The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 8, 2011

Mom of 16 writes book on experiences

If you believe reality television, extra large families (and all the drama that comes with them) seem to be becoming more and more common. Truth is, the average American family isn’t growing, just the public interest in them.

While raising 16 children, the Ilgenfritz family could probably be celebrities in their own right. Instead they choose to live a quiet farm life in Dornsife.

“We live on a small farm which produces crops just for us — a milk cow, several beef steers, chickens and a pig or two. That keeps us busy,” said Miriam Ilgenfritz.

Somehow, Ilgenfritz found the time to write a book. “The Ties That Bind,” published last June, tells the story of her 29 years of marriage to her husband, Mark, along with memories, thoughts and commentary on raising their 16 children together.

Ranging in age from 3 to 26 years of age, the Ilgenfritz children run the gamut between being students, being parents themselves, to leading the busy life of a preschooler.

With all of this going on, what inspired Ilgenfritz to take the time to write a book? “I can’t count the times someone said to me ‘you ought to write a book,’” said Ilgenfritz so she decided to give it a go.

She began to gather up 20- plus years of memories, notes and anecdotes to compile them into a book but wasn’t exactly sure how put it all together.

“… so I took a writing class by correspondence … my professor suggested I try to get some of the things I had written published. That started a journey which … turned into a bigger project than just a book to give my kids,” described Ilgenfritz.

The proceeds from the book, Ilgenfritz said, “are helping fund my daughter’s wedding. But they also have helped some of our college students and bought groceries for us.

Pretty much just back into the family budget.” This, along with her husband Mark’s small business, Mark’s Electric, pays the bills.

The book includes how the Ilgenfritzes came to the point when having 16 children seemed like a good idea.

“[Our] faith definitely had an impact on our thoughts for having a large family.

We didn’t exactly ‘decide’ to have a big family, but rather we did decide that God is the giver of life and somewhere around our fifth baby, we also decided that we were going to trust God with our family size, be it five or 25.

If I trust God in one area, I must be able to trust Him in all areas,” said Ilgenfritz.

This, in essence, is the theme of her book. Ilgenfritz believes firmly in allowing her faith to guide her life decisions.

In fact, after having five children Ilgenfritz and her husband had some doubts about their plans to have a large family.

They were sure that there was no more energy, time, money or anything else for more children.

Said Ilgenfritz, “I am so glad we didn’t listen to those little voices or we would have missed so much.”

Her great faith may come from the way she was raised.

Her parents served as missionaries in the Congo until Ilgenfritz was 13 years old.

She and her husband considered this life for themselves but that was ruled out as their family grew.

Some of the children have expressed interest however.

The Ilgenfritz’s oldest son is a medical resident and he and his wife are interested in a medical mission.

“I think the vision is being passed along to them,” Ilgenfritz said.

Ilgenfritz wants to convey that their faith has always kept them true to each other and to leading life in the way they believe it was meant to be lived.

“I think as you have more children, God gives more love. I do remember when we were expecting our second, we thought, here we have all this love for one baby, but how are we ever going to love another one as much as this first one? As each new one came along, they made their place in our hearts.”

Ilgenfritz is now working on a sequel to “The Ties That Bind” and well as a historical fiction novel set in Dornsife in 1798.

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