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Volume 6 (2000)

Excerpts (text only) from MC61: 18 pages: PDF (0.9 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 6, Number 1

The Family Bed

I was home from the hospital, with my first baby, Jennifer, to myself at last. That was over twenty-three years ago now. I remember feeling like I was in heaven. How else could so much be mine? The Lord had filled my cup to overflowing. I would probably have felt a little less ethereal if I had known what lay immediately ahead.

I was healthy, and Jennifer was healthy, so there was no problem there. Changing and diapering her seemed like second nature, so there was no problem there either. I did have some trouble with nursing at first. I was engorged, and Jennifer had trouble latching on. They had given her glucose water in the hospital. I didn't know to tell them not to back then. This was the probable cause of our nursing problems. Anyway, a nurse at the hospital suggested I hold a rubber nipple from a baby bottle over my nipple to give Jennifer something more to latch on to. This worked, and it got us over that initial small hurdle. When I got home I was able to experiment with not using the rubber nipple, and we were very soon operational without it. Thus breastfeeding my newborn caused no real problem or perplexity either. The problem was none of these things.

In contrast to these activities, which society expects of new mothers and looks upon with smiling approbation, the problem arose in connection with a cultural taboo. Like Peter, with the sheet full of unclean animals from heaven, Acts 10:9--28. God was about to teach me that I needed to let go of a closely held cultural bias---that He held a quite different perspective in one particular area of mothering than that which I had been brought up to.

In retrospect I can see that I had a relatively easy time with this lesson compared to many women I have since learned about. Still, brute experience is always a hard way to learn. It would have been so much easier if some older, experienced woman had been there to tip me off beforehand.

My husband, Gerald, was a university student back then. We were renting a small upstairs apartment in the university town.

When it had become obvious I was expecting my first baby, well, of course, it had also become obvious we would need a crib. Some kind soul gave us one.

I painted it with special paint that couldn't hurt babies when they chewed it off the rails.

I set it up in a corner of our small bedroom. Our own bed seemed dwarfed by comparison.

The crib had lovely bumper pads, matching sheets, and even a pillow! It looked about picture perfect, and when I showed it proudly to our friends they all approved.

Then the long awaited day arrived, and I had my baby home at last. It was a bright, cold, winter's day in November.

That evening, as shadows lengthened and the sun disappeared behind the trees, I had my first introduction to "crib technique".

First verse: nurse baby to sleep; gently, ever so gently---quiet now everyone---put baby in 'her' bed---you don't like going from your warm mommy to the cold crib do you baby---shhh, it's OK---carefully, slide my arm from her back---don't talk to me now, Ger, shhh, baby is being 'put to bed'---pat her gently---phone don't ring---good baby, stay asleep baby---shhh.

And then my "reward" for a job well done... my own bed at last.

But before I even close my eyes, "Whaaa".

Roll out of bed. Pick up baby.

Second verse---same as the first...

And later that night, third verse, same as the first (a little bit louder and a little bit worse).

And later still, fourth verse, and then fifth...

Science has never been my strength, but somewhere along about the middle of the night, in the rocking chair, in a semi-comatose state, I made an important deduction. Baby sleeps soundly as long as she is in my arms. I sleep soundly as long as I am in my bed. Perhaps if she were in my arms and I were in my bed, we might all get some sleep??

My heart said, "Yes, do it. It is right. Take your baby to your bed. Snuggle up and go to sleep."

But my head was full of objections. "Everyone knows you're not to do that. Why, it's unheard of. It's indecent. (Witness Peter: "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean". Acts 10:14.) Besides, it's dangerous. What if I fall asleep and roll on her during the night? What if Gerald rolls on her? What will become of our sexual relationship with a baby in our bed? Once I let her in, she'll develop this bad habit and I'll never get her out. She'll spit up on the sheets, and probably wet on them too. There isn't really any room in our bed for a baby. She'll probably get to fussing and squirming and not even Gerald will get any sleep. Babies were meant to sleep in cribs. ..."

When Gerald awoke the next morning he found himself delicately balanced at the edge of the precipice on one side of our high, narrow, older style Canadian bed, with a pillow positioned neatly at his back. On the other side of the pillow tiny infant Jennifer slept peacefully in my arms. On the far side of Jennifer, on the edge of the other precipice, I slept soundly too.

My heart had won the first round---perhaps because my head had grown too exhausted to argue any longer.

Cribs: An Ancient Artifact?

Up to this point in my life I had assumed everyone in the world used cribs. Even Jesus slept in a crib, didn't he? Well, a manger, at least. Well, that's where He was when the shepherds found Him that first Christmas morn, at least. I never stopped to think that finding the Baby in a manger was a special sign to the shepherds, and that meant it must have been highly unusual, which calls into question just how normal the whole scene might safely be assumed to be.

I was surprised to learn that the word "crib" only appears three times in the King James Bible, according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, and that in all three instances the "crib" referred to has nothing to do with babies. It refers rather to cattle. The only idea behind the word "crib" in the Bible is a place to keep cattle, not a place to sleep babies. And the word "cradle" does not appear in the Bible at all.

Evidently my belief that babies needed to be put to sleep in cribs did not come from the Bible. Where, then, did it come from?

I began to read The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin, Tine Thevenin, The Family Bed (PO Box 16004, Minneapolis, MN 55416: Thevenin, 1976) and soon learned that cribs and separate sleeping arrangements for babies are a Western cultural phenomenon, not shared by most of the rest of the world, and that they are a relatively recent phenomenon at that. The norm, in fact, from ancient times, including Bible times, has been for babies to sleep together with their mothers. I soon learned that in America we are not living at a "normal" time as regards motherhood at all. Thevenin summarized the unprecedented, radical changes which took place in American mothering practices between 1900 and 1940 as follows:

Bottles took the place of mother's breasts. Cribs took the place of the family bed. Playpens and strollers took the place of his parents' arms. Schedules took the place of mother's intuition. Aloofness took the place, or at least was strongly urged to take the place, of parents' indulging love.

What a surprise to learn that what I had grown up assuming was biblical was neither biblical nor even normal! And to top it all off, Thevenin made a very good case showing that separate sleeping was not even in the best interest of the overall health of children, especially their emotional health.

Fear of Suffocation

But if the Bible doesn't teach that cribs are normal, doesn't it at least teach that sleeping with a baby is very dangerous? Isn't there a big chance the baby will be accidentally rolled on and suffocated by mother or father during the night? Isn't that what the story about Solomon and the two prostitutes in 1 Kings 3:16--28 teaches us? ...

Our Family Bed

I introduced you to Marilyn and her first child, Brooke, back in Volume 2, Number 3. Helen E. Aardsma, "Titus 2 Mentoring," The Mother's Companion 2.3 (May/June 1996): 1--4. Two issues ago I shared an excerpt from a diary page Marilyn wrote to baby Brooke in 1995. Marilyn Hueper, "My Highest Calling," The Mother's Companion 5.5 (September/October 1999): 6. Here is another.

"Today we had a lovely morning together. We read the Sunday newspaper, drank coffee, ate breakfast and got plenty of snuggles... all three of us, in our family bed.

It was a lovely, lazy time. The best part was you were already right there to share it all with us. A natural extension of our shared nights together; our mornings are always nice intimate times.

The three of us snuggle up to go to sleep at night. I never have to hear you cry yourself to sleep alone or drag myself out of bed for a late night feeding. If you do get hungry, I just "plug you in" and go back to sleep. Frequently I can hardly remember whether I nursed you or not when morning comes. ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

"the writing of many books is endless..." (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

Home School Library

One of the best things we can do for our children's education is to make plenty of good, general interest books of different types available to them from early on. This is best accomplished by having our own home school library collection. Here are some guidelines for building such a collection I have found helpful.


Aquire as many good books as you can manage to house. We live in very cramped quarters. A double-wide trailer with about 950 square feet and a single-wide trailer with about 500 square feet house the family and our research and publishing home business. But we make room for books. We have two built-in, floor to ceiling book shelves which hold roughly 1,200 books between them at present. We also have two large metal shelving units which hold about another 500 books total. In addition to these, my bedroom closet shelf is full of books, the older children have their own private collections of several dozen books each in their bedrooms, and Gerald keeps another few dozen reference books in the office.

We didn't come by all these books suddenly, of course. We have been collecting them---building our home library---for decades. We have purchased most of them, some new and some used. A new book makes a nice gift for family birthdays or Christmas. I have purchased very many of our books from thrift shops for pennies each. Some books have been given to us by friends. I have picked up some very fine children's books of a generation ago as discards from public libraries. ...

Timothy's Diary

Tim is almost three years old now---though occasionally he aspires to the vocabulary of a four or five year old. The words he comes out with amaze me at times. "Direction" and "dictionary" are two of his latest accomplishments. He picks these words up on his own from conversations around the house. He says new words over and over for a few days, just enjoying the sound of them.

He still leaves "s" off the front of words, which is also fun to hear. "Mom, Matthew said he was going to `pank me with a `tick."

Unfortunately, not everything about Timothy is cute at this stage. Discipline is called for from time to time. Here is how he had his first encounter with the rod.

For a number of weeks, whenever he would do something bad or something childish (like spilling milk when reaching across the table), he would quickly, adamantly say, "I didn't do it! I didn't do it". It was rather obvious to all that he had done it, but I guess he thought that if he denied it then no blame would fall on him.

The first few times caught me off guard, but after I had watched and analyzed the problem to make sure I was understanding it properly, I prepared myself to confront him about it the next time it happened.

A day later Timothy was rotating Gerald's empty Lazy-boy chair around in the living room. He accidentally banged it against the floor lamp, which knocked the floor lamp over and broke the glass bowl shade. He immediately said, "I didn't do it, Mom!". Here was the training opportunity I had been (unexcitedly) waiting for. ...

Dear Helen

I have had many appreciative responses to last issue's lead article, "With Her Own Hands". God has once again multiplied our few loaves and fish. Space is lacking to share all that He has done, but here is a single example I think you'll find encouraging. Following it is an update on our sister Taj.

Dear Helen

I had to let you know how timely your last issue was. You were speaking what has been going on with my very critical, unsaved mother and myself.

This has been an emotionally draining time---I can't believe I have allowed her so much control over my life. It is impossible to please her, and now I know I was not put on this earth to do that. God is my audience. If He is pleased I have really done something, and I'm finding out He is a whole lot easier to please than my mom anyway.

In the past I have been almost consumed by guilt and self-condemnation, but after reading your newsletter God is giving me deliverance!

It was really disheartening to find out I was doing the same things that hurt me the most with my own children. God is merciful and gracious, and will help me to stop the sins of the Father's. ...

At Our House

There's so much I want to share, but my editor/husband says we are running out of space and I need to keep this short. Well, let me at least tell you a little about our new cow.

Got Milk?

Yes, our small dream has come true at long last. Our first meal with our very own fresh, foaming, cow's milk on the table was its own celebration. The taste? Unbelievably good---pure, clean, and creamy. Talk about satisfying!

Getting that wonderful milk to the table meant first getting the cow home to our place. That was a bit of an adventure.

Mr. Chubb, the former owner, said the cow was due to calve around November 4. The plan was to wait a week after she had her calf and then go pick her up, leaving the calf with Mr. Chubb. I was looking forward to cow's milk and creamy desserts for Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving came and went, and still no call from Mr. Chubb to come get our cow.

I began to get nervous. I vacillated between worrying that she had died giving birth to the calf (she was accidentally bred to a Holstein, which meant a large calf was expected) and worrying that maybe she wasn't even pregnant. Mr. Chubb is Amish, without a phone, so we were unable to phone him to see what was happening. Eventually I could stand it no longer. I wrote him a post card: "Is our cow doing OK?" He called back from a neighbor's place the next night saying, "She's fine; getting closer but hasn't freshened yet".

Meanwhile we put in electrical and water lines to the barn, both big ditch-digging projects. Gerald felt that milking by flashlight would lose its romantic glow after the first few nights, and carting forty pounds of water from the house out to the barn three times a day in blasting snow storms would get old very quickly.

We had also gone to purchase the milking machine I mentioned last issue---we got it for $60. The pump is an old Surge, and built like an army tank. Gerald was delighted with it. He spent several evenings out in the straw barn installing it in a permanent way and putting in a short vacuum line. We were all set to go---all we needed was the cow.

After talking with a few knowledgeable friends it seemed most likely her date of delivery was a month off. So I expected Mr. Chubb to call around the 4th or 5th of December.

Finally, on December 6th he called with the wonderful news that she had freshened the day before. I was so excited, you'd have thought I was the one who had just had a baby!

All was well---baby and mom doing great. The calf was a good size, as expected, and some help was required at the birth. We could pick her up Friday morning, December 10th.

Hurrah! Only one more trip to the grocery store for milk!

Now I really began to gear up. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC61: 18 pages: PDF (0.9 MB): $9.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC62: 17 pages: PDF (1.1 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 6, Number 2

Three Miracles

Bev Garrison wrote to me in the first year of The Mother's Companion, thanking me for the newsletter and telling me she had a story of her own to share. Her story has been sitting in my file for over four years. I recently happened upon it once again and feel the Lord would have me share it with you this issue.

"My early childhood memories come to me in fragments---snatches of this or that---but always focusing, it seems, on one particular area. Even as a tiny child, my one desire was to always stay at home and be a Mommy. My playthings were dollies, cribs, dishes and an ironing board my Daddy made me. I would diligently work at ironing, standing right next to Mommy to see just the right way to press and fold each garment.

I don't believe I ever, even for one day, wanted to leave my home to go to school. My childish reply to my parents' questioning was always the same: "I don't need school; I'm going to stay home and be a Mommy!"

After graduating high school, and taking college courses for one year, I began working in an office. A new family moved to town, and began attending my church. I fell in love with a young man from that family. We married, and I thought all my dreams had come true.

I quit my job before the wedding, knowing that now my ministry in life was to love my dear husband, care for my home, and raise the children God would give us.

After the wedding, time passed. We waited and prayed. We watched what felt like every other woman in the world become pregnant. Every month that passed deepened our sorrow at my seemingly barren womb.

I can't begin to tell you of all the doctors, tests, probing and prodding that went on during that time. It is a memory that is too hard to bear. I simply had no regular cycle, sometimes going for six months to a year between. My feelings of helplessness and inadequacy grew, and though I was truly happy for others, each new baby I encountered was like a knife through my heart.

My husband, Bill, is a true lover of children. He is a natural, born Daddy---a `gentle' man with a loving spirit that draws children. Our grief was too deep for words. My guilt for the hurt I felt I was causing Bill was overwhelming.

Eventually, in order to survive, I put the thought of ever becoming pregnant out of my heart and mind. I painfully accepted that I was barren and would never conceive.

We began to inquire about adoption. But we ran into brick walls there too. Waiting lists were many years long. There was no hope of receiving a newborn. And the cost was thousands of dollars---which we did not have.

About this time, after eight years of marriage, my husband received a job transfer to Fairbanks, Alaska. We moved, with high hopes that this new beginning would assuage some of our sorrow and allow us to get on with life, children or no. And now the miracles began!

After being in Fairbanks only a few weeks, we received a call from my brother, a pastor in a distant state. There was a young girl (l7 years) of their acquaintance who was expecting a baby, and considering adoption. He wanted to know--were we interested?

Does the sun shine or the earth move? Of course we were interested! ...

Spring Cleaning

There's a warm spring breeze coming through my bedroom window---a welcome reprieve from Old Man Winter. It feels so good to air out the house. With the fresh breeze comes an attack of spring cleaning fever. Today I declare war on dust, dirt, and junk in this bedroom! Get your mops, dust rags, and cleaners ready and let's clean house! ...

In the Kitchen

Our cow has been giving about five and a half gallons of milk a day. Her output is increasing. Last week she averaged close to six gallons per day!

We drink about three gallons of milk at meals. That leaves me with several more gallons to do something with each day. I have been making cottage cheese, curds, cream cheese, bowls of whipped cream for every dessert imaginable, and lots of butter.

I skim the cream off the top of the leftover milk. This is best done by putting the milk in large, narrow containers with an opening large enough to fit a soup ladle. After the milk has separated in the fridge for twelve hours minimum, I scoop the cream off. I put the ladle down carefully into the cream, taking care not to go down below the cream line. (Below the cream is skim milk.)

I use the leftover skim milk for making cottage cheese and cheese curds. We have also been giving some to friends who like skim milk. Whatever is left after that goes to the chickens.

Making whipped cream with our own cream has taken some learning. Here is what I have found, by trial and error, works best. ...

Product Review

Do you find Bible flannel-graph stories too much work to prepare? I have found a wonderful alternative, and one the children love. ...

At Sonya's House

Sonya Contreras is a dear friend of our family who has previously contributed to The Mother's Companion on two occasions: first by a poem she wrote, "Master of Security" Sonya Contreras, "Master of Security," The Mother's Companion 2.2 (March/April 1996): 2--3. and then by an article on making soap. Sonya Contreras, "Made In... Your Home!" The Mother's Companion 4.6 (November/December 1998): 9--12.

Sonya homesteads and home schools in California with husband Joe [Joey], who works as a physician's assistant, and five boys: Joey John, Josiah, Jonathan, Jonas, and Jacob. Sonya's letters always lighten my day. I share two of her recent communications below. First is the beautiful birth announcement of her fifth child, including a new poem, "Dear Master of Hands", and then her 1999 Christmas letter.

Birth Announcement

Our newest little hands arrived on March 25, 1999 at 11:49 a.m.

Jacob Amos weighed 8 lbs. His little hands were carefully held by Joey John, Josiah, Jonathan and Jonas. He will be continually taught that "God's hand will guide him, and His right hand will hold him fast." (Psalm 139:10)

Dear Master of hands, May I treasure the `interruptions' of my tasks to tie a shoe, to read a book, to hold a hand.

May I thank You for the little hands, sticky from eating, dirty from playing, full of treasures for me to share. ...

Sonya's Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,

The one word to describe this year could be "HELP"! But always when that cry was made the verse held true, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present HELP in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

Right before the baby came, [husband] Joey had a change of jobs and was able to spend some time at home. He tilled my garden, put up tomato posts that wouldn't fall over in the middle of the season, and all sorts of helps. I especially needed his support when our due date for the baby was changed from February 7th to March 25th---an eternally long pregnancy. Jacob's arrival came, but not without the help of many prayers, and many friends new and old who stepped in to counsel, clean, and care. ...

Gerald's Homestead Notes

Strawberry Irrigation

Each year we grow two 12' by 160' sections of strawberries in our vegetable garden. We sell the best of the crop to drive-up customers, and keep the rest for our own use, fresh and frozen.

Strawberries have shallow roots and do not like hot, dry conditions. Our climate is naturally hot and dry in August and September, making artificial irrigation a must. Both strawberry sections usually need to be watered once a week during those months. ...

Dear Helen

Do you fight fatigue with naps? Or is there something else to help alleviate fatigue? ...

Dear Helen,

Thank you for yet another encouraging newsletter. I appreciated your positive article "The Family Bed" (Volume 6, Number 1). My husband, three year old son, and I have enjoyed the closeness you speak of! I feel it has been especially beneficial for my son and his Daddy to be able to share close times at night since my husband is away at work for many hours during the week.

I had one further question. How would you respond to some one who questions the morality/Christianity/psychological health/sexual health of a family bed and extended nursing? My friend cannot understand how our son in our bed does not interfere in our marriage relationship, and how I can feel comfortable nursing this big child when she feels it is a weird and sort of `wrong' (as in incestuous) relationship with my son, thus "isn't there something amiss in my marriage?" ...

At Our House

I thought I would take this issue to give a brief update on the contents of my "quiver". ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC62: 17 pages: PDF (1.1 MB): $9.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC63: 18 pages: PDF (1.3 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 6, Number 3

A Nation's Foundation

I love old books. Whenever I find one that has to do with mothering, I am sure to buy it.

At one of our small local libraries I came across a book called The Mother's Anthology. The Mothers' Anthology, compiled by William Lyon Phelps (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1940). It was filled with poems, stories, and speeches about mothers. It had been printed in 1940, back when the American populace still understood that mothering is a high and honorable profession.

What a priceless addition for my collection! I asked the librarian if I might purchase it, since it didn't seem to be much in demand by borrowers any longer. She let me have it for $0.25! I guess she figured its views on motherhood were outdated.

I have now read the book through from cover to cover. Bent, pastel yellow Post-it Notes project in all directions from between its yellowed pages, marking my favorite selections.

I was delighted to find an essay in this book by Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. It elicited two emotions in me. The first was joy---joy at his understanding of the importance of mothering and of what good mothers do for the world. The second was a deep sadness---we have `progressed' so far, we have lost so much.

When I had finished reading it I simply had to research more about Theodore Roosevelt. Since I am Canadian by birth, with all my formal education within the Canadian school system, I have had little by way of American history. I want to pass some of what I learned along to you, as a bit of a refresher course, before I share the essay itself.

The heads of four presidents are sculptured into the face of Mount Rushmore in the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. The four presidents so honored are Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore---or TR, as he was often referred to---served two terms as president, from 1901-1909. He was well loved and much respected by the American people during his presidency.

I found an excellent book about TR's family, called The Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill. Hermann Hagedorn, The Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill (Chicago: MacMillan, 1954) Sagamore Hill was the family home. It served as summer home during TR's years as president. It was located at Oyster Bay, New York. His six children were raised there.

TR was a remarkable, powerful man. Many positive adjectives suit his character. An encyclopaedia has this to say about him: "No more virtuous or clean-living man ever existed; the temptations which wreck the lives of so many human beings simply did not exist for him. Though somewhat indifferent to formal theology, he was an earnest practicing Christian, deeply concerned for his own moral and spiritual decency and that of his children." Edward Wagenknecht, "Roosevelt, Theodore" The Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 23 (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1962) 686a. He had a positive view of life and an energy for it that was indomitable. He did everything with great gusto, living Solomon's advice, "Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might..." Ecclesiastes 9:10.

TR was a wonderful father and husband. Nothing mattered more to him than his children. He wrote in a letter to one of his sons later on in his life, "Home, wife, children---they are what really count in life. I have heartily enjoyed many things; the Presidency, my success as a soldier, a writer, a big game hunter and explorer; but all of them put together are not for one moment to be weighed in the balance when compared with the joy I have known with your mother and all of you." Hermann Hagedorn, The Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill (Chicago: MacMillan, 1954), 296--297. He not only said these things with great feeling, he lived them. ...

The Advantages of a Large Family

As one of their 8th grade Rod & Staff English assignments the children have to write a small essay. They may choose a topic from one of several supplied by the lesson. One of the topics is the benefits of living in a big family. My children like to choose this topic. I have kept their essays over the years. Here are two, written by two of my children---who wish to remain anonymous.

One of the greatest advantages of a large family is the very many chances to show and practice godly character---things like honesty, patience, kindness and many other simple actions the Bible teaches. The fact that more than one child is in a family makes the parents' job of spoiling their child more difficult and therefore the child learns that life isn't all fun and games. The child learns to enjoy simple things and be creative in finding fun.

All who grow up in a large family must learn to live with others and give in more than they want to. ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

Computer Schooling: Is It Good?

Following the birth of Caleb in February 1999 I began to find my work load impossible to keep up with. This came about for two reasons. First, I began tandem nursing for the first time. This consumed a large part of my day. Second, the close spacing between Timothy and Caleb (just two years) and the large spacing between my two oldest at home, Stephen (18) and Laura (15) (3 years 4 months), meant that I had more little ones producing more work than usual, and relatively fewer mature children to help than I had had for many years.

The most frustrating thing about this overload was my inability to keep up with all of the marking and corrections for the children's home schooling. This bogged the whole schooling process down so the children began slipping slowly behind schedule. Some of the children found this frustrating; others found it a happy circumstance. I found it very discouraging.

I kept thinking how wonderful a housekeeper would be as I struggled with the overload. As Gerald and I would discuss the problem on our daily walk together I would wistfully observe, for example, that Mrs. Roosevelt had nearly a dozen domestic servants to help with her six children and the upkeep of Sagamore Hill. Gerald would bring me gently back to earth by pointing out that we are living a century after the Roosevelts, and that since the advent of electricity, machines have replaced household servants in American homes---which is why we have washing machines, dryers, vacuum cleaners, telephones, automobiles, and all the rest. Though we couldn't really afford it---and I have never been all that keen on these things---he bought me a dishwasher.

This was a help, for sure, freeing up several hours of mature helpers' time each day. But I found that I was still unable to keep up with the school work. ...

Special Topic: What About the Internet?

The Alpha Omega curriculum is set up to allow students to easily access additional information via the Internet. The student who is interested in pursuing a topic further can click on an icon and the computer will automatically dial up the appropriate page on the Internet---if your computer has a modem and you are paying an Internet service provider a monthly fee. Our computer doesn't have a modem and we deliberately do not have the Internet in our home. ...

Dear Helen

I have a question for you. I think I understand your belief in allowing God to determine the size of your family. In fact, I was introduced to that belief by my Aunt ten years ago, right after I got married. I've been mulling it over since then. I admit that my husband and I have haphazardly used some form of artificial birth control during our marriage, but the question I have is about the opposite of that.

What are your ideas or beliefs on dealing with infertility as it relates to God determining the size of your family? I don't really mean the test tube babies and surrogate mothers; I think that is "playing God". But what about more `minor' issues of infertility?

My situation is this: I don't produce enough progesterone to sustain a pregnancy. This has resulted in miscarriages before we discovered the cause. Since then we have had three sons with the aid of progesterone.

We stopped using all forms of birth control (other than extended breast-feeding) six months ago when our youngest son (then 10 months) had heart surgery. We are not sure we want any more children, although if I do get pregnant it won't bother us that much. But because of my medical condition the possibility is very large that I could have several early miscarriages if there were no outside intervention. That really bothers me. ...

At Our House

Once-a-Month Shopping

When we lived in southern California I shopped for groceries weekly. The stores were not too far away, my schedule was not as busy as now, and I was able to cope with shopping one afternoon each week---toddlers and nursing babies in tow.

When we moved to central Illinois, the nearest large town (where groceries could be found at reasonable prices) was forty minutes away. This meant that it took up most of the day whenever I went grocery shopping. With the added responsibilities of writing and homesteading I just didn't have time to shop so often any more.

Eventually I began to discuss with Gerald the idea of buying for the whole month on a once-a-month shopping trip. Because of our large vegetable garden (about half an acre back at that time; now closer to an acre) we did not need to purchase as many groceries as we had when we lived in California. We had our own potatoes in storage. They provided a large portion of our diet, significantly reducing the number of pounds of food we had to haul home from the grocery store.

We also had bagged grain and our own electric grain mill, so we didn't need to worry about purchasing fresh bread. ...

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The Mother's Companion Volume 6, Number 4

Birth, Marriage, Death

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

I greeted the new day with tears of anticipation. I would soon be holding baby Joshua, my first grandchild, in my arms for the first time. On top of that, my husband, Gerald, who had been away in Israel for several weeks, was expected home late that evening.

It seemed like Jen, Steve, and Joshua would never arrive. The house was all ready. The children were all cleaned up. I have never been good at waiting. Now I paced the floor.

Supper came and went. I took the children for a walk down our country road, in hopeful anticipation of an early glimpse of a blue mini-van. My heart quickened, and then slowed again, through several false alarms. And then, suddenly, there it was driving down our road. I burst into tears. Moments later little Joshua was in my arms.

Joshua: so precious, so beautiful, so fresh from the hand of God. Behold children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward... Psalm 127:3. My first grandchild. Could I possibly be at this stage of my life already?

How wonderful to see Jennifer, my grown-up daughter, nursing her little son. What joy to rock Joshua to sleep, to make him laugh and giggle, to watch him stare at me and then break into a wonderful smile. New life---gift of God.

Gerald had hoped to be home by midnight, but his flight from Newark to Chicago was delayed two hours. We hate to be apart and have only rarely been separated for more than a day since we were married over a quarter of a century ago. We agreed before we were married never to be parted for any reason if it could possibly be avoided. But we both knew this trip had been appointed by God. We could not avoid it in good conscience. We had parted thirteen days previously, and missed each other dreadfully the entire time. ...

Timothy's Diary

Timothy is now three and a half years old. This is such a fun age. I have especially enjoyed watching the rapid progress in Tim's vocabulary and conversation skills the past several months. He puts `s' on the front of words where it belongs now, so "stick" no longer comes out as "tick", for example. He will still occasionally use `th' in place of `s': "Come on you guyth". He is adding more big words to his vocabulary daily. He loves to be read to. Gerald uses any of the children's books to play vocabulary games with him. Gerald asks "Can you find an apple on this page?" or "What is this animal called?" Tim feigns boredom while proudly answering each question and soaking up the one-on-one time with his Daddy.

Tim loves to share little excitements with me. The other day, after Gerald had taken the younger children for their usual early morning Sunday walk, Tim eagerly told me all about the tractors he had seen working the fields that morning, the many pretty wild flowers growing along the road, and the flags on the graves at the cemetery. I like to get down on his level where I can look into his sparkling eyes and happy, excited little face. He brings me flowers from these walks, all crunched up in his chubby little fist. I love them all the more. He's so proud as I arrange them into a pretty bouquet for the table.

Timothy has cut back considerably on nursing as a result of being outside so much each day now. He is sleeping through the night most nights. When he goes to sleep at night I will either nurse both Caleb and Timothy at the same time while sitting up in bed, or I will rock Caleb and nurse him while Timothy waits in bed for me. He just lays there quietly (most times) and sings and talks to himself, until he eventually falls asleep. I could easily wean him at this stage if I wanted to, but neither of us wants to. ...

Dear Helen,

Congratulations on your beautiful new child, truly a gift from God...

I'm probably not your average subscriber, as I'm the mother of six, ages 39--13, and I am 59 years old. Through your newsletter you have become one of my precious friends.

My husband gives me an allowance that is usually sufficient for my daughter's and my financial needs---like magazine subscriptions such as yours, and a few home school classes and other various needs.

One day I showed him how much I had saved at the grocery store with coupon money---not on the foolish, expensive, non-nutritional "warm and eat" type junk, but real food and supplies that we need and can use. He was impressed and said I could have my coupon saving for myself. The Lord impressed upon me to save it to be used for a child or children in some way (you can possibly see by the sticker decor on the little jar) but He wasn't very clear on exactly who and when. So the money continued to be saved. When your March birth announcement and story came in The Mother's Companion, I knew exactly what would be pleasing to the Lord. Perhaps you can use it to pay on your hospital, doctor, and midwife bills. ...

The Common Task

If I were eager to secure a good employee for a responsible position, I should not attach much importance to the way in which the candidate acted on a set occasion, when he knew that he was being observed. Of course he would be on his best behavior. But give me a private window so that I can watch him in his least considered actions---how he behaves at home, how he treats his mother and sisters, how he fulfills the common duties of life. What he is then, he is really. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC64: 9 pages: PDF (0.8 MB): $9.99 U.S.

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The Mother's Companion Volume 6, Number 5

Jennifer's Birth Story

I have many distinct memories from my growing-up years. One of them in particular is a scenario that was repeated several times. It went something like this: My Mom, wearing a nursing nightgown, sat in the living room. She looked tired, but her eyes were shining as she held a tiny newborn in her arms. Two or three other ladies, who had just delivered dinner, sat visiting and admiring the newest Aardsma. The topic of conversation was not everyday chitchat, but instead it was something that had captured the full attention of every lady in the room. My Mom related The Birth Story, with every detail in its proper place. The other ladies sometimes could not help interjecting a, "Oh, that happened to me with my third", or "When my son was born..." or some similar comment.

Well, now I have my own story to tell. It is unlike any that my Mom ever told. This was hard for me to come to grips with at first. Not that anyone expected me to be just like her, but I think I had set out, almost unconsciously, to follow in her footsteps. I fully expected my pregnancy and birth experience to be comparable in many ways to hers. In the end I discovered that God has a unique plan for each of us women and that it is probably not wise to compare too much.

Baby on the Way!

When our suspicions were confirmed, mixed emotions flooded over us: joy, fear, delight, apprehension, thankfulness, excitement, panic. Sometimes I experienced all these emotions in a matter of minutes! I experienced the typical ups and downs, morning (to night) sickness, and tiredness of a pregnant woman. Those three things basically sum up my early pregnancy. I hoped that eventually I would begin to feel like myself again.

I set out almost immediately to find a good doctor. Neither Steve nor I felt comfortable with the idea of a home birth for our first, but I hoped to find someone who would allow for a home-like birth in the hospital. I wanted to find a doctor who would not tell us what choices to make, but would instead help us make informed decisions regarding our birth. My search led me to a Certified Nurse-Midwife named Mendy. I found her to be just the person I had been looking for.

I liked Mendy and felt comfortable with her immediately. She openly discussed the pros and cons of any given issue, from prenatal vitamins, to sonograms, to epidurals, and gave us the freedom to make our own choice. Mendy practiced under a group of doctors, but she told me that she attended all of her births, so I knew that unless she were ill, she would be there for our birth. I liked this much better than the idea of just getting whoever was on call. The doctors she worked under would be able to handle anything that she was not licensed to do.

Something very special happened at our first visit---we heard the tiny, steady sound of our baby's heartbeat. Steve's eyes got wider and a big smile spread across his face while he stood there holding my hand and listening. ...

Product Review

I was excited to receive a review copy of the new book, A Mom Just Like You, by Vickie and Jayme Farris, from Loyal Publishing. Vickie and Jayme Farris, A Mom Just Like You (Sisters, OR: Loyal Publishing, 2000). The front and back covers of the book loudly proclaimed this to be a book for home school moms by an experienced mother of ten, Vickie Farris:

If you've ever wondered, "Okay, so how do you do it?" you just picked up the right book! Through her warm, practical style, Vickie will fill you with encouragement and practical suggestions for those days when the challenge seems overwhelming... After all, she's a mom just like you.

In common with all of the home school moms I've ever known, I have my share of "those days when the challenge seems overwhelming". So the lure of being blessed "with encouragement and practical suggestions" from another experienced home school mom with ten children (just like me) was a powerful one.

Unfortunately, by the time I had finished reading the book, I found I was very badly discouraged rather than encouraged, and my initial excitement had turned to anger. ...

At Our House

What a crazy summer it has been! (Would you believe that with all the interruptions it has taken me three days just to type this first line?!) I never know how things can possibly get any busier, but somehow they always do.

Great Garden Year

It has been a fabulous garden year---in sharp contradiction to the dire predictions of drought we were hearing this past spring. Every time the garden began to get dry, it rained, and always just about the right amount.

We are thankful for all the jars of canned green beans in the pantry (we've never grown such beautiful beans!), and for the many plastic bags of corn and tomatoes in the freezer.

We planted 2,500 strawberry plants, calling in several of the older children's friends to help. This made it fun for all, and not just grueling work. We also had our annual Potato Dig, with nine or ten local young people coming to help. After the potatoes were out of the ground and in the pantry, we all enjoyed some great food and great fun together.

Stephen Leaves for College

Stephen (19) bought a fixer-upper 89 Escort for college transportation. He and David (13) spent several long days replacing the engine and transmission with others from the junk yard. Unfortunately, they found the junk yard transmission had a problem when they test drove the car after the transplant, so they had to spend several more long days replacing it again. But it all worked in the end, and now Stephen has a very nice car, for which his total cost was about one quarter the going market price.

When the car was done I spent several days, with breaking heart, helping Stephen get packed and ready for college. He left on August 25th. I don't have space this issue to share all I would like to about Stephen leaving home. I hope to come back to this another time. ...

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The Mother's Companion Volume 6, Number 6

Mark's Wedding

Mark is my oldest son and my second oldest child. Mark left home to attend Moody Bible Institute a little over two years ago. Helen E. Aardsma, "At Our House," The Mother's Companion 4.5 (September/October 1998): 14--16. My constant prayer for Mark when he left for Moody was that God would bring a godly Christian girl into his life.

Mark had been looking for a best friend, a soul mate, since the time he had become a teenager. Growing up years can be lonely of soul, even for a child in a large family. I counseled Mark many times to be patient and wait for God's timing. I assured him that for most people God does have a "special someone" who becomes not only their best friend but ultimately their marriage partner.

As Mark prepared to leave for Moody I reminded him again that God had a "special someone" out there for him, maybe even a girl at Moody. I told him that I was praying earnestly for God to lead him to her. He said he didn't think he'd find a girl at Moody. But one should never underestimate the power of a mother's prayer.

And pray I did! All through Mark's first year I prayed. But the eagerly anticipated phone call, "I think I've found the one!" did not come that whole year.

I prayed harder, especially during the fall of Mark's second year. Maybe a freshman girl would catch his eye? ...

Dear Helen

I so enjoyed the samples of past issues! They were a great encouragement to me. I have three children: 3.5 years, 2 years, and 6 weeks. With my first baby I had no parenting support. A church lady gave me the book Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Buckman. I followed it rigidly, letting my poor baby cry and cry. I eventually became hardened to his cries. He was very slow to gain and the doctor told me to put him on formula at five months. I was crushed.

When I became pregnant again I determined to research the Ezzo's. I was shocked at all the controversy. When my second baby was born I practiced a more relaxed, hands-on parenting style.

With my third I have `evolved' into a nurturing mommy. I nurse her on cue, rock her to sleep, share our bed.

The damages with my oldest son are evident. He is very hard to discipline. I am trying to regain a bond with him. I wonder if you have any ideas? ...

At Our House

I love fall. In addition to the natural beauty and welcome cool temperatures, my garden is no longer begging for attention, the produce is all sold or in my freezers or on my pantry shelves, my vegetable stand is closed for the season, and my daily schedule has taken on some measure of predictability now that home school is in full swing.

School is going very well this year. I have three students full time on the computer using Switched on Schoolhouse: Matthew (10), David (13), and Laura (15). They each spend three to four concentrated hours at the computer per day. I am amazed at how much they are learning. They are being challenged as never before. I spend about a half hour per week marking their work. I really enjoy helping them with their writing skills now that I have so much less marking to do. They are all improving rapidly in this area.

Rebekah (8) and Rachel (6) are still too young for Switched on Schoolhouse. I am schooling them using the usual Rod and Staff work books. Rebekah helps Rachel and sometimes marks her work if I'm super busy. They enjoy working together. Rachel loves being in school like the other children. Since she spent so much time watching me teach Rebekah last year she is already reading well and is moving through her lessons at a quick pace. She loves to read to Tim (3) and Caleb (1), and they are an always an eager audience. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC66: 18 pages: PDF (1.0 MB): $9.99 U.S.


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