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Volume 7 (2001)

Excerpts (text only) from MC71: 16 pages: PDF (0.9 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 7, Number 1

Meet the Penoyer Family

Rebecca (Becky) Penoyer wrote to me several years ago sharing about her family. I was encouraged and uplifted by Becky's letter and by the sacrifices she had made to build and maintain a close family. I felt from the start that Becky was a special lady. This was confirmed when Becky and her family dropped by our homestead in their trailer for a brief Sunday afternoon visit late last spring. Becky's love for her husband and for the family God has placed within her care is truly inspiring.

Well, of course, I wanted you to meet Becky too. I asked Becky to write a short article about her family to share with all of us, which she has kindly consented to do.

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it... (Psalm 127:1, KJV).

"God designs families... but in our case He really got creative. No human could have mapped out the path down which God has led Jeff and I.

We carefully planned the first few years of our marriage. Jeff was a builder; I was a teacher and a secretary. We bought a small starter home after two years. Our first daughter, Beth, was born a week after our fourth wedding anniversary. After her birth I continued to work at various part-time jobs, bringing Beth with me when possible. I hoped to earn enough to improve our home or move to a new one.

Just after Beth's third birthday Jeff and I became foster parents with an agency that provided care for abused and neglected children from the city of Philadelphia. It was our intention to parent one child in addition to Beth. Little did we know what God had in store for us.

Our home was small---three bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and an eat-in kitchen---but God had provided a lovely fenced backyard with trees. In the early days of foster care I kept telling God that if He would give me a bigger house I would get more children. He decided the house we had was sufficient and sent more children anyway.

Ten years later we had provided care for about 100 children---some of them for just a few days, many for months or years. They ranged in age from six days to seventeen years. Most came from appalling circumstances that I could never have imagined before meeting them and their families. ...

Barbara Bush: Mother and Wife to a President

I became interested in Barbara Bush as a result of the elections this past November. We have heard much about how this is only the second time in the history of the United States that a President has been the son of a former President. One woman links both Presidents in such a case: she who is both wife of one and mother of the other.

It seems almost unnecessary to point out that a woman who has been both a wife to a President and a mother to a President must have done some things right in her home. (I say "almost unnecessary" because the public media seem to have failed to notice this obvious fact or to have done anything with it.)

This fact caused me to begin to investigate Barbara Bush. What is she like? What are her thoughts on being a mother and a wife? What is her attitude toward God, country, and family? What advice might she have for other women?

I began reading her book, A Memoir, Barbara Bush, A Memoir (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994). and was not surprised to find that in many ways Barbara Bush is what good and sensible people would approvingly call an "old-fashioned" kind of woman. Further below in this brief article is a collage of quotes which, I think, brings this out. ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

Almost twenty years ago, when my oldest, Jennifer, was in first grade, I remember saying to Gerald's brother, Allen, who was visiting, "I have a theory that children who grow up with all of their security needs met (i.e., Mom is always there for them meeting their needs when they need her) will attain their maximum intellectual potential".

There had been much in the media at the time about how day care was good for children. I didn't have to have a college degree in child development to see through that propaganda. I had operated a private-home day care in my home for the better part of a decade by then. I had provided safe, loving care, and a warm, happy environment for many day care children. And I had seen and heard these little children---toddlers, and even four years olds---crying on and off all day and asking, "When is Mommy coming back?" as they made the adjustment to yet another mommy-substitute.

My own children, on the other hand, played, and investigated, and built with Lego, and made creative messes "cooking" in the kitchen, and smiled happily at me as they did so. ...

Product Review

Baby Slings

Other cultures commonly carry their babies in homemade cloth slings or wraps. Only in the last few years has our culture begun to employ what other countries have done for centuries. Dr. William Sears writes: "Several years ago, while attending an international parenting conference, we interviewed two women from Zambia who were carrying their babies in slings that matched their native dress. We asked them why women in their culture wear their babies most of the time. One woman replied, "It makes life easier for the mother." The other woman volunteered, "It's good for the baby." These women went on to relate the feelings of "completeness" and "value" that babywearing gave them. Women in their culture don't have the benefits of books and studies about mothering hormones. What they have is centuries of tradition that have simply taught them that something good happens to women and their babies when the babies are worn." ...

Dear Helen

Dear Grandma

Hi. Thank you for the postcard. Today I have been helping my Mama do all her housework. The most exciting thing we did was clean out the refrigerator. I have never tried to climb inside the refrigerator before today, that is why it was so exciting! It is a whole new world in there. I also never tried to eat a rag soaked with 409 before. (But I only got away with it for one second.) ...

Working to Resolve the Issues

Gerald received his Social Security Statement in the mail the other day telling him what benefits he is entitled to when he retires twenty or more years from now. He read the following part of the cover letter to the family during family devotions. "Your Social Security Statement", Form SSA--7005--SM--SI(1-2000), November 21, 2000.

Social Security now takes in more taxes than it pays out in benefits. The excess funds are credited to Social Security's trust funds, which are expected to grow to over $4 trillion before we need to use them to pay benefits. In 2015, we will begin to pay out more in benefits than we collect in taxes. By 2037, the trust funds will be exhausted and the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 72 percent of benefits owed. We're working to resolve these issues.

Gerald and I have also been working to resolve these issues---one baby at a time! ...

At Our House

The year 2000 is almost over, it being December 29 as I type. A beautiful blanket of snow covers the ground, and more flakes are lazily sifting down. I am thinking of Jennifer (24), her husband Steve, and baby Joshua (nine months), now making the long drive back to Virginia. They spent five days with us, which seem to have whizzed by.

What a grand time we all had! I was thrilled to have all of my children here at the same time! It is hard to describe the feeling of completeness I get when we are all together.

There have been so many changes in our family this past year. One of the most exciting changes has been Mark (21) and his bride Jenn joining the Aardsma Research & Publishing staff as of January 1, 2001. How this all came about is a long story, of God's making. I don't have space to launch into it here. But let me say that when God does something, it is marvelous to watch it happen.

Mark will be tending to the computers and Internet side of the business. (We hope to have a Mother's Companion web site before too many more months!) Jenn will be working part time as Gerald's lab assistant, and also working on the lullaby CD I am trying to bring together.

It is special to have one of my older, married children living just four miles down the road. I am so enjoying getting to know Jenn better. She is excited about giving Matthew, Rebekah and Rachel piano lessons, right here in our home. This has been a desire of mine, and now God is providing it in this special way.

Meal times over the holidays were filled with laughter and fun. They were also filled with the usual spilled milk, of course, but that managed to contribute to the laughter and fun too. There were many oohs and aahs over Laura's (16) culinary skills this year. It was a bit crowded in my eight foot by eight foot dining room. We sat elbow to elbow on our homemade benches. But there was too much love around that table for anyone to take much notice of the cramped quarters. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC71: 16 pages: PDF (0.9 MB): $9.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC72: 13 pages: PDF (0.6 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 7, Number 2

Meet Mary Rice Somerville -- Part I

I started getting a small newsletter called Dear Daughter written by Mary Rice Somerville a few years back. I wrote to her; we traded subscriptions and developed a correspondence. I loved her sense of humor and her down-to-earth style. Her newsletters always gave me something to smile about and I appreciated her practical wisdom gathered from many years.

I learned Mary was planning to "retire" from writing Dear Daughter after five years of circulation. I hoped she might extend her ministry of teaching and encouraging women after "retirement" through at least an occasional contribution to The Mother's Companion. Mary has agreed to this plan, now that she is officially "retired". This present article, in interview format, is designed to give us all a chance to learn more about Mary, and to begin benefitting from her insights at the same time.

Mary often makes me chuckle. When I wrote her with my list of interview questions she responded:

Thanks for the letter of January 19. It perked up my ego, and now you want me to answer these questions. What fun for me! As I sit here in my nightgown, hair hanging down almost to the floor, Vitamin E oil smeared on my face, granny glasses, and only one bedroom slipper (where did the other one go?) I can hardly believe that anyone wants to hear about me!

Tell us about yourself and your family.

I am 67 years old and live in Arden, North Carolina. I was born in Asheville, North Carolina, which is ten miles away from where I presently live. I met my husband Jim at a small college in Bristol, Tennessee. I only had one goal in mind and that was to be a missionary. But God had other plans. I tried to graduate in three years so that our courtship wouldn't be too long, but I didn't quite get all the credits and married anyway. Ten years later I graduated by correspondence.

We had our first two years in seminary in Decatur, Georgia. We were in church ministry and then my husband began helping the poor from our home. I helped with Vacation Bible School and Sunday School at church, but mostly stayed at home. We remained in Christian work for 25 years.

We have been married 46 years now. There have been some rocky times in our marriage, especially around the 25 year mark. I committed to love him because he is a creation of God and I had vowed to love and obey. The Lord helped me through those years although I had to struggle daily. ...

Timothy's Diary

Timothy's fourth birthday is just a few days away. I can't really believe it. I love the age of four!

Timothy loves words and he keeps us in stitches with his unique use of them.

When we were out for a walk the other day, the children were having fun playing on the ice patches in the farmer's fields. I told him to be careful not to slip on the ice. But he went ahead unheeding, and immediately slipped and landed with a crash on his bottom. "Yeow! I think I broke my hide!" he sobbed.

At supper one evening, while he was busily downing my fresh home-made French bread, he said, "Man, this bread is good. It tastes better than dog meat!"

Another recent mealtime quip, "I think I'd look good with bangs at the back!"

Timothy seems to really enjoy the sounds of words. He says them over, rhyming them and just making silly nonsensical poems. Maybe he'll be a writer someday?

Timmy continues to nurse at bed time, the only time he does nurse now. He occasionally asks to nurse in the daytime, but I get him doing something else and he quickly forgets about it. If he still wants a few nips before bedtime that is fine with me. He did tell me the other day that once he is four he won't nurse anymore. We'll see.

Usually when his older sisters go to bed, around 7:30 or 8:00, he climbs on my lap in the living room and nurses for a few minutes. After a while I tell him he has one more minute, at which point he pretends to be asleep. I then carry him off to my room, putting him in bed between `Beka (8) and Rachel (6). He has the most angelic smile on his face the whole time. I play along, telling everyone to be very quiet so as not to wake Timmy. He lies there feigning sleep, and within minutes he really does fall asleep! The older children think this is hilarious, but I won't allow them to talk to Tim about it. Why ruin a good thing? ...

Gerald's Homestead Notes

Every now and then I mention to Helen that I hope nobody gets any silly romantic notions from us about homesteading being all blue skies and apple blossoms. Helen and I feel homesteading is a wonderful way of life, and naturally well-suited to raising a large family. But we wouldn't want to give the impression that moving to your own place in the country will solve all your problems. In point of fact, it will likely get you a whole bunch more troubles than compatriots who make their residence in the cities, towns, and suburbs are likely ever to experience---as the following true account by a friend may help illustrate.

The Gioja family lives about forty-five minutes south of us on a seven-acre farm. They have nine children. Their older children are good friends of our older children. We first `met' the Gioja family by mail. We corresponded with them while we lived in California, before we moved to Illinois, once we knew the general area we would be moving to. We have enjoyed getting to know them better over the past six years. The following piece, by the dad, Les, was included in their Christmas letter this past year.

Is Life on the Farm Really "Kinda Laid Back"?

If you ever desire to know what is meant by the expression "owned by one's possessions", try raising hay. At first appearance it is an attractive crop. It requires little to no maintenance during its growing season, and only relatively small equipment to harvest it. Our experience this year, though, illustrates how much it can control your life. Keep in mind that when hay is ready, it HAS to be cut. It takes one day to cut, two to three days to dry, and one day to bail and put up into the barn.

My tractor developed a problem in February. I could charge the battery enough to start it sometimes, but it would not stay running, and usually it would not start at all. Since I don't have a warm garage I waited to work on it until it was warm outside. About four weeks before I had to hay, I purchased a solenoid. It took a day to travel to buy it and another day to install it. A day's charge... and it would not start. It would only click.

A couple more days of thought, and discussion with a neighbor, convinced me that it must be a starter problem. Over $350 was the price down the road, but the tractor wasn't worth that much for a rebuilt starter. Two days later, another discussion with my friend led me to a mail order company that would sell me a starter for about half the `local' (30 + miles away) price. It arrived two days later, and I put it in two days after that.

If you have been adding days, you know as well as I did that haying time was fast approaching and tensions were building. The starter looked the same, but the hole in the casing didn't line up, so I had to drill another. The hole turned out to be the easy part, and soon I was looking at my purring tractor with a sense of accomplishment, satisfied that I was ready for haying, with a week to spare before rain was predicted to hit. I hooked up the cutting equipment, parked it by the house, turned it off, gassed it up, and went in to eat dinner before cutting.

After dinner it started right up, rolled twenty feet, and died. It started right up again, rolled another twenty feet and died. Then it wouldn't start. The battery was dead. The next day, after a good charge, I noticed that there was no charge on the battery. I needed a voltage regulator now. Another day's trip and a day to install it. ...

Dear Helen,

I appreciated so much your column on the dangers of the Internet awhile back [Volume 6, Number 3]. I feel it is such a subtle tool of Satan, with a lot of good, and yet so much evil. This is the kind of tool he likes to use, it seems. And he makes it so convenient, and practical to have, that a person feels almost silly for not wanting it. It can make life much easier in a lot of ways. But children of God have often had to turn their back on the easy way, in order to follow God's way, and we should expect it to be no different for us.

So I was troubled to read in your last Mother's Companion about the fact that you hope to have a Mother's Companion web site before too long. And you seemed excited about the prospect. Is there some good reason that you would do this, besides monetary reasons? Why would you want to encourage anyone to have the Internet (to see your web site) after the stand you have taken against it? Do you feel the Internet is something all of us will eventually have and the important thing now is to try to find an efficient way to block the evil? Or do you feel, as believers, we need to resist the temptation to bring it into our homes with all our heart? I am very interested in your thoughts on this, and Gerald's too. ...

Dear C.A.

Thank you for your good questions regarding the Internet and the planned Mother's Companion web site.

Let me first clarify that our interest in a Mother's Companion web site is ministry, not money. Let me briefly explain our financial/business structure to try to make clear what we are trying to accomplish.

The Mother's Companion is published by Aardsma Research & Publishing (ARP). The financial model which underlies ARP we call "tent-making ministry". The idea behind tent-making ministry is that we endeavor to earn our own way as we carry out the ministry God has called us to, rather than soliciting donations to do this. The term, "tent-making" comes from the example of the apostle Paul recorded in Acts 18:1--4. There we learn that for a period of time he worked making tents during the week, while presenting the gospel in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Like Paul, our work has both a secular and a ministry component. Our homesteading lifestyle is a part of this, for example. We use part of our time to work with our hands to raise our own food, greatly reducing the cost of groceries for ten people, so we can afford to minister through The Mother's Companion. While we do have to pay our bills, we do not see The Mother's Companion as a money-making venture. If we were interested in The Mother's Companion as a money-making venture, we would at least carry advertising, and we would not have reduced our subscription rate from $15 to $13.95, and then from $13.95 to $12.95 at the same time issues were growing from four pages to typically eighteen pages. In fact, if money-making were our motive we would not be publishing The Mother's Companion at all. There are many ways for Ph.D. scientists (which Gerald is) to make lots of money in the present economy. Editing a Christian women's periodical espousing stay-at-home child-rearing is not one of them. It is ministry in the name of Jesus, not money, which motivates The Mother's Companion. ...

At Our House

I think the question I get asked most frequently is, "How do you do it all?" My answer: "I don't!" My house is almost always in need of vacuuming, floor washing and dusting. If one room gets a good cleaning, the others are a mess. If I work outside, the inside falls apart (or gets torn apart!). If I'm writing, my flower beds are calling for my attention. I get many things done in a day, but I seldom feel I have had the luxury of doing things as well as I would have liked.

I suspect organizational problems are common to mothers with large families. I further suspect that these problems cannot be eliminated entirely---such is the nature of our job. But there are some things we can do to achieve our maximum for the Lord each day. Following is a list, in no particular order, of organizational tips and words of wisdom I have found helpful.

1. Schedule your day, then take control, as much as possible, of your schedule! Don't let the phone, radio programs, or chat rooms dictate your time. Use an answering machine to screen phone calls. You can't afford to be stuck on the phone with your neighbor for several hours during home school time. Plan your social activities ahead of time. Take charge of your time.

2. Reduce outside activities. Yes, even church activities. Learn to say no to the many demands others would make on your time. Do you really need another Tupperware party? Is it wise to take on sports for the children if you can't keep up with meals and laundry; or a Bible study if you are too tired to spend time with your husband? ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC72: 13 pages: PDF (0.6 MB): $9.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC73: 17 pages: PDF (2.4 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 7, Number 3

Meet Mary Rice Somerville -- Part II

Last issue I introduced Mary Rice Somerville to you and shared the first part of an interview-by-mail I conducted with her. Here is the second and final part of that interview.

Mary has agreed to contribute to The Mother's Companion in a new column called "Dear Daughter". You will find the premiere "Dear Daughter" column in this issue as well.

What do you think about home schooling?

We had never heard of home schooling when our five oldest were school age. But we had the instinct to supplement as much as possible. A relative gave us money to order one year of Calvert School. I believe it was third grade. Like other missionaries in "foreign" countries, I used it to teach poetry, math, and history to enrich their school diet. They still remember the dialect poem that ended each verse with, "Mama's gonna wup you atter while".

The children were miserable in public school and suffered in ways we only hear of now, twenty or thirty years later. I grieve over that, but am glad for the books that we read aloud, the farm animals that we had, the camping trips and hikes that we could afford, the foster children, the fascinating neighbors, the long talks at the kitchen sink, the pecking on the old piano, the old typing manual to be conquered, the National Geographic's, etc.

I tried to use summers to give them an extra push. With the typing, we offered a good prize to any of the "big" boys who got all the way through, page by page, no skipping.

We home schooled Bill, the youngest child, after third grade. The older children had married and gone to other locales where home schooling was being tried, and fought for. We had to be approved by the school superintendent, who decided that we were adequate---both college grads. It took an edict from the Scripps-Howard newspaper, however, to let Bill participate in the National Spelling Bee, but it really paid off! We got to spend a whole week in DC with him. He had just turned 13 and was the only home schooler in the Bee that year. It was a good experience, even though he didn't win.

I saw my husband bring Bill from hating math to loving it. (At college, his math teacher is begging him to specialize.) During our years of working with Bill we were drawn together in such a wonderful way. ...

Children Gain Independence by Learning to Be on Their Own---Not Having to Be on Their Own

One of the greatest joys of motherhood is watching our children become independent of us. To share in those moments when a child first begins to realize that he might amount to something in this world, to urge him to try his wings more and more, and to applaud his victories as he becomes an independent, self-confident little human are among the most gloriously satisfying experiences a mother can have.

But there are different ways to teach a child to become independent. Someone can take us to a swimming pool when we are small, throw us in the water and shout, "SWIM!" Or they can gently bounce us in the water when we are babies, play with us in the water when we're a little bigger, and then, eventually, teach us how to float, do the crawl, sidestroke, backstroke, and breaststroke, and then say, "SWIM!"...

The One Room Schoolhouse

In planning this issue I thought it would be nice if we could hear from some subscriber about her home school experience. I immediately thought of my dear friend and kindred spirit, Pam McDonald. Pam has been home schooling since 1984 and is presently teaching five of their children at home. Pam has written for The Mother's Companion before, Pam McDonald, "A Time to Weep" The Mother's Companion 1.2 (March/April 1995): 1--3; Pam McDonald, "And a Time to Laugh" The Mother's Companion 3.6 (November/December 1997): 1--5. so she is not new to many of you.

There have been a few changes in Pam's life since she last wrote for us. Their oldest son, Chris, who is married to Challais, has two children. His daughter Samantha is now three years old and son, Chris J., was born in January 2000. Pam's oldest daughter, Carrie, got married in July 2000 to Joe Hinrichs. They are expecting their first baby in May of 2001. Melodie (17) is a senior in high school and the oldest at home. Bennett is 15, Colin 13, Emilie 10, Ryan 7, David 4--3/4, and Gannon 22 months.

I've asked Pam to write about a typical day in their home school.

"I am sitting here at my computer reflecting on just what is a typical home school day at my home. I could share the schedule we try to keep---up at 5:00, breakfast at 8:00, chores at 9:00 sort of thing---but that doesn't really reflect what goes on in my home on a daily basis. I am a stickler for schedules and find them most useful, but they are just paper and won't convey our whole story.

As I am typing, school is going on around me. I can hear Melodie, 17, playing her violin in her bedroom. She is graduating from high school in a few months and has just been accepted at Christian Heritage College where she hopes to study either History/Shakespeare or Violin/Viola. She teaches 30--35 beginner violinists in a group class each week and has recently started teaching violin privately. Her school days are lighter now that she has only a few subjects to finish up before graduating.

Bennett, 15, is practicing his cello in his bedroom. Colin, 13, is shooting baskets outside on the patio. David, 4, is playing with Duplos. Ryan, 7, is working on memorizing his Bible verses. Emilie, 10, is writing a letter to her niece in Montana. Gannon, 22 months, is sleeping on my bed---hence my ability to sit down at this computer.

It is afternoon and the day is much quieter than it was earlier. I taught and played with the under-10 crew (Ryan, David, and Gannon) so the older children (Emilie, Colin, Bennett and Melodie) could study with reasonable quietness. This is one of my favorite times of the day, getting to spend a few hours playing on the floor with my little ones. We study lots of things together, such as math, using counting blocks, and history and natural science using lots of library books. We also do phonics and reading lessons and just plain playing. We like to play with cars, and with Duplos, and with our David and Goliath army set. ...

Weight Loss and Dieting

As a mom having had twelve pregnancies (two lost to miscarriage), my weight has been up and down and up and down---with an overall trend up. I like food. Unfortunately, at 5' 2" and a petite frame, I don't have anywhere to hide the extra pounds. When I make my mind up I can usually drop extra weight in a few months. But I am prone to relapses, and the weight slowly creeps back.

Gerald has never pestered me about weight. He feels "the body beautiful"---though where the world is at---is mainly just an ego thing and not where the Christian should be. He strongly believes Christians have a responsibility before the Lord to look after their health so they can maximize their productive service for Him. He says that "thin" does not equal "healthy" any more than "fat" does. He feels that a few extra pounds are likely more healthy for a busy, nursing mom than a few too little. And he also feels that the stress of trying to lose weight can be more damaging to a busy mom's health than a few extra pounds are likely to be. He has kept a quiet, watchful eye over me these past twenty-seven years, to make sure I don't go beyond reasonable healthy weight limits in either direction, and to make sure I am not stressing myself out over my weight when there are other more important matters (i.e., little children) to tend to.

Gerald's quiet watchfulness has been all I've needed to keep me out of the obese category. The truth is I am terribly independent when it comes to my personal self---I don't want anybody telling me what I can or cannot eat.

But with Caleb, my "baby", two years old, and no new pregnancy to deal with (yet), I began to feel some months ago, and Gerald agreed, that the time had come to trim down a bit. Gerald's one condition was that I not focus on losing weight, but rather that I concentrate on making lifestyle and eating habit changes which would result in slow but steady weight loss. In other words, he was concerned that I lose weight in a healthy way. Sudden, drastic weight loss, and "yo-yoing" up and down are not healthy. ...

Birth Stories

Every so often a reader sends me her birth story. I love reading them! Recently, a subscriber named Dawn Poss, from Wisconsin, shared the story of her seventh child's birth with me. Dawn has kindly agreed to let me share it with you. I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

A Most Memorable Birth

This story began on Tuesday, October 3, 2000 at 2:45 a.m. I woke up and needed to use the bathroom. I lost my mucous plug, and there was a pink stain on the toilet tissue. I went back to bed, but I was too excited to sleep soundly. I tried to watch the clock to see how often the contractions were occurring. They were very mild, about 10--15 minutes apart.

When daylight arrived, Randy and I discussed the situation. He reminded me that a bloody show could occur up to three weeks before the baby's birth. I reminded him that the birth could happen today, and we both knew that he wasn't ready. It was still 2--1/2 weeks until my due date, and although we had had our home visit with our midwife, had gotten our supplies ready, and had discussed what Randy needed to do if he had to deliver the baby before the midwife arrived (e.g., checking for the cord around the baby's neck), there were two things my husband still needed to do in order to be ready for the birth: 1. Reread the emergency procedures in Special Delivery by Rahima Baldwin, and 2. Select a name for the baby. Randy always does these two things during the last month of my pregnancies.

Around 7:30 a.m. I called my midwife, Ginnie, and told her what was happening. She said that we were in the safe zone for a home birth (i.e., within three weeks of the due date) and suggested that I go for a walk. If it was real labor, walking would help it along, and if it was false labor, it might all stop with the change of activity. Randy stayed home to work on his last two preparation details, while I went for a walk around the block with our six children (ages 2--11). The contractions continued to be mild, about 10--25 minutes apart during the walk and throughout the morning. I called Ginnie again around 10 a.m. to tell her that there was no change, but I'd let her know if there was. After lunch I told my husband that he could go back to work if he needed to. I just wanted to take a nap with our two year old. I promised to call him at work if anything changed. ...

Dear Helen,

I wanted to send you a note explaining how much your newsletter blesses me. It seems to come in the mail exactly when it is most needed. My husband is in the ministry and we enjoy having him at home, but the stresses of ministry weigh on me also. I have three small ones, four and under. They are little blessings and I enjoy mothering. I like to sit down quietly during nap, or after they are all asleep at night, to read your letter. Thank you!!

I have a question for you; it is about college tuition. We would love to have more children and plan on doing so, but one of the main remarks we get is "How are you going to afford to put them all through college?" Our family is supportive and loving, but thought we should stop at two children for various reasons. They love and cherish our third but will freak out when we have our fourth, though I'm not pregnant yet. This is one of their main questions: college education.

How do you pay for your older ones' education? Do they have student loans? (We do not want our children to go that route. It has been stressful on us.) Do they get scholarships? ...

Laura's Corner

Laura-Lee (16) is currently my oldest at home. Besides being quite an accomplished cook and an experienced dairymaid, she likes to write. I think she writes mostly fiction, but I'm not sure about this because she doesn't let anybody see much of it. In any event, Gerald, her father, has asked her [commanded really--ed.] to please write a short column for The Mother's Companion for the next while. He figures this will be good experience for Laura, and---since we understand that many young ladies regularly read The Mother's Companion---of interest to many of our readers. Following is Laura's first contribution.

Contrast Nestled in the heart of a busy city rests a quiet public park. Surrounded by large trees, ponds and carpeted by wild flowers, it offers a peaceful resting place for the busy inhabitants of the city.

The park is interlaced with brick paths winding this way and that. Hurrying briskly down one of these paths comes the first of our two subjects. She is evidently a business woman, dressed in a suit, her hair cut short, manicured nails, and nicely done makeup, her high heels click down the walk. She seems to possess a great deal of money, yet a look of discontent is spread over her face. She runs her fingers through her hair, thinking of the next business meeting she must attend, the piles of paperwork that must be gone through at the office, and worrying about all the things that were supposed to be done yesterday. Her fretful air seems out of place in this peaceful setting. Grateful for this short break from the monotony of office work, but having too much to do to really enjoy it, she hastens on her way back to the unrewarding work which she has given up so much in order to have. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

The Motherhood Business

I had it figured out early in the game: my grandmother did the best she could, and my mother turned out to be a mess; my mother did the best she could, and I turned out to be a mess; so even if I did the best I could... it was going to be a very risky business.

Looking back, I am surprised by my wisdom at such an early age, but I realized that I would need to make a contract with the Lord of the universe: "I will do the best I can, if You will pick up the pieces". The big point to consider was: what is my best?

It's hard to figure out anything with six sons running in and out, and mostly underfoot, but I did do a lot of heavy thinking there at the dishpan. If I were going to give this career my best, it would have to be my all. I would have to make motherhood my main business, not a sideline. If you are a mother, you have noticed that it is not the sort of career you can put off until next season or fit into the spare cracks of your time.

Perhaps I should have related differently to my husband, but I thought of him as Daddy, co-parent, chief authority, and not as my bigger child. I thought we were like a pair of birds, rushing back and forth to bring the worms to our offspring, united in our God-given task of getting the next generation out and flying on their own. ...

At Our House

Five Minutes With Mother Bear and Her Cub

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.(Hebrews 12:14, KJV.)

It was 10:25 a.m. We were on time. Mark (15 at the time) and I walked into the doctor's waiting room and purposely sat out of view of the TV.

When I saw the room full of people, I sighed. I knew we were in for the usual long wait.

A morning talk show blared from the TV. In a matter of seconds I heard profanity, all kinds of sexual innuendoes, and the name of God trampled over and over and over.

I didn't know where to look, my face flamed red in embarrassment and anger. People of all ages were sitting around me, from little children to very elderly. Most were watching the TV. A few were looking at magazines. But all could hear the TV.

No one else seemed to be embarrassed. To them it was, apparently, just another talk show. ...

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The Mother's Companion Volume 7, Number 4

Life After C-Section -- Part I

In January, 1999, after a long and difficult labor at home, Caleb was born by emergency c-section at the local hospital. The labor and delivery story is told in Volume 5, Number 2, together with my reflections on the whole event written only days after the c-section. I recommend you go back and read that account as a refresher for the present article. Here I share more of the story.

I have dragged my feet on writing this article for almost two years, despite subscribers asking when it would be available and Gerald patiently insisting I do it. I have not enjoyed working on this story. The pain is still there, and I cry each time I work on it. The birth of Caleb still ranks as one of the five most difficult experiences of my life. But I did promise that I would write and share what I learned, and this article is the next step in fulfillment of that promise.

I take up the story as I am moved from the recovery room to my hospital room.

Friday, February 12

I lay in the hospital bed snuggling baby Caleb in my arms for the first time. The reality of all that had transpired over the last few hours had not really hit me yet. I had expected to have my tenth baby at home with the assistance of my midwives. Seven of Caleb's brothers and sisters had been born that way. Only two had been hospital births, and even they had been natural births. But this time, after seventeen hours of hard labor at home and no baby, the midwives had said I would need a c-section.

Now, six hours after that unwelcome news, I was holding baby Caleb. I felt a sense of great joy and peace, as I have felt after all my births, with my new baby in my arms at last. I was thankful that Caleb had finally arrived, safe and healthy. I was also thankful that I had survived the surgery, and---yes!---no more contractions!

As I began to take account of my surroundings I became aware of tubes in my arms and a catheter to my bladder. I was still a little groggy from the general anesthetic. It took about two hours for this to wear off.

Nurses were buzzing around me, checking this, that, and the other. I was offered pain medication---everything from Demerol to Tylenol. But I said "no thanks". The nurses were a bit surprised that I didn't want anything, but I was nursing and I didn't want anything to get into the milk. I felt I didn't need any pain medication anyway. Even after the anesthetic had worn off I was not in great pain. I felt uncomfortable at times, but generally only experienced pain when I moved. I have often been told that I have a high pain tolerance, so I guess it is true. Anyway, all medications have side effects (another result of the maxim: "intervention breeds complications") so I am always reluctant to take anything which is not absolutely necessary.

I insisted on having Caleb in bed with me, and the nurses did not challenge me on this. My husband, Gerald, was right there to help in any way he could. He positioned pillows between Caleb and the bed rails so I wouldn't worry about Caleb falling off the bed.

Because it was painful to move I was somewhat immobilized. You don't realize how much your lower abdominal muscles come into play every time you move until those muscles have been cut! This made nursing Caleb a bit of a trick. Normally I would just roll onto my side, but there was no such thing as "just roll" now. Gerald helped me get positioned and placed pillows under me to minimize my discomfort. I quickly learned how to make better use of my arms and less of my stomach muscles so I could shift myself around better.

Gerald set up housekeeping in the bed next to mine in the hospital room. The hospital provided this arrangement as standard fare at no extra cost. Gerald stayed with me night and day all the while I was in the hospital. We settled Rebekah (six years old and fearful of being parted from me at this stage in her life) into a reclining chair for the night. She slept fine. The other children, including the youngest, Rachel (4) and Timothy (2), were fine at home with older sister Laura (14) and Stephen (17) watching over them. They could reach us by phone as necessary. Gerald and I hardly slept at all that first night. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

Parents in Control

If you don't want the precious baby to grow up to be into materialism, drugs, sex, violence, or crime---do something! Rip the TV out by the roots. Throw it "over the hill". Move to a farm and make them milk six cows before breakfast. If you don't have a new baby soon or a gramma to tend, adopt a special-needs child or two. Give your child something real to think about.

Plant a big garden to give him blisters. Teach him how to cut firewood, then use it.

Don't wait until it's too late to mend spoiled brats. Catch them quick, while they are young and tender, and sock it to them! Get beehives, rear chickens, make pies to sell to the neighbors, hunt frogs and eat the legs, or do some serious fishing. Take them to a mission field to live. Don't just stand back and wring your hands, do something to break the pattern and the peer pressure of our culture. ...

From an anonymous contributor:

Things I've learned from my children:

A three-year-old's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using the ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.

The glass in windows (even double pane) doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

When you hear the toilet flush and the words "Uh-oh," it is already too late. ...

Gerald's Homestead Notes

by Gerald E. Aardsma


Our homestead has only 1.25 acres of land total. About one acre of this is vegetable garden. The rest is taken up by buildings and lawns.

We have a Jersey cow and her calf housed in a straw-bale barn/shed in the back corner of our 1.25 acres. In this geographical region it takes about an acre to pasture a cow. We obviously have no space for a cow pasture.

A year and a half ago, when we first got our cow, we planned to keep her in her roughly 10' by 10' box stall and feed her alfalfa hay and corn year round. To break up the boredom for her, and to improve the economics of feeding her, we also planned to tether her on our lawns and on the roadside grass along our gravel road throughout the summer months. ...

Dear Helen

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your wonderful publication. It brings me so much encouragement as I endeavor to faithfully honor God by serving my family. Every issue contains something that I feel is meant just for me, though I know you have many readers, and God is surely using your writing to touch them as well.

I have been meaning to write to tell you how much I appreciate one exhortation that you gave in your cover letter dated January 4, 2001. Near the end of it, you commented that often you wish you had more strength to keep up with Caleb and the "never-ending laundry." Then you encouraged mothers to lean on the Lord when we need energy to accomplish that which he has laid before us, and you quoted Philippians 4:13. I don't know if I can adequately express how much those few lines have meant to me.

As a mother of four little blessings (ages six, four, two and eight months), I'm faced with mountains of work---not the least of which is laundry---and I frequently find myself weary. Since the birth of my baby last June, I have experienced much frustration that I cannot keep up with the work and have often wondered what I was doing wrong. I kept thinking that if I was more efficient or focused, I wouldn't always be behind.

Unfortunately, this period of self-doubt was brought on by an article I read right after my baby's birth. An author that I have trusted for years stated that women who do not keep their houses clean are lazy and have a spiritual problem. Needless to say, this was not appropriate postpartum reading material. Though I knew that the author was wrong, I could not stop thinking about his claims and therefore experienced much grief. ...

Dear Helen,

I would first like to say that I love receiving your Mother's Companion newsletters. I do not know how you find the time for it but I thank God that you do. I was first introduced to your newsletters from a mother of six from our church. She let me read some of them, and I liked them, so she has been buying them as a gift for me ever since. Praise the Lord. I have since tried to involve other mothers in reading and receiving The Mother's Companion. I have not found too many who are receptive to this type of mothering, which is very sad to me. I did, however, meet one mother who was receptive to it, and she immediately started her subscription. We became very close friends, so The Mother's Companion also helps develop friendships. Thank you again, Helen! May God richly bless you more and more.

Now it's question time. I have, so far, a three-year-old daughter and an eighteen-month-old son. My son still nurses, once during the day (most of the time) which is at nap time, but anywhere from three to six times during the night. I am taking it a lot better now, though at times I feel frustrated and exhausted, often wondering why he gets up that many times to nurse. He is in the same room we are, though most of the time he does not sleep with us. He eats regular meals with us and he is a good eater, so I know he can't be hungry. Does he just nurse for comfort? I just do not understand why he doesn't sleep through the night. Any ideas or thoughts? I have heard that in Bible times, mothers nursed their children until about 5 years of age. Do you know why? Was it their main source of food or was it all for comforting reasons?

Like many other women, out of ignorance, I have read men's books on parenting. I quit nursing my daughter when she was nine months old and now she sucks her thumb and I know it's because I stopped nursing her before she was ready to be weaned. I do not want to do that with my son, though sometimes I feel like it. I get a lot of pressure from grandparents and some people from church that say there is no reason why he should still be nursing. Sometimes I find myself thinking the same thing. I guess I just need some encouragement.

In His love, A.W.

Dear A.W.,

Thank you for taking the time to write with your good questions. Most people are unaware of the benefits of prolonged breastfeeding, so don't be surprised if friends or family members are not supportive.

After twenty-four years of breastfeeding ten children I strongly believe prolonged breastfeeding is God's design for women and children. From my own experience I would say Bible-time women nursed for many years both for nutrition and for comfort. Their babies probably began experimenting with solid foods (not baby food) at around eighteen months, but they wouldn't have gained much actual nutrition from adult foods until around two or even three years of age. By age four nursing becomes more comfort than primary nutrition. By five or six breastfeeding is no longer needed for either comfort or nutrition and the child naturally gives it up easily and without distress. ...

Laura's Corner

by Laura-Lee Aardsma (16)

Only One Thing Is Necessary

Martha crawled from her warm bed even before the chickens had made an appearance. She threw the covers over her sleeping sister in disgust. "How can she sleep at a time like this?" she stormed as she lugged the heavy water jar to the well. The fact that people normally slept at this hour didn't seem to occur to her.

She was the only woman at the well that early morning, for which she was glad. She had no time for standing about and gossiping with her neighbors that morning. The water jar was heavy, and in her hurry to get back to the house she sloshed cold water down her shoulder and side.

She stopped and set the jar down with a thump of frustration, sending more water over the edge. She was in no mood for a cold shower, especially this early in the morning. Shivering, she picked up the jar and started back to the house, her teeth set. She didn't care how many things went wrong, she was going to accomplish everything before the Master and his disciples got here. She must! What in the world would they think if everything wasn't perfect? ...

At Our House

The calf was due April 7th. Around the 4th, I began checking on the cow several times per day. I had David thoroughly clean her stall so it would be ready for the calving and be neat and tidy should the vet need to visit. Her udder was swollen and full. She was "bagging up", as they say.

On the morning of the 5th, I noticed that the cow's vulva appeared to be swollen. She seemed to be fine, chewing her cud and drinking and eating. I felt like a protective mother hen as I checked on her several times that morning. You'd think I was having a baby! The children were working in the garden, and making their usual noises in the yard.

After lunch I noticed that the cow seemed perturbed. She was standing completely still, not chewing her cud and not coming over to me. She had this "leave me alone" look in her eye. I thought she would probably have her calf that night when all was quiet and peaceful.

At 3:00 p.m. a terrible storm came through---high winds, thunder, lightning, and rain. I had a feeling she would calve during the storm. I went outside in the pouring rain to check on her.

I looked into the box stall. Mommy cow was bending her head down low, making a low mooing sound, so quiet and sweet. I had never heard her moo like that before. There in the back of the stall lay a dark brown and still wet little calf. Momma began licking away, with long strokes that practically rolled the calf over.

I quickly ran into the house. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC74: 20 pages: PDF (1.0 MB): $9.99 U.S.

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The Mother's Companion Volume 7, Number 5

Life After C-Section---Part II

Last issue I related more of my experience when my tenth child was born by c-section in February 1999, ending with the close of my brief hospital stay. The story picks up here with Gerald, me, Rebekah (7) and baby Caleb arriving home. This was two and one-half days after our failed home birth and emergency drive to the hospital.

It has been just as difficult emotionally to write this part of the story as the others, maybe even harder. The cause of the delay in getting it all written wasn't just the emotional difficulty. Only in the last few months have Gerald and I found an answer to the question of why the c-section was necessary. I am only now able to draw this account to a proper close.

A subscriber wrote, in response to the last issue, expressing her wonder that I was able to remember so many details after such a long time. Actually, I have worked from an earlier attempt to journal my misadventure, and from my scribbled notes made at the time these things happened, as well as from memory.

Monday, February 15

We drove into the yard, at last. I couldn't believe the excitement I felt. There is truly no place like home.

I walked slowly into the house and sat in my recliner. Timothy (2) had a blast playing with all the balloons I had brought home. I gave Rachel (5) a Valentine bunny I had received as a gift. She was so pleased. All the children were so happy to have us back home again. Gerald and I rarely leave the children, but this time we had had little choice. Stephen (17) and Laura (14) had done a great job looking after everybody in our absence. Our happiness at being all together again knew no bounds.

The house was immaculate. The children had really outdone themselves. It was a relief to see everything in place, so neat and tidy. Gerald and I were so proud of the children.

After a delicious lunch provided by friends, Timothy (2) had a long nurse. This would be great for my milk supply! I still needed to use a pillow, but sitting in the big chair with its arm rests really helped keep the weight off my tummy.

Gerald was exhausted and disheveled having spent the entire time with me at the hospital. But he was all smiles as the ten of us (Mark (19) had gone back to Moody for classes) sat together in the living room sharing all that had happened. It was a precious and emotional time together.

Laura (14) looked tired. She had been up at night rocking Timothy. She was glad that I was home so she could sleep in her own bed by herself again. And I was so happy to be able to take care of Timothy myself.

The midwives were hoping to visit that day---they happened to be in town and wanted to come by. Gerald knew I wasn't up to it since I was very tired. Though I wanted to see them and share all that had happened, he vetoed the idea. It would have been an emotionally exhausting experience for sure, and I just needed to get some rest. They had something they wanted to give me and they needed to pick up some items they had left, so they came by briefly but did not stay. They gave me a large bouquet of long-stemmed roses, nine red and one white, the nine representing the first nine children and the white rose for newborn Caleb. I was touched by their thoughtfulness.

I lay in my chair in the living room, napping and resting for the rest of the day. Gerald went to the office to open the mail and begin the task of digging out there. Before supper the children, following my directions, put away everything we had brought home from the hospital and all the birth supplies from the laboring I had done in my bedroom. I walked about giving directions, getting some needed exercise. It felt good to be in command of my little troop again.

That evening Gerald and I sat in the living room as I nursed Timothy to sleep. We were happy to be home, to be together, and to have little Caleb in our arms. Our little home was not much by the world's standards, but it was our "cottage below" where we shared our love and our children. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

How to Cook Rice (And Recipes for Leftover Rice)

I feel especially adequate to give advice on rice, as you might guess by my middle name. (Folks call me Ricie.)

Here's my secret: buy Uncle Ben's Converted Rice and go by the directions on the package. Do not give in to any of your tightwad tendencies by buying any other brand. It's Uncle Ben's or nothing. I (Helen) strongly agree with Mary's advice here. I purchase twelve pounds of Uncle Ben's rice once a month at Sam's Club for $5.99.

Notice that when he says to cover and keep covered, he means it! Don't go poking around in the pot. Leave it alone---work on the rest of the meal.

Always cook more than enough. Why do it twice? It can be warmed by putting over boiling water in a rust-proof colander. ...

Weight Loss and Dieting

In order to achieve my goal of maintaining a healthy weight, Gerald and I have had to make some rules. We have implemented these rules one at a time, giving several months for one rule to become habitual before another is introduced. That way I can focus all my energy on conquering one bad lifestyle habit at a time.

The first rule we made, one that we feel is very important, is "No eating between meals---NO exceptions." One of the reasons I was overweight was that I could always find an excuse to eat all day long. "Well, it's a birthday party---I must have cake and ice cream." "But this is low-calorie food." "I'll eat these cookies now and go light on supper tonight." Now the only thing I allow between meals is water. ...

Dear Helen

I was recently asked, "If you could have lunch with anyone alive in the world today, who would it be?" I said, "There's a mother of ten in Illinois whom I would love to sit and chat with over lunch."

Although that is not possible, I did want to take the time to write a thank you for sharing your journey as a Christian, a wife and a mother. It is an encouragement to me.

Sometimes, though, as I read The Mother's Companion, I feel I must be so very different from the majority of your readers. I struggle a lot with motherhood. You seem to find such joy in your role.

We home school our two oldest (ages 9 and 7). I recently decided to put my three-year-old in pre-school three mornings a week in order to `survive'. My husband is not happy about that decision but he went along with it. I know that is not right, although `everyone' (myself included) assures me I am doing the right thing for me and a good thing for my three-year-old. My husband says that I have lost my vision for our family. I believe he is right. How does one get that back when the goal is to make it through the day? Although it's humbling to admit these things to you, a mother of ten, I feel completely stretched as a mother of three and I would love to know how to be a better mother.

I realize some factors, like my working part-time outside the home (about eighteen to twenty hours per week) and my husband putting in long days at the office, have probably contributed to my lack of joy in motherhood. Yet, I think---I know---it must be something deeper.

I have been told I give too much of myself to my children. I have made changes in this area but still feel so discouraged. I should interject that on many occasions I have been told that our three are very well behaved. So I am not dealing with rebellious, out-of-control children.

So what is the problem and where is the joy? Am I supposed to disregard my needs entirely? How do you do it? Please believe me when I say that is a sincere question. The women I know (Christian and non-Christian alike) feel it is best for a woman to have some part-time work or activities away from the home in order "not to go crazy." I'm sure you've heard that many times before. So, when I tell of my struggles, I am told I don't do enough for me. Is that the answer? ...

Dear A.C.,

Your letter is not an easy one for me to answer. Gerald and I have discussed your letter at length---which is not unusual---and have worked together in formulating this response. It is not that your case is difficult to diagnose. The difficulty is that I must inform you that it can only be cured by some radical `surgery'. You may not like me anymore by the time I am done telling you what I must tell you, but you have been commendably honest and candid with me and I feel you deserve an honest, candid response. Please understand at the outset that I love you unconditionally as a sister in the Lord, and that I mean you only good and no harm.

Here are the steps you need to take to find the joy you are missing in your calling to motherhood: ...

Laura's Corner

by Laura-Lee Aardsma (16)

My hope with this series is to portray realistically the joys and hardships of big families and living in the country. I also hope to give encouragement to the older daughters in the readership through the struggles, joys and growth of the central character, Heather Marie Grant.

Heather stifled a moan as she creaked open the door and entered what was to be her new room. It wasn't even half the size of her old room, yet she was expected to fit three times as many people in it.

"It'll never work, Melanie," Heather told her little sister after she had tried rearranging the room in her mind several times. "We'll never get everything in here."

"I can't wait to explore the backyard," Melanie exclaimed, hanging out the window, paying no attention to Heather's concerns.

Melanie turned and flew down the stairs in her excitement to tell her sibling about the backyard. Heather followed at a little slower pace, meeting with baby Emily at the bottom. She scooped up her youngest sister, navigating her way through the boxes filling the dining room.

"Where are we going to put everything?" Heather asked her mother in despair.

"I was just asking myself the same question. There isn't room for one more box in here. They're putting the last of the stuff on the porch."

"Mom, have you seen my room? I don't think it will be possible to fit all three of us in there."

"We're going to have to. This parsonage wasn't built for a pastor with eight kids. The boys don't have it any better. We'll just have to learn to live with a little less stuff." ...

At Our House

Our trip to Pennsylvania for Gerald's Dad's memorial service was a trip to remember! It was difficult to get away from the homestead, especially since the beans and sweet corn were just coming ripe the day we left. It has not been a great gardening year for us and the trip was a significant expense. Strawberries are our biggest cash crop each year. This year, due to early snows last December, before we had put the strawberries under straw for the winter, many of the plants were winter-killed. The result was a poor harvest of poor-quality berries.

Our second biggest cash crop is---you guessed it---sweet corn. Around here it is important to be the first to have local sweet corn. This is corn country. Within a few days of first ripening everybody has sweet corn to sell. The market quickly saturates. So good sales require having the first ripe corn, and getting it to the customers before the market saturates. The sweet corn attracts customers, who buy lots of green beans once they see them. But all of this activity peaks at the start of the corn season and then falls off rapidly.

We had a lovely stand of first-ripe corn, and a beautiful crop of green beans this year. Both were just ready for sale the day we left for Pennsylvania. We would be gone three days, losing most of our early-to-market advantage.

Though it was a sacrifice to go, I'm so glad we did. It was truly a memorable, godly event. And, as it turned out, the Lord has graciously provided our travel expenses through gifts from three relatives---He is always faithful.

I was so thrilled that all of my children made the effort to attend. We met Jennifer, Steve and Joshua at a motel, about two hours from the church where the service was held, and spent the night together with them there. We spent the next morning traveling together to the church in our rented fifteen-passenger van. This was a special time, on a gorgeous summer morning, zooming through the glorious mountain scenery of eastern Pennsylvania.

The service was lovely. The little country church was filled with long-lost Aardsma clan and friends. Many folks shared their memories of Dad and how he had impacted their lives. Here is what I shared:

When I married Gerald, Dad welcomed me to the family and treated me as if I was his own daughter. As Gerald worked on his schooling and I worked on making a home, Dad encouraged us to walk by faith and not by sight. Whenever we announced another baby on the way, he would say "Praise the Lord! Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them. That's just wonderful." His support and unconditional love meant so much. ...

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The Mother's Companion Volume 7, Number 6

Meet the Lattin Family

Greetings to you all from the Lattin family! I'm Susan. I'm married to Herb, and we are the parents of seven boys and five girls. Yes, that is twelve children, and number thirteen is due in April, 2002! We are truly blessed. Our children are Amber (21), Gillian (20), Dru, Adam (twins, 17), Abbey (13), Noah (11), Hannah (10), Ben (7), Abram (5), Naomi (4), Timmy (2), and Gideon (1).

We live `simply' in northern Minnesota. The Lord has blessed us with 120 acres here. We call our place "Wits End" from Psalm 107. We live four miles (as the crow flies) from Lake Superior. The closest town, Silver Bay, is about ten miles away and has a population of 2,000.

We face many challenges here. Life is rarely `simple', yet we love our home. We don't have a phone, electricity, or running water. We haul our water from a hand pump that will someday be in my kitchen. (We built an addition around the well but we haven't moved the kitchen into the addition yet.) We heat our house with wood and cook on a wood stove. Life wasn't always this easy---we used to haul our water from the neighbor's or from town---not an easy task for a large family with animals.

We did not grow up in this lifestyle. We both spent most of our lives in suburban Connecticut. Seven years ago the Lord called us to come to Minnesota. We intended only to visit, while we determined whether we could handle country life. Then we would move to Oregon or Washington to set up camp. We are still here, because the Lord spoke to Herb's heart and told him this was to be our new home.

We arrived here April 2nd, 1994. Sometimes we think we should have arrived a day earlier---April 1st! After leaving a glorious Connecticut springtime, we came into freezing cold temperatures and about four feet of snow still on the ground! Our temporary hosts met us with a horse-drawn sleigh to take us to their home. It was a crystal-clear night with glittering stars filling the sky and Northern Lights blossoming and blazing over our heads. It was (we thought at the time) bitterly cold.

The Perfect Family?

Though we would like to paint a picture of a perfect family, we would rather tell you the truth. We are not a perfect family---parents or children. We have a long way to go before we are true reflections of Christ.

We tend to be pack rats, which doesn't help, especially when there are fourteen of us! We really enjoy farm auctions, which hasn't helped our pack-rat tendencies a bit. We aren't always organized, and we're rarely on top of the housework. We are striving to do better in these areas. But we especially strive to grow closer to the Lord and to be more like Him. ...

Things We'd Do Again

"The First Thing We'd Do Again is to Set Aside Time for Togetherness. Around the dinner table every night we would share "interesting things." We would open our hearts to each other. Laughing, crying, arguing, complaining, we would "coalesce," as Martha liked to call it.

We Would Let Our Children Vote on Matters Affecting the Whole Family. Democracy is not taught by saluting the flag or singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." By making motions, discussing, and voting, several important things are learned: self-respect ("my opinion does count"), appreciation of the way our country runs, appreciation for a mother and father who recognize both their children's rights and their children's intelligence.

We Would Set Some Specific Boundaries for Behavior. "Here are the fences, children. Beyond these we do not go." Rules and regulations, penalties and rewards---all these we'll discuss and clarify. Group control, yes, but the goal is self-control. Discipline, yes, but here too the aim is self-discipline. Good behavior expected. Bad behavior punished. ..."

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

Midnight Prayers and Other Thoughts

Too tired? You can give all your problems to God. He's going to be up all night anyway. (Psalm 121)

There were two ladies who worked hard. One led her baby around the yard and answered his questions day after day, while the other preached to huge crowds in many different countries. Which one gets a prize?

When we had our first child, I managed to keep on going with most of my own plans; but, with the second, I truly entered into motherhood. Then, I had to fit into their schedule. I felt like this quote from George Washington at Brandywine "Burn the bridge...from here on's victory or death."

Back in my early days of motherhood, I was in misery, feeling that I had ruined our first child. It seemed that he clung to me every minute. He could not play alone (so I could get something else done.) Then came the secular studies done on baby monkeys, rearing them on their real mother, or a fake mother made of wire, or a cloth mother (all having a milk supply).

"Baby monkeys reared without their real mothers or the terry cloth substitutes proved to be incapable of normal relationships with either males or females. The experiments establish the importance of bodily contact in an infant's life and the need for the attention and care of a mother."

My rule became this: "Give them the holding and comfort they need, when they need it, so they can let go when the time comes." It seemed to work as they grew up, and it helped me be more patient. ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

One perk of writing The Mother's Companion is that publishers occasionally send me books to review. I found this piece from a devotional for home schoolers particularly encouraging. Vicki Brady, Quiet Moments for Home School Moms and Dads (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1999), 23--24.

A Mother's Touch

Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. And he did right in the sight of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 27:1--2a.

The first time I read this passage as a teenager, I was so impressed with Jotham's mother that I thought about naming my firstborn daughter Jerushah. What a woman she must have been! Her influence in her son's life earned her eternal recognition in the Scriptures, which acknowledge that "Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God" (v. 6). ...

Dear Helen

I have thoroughly enjoyed my sample issues of The Mother's Companion. I especially knew this publication was for me when I read Volume 4, Number 2 talking about the older women (as opposed to men) training the younger women.

Oh, how I wish I'd had someone like you around ten years ago when my first child was born (we have four now). Our church was doing the Ezzo classes... it just went against everything I felt in my heart. We quit the class and the instructors met with us to show us "where we erred". I will never forget that man sitting in my living room looking me dead in the eye and telling me that a "mother's intuition" was an "old wives' tale"!

Praise God, my husband and I were in agreement and we did what we felt was right. We met the needs of our baby. We were so ostracized we had to leave the church! I have never experienced such an angry, militant mind-set!

We are happy we followed the Lord's leading. We have no regrets, and wonderful memories of our `baby days'. ...

God bless you.


Dear Helen,

Lately I've been reading some thoughts on not allowing daughters to go to college, but rather keeping them home to learn homemaking skills. I went to college, but probably would rather have enjoyed marriage and homemaking at an earlier age. My parents left no option for me but college. I never questioned it; I was a compliant child. I was raised in a home where we went to church. My mother is a believer, but my father was not a spiritual leader. I don't think of the home I was raised in as solidly Christian, with an emphasis on spiritual growth, etc. Our home is oriented toward teaching our children to walk with the Lord---we try to live our walk.

I've enjoyed reading about your daughter going to Pensacola Christian College (we use some ABeka materials) and your son going to Moody (we receive Moody radio here). The wonderful stories of how the Lord put them together with their respective mates leads me to see the positives in girls going to college. Of course, with my oldest being only thirteen I can't fathom her leaving the nest, so I just have to say---when the time comes, I want what the Lord wants for her. What are your thoughts?

Also, when you home schooled your high-schoolers, did you do it as part of an umbrella school or something similar? How did your children receive a diploma? ...

Laura's Corner

by Laura-Lee Aardsma (16)

This is the second part in a fiction series. The story picks up this time just after Heather Grant's little brother has slidden down the banister into a stack of boxes. ...

At Our House

A New Grandson

Having a tiny grandson living just four miles down the road is a new experience for me. I sure am loving it. I can't seem to get enough of his sweet little face. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I asked my daughter-in-law, Jenn, if she would share her home-birth story with us all. Here it is.

During the first several months of my pregnancy it seemed impossible that there really could be a new person growing inside of me. Yet, the presence of `morning' sickness all too often reminded me it was true.

For the last few weeks of my pregnancy, it seemed impossible that this now fully-formed and developed person would actually be born. As my due date approached I met every day with the hope that today would be the day. I wanted to meet this little person who had spent the last nine months growing inside of me and giving an occasional strong kick to make sure I didn't forget about him. When my due date came and went I was sure this baby had decided to take up permanent residence right where he was. A few days later he decided it was getting a little crowded after all and it was time for a change of scenery.

With the beginning of labor I was elated, yet determined to stay calm and patient. After about eight hours of labor things were slowing down and I began to be discouraged. Maybe he wasn't going to come after all. Just when I began to think this labor was in vain, intense contractions began to come two minutes apart. (I must insist that the birth books don't accurately describe the intensity and pain of this transitional phase of labor.) When I was finally able to push, I couldn't wait to see my baby. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC76: 18 pages: PDF (1.0 MB): $9.99 U.S.


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