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Volume 9 (2003)


Excerpts (text only) from MC91: 18 pages: PDF (1.6 MB): $1.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 9, Number 1

Passing the Mentoring Torch

One of my greatest passions is mentoring other women in the art of mothering. Whenever I am with a group of women and someone asks me a question, I'm off like a shot, encouraging, exhorting and giving advice! The mission of The Mother's Companion is to mentor women in accordance with Titus 2:3--5. What a joy it is to me to watch God work in amazing ways as mentorees begin applying the practical teaching of Scripture to their lives.

I have previously written about the whole concept of Titus 2 mentoring. Helen E. Aardsma, "Titus 2 Mentoring," The Mother's Companion 2.3 (March/April 1996): 1-4. In the article "The Young Mothers Class", I wrote about my dear sister and friend Vikki Grieshaber. Helen E. Aardsma, "The Young Mothers Class," The Mother's Companion 4.4 (July/August 1998): 1-7. I mentored Vikki over the several years I taught the Young Mothers Class in the church we attended in California. Vikki, in turn, took up the mentoring torch and restarted The Young Mothers Class several years after I had left.

During the years that Vikki and I were in The Young Mothers Class together, Carrie was a teenager in the church. I remember attending Carrie's wedding to our pastor's son, Andrew Redman, shortly before we left California for Illinois. Vikki kept in contact after we moved, and would often catch me up to date on Carrie and Andrew---that they had just had another baby, that they were beginning home schooling, that Carrie was attending her Young Mothers Class, and then that they were moving away from their area.

Carrie subscribed to The Mother's Companion early on. I remember writing to her and asking if she would write an article on how Vikki had mentored her, and what that had meant to her. But Carrie moved, and we lost personal contact.

Six months ago, my husband received an e-mail from Carrie's husband, Andrew. Andrew suggested that Carrie would love to correspond with me via e-mail if I was able to. When our correspondence began, Carrie mentioned that she still wanted to write an article about being mentored by Vikki.

I was thrilled when I received her story this past fall. I share it here with you. Maybe someday I'll be able to print a story from one of Carrie's mentorees in The Mother's Companion. Into Carrie's story I have woven some of Vikki's memories (in italics) of her mentoring relationship with Carrie.

It was about thirteen or fourteen years ago when I first met Vikki Grieshaber. I was in high school at the time and dating Andrew, now my husband. Andrew and I were both raised in Christian homes and were involved in our church. Andrew was in college, and I was in high school. At the time, I knew that Vikki and her husband didn't use birth control---not to mention breastfeeding, home schooling, and not sending their children to the nursery---and, to be honest, we thought they were crazy. Why would they want more than two children?

"My first personal contact with Carrie was taking her with me to a Crisis Pregnancy fund-raising dinner. I believe she was fifteen or sixteen. I was taking one of her friends, Crystal, and she asked if Carrie could come along. This was around 1988/89 when Operation Rescue was in full force, and they knew that I would go to the Rescues as a prayer warrior. I also volunteered at the Crisis Pregnancy Center, organizing their donated clothing closet as well as delivering clothes, diapers and such to ladies that needed them."

A few years later when Andrew and I were married I really began to get to know Vikki more. When Rachel, our first child, was born, Vikki was right there to help. Of course, being a young mother with my first child, advice from family and friends was plentiful. Vikki was very influential in helping me get a solid start at breastfeeding and motherhood. I received many opinions, but Vikki was always an encouragement in her words to me, and she was never critical. ...

Dear Daughter

The Encyclopedia Saga

We were living pretty happily in our $15-a-month once-fancy rented home in West Virginia when our peace was disturbed by a salesman for a prestigious encyclopedia set that starts with a `B' and is very expensive. We had a prideful hint that our boys might be a little bit smart. We fell for the bait that what they would really need in life was this costly set of brand-new, invaluable books to enhance their store of life's necessary knowledge.

Grandpa is still smarting from that deal. He knew all along that he had been taken---just by flattery. But after a very long wait, here came box #1.

Yes, the boys were thrilled. They took one volume to the back bedroom and pored over it together while I took a visitor to the kitchen for a chat. About an hour later the baby (5) pointed out that smoke was coming from the upstairs window.

The house burned to the ground---another story---but we saved the piano and the whole box of Encyclopedia B's---except the one volume that was left in the back bedroom. ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

Home schooling adds an extra load of responsibilities to a mom's already busy schedule. How can we cope with all that needs doing? I have previously shared how computers can dramatically reduce the workload for mom associated with home schooling. Helen E. Aardsma, "The One Room Schoolhouse," The Mother's Companion 6.3 (May/June 2000): 8--11. Now here are some tips for organizing the home schooling house which also help to lighten the load.

The following three things have been the most helpful for me in getting my house in order ...

Dear Helen,

I read your thoughts on "What Would Eve Do?" this past spring. (Helen E. Aardsma, "What Would Eve Do?" The Mother's Companion 8.2 (March/April 2002): 1--9.) Now I am stumped as to what Eve would do in my situation! We just had our fifth child in May. I am nursing him like all the others. But our first child was sadly raised on "Growing Kids God's Way" philosophies... we've come a long way!! Our new little guy nurses to sleep... but even as I am getting up, the movement of the bed/blankets leads him to stick his thumb in his mouth. He sleeps on a mattress beside me on the floor at night and around 5:00 a.m. I hear a "suck suck suck" on that thumb!

After all, Cain did have a thumb! He doesn't really suck during awake time (yet!), it's just in and during sleep. Should I put a bandaid on it so he won't do it? That seems mean to me! Should I lie back down with him at nap time? I think during his daytime naps he also sucks his thumb and he takes nice long naps! Dare I interrupt this, selfishly, when I am home schooling and have a toddler that's needy too?? What should I do? ...

Laura's Corner

The Grant Family Series

The last sheet was pinned in place and Heather stepped back to view the neat line of laundry with a feeling of satisfaction. There was something about carefully strung out laundry bobbing in the breeze that always satisfied something within her.

Spring was just beginning to creep over the landscape. Traces of winter were still to be found though, as the nip in the air testified. But the sun was shining vigorously, and Heather felt confident that it wouldn't be long before the green shoots of the daffodils would begin to poke their way out of the warm earth. ...

At Our House

As I write it is six days until Christmas. I have baking to do, cards to answer (I think I'm going to send a Valentine's letter this year!), tiny stocking gifts to wrap, and menus to plan for the holidays. Gerald reminds me not to get lost in the minutia but to rejoice in all the activity and be thankful I have the strength to do it all.

And now I have just heard that a lonely young man from a broken home (a college friend of Mark's) has no place to spend the holidays and will probably be a part of our family celebrations this Christmas. My heart stops for a minute. Is God asking me to share with non-family my most sacred of family times, that once-a-year precious time all my children are gathered together? "... I was a stranger, and you invited Me in... Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." Matthew 25:35,40. Certainly, Lord, he is more than welcome.

But of course, by the time you read this, Christmas will be over, Jennifer and Steve will have returned to their home in Virginia, and I will probably be preparing my garden seed order for 2003.

School, stews simmering on the stove, and children no longer able to run outside in their bare feet (now it is sock feet!), means that fall is over and winter is here in full swing.

The dusty old furnace runs continually these days it seems. It has been an unusually cold fall. We all groaned as we saw the propane truck coming down our road to fill the tanks. It seems like we just saw them coming down in late summer to fill at cheap summer prices. This year Gerald and David installed an unvented propane wall heater in the living room. This should really help our propane bill since we won't be losing half of the heat up the furnace chimney anymore. I love this little heater with its clean, quiet blue flames. It is kind of like a little fireplace. In the evenings, Gerald and I sit by it as I read to him. And no wood to cut or ashes to remove! ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC91: 18 pages: PDF (1.6 MB): $1.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC92: 17 pages: PDF (1.8 MB): $1.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 9, Number 2

VBAC

My little grandson, Ethan, is my oldest daughter Jennifer's second child. Ethan will be one year old on April 17. It is about time I tell you about his birth.

The story is told pretty much in the e-mails Jennifer and I exchanged over the course of Jennifer's second pregnancy. I have chosen to share many of these original e-mails here.

If you have not done so already, I recommend you read Jennifer's first (footling, breech) birth story, which ended in a frightening and disappointing cesarean section March 10, 2000. If it has been some time since you read that story, you may wish to reread it before continuing here. Helen E. Aardsma, "Jennifer's Birth Story," The Mother's Companion 6.5 (September/October 2000): 1--9.

I felt heart-broken for Jennifer after she experienced the c-section with Joshua. What a difficult way to have a first baby! And it meant she would be considered high risk for future births. With the incredible (and, in my opinion, inexcusable) 20--25% c-section rate in the United States Michael J. McMahon, "Vaginal Birth After Cesarean," Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 41.2 (June 1998): 369. a repeat c-section seemed nearly certain.

Jennifer wanted to have a large family. The thought of multiple c-sections was overwhelming to her. Having had a c-section myself, Helen E. Aardsma, "Boy #6!," The Mother's Companion 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1--11. I knew her concern and pain.

We didn't talk much about future babies after the c-section; Jennifer needed time to heal both physically and emotionally. But when Jennifer's second pregnancy was announced, both she and I went into high gear. Out came the medical texts and childbirth books to learn about attempting a VBAC. VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. I began to decipher, in detail, the medical papers I already had on file regarding VBACs. This led me to more papers, which I promptly ordered. From all the reading material I had gathered, I became confident that Jennifer could have a successful VBAC. For example:

Approximately 60--80% of women who attempt a trial of labor after previous cesarean delivery will go on to deliver vaginally... For women whose primary cesarean delivery was for breech presentation, the likelihood for a successful trial of labor was highest, at approximately 85%. It has been shown that when the previous indication for cesarean delivery was breech presentation, the chances of a successful trial of labor were more than twice as high compared with that of women whose primary cesarean delivery was for any other indication. Michael J. McMahon, "Vaginal Birth After Cesarean," Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 41.2 (June 1998): 374. But it was also clear from all I had read that she would need to pursue this option with strength and vigor.

At Jennifer's first doctor's appointment the CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) who worked with the doctor, said she loved VBACs and would do everything she could to help Jennifer achieve a VBAC. As a routine procedure she wanted to verify that Jennifer's c-section had been a low transverse incision. Jennifer felt confident that it had been a low transverse incision because the scar was low transverse. But the CNM informed her that the scar doesn't always tell the whole story. There are two incisions when one has a c-section. The first cuts the outer skin, and the second cuts open the uterus. The CNM told Jennifer to go home and check her hospital records, even though she was 90% sure it would say "low transverse." She said in the rare event they could not find out what type of prior cut a woman had, they would always just assume it was low transverse. If her records said a vertical (or classical) cut, then a VBAC would be out of the question.

When Jennifer got home, she glanced over her records, called her husband, Steve, and said, "We're okay, it says `low vertical'. Wait a minute, low VERTICAL?" This was a very bad day for Jennifer and family.

Jennifer immediately looked in her birth books to see what they had to say about a VBAC after a vertical cut. They all said the same thing---a VBAC should not be attempted. It was just too dangerous because of the risk of uterine rupture.

Jennifer was so discouraged when she called me with the news. So was I! But I told her we needed to get more recent medical information on low vertical VBACs.

I called my hospital library research facility and asked them for information on VBACs after a low vertical incision. They sent me several papers.

Our experience indicates that a mother with a prior low-segment vertical cesarean delivery can undertake a trial of labor with relative maternal-perinatal safety. The likelihood of successful outcome and the incidence of complications are comparable to those of published experience with a trial of labor after a previous low-segment transverse incision. Robert W. Naef III, et al., "Trial of Labor after Cesarean Delivery with a Lower-sement Vertical Uterine Incision: Is It Safe?" American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 172 (1995): 1666.

Very encouraging! I shared these papers with Jennifer.

Over the next eight months, Jennifer and I began an intense and emotional series of e-mails sharing our research, feelings, and experience with doctors and hospitals. ...

Dear Daughter

"CODE BLUE!" When this call goes out over the loudspeaker at a hospital, it means, "All hands on deck! Emergency!"

That's how I felt that summer evening, many years ago. I was sitting on the picnic table out in our rural backyard. The boys were racing around, as usual, except for Gray; he was limping.

About this time a neighbor man came over the fence line, past the humble grave plot, and strolled down the hill to visit with me. Well, he was actually more like a stranger. He was a doctor who lived with our neighbors in their homemade log cabin for the summer. The couple were not believers in Jesus, so I assumed that he was not, either. I had heard that he had a Quaker background.

We chatted aimlessly until he asked, "What's wrong with Gray's foot?" ...

Dear Helen,

In the last issue, you spoke about the whole-wheat bread that your daughter 'Beka has mastered. I have made bread in the past and enjoyed doing so. Would you be willing to give me your recipe? ...

Dear Helen,

I have four children, ages 4--11. I have the perspective of an older mom since my first wasn't born until I was 35. I agree with so much of what you write.

On kids falling asleep: for infants, I used a heating pad to gently warm the crib, then removed it before placing baby back in. My husband and I could never follow through on the steps for letting a child cry themselves to sleep. It was too agonizing. We cuddled and walked with the babies. We brought them to our bed. Our kids fall asleep on their own just fine now, rarely awaken in the night, and are not plagued with nightmares. (We've had many people comment on how secure our children are.) Around ages 3--6 the kids have blessed every morning by crawling in with us just before dawn. I can't think of a better way to start the day than with their hugs, snuggles and kisses. I am glad they feel welcome in our bed. ...

A Christmas to Remember

I had the usual excitement as I watched the equally excited children open their gifts. After the final gift was opened, my mind began thinking about getting Christmas dinner on the table. The smell of turkey was filling the house. It was time to get the stuffing in, and to do the last minute preparations.

Jennifer jumped up from her chair and said, "Wait! There is one more gift."

Mark's wife, Jenn, snatched up her camera. Suddenly there was a quiet expectancy in the air. "What's up?" I wondered.

Jennifer came back into the room and handed me a card. For me? Everyone seemed to know what was going on, except me. Jenn was poised with her camera.

I opened the card, and knew something very special was in the works. My eyes immediately got teary. I had a hard time reading the card. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC92: 17 pages: PDF (1.8 MB): $1.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC93: 16 pages: PDF (2.2 MB): $1.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 9, Number 3

VBAC: Part II

Last issue I began to share the story of Ethan's birth. Ethan is my oldest daughter Jennifer's second child. Jennifer's first child, Joshua, was born by emergency c-section due to a footling breech presentation. When Jennifer became pregnant with her second child, she learned that her c-section cut was vertical, making a VBAC seem impossible. But after much medical research and deep, agonizing thinking and praying, Jennifer decided to try for a VBAC. The pregnancy was a roller coaster ride of emotions for both Jennifer and myself.

I take up the narrative again this issue as Jennifer and I correspond via e-mail during the last ten weeks of her pregnancy. Fasten your seat belts!

February 10, 2002

Dear Mom,

Yesterday we went to the midwife for a check-up; I am right on target size-wise (32 centimeters at 31 weeks). The heartbeat sounds good, AND the baby is head down at this point. It was about at this point with Joshua that I found out about the breech situation. Every time I feel anything hard at the top of my stomach I worry that this baby will be breech, too. But as of yesterday, she said he was head down. She was not happy with us telling her that we are probably switching doctors.

I need to set up a time to meet with the doula so we can get our birth plan in place, etc. I'm pretty sure we are going to hire her, but we need to meet her first.

I really need to go. My house is in serious need of some attention. It fell apart over the weekend.

Love, Jennifer

February 12, 2002

Hi Mom,

I just got done with my pregnancy workout and thought I'd say hello really quick. This is my third or fourth time doing the workout and I really like it. My heart rate stays where it should throughout so I know I'm not overdoing it. But it's a nice change from walking, even though I'm sure I'm quite a sight. You know I've never been that coordinated. I will not do it in front of Steve because I'm sure he would laugh his head off. Joshua thinks it's rather funny himself.

We have decided to go with Dr.T. for sure.

I've been getting so excited about the baby and the birth. I got The Birth Book (by William Sears) from the library and that has been so neat to read. I thought his section on VBAC was great. He says a labor assistant for a VBAC is a must. And, he says, YOU CAN DO IT! He stated that in a study of 36,000 women having VBACs, not one woman or baby died from a uterine rupture.

We met our doula on Monday. I really liked her, and Steve liked her, too. She took the time to talk to us for quite a while. I feel that now she knows exactly where we are coming from and what our desires are. She is so supportive, and I really think she will be a great asset and help to us both. She lives 45 minutes away from us but is the closest we know of. She is going to go with me to one of my appointments to introduce herself to the doctor, etc., and see the hospital.

Love, Jennifer

February 14, 2002

Dear Jennifer, Steve, and sweetie Joshua,

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you have a special day together.

Great to hear your news about the doctor, Jennifer. God is good, and He is answering our prayers. You are on your way to a VBAC, God willing.

Love to all, Mom

February 20, 2002

Hi Mom,

Here is my rough draft of our birth plan. Please give me any comments you have. I do not know what the doctors will say about some of the things. I am willing to make changes if they feel our situation warrants it. ...

In the Kitchen

I'm always on the hunt for good breakfast ideas. Laura (18) made the following breakfast bars recently, and they were a hit! They are not too sweet, and the wheat germ gives them a nice crunch. This would make a fine dessert or snack as well.

Breakfast Bars (recipe) ...

Dear Helen,

How is it that you always manage to send the exact type of encouragement I need with each newsletter?

Your cover letter for July 3, 2002, blew me away! I was just returning home from "me time" during my children's nap time (my husband works from home) and I was feeling so annoyed that even though I'd had two hours of time for myself, I still wasn't refreshed or desiring of coming home to it all. I was uneasy, agitated, and full of self-pity for my seemingly endless amount of work. Before waking the children, I saw your Mother's Companion envelope on my kitchen counter and decided to quickly look it over in hopes of gaining some insight to "get me through" the day until bedtimes. Mind you, I have only two children so I realize this may sound ridiculous to you, but I was feeling overwhelmed. ...

At Our House

There are numerous signs that I'm getting old. More gray hairs each time I look in the mirror, thinking it won't be too many years before I'll be able to get the Senior Citizen discounts (50% off!) at the Goodwill and grocery store, feeling a few more aches and pains, recently getting my glasses strengthened... Well, I checked my birth certificate just to be sure, and it's true. I'm getting close to fifty.

And just recently I had another reminder that I'm getting old. I'm now passing on to the grandchildren some of the toys my children no longer play with.

Jennifer's oldest child, Joshua (3), was having a birthday coming up, and I had been wondering what to send him for a gift. My gift box was pretty much depleted due to Christmas. His birthday was looming, and still I hadn't purchased anything.

Jennifer and I were talking on the phone one evening, and she mentioned that she had purchased the Fisher-Price village for Joshua's birthday at a thrift shop. It was just like the one she and Mark had spent many happy hours playing with as children over twenty years ago. Ours has long since gone to its final resting place---just plain worn out by years of play. Jennifer was thrilled to get another (a $4 bargain). She said, "Mom, it must be old. The little people are wooden, just like the ones we had. And all the stickers are worn off". The village had a few cars, people, and other pieces with it.

That is when I got my idea. I had a basket full of all the little parts that went with the village (and Fisher-Price farm, airplane, boat, etc.) I could mail them to Joshua for his birthday, and then he would have more than enough things to go with his village. To make it extra special, Jennifer would have received an `heirloom' to remember her own childhood by. Why should I keep it here, when it never gets played with anymore? Jennifer's children could enjoy it daily for many years to come.

I had mixed feelings as I packed up the box. The memories came back as I placed the boats, mailtruck, garbage trucks, numerous people (they always got lost down furnace vents, outside in the yard and stuck in vacuum cleaners, but somehow they always returned), little chairs and table, furniture for the apartments, the little baby tricycle and slide... all in the box.

Some little people had no hair, their caps were broken, their eyes almost completely indistinguishable. Some people were plastic, some wooden. I remembered the arguments among the children: "He has more people than I do! It's not fair!" It seemed we always had too many real little people for the wooden little people to go around, but it taught the children some first lessons in sharing and caring.

I could still see Jennifer and Mark, lying on their tummies on the floor as they played together. There was no end to their imaginations. It was child's play at its best. Of course, Jennifer, being the oldest, directed the activities, and Mark, the younger, was her devoted slave! ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC93: 16 pages: PDF (2.2 MB): $1.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC94: 16 pages: PDF (1.5 MB): $1.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 9, Number 4

Adoption

Several local area readers of The Mother's Companion have become personal friends. Susan Tuttle is a case in point. Last summer Susan sent me the following e-mail, introducing me to Janel Janes and, ultimately, the story shared below.

Hi Helen!

Hope all is well there. Praying about your needs. Eager for the next MC.

I get the sweetest, often tear-jerking e-mails from my friend, Janel Janes, from her journal, illustrating the early growth of their Christian family---formed by God's hand, through adoption. I asked Janel if I could share this one with you. I feel it gives a very sweet picture of the attached mother out in the world:

"Noah slept late this morning. When he woke up, Mike rocked him, gave him a bottle, and he went back to sleep. Mike was absolutely loving it. He is such a great dad, with enough sense of perspective and priorities that he called his boss and told her he was going to be a little late for work, just so he could cuddle his son a few extra minutes. How many men would do that? Noah woke up smiling and happier than I've seen him in a long time.

We went to a play-group this morning. An adoptive mom invited us and several other families with Korean children to her house. It took a long time to drive there. Noah was just great in the car seat. He had a wonderful time playing with the five other kids. He played very nicely, sharing toys and hugging the other kids. I was proud of him.

It was clear early on that I did not fit in with the other mothers. I sat on the floor and played with the kids, while they sat on the expensive furniture and talked about expensive clothing stores and private schools. The house was utterly amazing. I am in awe that people live like that. All the other moms were dressed sharply and had their hair and makeup done. I felt like I was dressed in my best, because I had gotten out of my pajamas and wasn't wearing sweats. The kids had fancy toys, organized in nice shelves and tubs. They had their own furniture with their names on it, and they had the best of everything. It was all new, and all the batteries worked.

I was sitting there on the floor, watching my child gleefully playing, and I suddenly felt sad and guilty. What do we have to offer this precious little boy? If the timing of his arrival had been different, he could have lived in this house, with these toys, eating the best foods, going to the best schools, etc.

Just then he smiled at me and ran to put his arms around my neck and press his cheek against mine. He said, ``Awwww", and then ran back to play. I almost cried. It must have been God's way of reassuring me that I have plenty to offer this child.

Noah doesn't care that his toys are all from garage sales and his clothes are hand-me-downs from his cousin. All he wants is my love and undivided attention, and I can give him that. God has provided us with enough that I can stay home and take care of him. We can buy him food every day and medicine when he is sick. And we love him so much that it takes our breath away at times.

So as the other moms talked about their part-time jobs and leaving the kids in nurseries and day care to have ``mom's day out", I thought how blessed Noah and I are that we are able to be together all the time. I felt left out most of the time, but I decided to focus on what we have in common and not think of them as better than I am or think of myself as better than they are. We are just different, and the main thing is, Noah had a great time interacting with other kids who look like him.

On the way home, I thought he would be tired enough to fall asleep in the car seat. But no, he cried and gave me the ``pick me up" sign.

After a few blocks, I stopped in front of a stunning mansion and climbed in the back next to Noah to give him a bottle. After about twelve minutes, he had calmed down enough that I was able to get him back in his seat with a few crackers to munch on while I drove.

I decided I'd come straight home if he stayed content, but he started crying again, so I stopped at Kroger and let him ride around in the cart and look at things. He enjoyed it, and I needed groceries anyway. He didn't start crying again till we were almost home.

Thanks for letting me share. Talk to you soon.

Love, Janel."

I [Helen] simply had to introduce myself to Janel and find out if she had any more precious journal entries that she could share with my readers and me. She was happy to do so, ultimately contributing the following account of the adoption of Noah Janes.

A Joyful Mother Psalm 113:9. by Janel Janes

I saw an ad for inflatable kid furniture a few years ago. It read, ``Fun included. Just add kids."

Just add kids---as if it's as easy as adding eggs in a recipe.

When my husband, Mike, and I got married in 1996 (I was 24 and Mike 26), we thought we'd wait a couple years before having children. That was back when we thought you just decided to make a baby, and nine months later, you have one.

If our journey to have a child had not turned out to be so agonizing, it would be almost comical how naive we were! As it turned out, we had six years to wait before God gave us a child.

I will tell our story with excerpts from my journal. ...

The Mother's Nature Is Nurture

A pastor's wife did a survey among the mothers in her neighborhood: What does your family expect from you? Their answers were amazingly consistent:

food (specifically, home-cooked meals), clean clothes, clean and orderly home, absence of lengthy telephone conversations, cheerful attitude ("no nagging"), a loving dad, being nice to their friends, tucking them into bed, attending school activities, not assigning chores.

A clear consensus appears. Providing food and clothes and a secure and orderly shelter are at the top of the list before being nice to friends. "Chores" and "nagging" are down the list. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

The Silliest Pet

Back when we lived in West Virginia, two men stood at our door one spring morning, holding two guns and a brown sack that wiggled. They were strangers to us but figured that we were the family that could always use one more pet.

We invited them in, eagerly gathering around to see their catch. Probably the bigger boys were at school and the smallest one was too small, so our Gregory was the likely recipient. He took the "front seat" while the men explained how they had found a ground hog hole near our house, with fresh dirt and tracks all around. They had used a big stick to twist in the hole, getting the mother "hog" out without a bite, then put on a leather glove to reach in and see if there were any babies.

Yep, here was a little furry fellow, wriggling round and round, wondering what had happened, with tiny slits for eyes not opened. The men explained that you could only raise a baby ground hog if its eyes were still shut. When it opened them, finally, it thought that the one it saw must be its mom.

Gregory happily cuddled the little gray ball, with its squirrel-like tail---not like a mouse---and got instructions to feed it often with warm milk and a dropper. The men went off happily fulfilled in their hunt, and we watched Greg make a nest in a basket and carry it from room to room. ...

Health News

Question: Are there health benefits to eating honey instead of sugar? ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

In some ways, The Mother's Companion just makes Gerald's and my family bigger. When our oldest children write or phone home with their various troubles, we, of course, are concerned to help in whatever ways we can. Gerald and I discuss the trouble together, go to prayer over it as necessary, then---trying to be very careful not to interfere---we try to help relieve the trouble. Very often all that is needed is a word of encouragement, or a suggested solution they may not have thought of.

This same pattern repeats itself frequently in relation to letters from The Mother's Companion readers. The following article, by Brandy Roy, is a case in point.

Brandy had e-mailed me with her dilemma. My heart immediately went out to her and her hurting child. I was delighted at how it all worked out in the end.

Generally these sorts of exchanges are personal and private, of course. But I asked Brandy if she would mind sharing her experience with us because I felt it might be helpful to other young, over-taxed moms debating whether to send their young children off to school so they can have a bit of a break.

Off to School: An Easy Solution? by Brandy Roy

"Just wait until you have one in school, your day will be so much easier." "I couldn't wait until my children were back in school so I could have some time to get everything done." "Children thrive best in a school environment with other children."

I had heard phrases like these most of my life; however, as I pulled my exhausted body from bed for the third time in one night to comfort my five-year-old son, who had once again awoken screaming and crying, I wondered what I was missing.

Once Jacob had turned five, I received a lot of pressure about where I was sending him to school in the fall for Kindergarten. I told everyone that I planned to home school him. However, during the summer I became pregnant with our fourth child. By August, I was fighting all-day morning sickness and exhaustion. My husband was worried that I wouldn't be able to home school if I was feeling so poorly. So when my mother called him and volunteered to pay for the tuition to the local Christian school, he thought it sounded like a good solution. I was against it, but at the same time thought, well, maybe they are right, maybe he would be better off in school, and I could get more done with him gone. ...

Laura's Corner

I've been to a lot of graduations this year. I've heard a lot of speeches and have seen a lot of diplomas handed out. Although I am a part of the class of 2003, I didn't get handed a diploma or give a speech. I suppose to some people that may mean I haven't really accomplished anything. Looking back over the years of my education, I can assure you that isn't the case. My education may have been non-institutional, but it was education nonetheless.

When I started first grade as an eager six-year-old, twelve years of school seemed like such a long time. Surely it would never end. Grade school was a blur of learning reading, math, history, science, and squiggly writing that was supposed to look like cursive.

Before the advent of computer school, the one thing that sticks out in my memory is the inevitable marking sessions with Mom and Dad. It was definitely easier to convince Mom that you had lost your paper, or the baby had eaten it, than it was Dad. It was also easier to convince her that the marking had really been going on long enough, and what was the point of diagraming sentences onto those things that looked like hospital beds anyway?

Despite Dad's no-excuses policy and his love for mathematics, math was always a miserable subject for me. Those long evenings of marking seemed to stretch out into an eternity of red circles. Some students didn't argue when they were told that two plus two equals four. For me, that was too boring! Surely there were more creative answers than that out there.

Once, I innocently asked my hard-hearted father how many quarts were in a gallon. Not one to give a free answer to one of his students, he sent me to the kitchen with a quart canning jar and a gallon milk jug. I returned triumphantly a few moments later. "Six!" I said, proud that I had discovered one of the great mysteries of the world. I may have shaken Dad's confidence in practical mathematics after that.

I was inevitably the last student to leave Dad's office every night, and I generally felt like life wasn't really worth living if I had to do math for the rest of my school career. (In defense of Dr. Aardsma's Math Drill, I will say that the few things I can do in math are add, subtract, divide, and multiply, right off the top of my head.)

It was under the instruction of my mother that I discovered there was a writer somewhere inside me. Unlike math, which was just blood, sweat, and tears, writing essays and stories always left me with a sense of accomplishment. ...

At Our House

Things get a lot of use in a big family, and, as many of you know, some abuse too. Most families vacuum once a week. We generally find it necessary to vacuum every day, and sometimes twice a day. The KitchenAid is constantly humming. A machine around here gets a normal lifetime of use in under a year.

A few weeks ago Rebekah (10) went to vacuum the living room. "Mom, the vacuum cleaner isn't working." I looked it over. I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't start.

Matthew (13) said, "Oh, Mom. Yesterday when I was vacuuming, it made this funny whining noise, and then it smelled like burnt wires."

I have finally found a solution to the constant breakdown of vacuum cleaners. I buy a three-year warranty ($30) when I purchase a new machine. By two and a half years the thing has usually blown up. I then bring the surviving pieces and my warranty papers to the place where I purchased it, and they replace it with a new one. So far I have replaced my vacuum cleaner three times this way. I won't tell you in how many years!

Gerald tells me I'm really good at breaking things. Not only vacuum cleaners, but mixers, pop-corn poppers, blenders... I blame it all on the children. But he never believes me.

Recently, I went to use the KitchenAid to mix some bread dough. When I turned it on, no sound came out of it. David (16) said, "Oh, yeah, Mom. When I went to use it last night it was acting strange." See, I told you it was the children...

Excerpts (text only) from MC94: 16 pages: PDF (1.5 MB): $1.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC95: 19 pages: PDF (4.7 MB): $1.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 9, Number 5

Meet Mary Kastendieck

My husband, Darrell, and I celebrated our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary on June 28. The Lord has blessed us with eight living children spread out over a twenty-year period. We have five children in heaven, lost to us by miscarriage.

We have six children still living at home: Justin (19), Janelle (13), Joshua (11), Jacob (8), Joseph (6), and Janae (4).

Jason, our oldest, is now twenty-four. In 1999 he married Jessica, a beautiful Christian woman. They have two precious girls: Jewel, who just turned two, and Ivy, who is one year old.

Jennifer, our second born, is twenty-two. She was married in 2001 to a godly young man, Wade Goodwin. They have one little boy, Keagan, who is ten months old.

As I look back over our lives I feel the Lord has blessed us abundantly. Darrell and I both grew up in the small rural town of Montrose, Colorado, where we continue to live today. Darrell grew up in town and I in the country. I guess you might say that our families go back many years together. My mom and Darrell's mom were best friends in high school and grew up in the church together. My dad and Darrell's dad worked together in the parts department of a local automobile dealership for years. There wasn't much they didn't know about each other's families.

The funny thing about it, though, is that I don't really remember much about Darrell or his family until I entered my junior high and high school years. We share many of the same memories of growing up, though, and we had many acquaintances in common.

I grew up on a small farm where my parents worked hard selling eggs to the local grocery stores and restaurants, and milk to customers who came to our home each week. My parents certainly had very strong moral values and a good work ethic. We attended church fairly regularly, but we never read the Bible or prayed together, except for a memorized prayer before family meals.

My husband and I purchased my old home place seventeen years ago. It is a turn-of-the-century home that has been well kept up over the years and has been in the family since the 1940's. My mom and dad live a few hundred yards behind us on twenty acres in the house that I remember my grandparents living in when I was growing up.

Living close to my parents has been such a blessing for both families. My dad is a diabetic. The children have been taught to notice if grandpa's blood sugar is going low. They come and tell me if grandpa seems confused or disoriented and slow moving. They have averted a crisis a couple of times. Thankfully, this doesn't happen too often.

The children have always known their grandparents and have spent time almost daily with them growing up. I feel almost spoiled in a way because I have always had my mom near me to help out with the children. The children still find it a real treat to run out to Grandma and Grandpa's house to see what they are doing. ...

The Good Old Days

Agriculture was the chief resource of the people. Every child was, to a certain extent, a producer, and children had to work part of each year before they had reached their teens. From early spring until the crops were in and the grain harvested the girls and boys had to assist in putting in the wheat and small grain that must be sown in the fall, and in gathering and garnering the corn and other products, and all without the aid of machinery. There were no McCormick reapers and harvesters, or Hough's ploughs and planters; but with oxen, mules, and horses men and boys ploughed all day long, while the women and weaker or aged men followed in the furrows, dropping the seeds by hand.

The harvesting was done with cradle, scythe, or sickle, while men followed the skilful cradler, and by hand bound the bundles of rye, oats, and wheat. Others followed and shocked them in the fields till they had passed through the "sweat" and were ready for the thrashing-yard. Here was heard the stamp of many horses' feet, tramping out the grain on the smooth yard prepared for the purpose. The Ruths and Naomis were many, who gleaned the fields carefully after the men, to be sure that, as nearly as possible, every grain should be saved. ...

A Word to the Wives is Sufficient

Intimate Issues

There are several "Priority One" issues which Gerald and I make it a point to address when giving pre-marital counsel to our own children or to other young couples. The problem of differing levels of sexual interest after marriage is one of those issues.

I think it is difficult for engaged couples to believe that an imbalance in sexual interest could ever develop within their marriage. If I have read their thoughts correctly as we have chatted together on this topic, they have gone something like this: "Are you kidding? We must be different from most couples. That will never happen to us. We have an incredible, insatiable passion for each other."

Yes, of course they do. God has created man and woman with a sexual appetite. And just as one feels they "could eat a horse" when they have missed a few meals, so one feels their sexual interest is infinite during the God-appointed abstinence preceding marriage.

But, in actual fact, the sexual appetite is an appetite. And appetites do satiate.

A problem arises in marriage when one partner's sexual appetite is larger than the other partner's. It is very disappointing to come to the table, "hungry enough to eat a horse" and find the table is empty. And on the flip side, it is frustrating and difficult to serve up yet another meal, and have to sit down and eat it too, when one feels over-stuffed already. Not surprisingly, this imbalance frequently gives rise to disharmony in marriage (which is why Gerald and I treat it as a "Priority One" issue in premarital counseling).

How is this imbalance---for which neither partner is to blame---to be handled in a way which preserves marital harmony and pleases the Lord? ...

Product Review

When the radio program Gateway to Joy with Elisabeth Elliot ended in December 2001, I was so disappointed. I wasn't an avid listener to her program, but I would review the printed version on the web from time to time, whenever I could find a spare minute. When Nancy Leigh DeMoss took over with a new program called Revive our Hearts, I didn't even bother to tune in or read the radio program transcripts. She was single, young (at least compared to Elisabeth Elliot), and I had never even heard of her. I didn't think she would have much to say to wives and mothers, having never experienced those roles herself. I figured her program was probably just going to be another one of those woman preachers teaching theology and doctrine. With the teaching of theology and doctrine being conspicuously absent from the older woman's job description in Titus 2:3--5, I was not interested.

While Laura was doing the dishes one evening, I overheard her listening to .....

Dear Helen,

I thought you would be interested in hearing my story about an unanticipated problem I had with breastfeeding. Maybe it would help other women.

After breastfeeding five children successfully, I never anticipated a problem nursing my sixth child. Although born three weeks early, he was healthy and robust, awake and alert after his birth, but not interested in nursing immediately as my other babies had been. I attempted to nurse him several times during the first hour after his birth, but he would not latch on. I was not concerned. He slept most of the twenty-four hours we spent together in the hospital, even sleeping through diaper changes and my frequent handling. I felt he would wake up and get on with nursing once we were settled at home. I was wrong. Baby Gabriel simply did not seem to know how to nurse. He cried unless he was held, and when held he slept instead of nursing. When he did attempt to nurse, he barely opened his mouth. He gnawed and chewed at the nipple in spite of my best efforts to get him to latch on correctly, and my milk was very slow to come in. ...

At Our House

If you read The Mother's Companion, Volume 9, Number 4, you will have noticed a picture of Matthew and his new dog. Getting a dog has been a dream-come-true for Matthew. I asked Matthew if he would be willing to write a little about this experience and share what he has learned about acquiring a family dog. Matthew agreed. Here is the result (with a little help from me).

The Perfect Family Dog? by Matt Aardsma (13)

I was nine when I got very interested in dogs. For several years I did a lot of research about different breeds. I read numerous dog training books because, if I did get a dog, I wanted it to be well trained.

When I was about twelve my mom and dad started thinking seriously about letting me get a dog. I seriously began reading about dogs at that point. What kind of dog did I want? More importantly, what kind of dog would my mother tolerate?

I began to consider English Setters. I liked them because they were good with kids, smart, and good guard dogs. I contacted a lady who owned and bred Setters. I asked her if English Setters stray away from their homes if let loose. She said that they do wander. I wanted a dog to have the freedom of the yards (no dogs on a chain) without always trying to run away. So that was the end of that option. I had better things to do than chase my dog every day. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC95: 19 pages: PDF (4.7 MB): $1.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC96: 20 pages: PDF (6.6 MB): $1.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 9, Number 6

Seasons of Our Lives

I feel like my head is whirling with all the changes that have been taking place in my life over the past several months. I'm reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1--8 (NASB).

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven---

A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.

A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.

A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.

A Time To Give Birth

My Background

I was born in 1954 in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. I am the fourth of five children. I have one sister and three brothers, all who still live in Canada. My parents are still living near my birth place.

I was privileged to be raised surrounded by Christian families. I attended church whenever the church doors were open. I really enjoyed Pioneer Girls at church each week. One very special woman, Mrs. Dorothy Loewen, impacted my growing-up years. She was a leader in the Pioneer Girls group and a good friend of our family. I didn't know about such things at the time, but she was a true Proverbs 31 woman. I did know that when I grew up, I wanted to be like her.

She had a big family, was home all the time (I remember other folks criticizing her because her husband didn't even know how to make his own tea!), gardened, canned, sewed many of the family's clothes, had folks in for dinner almost every Sunday, and volunteered in the church for many different things. She would bring her beautiful flowers into church on Sundays for the pulpit. She was gracious, was busy at home, respected and obeyed her husband, and was an unsuspecting model to all the younger women. I remember her saying once that she felt belittled by the more modern women of the church, that she had little education and no `real' job. But her family felt differently, and she impacted me more than all the `modern' women of the church put together.

I now see that I was being mentored in godly womanhood by Mrs. Loewen, even though I didn't know what mentoring was at the time. I am grateful for her and to God for bringing her into my life at such a young age.

I went to public schools all my school years. Everyone did back then. Television was a constant presence in our homes, and along with secular schooling, eroded the values and faith of myself, my siblings, and my friends.

Birth Into God's Family

In my middle teen years I was greatly impacted by a godly family that had moved up from the United States into Canada. They were "Americans" and different, but they had a faith that one read about in missionary books; the kind tried by fire, alive and vibrant. The children in this family carried their Bibles to school and witnessed to their teachers and friends. They brought unsaved friends to youth group. The dad was always sharing the gospel and "giving his own shirt" to help others. ...

A Bedtime Story

Here is a sweet, little old-time story to read to your children over the holidays.

Well now, I'll tell you.

Down in Boston quite a few years ago there was a Mister and Mrs. Small. They was a couple along about seventy and was pretty rich. They'd worked all their lives and had pinched here and pinched there until they'd sort of pinched themselves.

They lived in a big mansion though, `cause they wanted other folks to know they had plenty of money. They had a butler and a cook and all the fixings what went with them, but even this didn't seem to make them happy. They'd sort of got out of the running of things and they was a pretty hard-hearted couple. ...

Christmas Ideas

Here are two pretty Christmas decorations I remember seeing in some stores last year.

Make some simple but elegant button snowflakes with your children for the holidays. Take clear, white, or mother-of-pearl buttons of any size and glue them to twigs which have been put together in a star shape. Glue the star to long cross-grain ribbons and hang them from a mantle, window, or ceiling.

Place old Christmas tree balls in an urn or tureen. They make a very pretty centerpiece.

Here are some gift ideas that have been very popular in our family over the years. ...

Healthy Weight

I have maintained my initial goal weight of 130 pounds (this is the top of my healthy weight range) for some months now. (Recall that I started out at 160 pounds several years back.) So I think we can say that I am "cured" of overweight. But I suspect it is kind of like an addiction; you are never really cured. It is a good thing that my accountability partner (Gerald) keeps after me! He never lets me off the hook.

Each day at morning devotions, he asks for my weight report so he can faithfully fulfill his role as my accountability partner. I can easily gain a pound in one day. But since I weigh myself daily, record the weight in the computer, and give my weigh-in report sheet to Gerald, I can't get away with it! "Another pound off today, Mrs. Aardsma!", he says.

I guess Gerald can take credit for my weight loss, too! If it weren't for him breathing down my neck I probably would be a diabetic by now! I know he is being kind to me with all this accountability stuff. ...

At Our House

Here's an update on what all the family members have been doing these last months. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC96: 20 pages: PDF (6.6 MB): $1.99 U.S.



            

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