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Volume 8 (2002)

Excerpts (text only) from MC81: 18 pages: PDF (1.2 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 8, Number 1

The Essence of Femininity

by Elisabeth Elliot

Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions. It is unfathomable and indefinable, yet men and women have tried ceaselessly to fathom and define it. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity---a reality of God's design and God's making, His gift to me and to every woman---and, in a very different way, His gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself.

What I have to say is not validated by my having a graduate degree or a position on the faculty or administration of an institution of higher learning. It comes not from any set of personal tastes and preferences. It is not a deduction from my own genetic leanings or temperament. Instead, it is what I see as the arrangement of the universe and the full harmony and tone of Scripture. This arrangement is a glorious hierarchical order of graduated splendor, beginning with the Trinity, descending through seraphim, cherubim, archangels, angels, men, and all lesser creatures, a mighty universal dance, choreographed for the perfection and fulfillment of each participant.

For years I have watched with growing dismay, even anguish, what has been happening in our society, in our educational system, in our churches, in our homes, and on the deepest level of personality, as a result of a movement called feminism, a movement that gives a great deal of consideration to something called personhood but very little to womanhood, and hardly a nod to femininity. Words like manhood and masculinity have been expunged from our vocabulary, and we have been told in no uncertain terms that we ought to forget about such things, which amount to nothing more than biology, and concentrate on what it means to be "persons". ...

A Christian Home

O God,

make the door of this house

wide enough

to receive all who need human love

and fellowship;

narrow enough

to shut out all envy, pride, and strife. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

How to Get Along

Keep skid chains on your tongue---always say less than you think. Cultivate a low, persuasive voice. How you say it often counts more than what you say.

Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully, no matter what it costs you.

Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging word to or about somebody. Praise good work done, regardless of who did it. If criticism is needed, criticize helpfully, never spitefully. ...

How To Get Good Children

First, you start with a pair of praying grandparents. Pray over the babies before they are born. Be careful with feeding and discipline. By the time they are two years old, see that they understand that you are the boss. (A rolled-up newspaper or a flyswatter is usually enough of a training tool, as with a pup.) ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

Should home school children be allowed free access to the teacher's guides, answer keys, etc?

I have heard a few parents say, in a casual sort of way, that they find home schooling easy because their children mark all their own work. When the child has a problem he or she can just go to the teacher's guide and get the help they need. ...

In the Kitchen

Do you get tired of paying the high price of storebought pectin for your homemade jams?

I have been unhappy about paying these high prices for years, but I simply could find no substitute. But---at last---I have found a cheaper solution. ...

Dear Helen

Since receiving The Mother's Companion as a gift from a friend about a year ago I have longed to have a personal link to you. With the birth of my first last March came an onslaught of questions. I've looked all over for direction and encouragement and been willing to try anything lest out of stubbornness or ignorance I overlook something that would actually be good for my son and our family. In looking back I believe this was not a healthy thing. All it did was cause great confusion, and still, a year later, I find myself questioning our decisions. So this letter comes long overdue to thank you for all your gentle encouragement and affirmation of "the mother's heart".

I have one question. It regards leaving our children with care givers. Where do I grab the tail on this question, because it has so many twists and turns and starts and stops?

I will start with the Christian community. There is such pressure from leadership to "get away" from your kids for periods of time to focus on your relationship with your husband. The way it is promoted you would think kids were a natural threat to marriage. As much as my heart rails at this insistent message, I still question our decision, because I want to make sure it has been our decision and not just my desire influencing my husband. I also realize that once in a great while with the proper care it would be good to go out for a bite to eat or just a walk together. I guess my first question centers around the husband/wife relationship and need for time "alone". How do you meet this need, and is it all it's cracked up to be?

My second question deals with church. I don't believe I've sat through a sermon yet. I don't know as I've even heard three-quarters of a sermon since my son was born. At people's urging I've tried leaving him in the nursery. The first day I did I couldn't stop crying. He was only six months old and I knew no one at this church. It's a big church and I still don't know anyone (we live forty minutes away from our church, and my husband is a teacher, so involvement outside of Sundays is nearly impossible). When I leave my son it is with absolute strangers to him and me. I wish I could keep him occupied enough to sit in the sanctuary, but he's eleven months old now and very difficult to keep quiet. As you can imagine he doesn't like the nursery either. He always ends up in tears. It seems an impossible situation to my thinking. I am so frustrated. How have you handled the need to be with your child and yet be fed spiritually? ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC81: 18 pages: PDF (1.2 MB): $9.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC82: 20 pages: PDF (1.9 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 8, Number 2

What Would Eve Do?

It was 1976. I was a new mom with my first baby, Jennifer. At six months of age she was visibly prospering. She had the healthy, well-filled-out appearance common to breastfed babies. I had been exclusively breastfeeding, on demand, up to that point, and I had felt confident that everything was going great. However, I had just returned from a well-baby checkup with the doctor, and he'd told me I was doing something wrong.

I had proudly told him that Jennifer was totally breastfed, and that I intended to continue offering her only the breast for many more months to come. He had expressed concern that she would become anemic since, according to his medical knowledge, iron wasn't passed to the baby through breast milk. He told me to continue breastfeeding, but insisted that I begin to give Jennifer iron supplements. I told him that I didn't want to give supplements (I knew that too much could do just as much harm as too little) See, for example, Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, ed. David E. Larson, (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990), 479., but asked him if there wasn't a more natural way to get her the iron she needed. He said that I could give her cooked egg yolks every day and that should do it.

This didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Why would God leave iron out of breast milk? But, as I have said, I was new to this mothering thing, and now the doctor had dashed my confidence. He was the professional, and I had no medical degree to match his.

When I got home I started with the egg yolk regimen. Everything went great until I tried feeding it to Jennifer. Her face twisted up and she promptly worked the egg yolk out of her mouth and onto her face and hands. This was gross, both for her and me. Believing this was important to Jennifer, I tried another small spoonful. She began gagging and crying.

The egg yolk idea obviously was not working. And it still wasn't making sense to me. Was it possible the doctor was misinformed? Surely, God had this anemia problem covered somehow. I had never called La Leche League (LLL) before, but I figured they would surely know what I should do. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

This was written when I, (Mary Rice) was 47, about 20 years ago. Billy was my youngest, and last, child.

From out of the Past---1980

My problem these days is also the joy of my life; four-year-old Billy. He's humming and working on Mr. Potato Head. He's already taken the four foam-rubber mattresses and turned them sideways on the floor, making himself a cabin. I told him he could move around, but no talking.

With my first child, Eddie, motherhood was the most wracking. I have poignant memories of those first years, those months when I was the only source of companionship and entertainment for a lonely tot. I thought that I had ruined him when he hung onto my skirt and cried bitterly if I even went to the bathroom. His dad built a white picket fence so that he could play outside while I did a little housework, but would he play outside? No, he stood as close to the house as he could get, and cried. His dad comforted me and told me that a two-year-old boy was supposed to be at his mother's heel, but I didn't believe a man could realize how long a day could be. I didn't know how to play with a two-year-old boy! How I would have loved to escape and read a good book.

The solution to my stress with Eddie was cheerful baby Scott. At six months he could laugh when Big Ed said "BOO" to him. At eight months he could stand up in the playpen and throw things out or "communicate" in some way. He was more fun than a kitty. ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

Educational software on CD-ROM which cannot be permanently installed on the hard drive is a big frustration. Childhood irresponsibility inevitably results in scratched, broken, and lost CDs. Also, having to load and reload CDs for each student, each subject, each day (for both the student and the teacher) is a time-waster and a nuisance. After putting up with this problem for two years I wanted a solution.

The manufacturers of these educational software products make it impossible to install the software on the hard drive. I called my main source of educational software (Switched on Schoolhouse, by Alpha Omega) and asked them if they plan to provide a hard-drive option. They said they don't---that they are worried about people installing the software and then returning the CDs for a refund, or sharing them with their friends. This doesn't make a lot of sense to me since many people have CD writers now and, if they are into software theft, they can easily copy the CDs anyway, but Alpha Omega seems to have made up their minds.

Alpha Omega does provide this option with the version of Switched on Schoolhouse which is intended for school classroom use. However, this version is quite expensive, and with only four students at present we don't qualify as a school anyway, according to their definition.

I talked it over with Gerald. He recommended I talk to Mark about it since Mark is pretty computer savvy. ...

In the Kitchen

Snow Ice Cream

Last winter, when we got a lovely fresh snowfall, I decided to make snow ice cream with the children. I had wanted to do this for some time, but lacked suitable snow conditions. When the perfect snow came, however, I couldn't find the recipe. I knew it was in one of my books somewhere. I called my daughter-in-law, Jenn, and she looked it up for me on the Internet. I had fun making it with the children. It was easy, quick and yummy---my favorite kind of cooking! We shared it with the office staff, and they liked it too. Here it is. ...

Timothy's Diary

Today is Timothy's fifth birthday. I just can't believe it. I love the age of five. Children at this age are generally stable, content, and happy to just tag along with what everyone else is doing.


Certainly the big news this time around is that Timothy is weaned. Timothy definitely broke the record as the longest nurser yet. He weaned during the summer at four and a half years of age. You had to really see it to believe it. Timothy is big for his age (45 pounds and 3 feet 9 inches tall!). When he nursed he filled my lap and beyond. I was discreet and did not nurse him in public. Sadly, western culture is too uneducated regarding breastfeeding in general to understand. ...

The Grant Family Series

It was all so simple when it began---just a few chickens and fresh eggs every day. What could be so hard about that? Besides, Heather had argued, they would add such a farm feeling to their place, and it would be so economical to have fresh eggs every day.

Despite the dubious remarks of her parents, Heather won out in the end. A few days later a box of ten downy chicks were in her possession.

The old tool shed had been fixed up for their use, and Heather felt quite pleased with the way it worked out. It was snug, with sweet smelling shavings spread on the floor, and the heat lamp radiating its warmth throughout the little building. ...

A Winter Day

6:15 Laura (17) gets up to make breakfast. David (14) rises soon after and goes out to milk the cow. I get up, reluctantly, around 6:30. Gerald has been up for an hour or two already and is over in the office at work. I brush my hair, clip it back, and get dressed in a jumper. I head to my desk, make the lists for the day's work, read my e-mails, and start on my day's writing for The Mother's Companion.

6:55 Smells of breakfast come wafting into my office. I wake up Matthew (11), Rebekah (9), and Rachel (7). I let Timothy (5) and Caleb (2) sleep longer until they wake up on their own. Matthew requires at least two wake-up calls, and then I threaten a demerit a minute if he doesn't get up promptly. I call Gerald on the intercom for breakfast.

7:00 We eat breakfast all together. Today we are having poppy-seed muffins, hot chocolate, and sliced oranges. I only eat fruit and drink water, one of my life-style diet rules. Helen E. Aardsma, "Weight Loss and Dieting," The Mother's Companion 7.3 (May/June 2000): 9--10. (Well, maybe a bite or two of 'Beka's leftover muffin.)

7:30 We sit down for family devotions. Gerald leads in Bible reading out of 1 Corinthians 13. He has the children say part of the verses from memory out loud. Good practical teaching. All the children are piled up on the couch, snuggled in blankets. (Our only rule for devotions is that the children have to be quiet, and be sitting up with feet on the floor.) We sing "Living for Jesus" and pray together. Today we pray for a subscriber who is having knee trouble and surgery tomorrow. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC82: 20 pages: PDF (1.9 MB): $9.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC83: 21 pages: PDF (1.3 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 8, Number 3

Redeeming the Time

(Life Without TV)

Ephesian 5:16; KJV.

At supper one evening Matthew (11) asked, "Dad, I'm saving up to get a cockatiel. I'm about halfway there. Will I be allowed to buy one once I get the money?" He knew better than to ask me.

I mumbled under my breath something about how his mouse had practically starved to death, always stunk to high heavens and then came to an unusual death, and about how many fish were flushed down the toilet and...

"Matthew, it takes a certain level of maturity to take care of a bird," Gerald said. "They make a lot of mess around their cages which needs daily attention. They'll die if they don't get food and water."

After Matthew promised to lay down his life for his bird, Gerald said he could buy one when he had the money.

Did you ever see such joy? Matthew sailed around the house for days. I was happy for Matthew's joy, at least. I realized that this pet stage would soon be gone forever, together with his boyhood. He'll soon become interested in things that are far more complex than birds.

To backtrack a little, Matthew had originally wanted to get a dog, not a bird. But with babies, vegetable customers, and employees around, I have been adamantly opposed to having a dog. Even though he knew that a dog was out of the question, I think Matthew read every book on dogs that has ever been written. Our poor librarian! For several years Matthew kept her busy ordering dog books. He became very knowledgeable about the topic. ...

Cultural Messengers: Should We Tell Them to Get Lost?

What is America's greatest source of strength and inspiration? According to the U.S. Congress, it's American mothers. Stay-at-home moms, congress declared, are "doing so much for the home... and [for] religion," which leads to "good government and humanity."

Okay, as you may have guessed, the present 106th Congress said no such thing. Good heavens, radical feminists would never allow it! But the Congress did use these words 86 years ago when it created Mother's Day. The words reflect the widespread belief that full-time mothers were performing a vitally important task.

How times have changed. Within just a few decades, it appears, few mothers believe this truth any more, which is another indication of the power of cultural messages. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

Are Children Real People?

My mother did a lot of reading on child psychology. She was an only child without cousins or neighbor children and went into motherhood from ground zero. She and my dad had been brought to Christ in 1932, right in the middle of the Depression, and she birthed me---a third daughter---instead of getting a divorce. Their mentors were in the Oxford Group Movement that majored in seeking divine guidance rather than reading the Bible and taking it for God's answer to all of life's needs.

As I started my career, I was always far from home and had a negative goal: To not do what my mother did. That was sad. I do not recommend it.

Students from CIU, or Columbia Bible College back then, led me to the Lord, and showed me how my Heavenly Father would speak to me from His Word. As I studied and read and re-read, I took everything literally and tried to live my life accordingly. I couldn't quite grasp "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," but I could understand, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Once, I confided in another young mother that I tried to put myself into the child's place, hoping to be considerate of his projects, efforts, hurt feelings, etc. This friend was amazed. She said, "I never thought of children as real people." ...

The Grant Family Series

Heather felt herself drifting from the sermon despite her best efforts to stay focused on what her father was saying. Although she wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, Heather found her father's sermons rather long and beyond her depth. She knew the model preacher's daughter would never miss a word of the sermon, but Heather knew she was the farthest thing from being a model preacher's daughter. Most of the time Heather found herself listening only long enough to pick up the text he was preaching from. Today it was Isaiah 64:8, "But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay and You are the potter; and all of us are the works of Your hand." Heather had tucked the verse away in the back of her mind; it might come in handy should anyone ask what the sermon was about.

Heather could see that the rest of her siblings were having just as much trouble concentrating on the sermon as she was. Emily and Anna had long since given up trying to understand what their father was saying, and were busily scribbling on all the paper they could lay their hands on. ...

At Our House

For my first grandchild, Joshua, on his second birthday, March 10, 2002:

A pair of very chubby legs,

Encased in scarlet hose,

A pair of little stubby boots

With rather doubtful toes,

A little kilt, a little coat,

Cut as a mother can---

And, Lo! Before us strides in state

The future's "coming man". ...

I received the following letter from Mark on Mother's Day 2000. He has kindly (and reluctantly) let me publish it.

When Mark wrote this letter to me he had recently been in a car accident which necessitated going to the hospital for minor injuries. The accident could have been much more serious. I think he was feeling at the time how fragile life is, and so took Mother's Day as an opportunity to share his heart-felt thoughts with me. I cherish these thoughts so much more than flowers or store-bought cards. I share them here especially for the sake of young moms whose hands are often over-full with seemingly thankless and never-ending tasks with little ones. There is a reward.

Dear Mom,

I love you. You said those words to me the other night when you talked to me in the hospital and they still ring in my ears. These last six months have been a time of incredible change for me. I have taken on the responsibilities of working a demanding full-time job and loving an amazing woman. I have thought a lot in the past few days about some of the memories of my life. I am so thankful for the love and opportunities you gave to me.

Living in Chicago, this city of poverty-stricken and crime-plagued neighborhoods, I am often reminded that there are many who have not had the privileges I have had. There are many who did not have a mother making their meals and washing their clothes. There are many more who did not have a mother who loved them enough to devote her full attention to the task of raising them. Thank you for giving me a solid foundation and a confidence to go forward and accomplish that which God has for me. I know that the story of my life would look completely different without your love. ...

Excerpts (text only) from MC83: 21 pages: PDF (1.3 MB): $9.99 U.S.

Excerpts (text only) from MC84: 17 pages: PDF (0.9 MB): $9.99 U.S.

The Mother's Companion Volume 8, Number 4

A First Baby at 39!

Stacy and Paul Condrell are dear friends and partners with Gerald and me in Aardsma Research & Publishing. How God brought them into our lives is an unusual story. It has to be unusual when you consider the fact that they live halfway around the world from us, in mainland China. But that is another story, for another time. Stacy and I enjoy a (mostly) e-mail friendship, sharing our very different lives, yet our common bond in Christ.

In this article Stacy tells her story of becoming a first-time mom at the age of 39. This entailed---besides an unplanned birth in a Chinese hospital---a transition from a very busy career to full-time motherhood for Stacy.

"Don't ask me why Helen Aardsma asked me to write this article. Perhaps she knew that for years before I even had my own child, no matter what else I should have been doing, I always read the entire Mother's Companion the day it arrived in the mail. I wonder if I was the only non-mother subscriber? I am humbled to think so many wonderful mothers will now read my story.

Nearly twenty years ago my husband and I, fresh university graduates, met and courted as language students in Beijing, China---though neither of us is Chinese. Having grown up in suburban America, we were both attracted to rapidly developing China, and settled down there soon after we got married. For the last ten years we have run our own mail order business selling quality products to Chinese consumers.

We live a very unusual life in Guangzhou, a commercial city in semi-tropical Southern China just two hours north of Hong Kong. We are actively involved in the expatriate church which blends and uses the talents of dynamic lay Christians from the world over. We enjoy reading, listening to music and talking with friends (we don't have a TV); I exercise five days a week and enjoy healthy cooking and a simple lifestyle.

Since our marriage in 1987 my husband and I never quite decided to start having children. We would often ask friends, "what was the one thing that made you decide to have children?" It always seemed nobody had a very good answer! We put off the decision year after year as we were very busy managing a fast growing business and serving in our church.

In an end-of-the-year letter to friends and family we mentioned that we just didn't feel led to raise a family. This opened the flood gates. Calls, e-mails and letters came in from friends telling us that their children had been the most significant thing in their lives---they hoped that we wouldn't miss out on the experience. Some friends must have started praying special prayers for us. We were caught by surprise, but delighted, when I conceived a child a few months later.

Our parents and our church congregation were thrilled; "It is about time you two had babies," they said. On I bought five books on various aspects of pregnancy; we thought about names and mused about the miracle of a new life growing inside me.

But the baby did not develop in my womb, and I had a miscarriage at twelve weeks.

We were shocked and profoundly sad. I felt like I had mastered so many small things in life, but I was a miserable failure at anything important---not being able to carry the baby was yet more proof. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

Pony Lessons

Back in the past, our West Virginia home was "way out from nowhere", up on a steep hill, and just right for boys. It came time for our third son's birthday. I think he was turning 12.

I had been wonderfully blessed in a local, precious Pentecostal church and was full of faith, rushing in from milking the cow every morning in time to hear Jimmy Swaggart sing and laugh, preach and beg for money. It seemed perfectly natural to explain to our birthday boy that he could just ask God for whatever he wanted. Hadn't the second brother, one year older, just received a miraculous pony for his birthday?

Well, I began to have second thoughts when JG, as I sometimes call him, said that he wanted a mini-bike for his special day. I began to point out that there would be no place to ride it, except over the river and around the baseball field at the school. Where would he buy the gas? Where would he get the money? But none of my objections changed his mind.

In the News

Since I rarely, if ever, listen to the news on the radio, I missed this story until Mark mentioned it to me in the office one day. He knew I would be interested in it. He located the news item for me on the Internet, giving me the opportunity to get more details. John King, "Bush aide Karen Hughes to leave White House,", April 23, 2002, 2002/ALLPOLITICS/04/23/hughes.resigning/index.html.

I'm surprised the media even allowed this story out. The "message" certainly isn't "politically correct." It is about a woman who has restored her life to proper priorities. ...

In the Kitchen

Making butter on the homestead has brought me great satisfaction. Seeing that lovely yellow butter on the table always gives me a sense of accomplishment. I proudly tell company, "That is our own homemade butter!"

The high fat content of Jersey milk is one of the reasons we wanted to have a Jersey cow---it's needed to make a lot of butter.

Making butter is relatively easy, as long as one has the proper equipment. The cream needs to be agitated to make the globules of butterfat stick together to make butter. ...

Dear Helen,

Now that we are pregnant with our first child, it is affecting our outlook on spending decisions. In particular, although we have always rented modest living quarters, we are thinking we should perhaps buy a home with room for expansion (beyond just number 1). We can always just rent a bigger place, but it is more expensive (in the long run, assuming we continue to live here long term), and it doesn't feel the same (in terms of making improvements for example), nor is moving a family as easy as moving a couple. I'd appreciate your comments. ...

Here are Ten Suggestions (not Ten Commandments!):

1. As far as renting versus owning, it generally seems to be better long-term stewardship to own if one can swing it. Ownership can be a headache though, especially if you are still in a necessarily-mobile phase of life. The children will never care one way or the other. We think it's nice to have a permanent place to call home, if possible, especially when the children are grown. They look forward to coming home. But we are pilgrims down here, and home ownership is neither a necessity nor a worthy life goal.

2. When choosing a home, choose something modest---not extravagant. Children prefer this, and your home life will benefit from it. If you have possessions that you are concerned about a child wrecking, better not to have them in the first place. (The possessions that is!) The children will wreck them---not because they are malicious, but simply because they are children. A child who is intelligent and who will grow into an adult with a reasonable IQ will investigate, take apart, drop, break, etc. everything you own. ...

I am still pursuing alternative therapy as it doesn't seem to be hurting and I have been doing well. Considering it has been a year, it was not as bad as it could have been... we'll just see.

The Grant Family Series

With this installment of her ongoing fiction series about the Grant family, Laura gives us a glimpse into Heather Grant's diary.

September 2

This fall, rather than taking my place at the long dining room table with a stack of new books in my hand, I found myself in a large classroom with thirty other kids. No, my parents haven't gone crazy. They've enrolled me to take driver's education for the rest of this semester. Unfortunately, it's the only way to get my driver's license.

Considering I've never been involved in public education, I was scared sick on the first day. Of course, Mike was full of wisdom and advice from when he took it two years ago.

"You just have to relax, and look confident".

Confident? That was the last thing I looked or felt as I climbed out of the van early that first morning.

Mom tried to offer me some comforting words, but they didn't do me much good considering I hardly heard a word she said. I climbed the front steps of the huge brick building with the words "Brookridge Community High" glaring down at me in imposing letters. I was sure I'd never survive my first day. Dying didn't seem like such a bad option, at least I would never have to come back. I felt like every eye in the entire building was glued on me.

I sat down in the first available desk and tried to collect my scattered wits. The teacher was a short, nervous man, who paced back and forth, repeating himself constantly. He had an extremely annoying habit of running his fingers through his hair, and pushing his glasses farther up his nose every time he paused for breath.

It didn't take me long to realize that I was different from everyone else in the room. The girl sitting in front of me had the most shocking green hair I have ever seen. It reminded me of mom's split pea soup, only in a somewhat more electrified shade.

People are always asking me if I think I've missed out because I've been home schooled all my life. I always told them I couldn't miss something I've never experienced. Now I'm not sure what I would say. I know one thing for sure though, I was sure glad to get out of there when the bell rang!

September 12

I think I may finally be getting adjusted to this whole driver's ed thing. It's a definite hassle though! Every morning it's like pulling teeth trying to get mom and half of the younger kids out to the van so I won't be late for class. I've already been late more than once. This morning was the worst.

We left in fairly good time, and I would have been there right on time, if Jacob hadn't come along. He's been setting up a live trap every night to catch the coons that prowl around our place, and of course one had to pick last night to get trapped. Jacob insisted on coming to let it go in the fields on the way to the school. Mom let him come, despite my protests.

When we got to the field, Mom made me get out and help Jacob let it go since he was scared to death of being bitten by the useless animal. We lugged the heavy cage out, both of us wearing enormous gloves. When we set the cage down the coon refused to come out, but sat there hissing and spitting at us. I felt like a total fool as car after car drove by, and people kept staring at us. I didn't even want to imagine what a spectacle we were making.

Finally in desperation, I yanked the back of the cage off the ground, tumbling the startled coon out. It ran, still hissing and screaming. I felt like doing a little screaming myself as we climbed back into the van.

As I hurried into my classroom later on, I couldn't help but wonder what the class would have thought had they known I was late because I was helping my little brother transport a raccoon? ...

At Our House

Is There Life After C.P.?

June is probably the prettiest month on our Illinois homestead. Everything is so green---the lawns, the garden, and the fields of young corn and soybean plants which surround us. In the bright sunshine following a heavy rain one can almost watch the vigorous young plants close ranks over the black, steaming earth.

Our spring was unusually cool and wet this year. This delayed germination of many of the garden seeds, putting the garden about two weeks behind its usual schedule. But the cool weather and the abundant rain did wonders for all the small fruits. We are still picking strawberries as the calendar turns from June to July, with very few "seconds" this year. My elderberry bushes are loaded with blossoms, promising a rich harvest of elderberry jam. And wild blackberry blossoms were seen in unusual abundance along all the roadsides this year.

It is always good to see life triumph over trials.

Some weeks ago, on a Saturday, David (15) complained about not feeling well. He said he felt headachy, weak and feverish. He kept working around the homestead, though he was much slowed down. Sunday he still said he felt sick. But he went out with Laura and some friends for the afternoon. When he came back, Laura (17) said, "Mom, look at David's back. Do you think he is getting the measles?" I didn't really want to look, but a feeling of duty urged me to do so. Out came my medical books. Not measles---since the rash was beginning to bubble---chicken pox. ...

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The Mother's Companion Volume 8, Number 5

The Desires of Your Heart

Psalm 37:4.

Helen Senko and I met when she attended the Young Mother's Sunday School class that I taught when we lived in California over twelve years ago. A few months ago she contacted me through The Mother's Companion web site wondering if I remembered her. Well, of course, I did remember her, and her two beautiful, very blonde little girls. It was thrilling to hear what God had been doing in her life over the years.

After a few e-mails back and forth I asked her to write up her story to share with my readers. I believe you will be blessed, as I was, to read of God's faithfulness to her.

Young Love

I was nineteen when I married David. We were both Christians, but we weren't walking closely to the Lord. We loved each other very much, and we continued to grow up together. We had a little girl named Kristine Nicole, and she was the most beautiful little girl we had ever seen. She brought my dreams to fruition, because all I had wanted to be was a mother. I did not desire a career.

I didn't want an only child, so I asked David if we could have another child, and he agreed. I stopped using birth control then, and the next month I was pregnant with Megan Brianna. Life was busy and happy for our little family. I remember thinking one day how I hated using birth control, and saying to myself, "Why can't we just let God decide how many children we should have?" However, I quickly dismissed the thought, as I returned to my (common) senses.

David had a career change, and we moved to Lakeside, California. There I became very lonely.

A Dream Dies

One month I thought I was pregnant, but it was a false alarm. David panicked, and decided he couldn't chance us having another child. He made an appointment for a vasectomy. He was 24 and I was 22, and Megan was less than one year old. I reasoned that I might want more children some day with another husband, if I lost David somehow, and was widowed. I wouldn't be sterilized, but I reluctantly consented to his sterilization. The surgery cost us $6.

The Lord led me to return to church. I went the next morning. David began to attend that evening. This became the first church home of our married lives.

It wasn't more than a year before I deeply regretted that we had done this awful thing (vasectomy). As I grew in the Lord and studied all I could get my hands on concerning a Christian wife and mother and her life with the Lord, I realized that to me this surgery was sin and I wanted to put things right and have it reversed. I greatly wanted to have more children as well. But David had no regrets, at least none that he would admit to.

A Mentor

I noticed a particular family at church that had lots of children. They did many things that I considered a bit odd. I admired the mother, Helen Aardsma, but still I thought she was quite different than the rest of us. She had home births and was the only one who kept her little children with her when she attended Sunday School and church. Or she would stay with her children in the nursery. She even home schooled! I couldn't imagine why anyone would do that to their children! I recognized that Megan used to cry and cry when I left her in the nursery, but so did other children, didn't they? I never imagined keeping her with me.

I later joined the class that Helen started called "The Young Mother's Class". I remember studying a book on mastering motherhood Barbara Bush, Mastering Motherhood (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977). that taught about many of the things I was wondering about. We had a great group of moms, and we studied together in Sunday School and also had some meetings in homes. When we visited Helen's home, she shared about their convictions on television and magazines, and how they didn't expose themselves to worldly media sources. Again, I admired that, but thought she was different. ...

The Gift of Work

The principal cause of boredom is the hatred of work. People are trained from childhood to hate it. Parents often feel guilty about making children do anything but the merest gestures toward work. Perhaps the children are required to make their beds and, in a feeble and half-hearted fashion, tidy up their rooms once a month or so. But take full responsibility to clear the table, load the dishwasher, scrub the pots, wipe the counters? It would be too much to ask of many ten-year-olds because parents have seriously asked nothing of them when they were two or three. Children quickly pick up the parents' negative attitudes toward work and think of it as something most sedulously to be avoided. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

Mary is in the middle of a move to Washington, D.C., where most of her children live, so she's too busy to write a column for me this month. I am going to use some of my favorite bits and pieces from her old newsletters---Dear Daughter---this time around.

Gardening Pays Off

Our fourth son, Gregory, was 13 when Baby Billy was born. I knew that I wasn't going to do any gardening and Grandpa was busy too. He made a deal with Gregory. "If you will do all the gardening this summer, I'll pay you by the hour or by the produce, whichever comes out to the most money."

Greg kept careful records of each hour of labor, then of each ear of corn or bean or tomato that he sold to us at wholesale prices. Would you be curious to know the result? The hours were very few. The crop netted $100. I was so proud of him. I guessed that he was the only boy at his fancy prep school who had earned his own clothes and bedding.

The Happy Child

The happy child is one who is busy with something that fascinates him, with an available adult nearby. ...

Dear Helen,

I just have a quick question. You mentioned a Retsel Grain Mill that you use. I am hoping to buy a grain mill soon and was just wondering if you could give me any further information concerning this particular one. Do you feel it is superior to the Whisper Mill? I am not all that familiar with grain mills and just want some guidance on choosing the right one. If you have any reason for choosing one over the other I would truly appreciate that information. ...

Product Review

Flooring for Families

Having lived in many different houses since marrying 28 years ago, I think I have tried out just about every type of flooring imaginable. When I had the opportunity to put down new flooring after we tore the carpet out of our dining room several years back, I knew exactly what I wanted---a quality, dark-colored linoleum. After several years of the kind of abuse that only a big homesteading family can give a floor, I'm still thrilled with this choice. ...

In the News

I have held the theory for many years that if a woman nurses and bears children as God intended all during her childbearing years, it will be best for her own health. Research is now beginning to bear this out. ...

In the Kitchen

Homemade English Muffins (Recipe and Directions)

I find our breakfast menu the most challenging. We limit store-bought cereal to Sunday mornings as a special treat. It is too expensive for every day of the week, and it is not very filling. That leaves six other breakfasts to think about. Sometimes we have homemade granola Helen E. Aardsma, "In the Kitchen," The Mother's Companion 4.3 (May/June 1998): 8. and hot oat bran cereal. Other times we have poppy seed, pumpkin, or blueberry muffins.

One of our favorite breakfasts these days is a homemade imitation of the popular Egg McMuffin sold by McDonalds. This makes a good high-protein and high-carbohydrate breakfast which holds those starvin' teenage boys until lunch time, especially after they have eaten two!

Since purchased English muffins are too expensive for our big family, we make them. Laura makes these the day before we want them. ...

Ten Rules for Raising Children Who Will Break Your Heart

1. Have hit-and-miss family devotions. This will show your children they can take the Bible or leave it. Or better yet, attend every sporting event in town while neglecting the family altar entirely.

2. Don't discipline your children. Let them have whatever they want, whenever they want it. Let them learn for themselves what is right and what is wrong. ...

The Grant Family Series

More From Heather's Diary

November 1

Things are changing around here---fast. It seems like we just got settled in and adjusted to everything, and now everything is changing again. I've never been really good at adapting to change.

The first thing I should mention is Mom. She's been acting strange lately. She laid on the couch almost the whole day yesterday. She looked rather green. It didn't take me long to figure out what was going on. After all, I've only seen this happen six times before.

It came as no surprise to me when Dad told us all yesterday evening that Mom was expecting baby number nine. No surprise, but a rather unexpected turn of events. I suppose I should have been prepared, but so many other things have been going on...

The One Room Schoolhouse


One of the biggest challenges of home schooling has nothing to do with curriculum choices or schedules. By far the hardest and most basic thing about home schooling is the discipline of the children. What good is a high-powered unit study when the child talks back to you and then runs out to play in the backyard when the school bell rings? Once the children are under control, all other aspects of home schooling are so much easier. ...

Organization Tip

Jennifer (Aardsma) Hall sent me this idea, which she picked up from a friend. ...

At Our House

Certainly the highlight of my summer was getting to see my new grandson, Ethan Wesley Hall, at 6 weeks of age. What a pleasure it was to hold him. I wished time would stand still.

Jennifer and her family were here for three and a half days. The time zoomed by. Joshua had a blast watching the pigs, chickens and cow, and playing with all the new baby kittens. He had some pretty devoted aunts and uncles meeting his every little wish. Joshua still is a little reserved with me, though we did read some books together and play with cars on the living room floor. ...

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The Mother's Companion Volume 8, Number 6

(Quotes from books Helen has been reading lately)


If you could see my desk you would know what I love to do best. Read! I have piles of books everywhere, filled with sticky notes jutting out in all directions. I read not only for my own enjoyment. One of my greatest joys is reading to my husband in the evening after all the little ones have gone to bed.

I also have piles of books from which I am gathering information for The Mother's Companion. I am constantly on the lookout for that perfect quote---the one which says it so very well---to share with you readers. Hence all the sticky notes.

Some of the books I read are recently published. Others are old books I've acquired from garage sales or thrift shops. Many are from our local library through inter-library loan. (I like to think the Aardsma family is responsible for keeping our small-town library open!) Here's a sampling of what I've been reading lately. Unto the Least of These

"In dealing with our babies, we need to use the same patience, respect and consideration that God uses with us. We must nurture their trusting faith in our care and love as a firm foundation for a later relationship with a loving, faithful and responsive God. The "laws" we give them must be within their understanding and capability to obey.

Those that respond to their baby's crying with patience, comfort, and discernment are modeling Jesus' compassionate character to their baby and are being controlled by His Spirit. Those who harden their hearts and let their babies cry for long periods are being controlled by a secular theory of parenting which has led them to believe this is best for their child. Neither parent is being controlled by the baby itself. It is disastrous to the parent-child relationship for the parents to view themselves as being in a battle for control with the child, thus setting up an adversarial atmosphere. This "adversarial stance" becomes even more detrimental as the child really needs the parents' empathy as he struggles with his own emerging role in society at large." ...

Hair Care

Do conditioners do any good?

Yes, the proteins in conditioners penetrate the hair strand through defects in the protective cuticle scale. This makes hair smoother, thicker, and easier to arrange. Conditioners can also minimize breakage. All this is temporary, however, because the protein diffuses out of the hair shaft with the next washing. The hair shaft is not living material, so protein cannot be permanently incorporated into it. ...


... home must be a place where you enjoy living every day of your life; to which you gladly return whenever you have been away; where you face no threats, have no enemies, meet no strangers. Above all, it must be a place where you can relax, take your shoes off, and be yourself. ...

Albert Einstein

Nothing in Einstein's early history suggests dormant genius. Quite the contrary. The one feature of his childhood about which there appears no doubt is the lateness with which he learned to speak. ...

Day Care is Bad for Children

... the evidence that day care is bad for children (both long and short-term) is massive and is growing. Yet, with a few notable exceptions, experts have been reluctant to tell parents about the dangers of nonmaternal care---and the advantages of an intimate mother-child relationship---which their own research confirms. Why is this? ...

Food and Nutrition

Choose dark salad greens. Romaine lettuce, for instance, not only has six times as much vitamin C and eight times as much beta carotene as iceberg lettuce, but also has more than twice as much folacin, a B vitamin that is especially important for women of child-bearing age. Spinach, watercress, arugula, and chicory are other nutritious salad greens...

Cook in cast-iron pots to increase the iron in food cooked in them. The more acidic the ingredients (such as tomatoes) and the longer you cook them, the more iron ends up in the finished dish...

Children First

In the post-industrial West, where people are more privileged than anywhere else in the world, newborn babies are denied the privilege of using their mothers' bodies as a way station between womb and world. ...

Family Worship

Family worship has striking peculiarities of influence. Its lessons and devotions begin at the earliest period, when the infant soul is yielding as wax. Here the father, or the grandfather, or perhaps the Eunice and the Lois (2 Timothy 1:5), reach forth the moulding influence which is to last for life. ...

Food as a Love Offering

For those of you who are so strangely created that you can eat all you want to eat of anything without adding pounds, I will only repeat: Count your blessings. But those of us who are overweight have an extra hurdle to overcome. We must overcome our rebellion at being put together metabolically as we are. Nothing whatever is accomplished by complaining bitterly that your husband can "eat like a horse and stay thin as a rail." If you can't, then just proceed from there. ...

Impart the Expectancy of Obedience

Some parents never expect their children to obey and thus they are seldom disappointed.

My son was playing with a friend outside my study window. I heard this high-pitched, unoiled call: "Johnny!"

Johnny never flinched.

My boy said, "Johnny, your mother's calling you" (as if he needed the information!).

"Yeah, I know," Johnny said, totally ignoring her. This went on for four or five times, each time the decibel level rising considerably. Finally she exploded with an intensely shrill scream, "Johnny!"

As calmly as can be, Johnny said to my son, "Bill, I gotta go now." Johnny had been down that road before and he knew exactly when his mother meant what she said. ...

Dear Daughter

by Mary Rice Somerville

More Pony Lessons

After Hwinny's owner went off to high school out of state, she was left to the younger boys to tend. They discovered that Bree, being male and larger, was apt to eat his food then bully his way into hers. She submissively stepped back, and suffered in silence. We never noticed that she seemed undernourished and shy. She was always more delicate. One of the boys decided to tie her to a different tree and go to the trouble to take a separate serving of feed for her. She meekly cleaned her plate. Ponies don't say much, like "Help!" or "Thank You." Life went on. However we noticed that our two black beauties never offered to mate. Oh, well.

Since Bree was too tall and heavy for the younger brothers, he was finally sold. But then they had to take turns, missing the fun of going out through the woods and dirt roads together. ...

The One Room Schoolhouse

Spiritual Training

Last issue I discussed getting prepared for homeschooling by getting our children under control through proper discipline. This time my emphasis is on establishing a firm biblical foundation by daily Bible reading and prayer.

No other subject in our homeschools is of greater importance than Family Devotions. This should be our number-one priority each day. Schedule it early in the day, so it doesn't get lost in the day's busyness.

I believe the ideal is for the father to lead in family devotions. If Dad is not able or willing to, for whatever reason, then Mom should take it up. The `agenda' is simple. Read Scripture to the family, comment on it as you feel led, sing a hymn together, and pray for the day's needs. Just fifteen minutes a day in the Word will do more for our families and for our children's intellectual, moral and spiritual training than any other single thing we could do.

Establish the routine for devotions when the children are young. For preschoolers, we started with The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. Kenneth Taylor, The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes (Chicago: Moody Press, 1956). Go through the story slowly, giving the little ones time to absorb it. Use the questions at the end to see if they are getting it. Sing a chorus, and pray briefly. This should take all of five minutes. Slowly expand the time so that by the time they are in first grade you are reading from the Bible, one book at a time, just a few verses a day. Begin singing the old hymns, just one per day. We purchased hymn books for this purpose. ...

In the Kitchen

I dislike paying the high price for pancake syrup in the store. We make our own pancake syrup all the time using the following recipe. It tastes great and is quick and easy.

Quick Maple Syrup Recipe ...

Dear Helen,

In the last issue I shared my correspondence between our medical friend, Joey, and myself regarding what to do if older children haven't had chicken pox. Since our older children got the chicken pox and were very sick I was wondering what Joey thought about having the children immunized around age ten. He agreed that this was a good idea. Subsequently, I received two letters from astute subscribers commenting on the issue of having children immunized against chicken pox, pointing out apparent use of tissue from aborted babies in development of the vaccine. I checked this out with Joey, and he checked it with the manufacturer of the vaccine.

Here is our correspondence.

Dear Joey,

A Mother's Companion subscriber sent me this excerpt from The Immunization Resource Guide. Diane Rozario, The Immunization Resource Guide, (Burlington, IA: Patter Publications, 2000), 3--4.

"Chickenpox is caused by the varicella virus. The chickenpox vaccine (also called varicella zoster vaccine) has been cultured, or "passaged through" human embryonic lung tissue, embryonic guinea pig fibroblasts, and human diploid cells (WI-38 cells taken from an aborted fetus)."

What do you think? Is this accurate?


Dear Helen,

I have looked into this and find that it is accurate. ...

Dear Helen,

I had to write to tell you just how timely the last issue was for us.

At the moment, 4 of the 5 kids have horrible cases of the chicken pox, and I was happy to have some sensible advice from Volume 8, Number 4! Unfortunately, we are living with no indoor plumbing, (we live overseas) so I can't try out the oatmeal bath treatment. But I had to tell you that I dug out the article on "Life After C.P." and read it to them. It actually brought a few giggles to us in between the moaning and crying. Every few hours they would ask me to read it again! I think it helped them to know they weren't the only ones who had to struggle through it.

Your sister, L.S.

The Grant Family Series

"Are you sure this is safe?" Cynthia demanded, looking around her distrustfully.

Heather pulled her mind from the beauty of the snow as it was gently falling, and turned her attention to her cousin. Cynthia, decked out in all her winter gear, was gingerly picking her way along the snowy sidewalk. ...

At Our House

The following is from my diary almost 20 years ago, dated Christmas 1983. Jennifer was almost 6, (I called her Jenny back then), Mark 4, and Stephen 2. We lived in Hornby, Ontario, Canada. Gerald had just completed a very intense time of preparation for his doctorate degree at the University of Toronto, and we were enjoying a reprieve over the holidays.

"Does it seem possible that the year 1984 is just around the corner? What will it hold for us?

Christmas has been a delightful time together as a family---just us five. Gerald has been home a lot as he is in limbo until he has his oral for his doctorate degree in January. He's been enjoying a good rest, reading a lot, sleeping a lot, and relaxing. He's also done some very needed jobs around the house. It seems like every Christmas I can remember, the basement has gotten cleaned! It is so nice to be organized once again. We must be moving again soon; every time we get organized it is time to move!

We remained frugal again this Christmas as is our custom. Garage sales in September provided most things. The children were delighted all the same. It really is surprising how satisfied they are with so little. The children played with their new things all day and were happy. The Advent Calendar was a real hit as the three children took turns opening the doors. Jenny would usually read the Bible verse....

Excerpts (text only) from MC86: 18 pages: PDF (0.8 MB): $9.99 U.S.


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