: "For God has said, 'I will never, never fail you or forsake you.' That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, "The Lord is my Helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me." (Hebrews 13: 5--6). Rachel is a bubbly, happy person and a joy to have around the house.
'Beka (14) is in 8th grade, a diligent and careful student. She is progressing well with her piano. She worked very hard on "Moonlight Sonata" for her recital in the spring and did wonderfully. 'Beka plays a special piano number for church each Sunday which always gives Gerald great joy. The garden management was totally 'Beka's responsibility this year. She was great with getting the younger ones to co-operate and get the work done. She was often up before all of us, and out in the garden weeding or getting the planting stakes and seeders set up. Both 'Beka and Rachel enjoy listening to "Family Life Today" and "Revive our Hearts" on Christian radio. (They listen on-line on their break times). 'Beka has a quiet inner confidence and serenity, being happy with who she is. She takes her Christian walk seriously and displays a spiritual maturity beyond her 14 years.
Matthew (16) got his driver's license this year. He attended the local high school for 8 weeks to take Driver's Ed. I just dreaded it, but he handled it well. One of the things that impressed him with traditional schooling was how much time was wasted every day. He is thankful to be home schooled, for many reasons. Matthew is a godly young man. He strives diligently to keep his heart and life pure before God and man. He reminds me of Gerald in so many ways. He has a high standard of integrity and works hard to maintain it. He has personal devotions faithfully every day, despite his very busy schedule.
Matthew was jubilant! November 2006 (photo by Helen).
One of the things that has been interesting to observe with Matthew (or any of the other children, for that matter) is that he has no friends his age, other than his own siblings. He attends no youth groups, no parties, etc. But several older men have become his good friends. These are godly, older men who, even though Matthew doesn't know it and maybe these men don't even know it, are mentoring him. I think this has been a contributing factor in Matthew's spiritual growth and maturity. I believe that this is what young people need more than anything else. They don't need to be constantly hanging out with kids their age; they need carefully selected mature, role models who will inspire them to follow God and serve Him.
Matthew wants to be veterinarian. He applied for a job with our local vet at the end of the summer, and started two days after he applied! He loves it. We think this is a great career choice for him. It will be interesting to watch and see how God directs Matthew's life. He starts his day early, leaving the house at 6:45 a.m. He starts work at the vet clinic at 7:00 a.m. and leaves around 11:00 a.m. He is home for lunch, and then off to the lakes for yard work. He comes home for supper and then does school work until he drops into bed from exhaustion. He is by far the busiest of any of our children. He loves being outside, busy with the animals. He finds it hard to sit for long periods doing school work. He still needs frequent breaks to run around the house, eat something and beat up the little boys. Matthew raised 20 turkeys this year, 4 pigs, and 90 chickens. He has recently purchased 3 ewe lambs and one ram. The ewes will have babies in the late spring. I'm not sure how much money Matthew has made on his various animal ventures, but he has certainly acquired a Grade A education, which we feel is far more important at this point in his life. With Matthew so busy he has had little time to work on the homestead or help with household repairs. The girls have had to learn to use the tools, drive the yard tractor, and dig ditches. I have had to be content with delayed, or not done at all, household projects. But we feel this is how it should be. We raise them to empower them for their own lives and careers, not to keep them home for ourselves. Matthew got his first deer this year. We were all thrilled. We had sirloin steaks the next day. Fantastic! It was a young buck, and tasted like best beef. We made burger meat with it as well as several roasts.
How much do I owe you, to the mother said the son,
For all that you have taught me in the days when I was young.
Shall I bring expensive blankets to cast upon your bed,
And a pillow for to rest your weary head?
And the mother said,
I won't take less that your love, sweet love,
No, I won't take less than your love.
All the comforts of the world could never be enough,
And I won't take less than your love.
A Songwriter's Project--Volume 1, "I Won't Take Less Than Your Love", written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz.
My Second Family, September 2006
(photo by Laura Gioja of Center Street Productions).
My First Family---The Five Out of the Home
Jennifer and her family moved to a 4-acre country place in the mountains in late Fall. They wanted to get their children out of the city, to a place where they would not have close neighbors, and where the children could have gardens and chickens and productive farm work to do. Jennifer's in-laws are planning to move onto a part of the property next year. Jennifer and Steve are very busy serving the Lord. Steve continues as an assistant Pastor in his Dad's church. He also works part-time for Bible Truth Music. Jennifer assists Steve with many of his responsibilites, as well as home schooling Joshua, Ethan and Katelyn. The whole family stayed with us for a week in September and what fun we had together! We miss them very much!
Joshua at the family reunion. September 2006. (photo by Laura Gioja).
Mark and Jenn,with their two children, Nathan and Allison, still live near Piper City. Mark's business is prospering and the staff growing. He has added various components to his business including the manufacture of acoustic panels, a music studio for recordings, and the software work he has done in the past. They have finished remodeling their country home, are very active in their church and community, and are busy home schooling their two children.
Allison at the family reunion, September 2006. (photo By Laura Gioja).
Stephen and Jenna are enjoying their first home. Stephen is very busy with his carving business, which he operates from his basement studio. Jenna is teaching junior high students as well as working on her Master's degree. They are active in their local church, and busy with extended family activities.
Laura keeps busy chasing after toddler Kelsey, who will soon be 2 years old! Laura's husband, Philip, works with Mark. Philip also continues with his video business. Laura has started doing some still photography this year. She took our family reunion pictures in September. She hopes to build a studio in their garage sometime in the future. Laura helps Philip with his various business activities as well as being a full time mom. Both Laura and Philip are very active in their church, which they really enjoy.
Kelsey, September, 2006. (photo by Helen).
David and I just talked on the phone. He called to tell me he just closed on his very first house! This was an exciting day for him and I shared in his excitment. David works the night shift at a Kmart warehouse near Chicago as a supervisor. Kathryn and David's wedding date is June 2, 2007. We look forward to Kathryn becoming an official member of the Aardsma clan. Kathryn loves the Lord and is always fun to be around. She is a full-time music student at Olivet and will continue her studies after they marry. Their new home is about 35 minutes north of Loda. Both David and Kathryn are very active in their church, and with extended family.
David and Matthew shooting skeet, Summer 2006 (photo by Helen).
I feel, once again, that the five that are gone have been successfully launched into the great, big, scary world. I'm grateful to be their mother. I still rejoice with them when they rejoice, and weep with them when they weep---that is, when they pause to inform me of their joys and sorrows. They are, of course, autonomous families---successfuly launched as I just mentioned. That is the way it is supposed to be. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother..." Genesis 2:24.
This has been a rough year health-wise for Gerald. It has been almost 2 years since he first began to experience serious weakness in his limbs. Trying to get to the bottom of this has been a long, complicated story with many ups and downs. At the moment, Gerald, at the age of 51, has the physical ability of a 100 year old man and is close to being bedridden. The girls help him get back and forth to the office. I get him dressed, and help get him out of chairs. Gerald displays all the symptoms of serious hypothyroidism, but the blood work numbers do not reflect it. Our local doctor has prescribed thyroid hormones, which has provided considerable relief, accounting for the ups. None-the-less, there is still serious weakness, which we continue to work with our doctor to solve. Please pray for Gerald. You could pray for me too. I feel like my heart is breaking and that tears are dammed up behind my eyes, ready to come pouring forth whenever anyone asks how Gerald is doing. Sometimes the dam breaks, and I feel embarrassed and they feel embarrassed, and when I get home I feel like I could cry for a week non-stop.
Gerald has an amazing attitude through all of this. How humbling for him as I help him, even with the most private of things. He feels so bad for me, and he even has a sense of humor through it all. He says things like, "I think we should get married and start a family, don't you?" or "You're my favorite wife, ya' know." The other day when I hugged him to my body as I dragged him up and out of his chair he said, "Shall we dance?" "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." (Proverbs 17:22).
His faith has not wavered, his trust is God stronger than ever. He is truly an amazing man of God and his heart is wholly commited to Him. "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His." (2 Chronicles 16:9).
It has been harder for me. I sometimes think those that have to watch a loved one decline suffer the most. My faith has struggled with all of this. Some moments I struggle with anger and questioning, but mostly I know God has a reason. It is so hard not to worry, especially when you wake up in the wee hours of the morning. Satan loves to get us all worked up. I have to use every ounce of spiritual fortitude to get beyond it. And I'm grateful that He is there for me, to help me weather this storm. God gives me what I need every day to do what I have to do. He gives amazing, abundant strength that baffles all understanding. He has never failed me yet. "
even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (I Peter 1: 6--9). Pray that my faith will result in the glory and honor of Jesus Christ.
May I encourage you, dear sister, if you are in a hard place right now, to cast your care upon the Lord. My dear daughter Jennifer, and her husband, Steve, have written a beautiful song that has ministered to my heart many, many times. I trust it will minister to yours, as you wait upon the Lord.
Cast Your Care Upon the Lord
When the burden seems too heavy,
When the sorrow hard too bear,
When you feel afraid and lonely,
And you wonder who will care,
There's a refuge from your trouble,
There's a place to cast your care,
There are wings to give you shelter,
There is hope beyond despair.
A lovely picture of a lake north of us. Fall 2006 (photo by Caleb, age 7!).
Hear the words of Christ the Saviour,
Come to me, I'll give you rest,
He is closer than a brother,
He'll be with you through the test,
You will feel his arms around you,
You will know His perfect peace,
For his promises are ever new,
And His love will never cease.
Take your heart to the Lord,
When your heart's in need of healing,
There is peace, there is rest, in His Word.
Jesus knows where you are,
and He feels the pain you're feeling,
Cast your care, every care upon the Lord.
"Cast Your Care Upon the Lord" by Jennifer and Steve Hall, from the "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled" CD, available from www.BibleTruthMusic.com.
Seeing their Dad so ill has been rough for the five children at home. Every day Caleb prays, "And help Dad to get better soon." He has done it for so long, I think that when Gerald is well, he will still do it out of habit. The girls are sweet and affectionate, always greeting him with big hugs. This has been the most difficult trial we have ever had to face as a family, but I believe it has been faith-strengthening. We think God has special plans for these children, and we are confident that even this suffering is helping to prepare them for a special work for Him. Again and again they pull a heavy load, working together as a team, not complaining, but singing as they go. How Gerald and I thank God for these five, strong, godly arrows!
The children play Clue with Gerald. October, 2006 (photo by Helen).
Despite poor health, Gerald keeps on with his research. He is so motivated to do God's work, nothing short of death will stop him. Gerald reminds me of Dr. Robert A. Jaffray who gave 40 years of his life as a pioneer missionary in China, Indochina and Indonesia. Dr. Jaffray had diabetes, kidney trouble, a heart ailment, involuntary physical shaking as well as other health problems. He could have stayed home in Canada, on his rocking chair, reading novels and listening to classical music, and been perfectly justified, yes? No, he was working for the Lord, with all his soul, strength and might. Whatever he had, feeble though it was, it was for God. Gerald is like Dr. Jaffray.
The children and I help him in the office and lab when needed. Thankfully, his mind is active and sharp. God has blessed the research and we look forward to exciting days ahead.
How much do I owe you, said the husband to the wife,
For standing beside me through the hard years of my life?
Shall I bring you diamonds, shall I buy you furs?
Say the word and it's yours.
And the wife said,
I won't take less than your love, sweet love,
No I won't take less than your love,
All the riches of the world could never be enough,
I won't take less that your love.
A Songwriter's Project--Volume 1, "I Won't Take Less Than Your Love", written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz.
An' Little Old Me
I feel like this year has been a roller coaster of emotions for me! With ten children there is always something to rejoice about, plenty to worry about, and sometimes a things or two to cry about.
There is so much to rejoice over. Our home, at the present time, in its country setting on the edge of Loda, is a haven of peace and tranquility. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you" (I Thess. 4:11). The children are close, get along well with each other, are respectful and obedient (over-all) and are striving to please God in their day-to-day lives. Nothing gives me greater joy than to walk into a child's room and see a Bible opened to a passage they are memorizing, or a godly biography well-worn with use on their bed. I sometimes feel that the laughter and love we share is like a Norman Rockwell painting, only better because it is real. God has been gracious to Gerald and me. We are so rich---rich in the things that really count in life.
Flowers for Thanksgiving from Stephen and Jenna. November, 2006 (photo by Helen).
I'm finding home schooling five children to be a big load, like last year, but I am committed to it with all my heart and soul. I keep it my primary focus each day. Many things get neglected, like dust bunnies and dirty ovens. But I am not home to have a spic-and-span house or picture-perfect flower bed---as many of my friends and relatives will attest. Who cares?! It's all going to burn someday anyway. I am home for and because of the children. Amen? Amen!
Sometimes I forget why I'm here. I get impatient with the interruptions and constant questions and pleas for help with their school work. I need a "mission statement" for my "business": "Helen's mission is to raise godly children, educated in God's Word and the basics of God's world." Well, that isn't quite perfect. I'll keep working on it.
At other times, I get frustrated when career women/men wonder what I do all day. "Well, she has nothing to do but eat bonbons and watch the soaps. She can teach the Sunday School class, bake the cookies for 4H, accommodate my schedule, after all, I have to work!"
Well, we are busy "career" women too, aren't we? We're teachers, cooks, house cleaners, gardeners, chauffeurs, maids, lovers, mechanics, nursers, changers, seamstresses, supervisors, wives, and grass cutters. And we just can't take the day off work when we want too. We have a "house" job (vs. office job). In our case, we work 24/7. And we do it all for pay? No, we do it out of a heart of love and obedience to God who has said that we are to be "keepers at home" (Titus 2:3--5).
Yes, my career is in a one room school house, with a leaky roof, the pay is atrocious, the work grueling, the curtains dusty, the laundry four loads high,
But my, the rewards are so great! Ah, yes, those wonderful rewards. When they come your way, rejoice. No paying job could give such rewards---rewards that fill the heart. Motherhood, my dear sister, is a holy calling! Stay true and faithful! Don't lose heart.
"But what if, Mrs. Aardsma, the rewards don't come my way in this life?" Yes, it can be very hard. You have done your part, you have been there for your children, you have sacrificed and given to them the best years of your life, but they have grown up to break your heart, spurning the God you love and maybe even spurning you. Take heart, dear sister. Do you remember the ten lepers that Jesus, the perfect God/Man, healed? How many came back to thank him? One. Only one. Ministry is often like that---often thankless and unappreciated. Ask any missionary or Pastor. We don't do it for the thanks. We do it because God calls us to do it. We will reap our full reward in Heaven. That may sound hollow and shallow to you now as you struggle with the pain, but eternity is a long, long time. This life is but a passing vapor. Many righteous women have successfully completed the race before us. They are our "cloud of witnesses surrounding us" (Hebrews 12:1), encouraging us. Run dear mothers, run! Run with perseverance the race that is set before you. Keep on doing good, though weary and worn. It will be worth it all!
My Bleeding Heart plant that Eldora gave me. May 2006 (photo by Helen).
Sadly, this past year Gerald and I experienced the loss of a baby at 8 weeks gestation, on our 32nd wedding anniversary. I had felt some symptoms of early pregnancy over the 8 weeks, but just couldn't believe it was possible that I was pregnant. Menopause had already been two years behind me. Caleb will be 8 in January and I was 52 this past year! I had to carry this burden on my own for many months, because I felt Gerald was well enough to deal with it. I was worried this would be to hard for him too bear and would make him even worse physically. I didn't tell anyone about it, until one day I couldn't take it any longer and told Gerald, even though he was still not well. This has been our third miscarriage, making 13 children all together. It is funny because Gerald has always thought we would have 13! This one seems especially hard because we it seems our last chance at having another child. I do long for a baby to hold, much to most people's amazement. The children at home were sad when we told them, especially the girls who have longed for another sister. Sometimes at night when I wake up and can't sleep I think about this child, and I pretend it is a little girl with blond pig tails, brown eyes and dimples on her cheeks. (Our pattern has been two boys and then a girl, so I like to think it is a little girl.) I cry softly to myself and think of her. She is safe in the arms of Jesus but I miss her, even though I have not seen her little dimpled face or held her in my aching arms.
My days are full with many of the same things as in 2005, the ARP and AARCON accounting, and errands for the company. Soon it will be time to do the garden seed order and income taxes. I still can't believe how busy my days are. But they are filled with contentment and fulfillment. God has been very good to me. Praise God that I have a reason to get up in the morning!
Caleb's own "Veggie Tales" Fall, 2006 (photo by Caleb, age 7).
We had our annual family reunion the third week in September, now a family tradition. I lovingly and carefully planned each event. Gerald and I looked forward (an understatement!) to having all ten of our children and their families together for this once-a-year event. We started the weekend off with a BBQ at our house Friday night. I had a treasure hunt for the little ones, with clues which they followed until the final clue revealed a gift bag of goodies. Steve Hall led in a special choir practice for anyone who wished to participate in a special number for the Talent Night the next evening.
Saturday dawned dreary and misty, but nothing could dampen my spirits. My heart was full of excitement and anticipation. We rented a jump house from the local True Value for the children, loaded the van to the rooftops and headed to a park in a small town near us. The families arrived near noon. The jump house went into action and stayed that way the entire day. This was a hit, an obvious good choice, despite the large expense. The Jennifer (Hall) and Stephen (Aardsma) families took care of lunch. After lunch, family photos were taken by Laura. Door prizes were given out at both lunch and supper. We played 20 questions. This was made up of Aardsma family trivia questions, which I had prepared. Matthew was the winner, walking away in a large pair of authentic Dutch wooden shoes! A corn toss tournament was set up, with teams pre-arranged. Stephen and Jenna emerged as the winners. Supper was provided by the Mark (Aardsma) and Laura (Gioja) families. After supper, we had our Talent Night program. Various ones shared what they have been doing trhough the year. What a proud mother I am of all these talented kids! Even some grandchildren participated. Gerald did a "Sermon from Science". This was a big hit with the children. They watched liquid nitrogen freeze banana peels brittle and shrink balloons. The message was "don't let your love grow cold." We closed our day with "Bless Be the Tie That Binds" in a circle, holding hands.
In 2007 there will be no family reunion, as we will all be together for David's wedding in June. I'm already planning our reunion for 2008, once more with longing and anticipation.
The entire Aardsma clan. September, 2006 (photo by Laura Gioja).
A Closing Thought
That's most of the news. Do send me a note and a picture of your family! I'd love to hear from you.
I had better go and attack the piles of laundry, the messy closets and the unmarked schoolwork. Matthew has just brought in homemade pork sausage that he has been making in the kitchen. Unbelievably delicious! I had better get out there for supper before it is all gone.
Oops, here's that recipe I promised.
Mrs. Fields Cookies
These are the very best cookies ever! (I know. I have had plenty of failures!) The thing that I like best about these cookies is that they are firm and don't spread thinly on the cookie sheet. They are chewy, freeze well and make great dippers!
2 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour
5 c. oatmeal (put small amounts at a time in blender until it turns to a powder)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
24 oz. chocolate chips (sometimes use raisans)
1 (8 oz.) Hershey bar, grated (I made mine without this, but I would like to try it)
3 c. chopped nuts (any kind---I used almonds)
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make golf-ball sized cookies. Place 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 6 minutes. Makes 9 dozen cookies they say, but it actually makes alot less. We like our cookies big, I guess. Enjoy!
Goodnight and God bless! (photo by 'Beka).