Greetings, dear friends of The Mother's Companion!
Here is the update I promised you. Put the kettle on and enjoy a nice cup of tea while we visit together.
All of our family are doing well. I'll start with the youngest and work up from there.
Caleb is almost 6. I can't believe it! He is learning to read and loves to do all the typical boy things. He doesn't like being called "the baby of the family" since in his opinion, he is getting quite grown up. The other day he said to me, "When I grow up I would like to be a doctor or a zoo keeper. I'm already very good at doing doctor things. I take out 'Beka's slivers all the time!" Caleb lost his first tooth the other day. It is hard for Gerald and I to believe that all of Caleb's firsts are lasts for us. Caleb has been sleeping in his own bed with Timmy for about 4 months now. I wasn't ready but Gerald felt it was time and I knew it was best for Caleb. I told him firmly not to come into my bed anymore. So, he didn't---he was ready. It is really weird to not have a child in our bed after almost 28 years! I miss it, to be honest. My king size bed often feels empty and lonely. Maybe we just need a smaller bed now.
Timmy (almost 8) is doing well in 2nd grade. He has made several bows and arrows and enjoys climbing the back tree trying to shoot sparrows. He often comes in and says, "Mom would you like to come and take a picture of me shooting this sparrow?" He is helping more and more around the house and farm. He asked me yesterday if he would be able to pick strawberries next summer. Timmy is good- natured and sweet, most of the time. He reminds me of Gerald so much. He even has his middle name, Edward.
Caleb, Timmy and Rachel, December 2004.
Rachel (10) is doing well with violin and seems to have a knack for writing. I have to keep telling her not to write such long essays for school, because they are quite a bit of work to mark! She is writing her first book; all very secretive, of course. Rachel is an avid reader and a real Jane Austin fan. Rachel is most like me and guess what--she has my middle name, Eloise! Her hair is getting dark like mine (though mine is getting lighter and lighter all the time--as in gray). Rachel loves to chat and socialize, talking really fast like me. (My grade school report cards all said the same thing: "Helen is a bright and capable student, but she talks too fast and too much!")
'Beka (12) is doing well in intermediate piano. She is beginning to write her own songs on the piano. She set a poem she liked to music. It is interesting and delightful to hear her as she composes. There is nothing in the world like homemade music. 'Beka continues taking cello lessons this year. She purchased her own cello with her savings. It is a joy to my soul to hear 'Beka and Rachel practicing hymns on their instruments. 'Beka cooks the main meal every day, makes our bread and continues with a few bread customers, which pays for her music lessons.
'Beka writing in her journal, December 2004.
My little girls are growing up much too fast; they don't play with their dolls anymore. The dollies are now being passed on to the grandaughters. Thankfully, 'Beka and Rachel still enjoy playing with paper dolls and my heart delights to hear gales of laughter coming from their bedroom when they do.
Matthew (14) is turning from a young teen into a man before my eyes. Matthew says he wants to be farmer someday. He really enjoys animal husbandry. He made a good profit from his chickens and turkeys this year and hopes to increase his profits from goat milk and rabbit meat next year. He has two female goats (does) and is learning to do artificial insemination (AI) for them. The vet came out one cold, rainy morning and he, Gerald and Matthew had an AI 101 session, hands-on education at its best! Matthew was able to purchase some New Zealand White rabbits a few days ago. The family looks forward to stewed rabbit next year. Matthew did really well as the homestead manager this year. It was the most productive farm year yet. Our strawberries were outstanding. We had to hire six of the local teenagers to come and help us pick! Matthew was busy this fall helping two local farmers with haying and farm work, as well as doing lab work for Gerald's Bible/Science research.
Matthew's new cowboy hat from Timmy, Christmas 2004.
Matthew continues to read and is always saying, "Mom, I've read every book in this house at least twice!" I'm thankful for on-line library services which enable me to order the books I need without having to bring the children into the library and expose them to so much worldly trash. Matthew's main interest at present is hunting books. He was allowed to purchase a 0.22 rifle this past summer, and under Gerald's careful supervision has become quite a marksman. Matthew is learning to play the harmonica and the guitar. He continues to train Nellie, his boxer, who has turned into a pretty nice dog. Matthew will probably take over David's yard business next fall, when David goes to university. Don't ask me how I'm going to keep up with the garden and homestead when he does.
David (17) is finishing his last year of homeschool high school and is presently taking college entrance exams (ACT). David has had a busy summer doing yard work for his lawn care business. This has been a great work experience for him. He plans to attend Evangel University in Missouri next fall, taking criminal justice. He would like to be a policeman.
David putting together a model car, December 2004.
Laura married Philip Gioja on May 22. The Gioja family was one of the first families we met when we moved here. Philip is the second oldest in a family of nine. Laura's wedding was simple, pure and elegant. Both Jennifer (Aardsma) Hall and Jenn Aardsma (Mark's wife) played the piano. Jennifer and Steve sang, "Be Thou My Vision", which was beautiful. I will always remember that song in connection with Laura's wedding. Little Caleb, our youngest, and Lydia Gioja, the Gioja's youngest, walked down the isle together as ring bearer and flower girl. They were adorable; relaxed and smiling. David was the Best Man, a role truly deserved as he did so many things together with Laura and Philip over the years. As Gerald walked Laura down the isle, I couldn't believe we were letting another daughter go. Laura was radiant and relaxed, smiling at everyone as she came up to the front. I was so proud of her. During the wedding reception I had arranged for Steve Hall to sing "Masterpiece". (This was originally sung by Sandi Pattie, words by Gloria Gaither, Craig Patty, Michael Patty and Brent Henderson, and music by Craig Patty and Brent Henderson.) Gerald and I held Laura's hands---it was pretty emotional! The family also sang our traditional "Welcome to the Family" song to Philip. During lunch the next day Steve Hall said, "It was the purest wedding I've ever been to." We all agreed.
Me, Philip, Laura, and Gerald at Laura's wedding, May 2004.
Laura and me on her wedding day, May 2004.
"Welcome to the Family" being sung to our new "son" Philip, May 2004.
We are happy to announce that Laura and Philip are expecting a baby in early spring. We are so excited! Laura loves being a homemaker and being a support to Philip in his various filming projects. They live about 45 minutes south of us, which means we get to see them quite regularly. Laura and Philip are planning on a home birth.
Laura's baby shower, January 2004.
Stephen got married to Jenna Doughtery on June 18 in Chicago at the Judson
College Chapel. We spent three days up in Chicago for the wedding. 'Beka was a junior bridesmaid and David and Matthew were ushers/groomsmen. Stephen designed the program, carved a lovely rose for the middle of Jenna's boquet and did the decorating in the chapel. All were very beautiful. Stephen walked me down the isle and seated me. I was so proud of him and all that he means to me! Jenna walked down the isle to the beautiful theme song from the Anne of Green Gables movie called "Anne's Theme" played by our own Jennifer. Both Jenna and her Dad were crying as they came down the isle. So was I! The ceremony was conducted by Steve Hall, performing his very first wedding. He did great! Jennifer and Steve sang several numbers, all making me cry. At the wedding reception our family, once again, sang "Welcome to the Family," this time to Jenna.
Stephen and I on his wedding day, June 2004.
The whole family at Stephen's wedding, June 2004.
So now, I have four married children.
Our family enjoyed a special time at the motel in Chicago, using the pool and hot tub with the children and grandchildren. I think we used every towel in the motel! Not having to make meals was such a treat. It was the first mini-holiday that our family has had in some 10 years.
We see Stephen and Jenna when they drive down from Chicago every few weekends. They are so thoughtful and do special things with the children when they come. Stephen is carving full time now (see www.whisperingoaksstudio.com) . If you get a minute, go to his site and view his marvelous work! He loves carving, and enjoys working at various museums and craft shows. Jenna is a busy junior high teacher. I am enjoying getting to know Jenna; she is a warm and loving person.
Mark and Jenn had their second child and first daughter on August 04 of this year. What a joy to welcome her into our family. Jenn had a wonderful home birth, classic text book case. There is nothing like the relief after a baby is born and all are well. Nathan turned 3 in September. He is so precious to us. He is quite a talker and I'm even able to understand some things he says! He is a very social child and loves to come to "Gamma's house". His aunts and uncles dote on him!
Baby Allison coming to visit me, her Grandma!, August 2004.
'Beka playing with Nathan in our pool, Summer 2004.
Mark works from home on his own business, Aardsma Technology Services, and continues to sell Dr. Aardsma's Math and Spelling drills for ARP. Mark and Jenn also continue to work on restoring their old country house. It is coming along nicely. Jenn has a very nice decorating touch. She keeps busy with their two little ones and helps with music ministry at their local church.
Jennifer and Steve still live in Virginia where Steve is an assistant pastor. They have been developing Hall Music Ministries this past year (see www.hallmusicministries.com). They have come out with their first CD, "Sailin' On". (You can order this from their web site.) They are now working on a second CD, a lullaby recording which they hope to have out by Mother's Day. Jennifer keeps busy with her three little ones and will soon begin homeschooling Joshua. She is also very active in their local church helping Steve with his ministry.
My grandson, Ethan, playing with my dishtowel, December 2004.
Jennifer's daughter Katelyn, December 2004.
Joshua eating Christmas dinner with Matthew, December 2004.
Gerald keeps very busy. He spends most of the time doing research but managed to build a nice barn/pavillion this summer with Matthew as well as put in a new bathroom for the family with David. We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this summer. The children surprised us with a private party (just the children, per our request) the day after Laura's wedding. (Laura and Philip were understandably absent.) All the children went together and bought us a lovely clock which Stephen engraved with our wedding date. I cherish it and have it in the living room on my antique library shelves. The children purchased a cake, and made a nice Chinese dinner. Jenn, Mark's wife, put together a lovely video for Gerald and I, showing our wedding pictures, the children as they were babies, and then growing up, etc. I cried all the way through it.
Gerald still has to be very careful about fats in his diet. He eats a lot of rice, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables; actually a very healthy diet. Gerald took Matthew squirrel hunting in the early morning hours, on several occasions this fall. Ever had squirrel? It is a lot like rabbit. I tried to think it was rabbit as I was eating it. I've been told the early pioneers ate a lot of squirrel and rabbit.
Gerald is my bestest of best friends and I'd rather spend time with him than anyone else in the whole world. God has been very good to us and we cherish each other more each day. I appreciate Gerald's wisdom, spiritual discernment, his servant heart, his compassionate fathering, his Bible knowledge, our daily walks, our 'talk through everything' time. All the money in the world could never buy the joy that I have in my marriage and family.
Gerald tickling Caleb, Ethan and Joshua waiting their turn! December 2004.
I have enjoyed having time to do some decorating around the house. I made some Shaker peg racks for my bedroom. They go the entire length of the room on both sides. Above my bed I draped some sheer white "curtains" along the pegs. I put ivy along the top and hung two tulle bows in the middle. It makes a canopy effect over the bed, and adds a romantic feeling to the room. On the other pegs I've hung an old mirror, some of my hats, a wreath, some antique large embroidery hoops, lacey draped sections and some candles. What I really like about the Shaker peg method of decorating is that I can easily change things around to different rooms if I want, or even do a complete color change.
Above my bed, March 2004.
I am able to write a To-Do list and, for the first time in a very long time actually get it accomplished. I can spend a morning outside working on the flower beds, and cleaning up the yards, garden and garage, so the grounds don't look like they have been neglected for three months! I work together with the children more, dealing with issues as they arise. This has been good for us all. It is the very best child training method.
I made two sets of ivy embroidered pillow cases for wedding gifts for Laura and Jenna. I also made one set for myself with pretty country hearts. They were simple stamped cross stitch, easy to pick up and put down during the many interruptions of a busy household. I'm working on a fourth set of pillow cases, a little more advanced embroidery, all bows and flowers. I enjoy this kind of handwork and take it with me to piano lessons and appointments where I have to wait. I am at a new phase of my life, where I can actually do this kind of thing. It has been 30 years in coming!
I now have time for the girls to take up outside piano and string lessons. God has supplied two teachers just 4 miles south of us. I do errands, handcrafts or read while I wait for the girls, making good use of the time. I often have my devotions in the car while I'm waiting. If the boys have decided to stay home, which they often do now, the quiet is a rare treat for me.
I still find it very strange not to have a nursing babe on my lap. I feel at times like I have an arm missing or something. I have strange dreams some times. In one I'm having a baby and am so happy--and then I wake up and cry. I feel the pain deeply at those times. I don't dwell on this, but every now and then something reminds me, and I feel sad. Oh, those fleeting years of mothering infants---sometimes hard to appreciate when you are in the middle of overflowing diaper pails, exhaustion that can't be described, fussy toddlers and muddy boots piled by the front door, with mud splattered on floors and walls alike. If you are there, try to see beyond the workload and enjoy the wealth you have in your little ones.
Mostly I am at peace at this time of my life. God has abundantly blessed Gerald and me with ten wonderful children and now the grandchildren are arriving pretty regularly. Life is good. I find my life is routine and pretty much ordered.
My old weather vane on the south fence.
We had the natural gas lines brought down to our house, so in early Fall we made the transition from liquid propane to natural gas. This should pay for itself in two years. The conversion was quite a process. I had to take out my lovely old 6 burner restaurant stove, since it couldn't be converted. I was so disappointed. I have it out in the barn, and hope to set it up for canning and cooking come summer by putting it on a small propane bottle. I'm on the lookout for another restaurant style stove, which is set up for natural gas. We bought a new hot water heater, rather than convert the old one since the old one was full of hard water deposits.
We didn't intend to remodel the bathroom, but when Gerald was ready to install the hot water heater, he had a chance to inspect the tub drain, with the old water heater moved out of the way. It had been leaking badly into the crawl space under our home for some time. We had hoped it was just a fitting which needed tightening, but it turned out to be a cracked pipe. Efforts to remove the cracked pipe from the tub were not successful, so out came the old tub. I was glad to see it go. The old tub was so small and shallow it was actually torture to have a bath in it. A young guest in our home once said to me, "Mrs. Aardsma, I don't mean to be rude, but that is the smallest tub I've ever seen!" One thing led to another. I ended up with a badly needed water softner, a new tub/shower unit (one solid piece), a new sink/counter and a new closet behind the tub, in the laundry room.
I'm so thrilled! I now have soft water. It makes a big difference to the laundry and to cleaning up the new shower unit. I love my new bathroom and enjoyed designing and planning it. As Gerald and David worked on it, I ran back and forth to the store getting the parts. The store sales people started calling me by my first name!
We have now completed the gas conversion and they will soon take out the propane tanks. I will be glad to be rid of them, though the boys will no longer have their backyard 'ponies' to ride, nor those hot metallic surfaces to sun on after a dip in the pool.
Tim and Matthew enjoying a race car set, Christmas 2004.
We are having our annual Aardsma family Christmas get-together on January 2. We look forward to having all the children and grandchildren together for that day. Everyone will bring food and participate in our talent/sharing evening. The children and I are practicing some songs, and the girls their various instruments. Gerald has been saving some good jokes. There will be 19 of us this year. Soon we will have to find a new place to have our annual get-to-gether since our house is rapidly becoming too small to hold us all! I'm starting to get ready for everyone coming home. I'm cleaning out cupboards and closets a little each day. I hope to do a little interior painting soon.
Winter is on it's way. Matthew and I spent a morning 'battening down the hatches'
putting plastic on some of the windows and covering them with quilts. It feels just plain cozy in here. Next fall, God willing, we hope to put new windows in this old house, and a new roof and some new siding. All these projects have needing doing for many years, and slowly we are rebuilding our little place.
How have things been for me since I ended "The Mother's Companion?" It was the right decision and I still have peace that it has been for the best. I have been much more relaxed this past year, and I think I have been a better mother and wife. Certainly life without publishing deadlines is wonderful! I have been more available to help the children with their school work when problems arise, have kept up with the marking, and my house is much more tidy and organized. Still not cleaner, though! I enjoy a nice relaxed reading time with Timmy and Caleb each night before they go to bed. We all cuddle in my bed, Timmy usually insisting that we have some candles lit, and then we dive into our books. Caleb and Timmy put their freezing feet on my warm feet and then we start. First we read a Bible story. After that, at present, we continue working our way through the "Little House on the Prairie" series. This is my favorite time of day, and my favorite place in the house.
I now have more time for Gerald, planning our time together in the evenings with special books to read or an occasional wholesome video that I have previewed ahead of time. I have taken over some of the things that Gerald used to do, helping him in whatever ways I can. I now take care of the family finances, find and place orders for research materials, and numerous (emphasis on numerous) other odd jobs. I am just as busy as ever, but more "there" in the home, and very happy with my present lot in life.
Kinglet nest in our back elderberry bush, Summer 2004.
I do miss ministering to women through "The Mother's Companion." I still feel keenly the barrage by the world against godly womanhood. It seems as strong as ever. It is almost impossible not to be affected by it. If we are not extremely discerning in what we expose ourselves too, we can easily find ourselves wondering what in the world we are doing at home with these demanding children. The world will tell us over and over that we are hiding our many "talents", that doing mundane, brainless household chores is beneath the dignity of a woman. It is so easy to lose the biblical perspective of serving our families and raising the next generation for Christ. Satan is happy to convince us that it is not fulfilling, that our children and husband's can just fend for themselves, and that "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy". It is a lie from the pit!
Oh, many women of this generation are screaming out about rights for women, but who is screaming out for the rights of children? The right to be cherished, loved and cared for by the only person in the world who really loves them. The right to be breastfed, rocked to sleep, cuddled during nightly fears. The right to be taught right and wrong. The right to enjoy a childhood free of fears and insecurities. The right to be born, to see the sunsets, to hear Cannon in D by Pachelbel. The right to grow up secure, knowing how to form lasting attachments. The right to achieve to their greatest potential. Again, I ask you, who is fighting for the rights of the children? Why must they suffer the loss of their mothers to the work-a-day world? What wrong have they done?
C. S. Lewis lost his mother to cancer when he was a young child. This is what he had to say about the impact of this loss on his life. "With my mother's death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of Joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis."*1
Our present generation of children feel like this, floating lost in a big sea of insecurities and loneliness. They can't speak out, they can't articulate it. They don't even know what they are missing. It is just this large void in their souls that is silently screaming to be filled with a mother's love, a void they spend their whole lives trying to fill.
And what can we do about it? Let us do our part right where we are. Let us all renew our vision of godly womanhood and start by being there for our own children, putting aside our own desires for an immaculate house, our desires to minister "out there", our desires for "time out". This is our children's God-given right and our God-given duty. Meeting our children's needs meets our ultimate need for fulfillment in womanhood more than anything else can possibly do. That is the road to true happiness; a dying to self is the only road to joy.
What can we older women do? We can mentor younger women, encouraging them in the lonely years of mothering, actively helping with meals, housework as we can, teaching a class based on Titus 2, speaking a timely word. Pass the vision on!
'Beka's sunflower along the front fence, Summer 2004.
I received this lovely poem from a former subscriber in April of this year. The author wrote this poem when her children (she had 9) were little. The author's family has given me permission to publish it.
Tarrying by the Stuff
(from 1 Samuel 30:24)
by Lois Wilder Cowles
The "Stuff needs tarrying by" tonight,
Oh Father, give me grace,
To tenderly, compassionately,
Wash each tired little face.
And just before they're tucked in bed,
To teach them Lord of Thee...
Remembering that it won't be long,
I have them 'round my knee.
There's clothes to fold, the floor to sweep,
And dishes to be done...
And in between to rock and soothe
My feverish little one.
Within my heart I long to be
Down where the anthems roll,
And hear the front-line soldier fight,
For each lost, Hell-bound soul.
I'll tarry by the stuff, Dear Lord,
For very love of Thee,
And hear the anthems, share the spoil
Thru all eternity.
These training days will soon be o'er,
And then with sharp salutes...
They'll all report for duty, Lord,
My young, strong, trained, recruits.
Gerald and I grieved the homegoing of President Ronald Reagan this past year. He was a godly man and one that Gerald and I had read much about. We felt we had lost a hero and a friend. Who shaped and molded this person?
"The key to understanding Ronald Reagan is to look back at his childhood and learn about his mother, Nelle Wilson Reagan. Without a doubt, she was the most influential person in his life; what she taught him when he was young remained with him throughout his life. Years after her death, Reagan would quote her, and her guiding principles became his own. The time, investment, and strong faith that she poured into his life are what produced one of America's greatest presidents...
She was an amazing Christian woman whom President Reagan credits for truly influencing him and his brother Neil. In 1981, Reagan said, "There is no institution more vital to our nation's survival than the American family. Here the seeds of personal character are planted, the roots of public virtue first nourished. Through love and instruction, discipline, guidance and example, we learn from our mothers and fathers the values that will shape our private lives and our public citizenship."...
"Many of us have been taught to pray by people we love. In my case, it was my mother. I learned quite literally at her knee.
"My mother gave me a great deal, but nothing she gave me was more important than that. She was my inspiration and provided me with a very real and deep faith."
Despite their frequent moves and hard times, the Reagan boys always had their mother Nelle as a constant (my emphasis). She gave them both unconditional love with a combination of encouragement and discipline...
A lovely old hymn, "Brighten the Corner Where you Are," which was written around this time of Nelle's life, captures her essence:
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do;
Do not wait to shed your light afar.
To the many duties ever near you now be true.
Brighten the corner where you are. "*2
His mother was just a humble, unobserved woman doing her duty. What an impact she had on the world through her son.
I miss sharing these passions with you. I realize this even more as I have spent these last paragraphs doing what I did for 9 years through "The Mother's Companion." It sets my heart on fire. But even as I have been typing these paragraphs this morning, my children are calling, the knocks on my office door occurring about 30 seconds apart, reminding me why I am home and what my first calling is.
Well, that's the news. I will look forward to talking to you again next year around Christmas time. I'd love to hear from you! Let me know what God is doing in your life.
Matthew and "sled dog" Nellie, Winter 2004.
Let me close with this poem, written by Gerald's Aunt Doris. It sums up so many of my thoughts.
A Day in the Life of....
by Doris Aardsma
Stacks of dirty dishes;
Spilled milk dripping;
And baby crying.
Meals to plan;
Lists to make;
House to dust;
And pies to bake.
Go get the mail;
Call a friend;
Write check to send.
Pick up children;
Stop at store;
An hour or more.
His dinner's made;
His loving hug
Helps stresses fade.
Baths to give;
Get kids to bed;
"We love you, Mom!"
Small voices said.
Sharing loving moments
Just two alone;
Enjoy the rest
When tasks are done.
Turn out the lights;
It's worth it all
At end of day.
My living room, December 2004.
*1 Mary Beth Brown, Hand of Providence: The Strong and Quiet Faith of Ronald Reagan, WND Books, Nashville, TN, 2004, 19, 20, 28, 30.
*2 C. S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian, MacMillan Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1977, 30.