Josephine’s Childhood – School Days

On a fine Saturday morning, Grandma and I were sitting on her back porch.  We just finished walking around the house to look at the seedlings she planted every year, and were now enjoying her favorite summer drink:  Country Time lemonade with ice and fresh orange slices.

Grandma leaned back in her chair and crossed her feet at her ankles.  She sighed a contented sigh.  She was so glad to see the sunshine after a long winter.

“I’ll never forget that time my mother told me to come straight home from school,” she started.

“Is this the one where you were playing in the creek?”  I settled down in the chair next to her.

“Yes.  Let’s see.  I was probably about your age.  In those days we didn’t have busses to take us to school.  We had to walk.”

“How far?”  I asked.

“It was almost two miles.  Some days, if there was bad weather, Daddy would pick me up with the horse and buggy.  But on nice days, we walked. My favorite thing to do was to stop by the creek and splash in the water on the way home, but my parents didn’t want me going to the creek by myself.”

“Did you wear a swim suit?”  I asked, munching one of her homemade butterscotch cookies.

“We wore dresses every day.  We just took off our shoes and socks and went wading.”

She continued, “One day my mother told me to come straight home from school and that I shouldn’t play in the water.  Well, I forgot.  It was a hot day.  The water looked so good, and I decided to do a bit of wading.  Before I knew it, an hour had gone by.  I suddenly remembered what my mom said and ran all the way home.”

“Did you get a spanking?” I asked.

“No.  Worse than that.  We were having company that night!”  Grandma’s eyes got big. “You remember,” she said, “I was an only child.  These were my cousins, and they had three little girls that I could play with.”

“Oh Grandma!  She didn’t let you play with them?”

Grandma sadly shook her head. “That night, because I disobeyed, mom said I had to stay in my room.  I wasn’t allowed to play with my cousins. I remember the girls coming into my room. ‘Josephine, can we play with your doll?'”


Josephine was a quintessential Grandma.  She could make clothes and hand-sewed beautiful quilts.  She loved to crochet, and made the best lemon meringue pies from scratch.  There was nothing that would soothe her soul more than sitting at the piano and playing beloved hymns.  But she had spunk, too. On the 4th of July, she lit firecrackers in her back yard—bright and early in the morning!  Grandpa always saw to it that there was a nice Oldsmobile for her to drive. She was known to “put the pedal to the metal.” Occasionally she would do a burn out on a gravel driveway, just to impress the grandchildren, rocks and dust flying everywhere!

One thing Grandma did best was to tell stories of her childhood in Iowa from the 1920’s and 30’s.

*Background

To read the story of Josephine’s birth, go HERE.

Though Josephine was the only child of Dick and Jennie VanSant, and dearly treasured by the parents who raised her, she was not spoiled and was expected to obey. Josephine had a couple of nicknames.  One was “Joejie” and the other was “snow ball”.  It might be easy to guess why she was called snowball from looking at her pictures.  She had white blonde hair.  In fact, some of her hair remained blonde her entire life.

Josephine's childhood - Blueandgreentogether.com

Josephine and the parents who raised her, Dick & Jennie VanSant

Josephine grew up in a 6-room farm house in Oskaloosa, Iowa that had no electric, phone or indoor plumbing.  The house was heated with a cook stove  and a coal heater in the living room. She had chores to do, such as sweeping the floor and drying the dishes.

At West Center school, her favorite subjects were spelling, phonics, reading and geography.  She disliked arithmetic, history and English.  On her very first report card from Miss Miller, she was said to be “inclined to mischievousness”

There were many lessons in obedience and memories from childhood that Josephine carried with her into adulthood.  These were stories she told over and over.


On a summer day in mid-August, Grandma took me to the mall in Battle Creek, Michigan.  I was excited because she was planning to buy me some new clothes for school, which was starting in a couple of weeks.

“Can I put the seat back?”  Push button electric seats were novelty to me, and the buttons on the side panel were a great temptation.

“Just a little bit,” she winked at me.  Grandma and I were taking the back roads.  She liked to go through Galesburg and Augusta. We also liked to see the flags as we drove past the entrance to Fort Custer.

“I love your new car Grandma.” The plush burgundy seats felt luxurious.

“I think our old one was still in good shape, but Grandpa always wants to buy a new one as soon as they roll over to 100,000 miles.” She adjusted the mirror and turned on the cassette player so we could listen to instrumental hymns in the background. “Cars sure have changed alot. In fact, when I was very little, we owned a Model T.  But my folks saved up their money, and we were one of the first people in Oskaloosa to own a 1929 Whippet.”

Photo Credit: Don O'Brien CC by 2.0 via Flickr

Photo Credit: Don O’Brien CC by 2.0 via Flickr

“The day came for Daddy to go to town to pick up our new car.  I was so excited!  I went to school and told all the kids–”

My daddy’s buying a car today and he’s going to pick me up from school!

She continued, “That day dragged on.  All I could think about was the Whippet. Finally, school let out and I went outside, eager for my first glimpse of our new car, and most of all, hoping all the kids would see me riding in it.”

“Grandma, it sounds like you were bragging.”

“Yes Karen,  I was bragging.  You know they say ‘pride goeth before a fall’?  Well I had a big fall.”

“What happened!?”  I had heard this story many times before, but everytime she told I would hold my breath as if hearing it for the first time.

“That day it rained,” she said with a long face, glancing over at me. “Sure enough, daddy came to pick me up—driving Barney, the old horse.”

“Oh Grandma!”  I said, realizing her humiliation, “Why didn’t he drive the new car?”

“Because all we had were dirt roads. He didn’t want to get stuck in the mud with our new car.”

Josephine with her favorite cat, Weenie

Josephine with her favorite cat, Weenie

*Special thanks to Aunt Esther Uramkin, who loaned me a little booklet that grandma filled out for her.  That is where I gathered many of the background facts for this post.

Related Links:

The Story of Josephine’s Birth

The Faith of Eda Stek  (Eda was Josephine’s aunt, the sister of Jennie VanSant.)

A blog post I wrote about Oskaloosa, Iowa 

Another blog post of memories about my grandparents

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Our (Frugal) Christmas Traditions

This week for The Loft we are linking up to share some of our Christmas traditions!

My husband and I have enjoyed celebrating Advent season with our children. The past couple of years we’ve wrapped up our manger scene with wrapping paper in individual pieces. The kids were allowed to unwrap one piece per night as we shared each part of the Christmas story, culminating in the cradle with baby Jesus.

Manger Scene

This December we are reading through Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift”. We printed out the free printable ornaments that are on her website and carefully colored them. After each story we hang the ornaments on our Jesse tree, (in our case, it’s a tree drawn on our chalkboard wall). The kids look forward to it every night, as do the adults.  The readings are helping us keep our focus on the the love that God has for us through His son, Jesus Christ.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

My husband’s family loves playing board games, so we started a tradition of buying a game that our family can play.  This is the only gift that our children receive from us.  (They get plenty of gifts from their grandparents, aunts and uncles!) In 2013 we purchased Enchanted Forest. It is interesting and challenging enough for children and parents alike—we are all on equal footing! Our family has played it many times over the past year, and you never know who will win. 🙂

Playing Enchanted Forest

Playing Enchanted Forest

Last week, my mom and I made a large batch of banket, a Dutch almond pastry, and not only did we have the fun of baking together, but we gave them as gifts for my husband’s bosses, co-workers and others. In other years we have made babbelaars a Dutch candy.

Making Banket with my Mom

Making Banket with my Mom

Our Christmas tree  was purchased at Wal-Mart after Christmas for less than $4.00 nine or ten years ago—when I was still single! Yes, it’s a half-sized pitiful sort of Charlie Brown artificial tree, but my kids know nothing else, and they ooh and ahh over it every year, and have great fun putting on the ornaments.

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

I hope you enjoyed reading about a few of our (frugal) Christmas traditions.  What is one of  your favorite holiday traditions?  Feel free to comment below!

Things I’ve Learned in 2014

1.  Manufactured outrage and the news.  I was taken aback this summer when a fellow Word Weaver blogger used the term “manufactured outrage” and said she wasn’t “taking the bait” anymore.  I was allowing the news stories to take away my peace. Dwelling on them tainted my thoughts with fears and negativity.

Bowe Bergdahl

The Bowe Bergdahl story was a turning point.  Bowe is a beloved son and brother who was raised by a conservative Christian family.  The family attended a church in a denomination that I once attended.  I was baffled at the feeds I was seeing from conservative outlets and the accusations against his parents.  I came across this post which describes in better words how I was looking at the story and processing it.  Seeing the memes and headlines caused me to step back from all the news, the outrage, and the craziness. I won’t “fall for the bait” with the big headlines. I feel more compassion, realizing a situation is usually more complex than anyone can realize from one news story or Facebook page blurb.  (Not that I blindly trusted everything prior to this!)  While still interested in politics and current events, I’m holding the news at arms-length and feeling more peaceful inside; less stirred up.

2.  Consistent homeschooling produces results.  When I didn’t think there was any progress, it was still happening.  My seven year old suddenly took off with reading!  We had serious concerns about learning disorders  when he was reading backwards, mixing up words and switching letters around.  We kept at our phonics workbooks day after day, week after week (seemingly mundane at times), and all of a sudden—it clicked! He apparently reached a developmental milestone and there was rapid change. Now he is reading beyond where we were with our phonics lessons.  I’m amazed how far both children have come in a year, and it gives courage and incentive to stay the course.

3. Life is precious and there is a time for mourning.  We were shocked/delighted to find out we were expecting a baby in February. There were several weeks of hopeful anticipation, followed by a concerning ultrasound, followed by a confirming ultrasound that our baby was gone.  My heart has been grieving that baby all year.  The grief has finally eased up since getting past our “should have been” due date in late October.  That baby was real, that baby was wanted, and that baby was not insignificant in the kingdom of God.  That was the lesson learned.  There isn’t a shortcut for grieving.  Heaven will be all the sweeter to meet my little ones.

4.  In researching family history,  I learned of my rich Christian heritage.  My great-grandparents were common, every day people. They were poor immigrants who were rich in faith. They came to America in hopes of a better life.

On both sides of my family, great-grandparents, grandparents and parents prayed for their offspring to believe in God, to have faith in His Son. God has heard their prayers and answered them by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is my most important inheritance (not based on relationship with my relatives, but because it is now my own through the grace of Christ).  My prayer is that my children will also have this faith.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (ESV)

Four generations – 2007

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome in the comments section below!

It’s October Twenty-Eight

This is a beautiful fall day in Michigan.  The sun is shining and the leaves are vibrant.  I’m busy homeschooling, cooking and running errands.

But I’ll admit it. My heart is feeling a little broken inside.

  1. The anniversary of my first marriage was 10-28 and it would have been twenty years today. God has worked all things for the good, and I am utterly blessed to be remarried to a kind, wonderful man.  However, 10-28 was significant in my life.  While I no longer mourn the ending of the relationship, I am reminded every year of the death of a marriage.
  2. It was on 10-28, a few years ago in the doctor’s office that we learned we were having a miscarriage, and would never meet our third baby.
  3. Our fourth baby was also a miscarriage and today was a possibility as a due date.

I wonder why God arranged for those losses to be remembered on the same date?

I don’t know a specific reason it happened that way in my life, but God tells us Himself:  It’s not a bad thing to grieve.

 October 28 or not, there are days where we are called to mourn.  Perhaps for ourselves, perhaps with others.

Despite the pain, mourning comes with promises.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. Psalm 55:17

Probably for the rest of my life, October 28 will be a mourning day.  Yet it is also true that there are beautiful ways that God has “turned my mourning into joy”. I have been comforted by Christ, the sure hope of eternal life, and the kindness of friends and family.  I sure would love to have a newborn to welcome into our home this month.  But I will see my babies someday.  I long to hold, snuggle them and kiss their faces.  Bliss! 

Today I can also remember that someday there won’t be anymore October twenty-eighths.

How about you?  Do you have any “October 28’s”?  How has God comforted you?

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  

Josephine’s Birth

“I see death standing at the door, but God will take care of the baby.”

These were the last words Anna Runia Van Dyk spoke to her husband, Meindert.

Anna and Meindert were Dutch immigrants.  The couple arrived in the United States in 1921 on the ship Rotterdam along with their three young children in hopes of opportunity and freedom.  Sidney, the 3 year old middle son had cerebral palsy. They carried him off the ship onto Ellis Island covered in a blanket, hoping that no one would look at him too closely.  John and Anna feared that he would not be allowed into the United States.  They were relieved when he made it through immigration without being noticed.

The family settled in Sully, Iowa so they could live near Anna’s twin sister.  A few years later, Anna was expecting their fourth child, but there were complications.  Anna had toxemia of pregnancy.  Baby Josephine was delivered on April 30, 1924 weighing less than five pounds.  Sadly, Anna died on her 35th birthday, two days after giving birth.   Meindert was left alone with a premature baby in the hospital, children at home and a job working on a farm.

Twin sister, Josie and Anna Runia.  This picture was taken in the Netherlands before they came to the United States of America.

Twin sisters, Josie and Anna Runia. This picture was taken in the Netherlands before they came to the United States of America.

Meanwhile,  Dick and Jennie VanSant had been married for ten years and were managing their farm in Oskaloosa, a couple of hours away.  They had prayed for  years that God would bless them with children of their own, but now they were in their thirties and hope was fading.  They heard through their church about a tiny baby who would require careful attention.

Dick and Jennie hurried to make preparations. When they arrived at the hospital the doctor warned them not to get too attached, because the baby was very small.  There were not intensive care units for premature babies in 1924.  Her survival was uncertain.

Jennie took Josephine in her arms, the smallest baby she had ever seen.  The doctor’s advice (not to get attached) was ignored. Josephine was dearly treasured by Dick and Jennie.  She was so tiny that she could not suck from a bottle.  For weeks Jennie fed her cow’s milk from a glass dropper, every hour around the clock.  A month after her birth, she weighed just over five pounds.

God took care of the baby, just as Anna Runia Van Dyk said He would.  Josephine survived.

The Birth of Josephine blueandgreentogether.com

Josephine being held by Dick VanSant.

Within a couple of years, Meindert was making plans to remarry, but this also meant he would be moving hundreds of miles away to Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He had a difficult time leaving Josephine behind.  Before he left, there were two things he wanted to tell the VanSants:

  • You may keep Josephine and raise her as you see fit, but you may not adopt her.  Her last name will still be Van Dyk
  • I promise I will never take her away from you.

Josephine was my grandmother.  She lived to the age of 82, having been married fifty-nine years with five children, nineteen grandchildren, and  (at that time) thirty great-grandchildren.

Josephine and Karen in 2005.

 

For more pictures and information on Josephine’s birth family, go here.

Further genealogical information and related links:

  1. Toxemia of pregnancy is now called pre-eclampsia.
  2. Anna Runia VanDyk death record information.  The record says she died at Mercy Hospital, but family members were told by Josephine that she was born at the hospital in Oskaloosa.
  3. Josie Vander Weerdt (twin sister of Anna Runia VanDyk) death record information.  She lived to be 90 years old.  That’s how I realized Anna must have died on her own birthday and what age she was. Anna’s death record only gives an (incorrect) estimated birth year.
  4. Sidney VanDyk, the brother of Josephine who had cerebral palsy resided at the Christian Psychiatric Hospital in Cutlerville, Michigan (now called Pine Rest) after Meindert moved to Michigan to remarry.  He died in 1950 at the age of 33.
  5. The ministers that may have been involved in placing Josephine with the VanSants would have been Rev. Ralph Bolt of Sully Christian Reformed Church and  Rev. Charles Spoelhof of First Christian Reformed Church based on where their charges in 1924. Source:  Christian Reformed Church Ministers Database
  6. The Statue of Liberty- Ellis Island Passenger Search  provided information about the ship and year that Meindert VanDyk arrived in the United States.
  7. Josephine Balkema’s obituary.
  8. Previously on this blog I wrote about Edith Stek.  She was the sister of Jennie (VanSant) Sjaardema.
  9. Also wrote a little story about Henry and Josephine here.
  10. A blog post about my many unique connections to Oskaloosa, Iowa over the years.

Stay tuned!  In the future I hope to share more stories about my grandma’s remarkable life, including how she reacted when her dad, Meindert came to visit her when she was a young girl and how she met my grandpa.

Special thanks to Josephine’s daughters (Mary, Esther and Joanne) and Jean VanDyk (daughter-in-law of Meindert), who helped with several details of this story.

 

The Faith of Eda Stek

Back then, they called her a mongoloid.  This is now considered a derogatory term, but Eda Stek was born in 1903, one of eleven children.  Her parents were John and Henrietta (De Wild) Stek.  She was a considered a special member of the family, having what we would now call Down’s Syndrome.

Eda was short, sturdy and round.  She always wore a dress (with corset) and sturdy black old lady shoes.  She didn’t speak very clearly but her family could understand her.  It took longer than others, but she learned to write.  She would write Bible verses or short, simple letters.  When Eda’s mother was on her death bed, she made her other children promise to take care of their sister, and they kept their promise.   In those days, the only alternative would have been a poorhouse.

Eda Stek

Eda Stek

When she stayed with her sister Nellie, she always had  her own room in the large farmhouse.  Eda was given the room above the stove, to help keep her warm.  The many children in that family had to share rooms, but Eda had her own spot.  She could be heard at night calling out for another sister, Marie who was a favorite of Eda.  But when she was at Marie’s, she would call out for Nellie.

Eda was terrified of storms.  Sometimes her nephews would tease her about that.

Mainly, Eda helped.  She fed chickens and helped her sister Nellie with  many household chores to her ability.

A great-niece recalled how much Eda loved children.  One day when her great-nieces arrived for a visit, Eda (by then in her fifties) was waiting.  She was so excited to see them, that she jumped up and down, cheering “Goody! Goody! Goody!”.  She filled her scrap books with magazine and calender pictures of children, animals and nature, and she would give the scrapbooks as gifts.

A scrapbook for Mary and Joanne, made by Eda.

A scrapbook for Mary and Joanne, made by Eda.

  

A page from Eda's scrapbook

A page from Eda’s scrapbook

Eda moved around frequently. Census records show that in 1930 she was living with her sister, Jennie and in 1940, she was staying with her brother, William and his family.  She might spend a couple of years with one family, and perhaps 6 months with another, but her siblings kept their promise.

Eda Stek (far right) with family.

Eda Stek (far right) with family.

 

When asked what she remembered about Eda, an  acquaintance from  church remarked,

I remember her most for her child-like faith.

A page from Eda's scrapbook.

A page from Eda’s scrapbook.

All these family stories tell us a little bit about Eda.  But there is one  special story my grandma told me about her when I was seven years old.  I have never forgotten it.   This story has encouraged my faith in God, and my hope of heaven for many, many years.

For the last five years of her life, Eda resided in  the Pleasant  Park Nursing Home of Oskaloosa, Iowa.  She became increasingly unresponsive.  A minister who visited Eda  before she passed away told me that he read the Bible and prayed for her, but she did not respond.

On December 20, 1979,  after weeks of being bed-ridden and not speaking, Eda miraculously sat up in her bed.  Looking up, seeing something nobody else in the room could see, she exclaimed with delight,

MAMA!  PAPA!  Pretty Pretty Pretty!  

Eda sunk back into her pillow and died.

Child-like faith

Child-like faith

Special thanks to Rev. Carl Klompien, Mrs. Delmar VanKooten, Mr. Leo Nikkel, Mary Vlietstra, Joanne Vlietstra, Esther Uramkin, April Hoeksema and Ava Davidson (Pella Chronicle).

******************

This is a post that was published previously, but I did a little editing.  Of all the posts I have written  I would say this is my favorite.  I really enjoyed researching and talking to people who had met  Eda.  Before this post, the only thing I knew about Eda was the story of her passing.  She was my great-grandmother’s sister.

Diary of a short, but very real life

February 11, 2014

It was just last week when I called my husband into the bathroom, bawling my eyes out.  I couldn’t even speak while handing  him the little test, that showed two pink lines, clear as day.  I was crying for three reasons:

1. Shock.

2.  Joy.

3.  Terrified.

It has been about three years since my last pregnancy, and an ultrasound close to week 10 showed that baby stopped developing at nine weeks.  The actual physical miscarriage happened at thirteen weeks. Our children are now ages 5 & 6, and well out of baby stages.  Yet, my daughter has prayed on more than one occasion for a baby in our family.  We always told her, “It’s up to God.”   The past two moves, I haven’t quite had the heart to get rid of our favorite baby items.  In recent months, I had assumed we were probably done having children,  and was planning to give most things away.  This pregnancy is a big surprise (but welcome).

Children are a blessing.  I consider a baby a precious gift, and I’m one of those baby people.   Nothing makes me happier than the opportunity to hold a baby.  I am thrilled at the thought of a new child joining our family.

So why am I feeling fear?  Not so much because of my age. Never mind the fact that two days ago I received an invitation to my 25th year high school homecoming festivities!  It’s the fact that there are other health issues of concern, such as blood pressure, arthritis pain, and my weight.  I went to see my family doctor a few days after seeing the positive test.  Everything was confirmed. She wrote “high risk” on my paperwork and sent me to the referral department.  So here we go.  I’m expecting lots of tests, lab work, doctor appointments and ultrasounds over the next many months.  That is…..if we don’t miscarry again.

I am feeling overwhelmed.  I told my husband the first evening after we found out that I don’t want to live in fear.  I have spent the past week or two digesting this exciting news, yet struggling with anxiety and obsessive thoughts.  I am thankful to report that I have been having major pregnancy symptoms.  With the miscarriage, I noticed that the symptoms went away after only a few weeks, and were mild.  Frequently I am nauseated and have food aversions.  I am having to eat every couple hours or I get shaky (and I’m not diabetic–but have had issues with hypoglycemia in the past).  I’m glad to be on the prenatal vitamin along with with extra iron and hoping that will boost my energy level a little bit.

So that’s the story.  That’s where we are at.  This is brand new, fresh, hot-off-the-press news.

I am clinging to Psalm 138:8.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.

What I really see in this entire situation, is an opportunity to TRUST God.  I cannot control the outcome.  I can only take care of myself  and this baby the best I can.

March 10, 2014 (nearly one month after previous entry)

Went in for our first ultrasound a couple of weeks ago.  Based on dates, I figured we were close to 8 weeks.  What we saw on the screen was a five week, one day gestational sac.  The doctor told me that it was still well within the realm of possibility, and to remain “cautiously optimistic”.  It was torture waiting 9 more days for the next ultrasound. Over and over my husband and I prayed for peace, no matter the outcome.  In the meanwhile, pregnancy symptoms continue as strong as ever including extreme exhaustion.

Nine days later, we were disappointed and sad to see a sac measuring 5 weeks, 3 days. No sign of our baby.  How I had longed to see that little heart beating, but it is not to be.  My body still thinks it is pregnant, but at some point (unless there is a miracle), we are expecting a miscarriage.  The last miscarriage took nearly 3 weeks from hearing the news before it happened.  At least this time I know a little bit what to expect.

pizap.com14019241652592

March 15, 2014- Late at night

This is the pits.  The past three days I have been exhausted and nauseated and food tastes gross to me, just like normal pregnancy.  By my original calculations, I should be ten weeks by now.  Everything in my body feels like I’m ten weeks pregnant, but according to the doctor, based on the ultrasound, there is no hope.  I am hurting.  I keep hoping that somehow the ultrasounds were wrong.  I am sad that most people don’t know what I’m going through. We only shared our news with a few people.  I feel alone and like I’m “hiding something”.  I don’t want a bunch of sympathy and advice.  What I really want is to drop off the face of the earth for a few weeks till this is past.

This pregnancy is called a  “blighted ovum” and I feel like I’m a failure.  I wonder if this wee little fertilized egg means anything in the Kingdom of God and how that all works.  Do I now have two little ones in heaven?  Will I see them some day?  How can this be when they are so little, never really developed?  At other times I am calm and very accepting.  In other words, whether I want to or not (and I don’t want to), I am in the middle of some hefty grieving again.  I just want to be alone, but I want other people to know too.  My heart is aching tonight and I am finding the whole situation unbearable.  I don’t think the hormones are helping my emotions either.  I TRUST GOD.  I am disappointed.  I go to church and other places, but only a few people know about it.  I don’t want to hear a bunch of trite stuff.  But I do want to hear some kind words.  I wish I had someone to talk to right now, but it’s the middle of the night.   This could take weeks yet.  And then there are the fears about going through the actual miscarriage.  The last one I went through was painful, difficult, and scary at times.  I am really dreading it.

April 4, 2014  

It is moving so very slow.  This is hard to bear.  I want to plan my son’s birthday for the end of the week, but do not know how I will be feeling.  At this point I do not feel safe traveling outside of my immediate area.  It’s hard to plan anything.  I’m hurting.  Backaches and pain every day. I’m waiting.  I thank God for the midwife who delivered our daughter at home.  She has done more to reassure and comfort me the past few days about the waiting, than anything I’ve heard from the doctor’s office.

 April 5, 2014

Feeling greatly comforted tonight after reading Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur. Read the entire book this afternoon and evening.  If nothing else, I needed to go through this miscarriage to also receive comfort from the previous baby we lost, which I have been silently grieving the past three years.  I am comforted tonight, because I know that I have two precious little ones who are glorifying God in heaven.  I believe that they are among the saints, praising God and worshipping Him.  They have been spared all the grief, sadness, illness and sin of this world, and they are complete and perfect because of the blood of Jesus Christ.  They were sinners, as we all are, but they were not at an age of accountability.  These little ones are with Jesus.  Some day I will see them again.  They will know me, and I will know them, and we will all know Jesus as we should know Him.  Me, no longer through the lense of my own sin.  I read several paragraphs from the book out loud to my husband tonight, which explained, based on Scripture why I can be confident in God’s kindness and grace toward my tiny babies.  My conclusion tonight is this:   This physical suffering is worth it, knowing our baby is with God my Savior.  The babies are not suffering or missing me.  I am grieving my little ones, but I am comforted by that same Redeemer, who holds us all.  I praise God for comforting me through His Word.

April 11, 2014

I’m five days out from the miscarriage.  So thankful that I was able to manage everything at home.  It is similar to preparing for a home birth.  There is a mini-labor involved, very painful.  This time I was well prepared, compared to the previous miscarriage.  I felt really good the day AFTER, relieved to be through with the mini-labor after all the waiting.  Since then, I feel pretty lousy and down in the dumps.

April 15, 2014

I am feeling so low.  The post pregnancy hormones have arrived.  I have to keep myself together all day for the sake of the kids, and at night can’t sleep. I start to think about everything and need to weep and mourn and grieve my little one who I will never see until that day.  I thank God for the hope of the resurrection.

April 24, 2014

My pastor gave me some good advice.  I called him about something else, and then broke down a little bit when he asked how I was doing.  He said (in better words) that I need to give myself permission to grieve, even in front of the kids if need be.  He also told me that going outside always helps him feel better, and he would recommend going outdoors.  Every day I have been going outside a bit.  The best outside day was Easter Sunday when we took a very short hike at Snug Harbor.  The air was fresh and cool, but the sun was warm.  It was amazing to be among the trees, leftover leaves from last fall crunching at our feet.  My daughter running ahead of us in shear delight, my son grumbling because he wanted to go back to the open area and play catch with Dad.  It was truly bliss, especially after the long winter.

I am frustrated at the fatigue.  My husband has had to pick up my slack in many areas, but I’m getting the children schooled every day.  I’m managing to get supper together, but rarely have the energy to clean up.  He still had to do the grocery shopping for me this week.  I often hit a wall of exhaustion.  I’m too tired to go any further and have to lay down.  Perhaps anemia?  I’m taking lots of iron.

May 8, 2014

Anemia confirmed.  I am using every iron trick I know. Black strap molasses, cooking with my cast iron skillet, two types of iron supplements (have been taking those all along), herbal remedies, green leafy vegetables, ground beef.  Still feeling very fatigued. Need multiple mini- naps to get through the day.

May 15, 2014

The iron must be kicking in.  I am not needing the morning nap anymore and starting to get some energy back.  Was able to do some extra housework again besides the bare basics.

May 25, 2014

We buried the little sac today, just my husband and I, right near the spot where we buried our other little one.  We held hands, had a few tears, and prayed and committed our little one to God’s care.  We believe, by God’s grace and kindness, we will meet both of  these “glory babies” some day.

It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. -I Corinthians 15:43

 

Blessings

I wrote a couple of posts about preparing for a natural miscarriage on Hub Pages here and here, while the experience was fresh in my mind.  Hopefully  they will provide some practical help for others in a similar experience.

We’ve had great support from people through this ordeal.  We have seen the love of God displayed from friends, family and our church family.  One gave me a bouquet of flowers.  I was so happy to have them.  They were a visual reminder of our baby’s life. When the miscarriage finally took place, we let our church know.  We received prayers and cards, kind words of support, and people brought meals.  Others helped by taking care of our kids for medical appointments and on days when we needed extra help.  Another friend was going through an extremely difficult trial and sharing her struggles and hope via e-mails.  Her faith and trust in God in a time of deep pain brought much comfort to my own heart.

As I edit and write this final section in June, physically I am feeling better.  There are still days when I feel generally “low”.  The  feeling of loss is not as acute, but I am grieving that we may not have any more children. Yet after going through many years of my adult life longing for children, I am incredibly grateful to God for the two children we have with us.  God is so good to me.  I pray this situation, our baby’s life, our story will bring Him glory.  The hope of heaven is sweeter to me now, than it has ever been.

Psalm 26:8

I want to be like my mom

It was many years before I was able to become a mom.  My first child was born a month before I turned 36.  When he would.not.sleep. on his back,  my mom visited and gently rolled him over on his belly in the bassinette.  She told me to  get some sleep and reassured me she would watch him.  I was a conscientious new mom and trying to follow all the “sleep on your back” rules.  Mom told me “You all slept on your tummies, and you all survived.  I will sit right here and watch his breathing the whole time.  Go get some sleep.”  I watched as she pulled up a kitchen chair right next to the basinette. For the first time in a few days, the baby and I both had a blissful time of sleep.  I think Grandma was pretty blissful too, having some one-on-one time with her first ever grand-baby.

That was the first of numerous times I discovered my mom has great advice about raising kids.

Always happy to be with her grandbabies!

Fast forward six years. A few months ago I called her, disturbed because this same child–who ended up sleeping on his belly from that moment on– was now caught in several little lies.  She told me “Seems like all of you kids went through a stage like that about his age.  You can’t let them get away with it.  Stick with it (discipline/consequences), and it will pass.”  She was right about that, too.

On a cloudy morning last week the kids were having numerous battles and I was overwhelmed. Time to call mom.  She told me to send them out in the yard to pick up sticks.  After another fight or two outside, it worked like a charm, and my husband was pleased with the big pile of sticks they set up to show him that afternoon.  “Make them run around the house a few times” is her cure for loud crazy kids in the house.

My mom is not a stand-out-of-the-crowd type of person in any way.  Unlike me, she is fairly shy.  She is quiet when there are lots of people around, but when she is with her kids or close family members at home, she can be the life of the party.  She is so much fun, and loves to laugh.  When times are tough, she hops on the John Deere Gator to get some fresh air at the farm, or she sits down at the keyboard to fill the room with a hymn.  She always thinks she should get a job!  (How many times has she told me that!?) However, she is always working, even though she doesn’t get a pay check.

 

Ready to go for a Gator Ride!

 

 

I told mom once that I felt her job was called “being available”.  When my dad calls to ask if she wants to run out to Filmore Equipment with him to pick up some parts, she is always ready to go.  When one of my brothers needs a ride to Martin Spring & Driveline to pick up their truck, she heads out the door to pick them up. She takes her sister-in-law grocery shopping nearly every week.  She hops in her car and drives an hour or two to visit her daughter (ME!) who is feeling overwhelmed with life, illness and  homeschooling her kids. This past week she took us all out for lunch.  Stopped and bought supper for us too, so I wouldn’t have to cook supper that night!   If she hears of someone who is ill, grieving, or having a hard time, she will bring them a hot meal–often that very evening. If you are ever at her house, you will hear the phone ring several times.  It is one of her daughters calling just to talk and share the events of the day.  Her sons call nearly as often,  and know there is always a meal ready if they are hungry.  She is a wonderful cook.  She knows 999 delicious ways to fix ground beef, after many years of being married to a dairy farmer.  Nothing makes her happier then taking a little road trip with dad, whether going to a toy tractor show or visiting antique stores and any place that fancies them along the way.  She doesn’t mind a little adventure now and then.

 

Always ready to go for a ride with dad.  On a combine, or in the car.

 

She can be a little crazy.  She will go buy a pack of Swisher Sweets every few years and smoke them with her daughters out on the porch while they laugh and laugh—all of them normally being non-smokers of course!

 

Mom knows how to have fun!

She has always shown by example how to respect the elderly.  As children, she took us to visit relatives and friends in the nursing home.  She still helps every month with a senior luncheon. When her dad wasn’t doing well in assisted living, she moved him into her house and took care of him.  She loved her parents and treasures their memory. My mom would never “toot her own horn”, and most of what she does is behind the scenes. She will blush like crazy to know that others are reading this about her.  She never spoke to us kids about these things like they were a “lesson to learn”.  She just lives it, and we see it.

She’s not a saint.  (Though you might consider her one, if you knew how I behaved during my teenage years.)   She is a sinner, saved by grace. To me and my brothers and sisters, and others who are privileged to know her well, she is a beautiful woman.  There are many godly women I admire and respect and consider to be heroines as well.  Of all of these,   I love my mom the most, and hope to be just like her.

 

My beautiful mom

My beautiful mom

Our Homeschool Day

First official day of school. Fall, 2013.

We started officially homeschooling this past September. Last year we had a  “letter of the week” and more informal activities and games.  My main focus at that time was developing a routine that would work for family life and school.

After breakfast, we do a few chores.

Clearing the table and emptying the dishwasher.

If I have some extra work to do around the house, the kids will play a game (or goof off, or fight) while they wait for me.

Playing Enchanted Forest, one of their favorite games.

Today we have lots and lots of snow in Michigan, and extreme cold temperatures.  My husband’s work was cancelled so he took some pictures today and also worked with the kids on their Math.

We start our day by singing the hymn of the week and having prayer time.  This was my daughter’s prayer request today:

I pray that mom would be nice and not yell, and that school would be easy.

(Keeping it honest, folks! Ha!)  Our hymn of the week is “The Power of the Cross by Keith & Kristyn Getty. We listen to it on a CD and sing along.  The kids usually snuggle up, but especially on days like this when it was fifty-eight degrees in our family room.

Morning hymn and prayer time.

Morning hymn and prayer time.

 

After our hymn and prayer time, I like to work with each child individually.  One child spends a half hour watching  “The Letter People” DVD while I work with the other child.  We use the original Letter People.  A friend told me I could buy a DVD with all the episodes on Ebay.    The video quality is poor, but the kids don’t mind a bit, and I am enjoying this walk down memory lane.

The Letter People

The Letter People

Near the dining room table we have a crate of supplies and curriculum.  Today we worked with my daughter first.  At this part of the day my goal is to work with them individually on  reading, writing and math.  Other subjects  are covered with both of them together.

Greta with her curriculum.

Greta with her curriculum.

It was a snow day, so Dad covered Math.

It was a snow day, so Dad covered Math.

Enjoying Dad's Math class.

Enjoying Dad’s Math class.

Micah's copy work for the day.  We also made use of a few sight words he is memorizing.

Micah’s copy work for the day. We also made use of a few sight words he is memorizing.

I save our favorite part of home school for the end.  This is sometimes done right after our other work, or other days, after lunch in the early afternoon.  We have been using  Five in a Row (FIAR) to cover many other areas of learning such as geography, science, history and art.  The same picture book is read five days in a row.  In our case, we normally have four days, as we are in home school co-op on Fridays.  With all the snow this month, we haven’t been able to go to the library to borrow our next FIAR book.  However, we are applying the principles we’ve learned in FIAR to Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Today we read the chapter about sugar snow.  The next chapter is about the dance at Grandpa’s, and it includes the story of Grandma making maple syrup candy.  I had real maple syrup in the house, and there was certainly plenty of fresh snow, so we tried it.

Maple Syrup Candy

Maple Syrup Candy

Maple Syrup Candy

Maple Syrup Candy

Making Maple Syrup Candy

Making Maple Syrup Candy

The normal time frame for  formal schooling  is a total of  two hours per day (max.).  I expect that will increase as they get older and have longer attention spans. There are other times of learning throughout the day.  We read the Bible together at supper time.  The kids work on their AWANA verses before going to bed.  They help me with cooking and other things around the house as well.  In the afternoon we always have a quiet time for a half hour, more or less where we each go in our own rooms and take a little rest.  Micah usually builds something with his Legos to show me, and Greta likes to play with her stuffed animals or sometimes color.  The quiet time gives us a  little break from one another and some space to ourselves.  In the summer the kids spend much of their days outdoors, but that has been impossible this winter.  I let them play the Wii and our family likes board games.  Sometimes they watch some PBS kids shows or Netflix on our Roku.

Hope you enjoyed a look at our home school day!

Me and my 1.9 children

The post below called “Why Most Families have 2 Children”, though written 3 years ago circulated through my news feed several times recently:

http://mychildiloveyou.blogspot.com/2010/02/why-most-families-have-2-children.html

As of this writing, there have been nearly 700 comments on that post.  It struck a nerve with people. Many saw it as positive and others found it upsetting. I’ve read it a few times in the past weeks since it came to my attention.  Let me say, first off, that I think that the author has a good heart.  It is apparent that she meant well and wanted to be an encouragement.  Based on reading several of her other posts, she is a loving, caring and devout mother.  I think she wanted to encourage moms to see their children as a blessing, and to embrace their fertility, and to not be afraid to have a large family if that is possible in their situation.

At the same time, for me, it stung.  This was perhaps the part that hurt the most:

Do not misunderstand my words that mothers of two children have nothing to teach us. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying that with any job, usually the person whom has been there the longest and has the most experience is pretty wise. 

I hate to use this trite, overused phrase, but….I feel judged.  Me, with my  1.9 children.  Me, the girl who boldly proclaimed in high school, “I want to get married and have 10 kids”.  The same girl who went through eight years of infertility in my first marriage.  Who went on to re-marry, was blessed with  two children in her late thirties, and then lost our third baby in a miscarriage.  The same person who is now in her forties with  health issues that make pregnancy a little scary.

When you are in a church and/or home school community such as I live in, children are generally considered a tremendous blessing and “the more the merrier”.    Indeed, the mamas with large families are often wise and revered, and they often have good counsel for those of us with younger children, or who are just getting started.

Sometimes I’ve wondered:  How does this community look upon a mama like me, who has “only 2”?  As my great aunt said sweetly after our second was born “Now you have a millionaire family!”  I wondered about that expression until I looked it up. It meant that we had what is considered “the perfect family”, a boy and a girl.

When I go to home schooling events  or a new church and meet people for the first time, we inevitably have those “How many kids do you have/what ages, etc.?” conversations.  You will likely see my cheeks blush when I reply “two”, and sometimes I say “only two”, in an apologetic manner.  While nothing further is usually said, I always  long to explain to people that we didn’t stop there intentionally.

My husband’s favorite verse to quote to me is this:

Proverbs 29:25

Proverbs 29:25

Really, when it boils down, this is a pride issue for me.  I’m worrying too much about what other people think (even strangers!). At the same time, I consider myself immensely blessed by God to have this millionaire family.   Having  two children makes me feel rich in life. There were many years when I thought that I would never have babies. I treasure the gift of motherhood, perhaps in a way that I never would have if I had been granted my “dream” family of ten, right out of high school.   The years of my adulthood that I spent childless were full of  growing, learning and life circumstances that I carry into mothering now. I am utterly grateful to God that I have the opportunity to raise a son and a daughter.

My 1.9 children

My 1.9 children

It is most likely that I will never be a mother to ten children.  God is Sovereign.  His will is good and right and perfect.  He worked my crazy life according to His plan and used infertility, divorce,  circumstances, and even my own sin to draw me closer to Him, to humble me and help me to rely on His grace for everything.  No need to blush or apologize for my 1.9.