three treats with all the feel of fall

Happy First Day of Autumn! A strong warm wind blew all day yesterday warning us that the piles of leaves will soon be rustling under our feet. The sounds of summer fade to a crinkly whisper and rich green turns to dusty gold. Acorns keep the squirrels busy and we know the world is changing.

harvest apple dip

Applesauce, fresh apple slices, apple butter, baked apples, apple pie, or just a whole apple in your pocket can only mean one thing. September is for apples, and we love this three ingredient apple dip. I always double the recipe, cover the bowl we served it in, and store it in the fridge for next time. We have this at lunch, for a snack, and as a fruit side with supper. It’s only three ingredients: cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.

https://letsdishrecipes.com/2017/09/three-ingredient-apple-dip.html

apple bread

Apple bread is at the top of our family’s favorite quick breads. It’s sweet and soft and we often serve it alongside dinner. You’re going to love this recipe full of chunky apples! We use 1 cup of sugar instead of 2 cups.

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/apple-bread/

maple milk

The maple milk is turning into our family’s year around favorite special drink. We used to only have it cold during the summertime, but warm is the best alternative to hot chocolate in case sometimes you want something else :).

It’s just two ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk (cold, warm, hot)
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (we prefer FirstFruits Farms maple syrup :). Comment or email us if you’d like some!

We sometimes sprinkle cinnamon on top or a little nutmeg (the children’s preferred way).

Do you have simple recipes your family loves? Happy Fall Friends!

 with love, Damaris
Advertisements

preparing for postpartum

After eight deliveries, I feel comfortable to talk about my personal postpartum experience. With each baby’s arrival, I learned how to prepare for the ups and downs of postpartum, which has been very appropriately nicknamed the fourth trimester. Even though I’m not wiser nor a medical professional, I know my postpartum self pretty well – and it isn’t six weeks.  Feeling stronger, feeling rested, coming out of the mental fog, having stamina and focus, all these take longer that six weeks to recover. 

We all have ‘glitter marks’ (I read this somewhere, and I love it!) in different places.  Some carry extra weight, other’s skin is forever changed, a few have soft in different places.  Many of our glitter marks disappear and some stay with us forever. 

But not all the changes are physical, our minds will cope differently which is the one part of postpartum that you can’t physically see or compare.  We find ourselves exhausted with the joy that is the fourth trimester as we become acquainted with our shifting hormones. You can be happy beyond measure and cry tears of sadness or fear at the same time. 

Motherhood changes us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Some of these changes are permanent, but most are only temporary.  The unsettled feeling, discouragement, freak out moments can be so normal and often feel that they’ll become permanent.

We want these early newborn days and weeks to be a celebration of the sacredness of life, so having a chance to understand and prepare will help the transition that is postpartum. I’m compiling a list of my postpartum essentials, but today I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about the postpartum journey:

it gets better. With the passing weeks, you will feel stronger and have more stamina.

it’s very brave to ask for help. Remembering that so many women understand and care makes it tremendously better.

slow down. Have time to bond with the baby, time to talk, and cry.  A good friend, mom, or husband will allow you to have a good sob and release those hormones.

eat, drink, and sleep well, or as best you can.  Nutritious food is very important to balance our hormones. It will be difficult to find time and mental focus to invest into menu planning and healthy pantry items, so it’s best to prepare before the birth.  I freeze wholesome meals before baby comes, stock the pantry, make simple breakfasts menu (more like a list that Dad or grandma can follow), and lunch ideas based on what we keep stocked and what the children like. 

get in the sun.  I have made it part of my recovery routine to be outside everyday (usually a short 15 minute stroll).

probiotics. Gut health is closely associated to mental health. Link.

prenatal with DHA fish oils. Continue to take it daily. Getting enough iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, and proteins will help recovery.

activities for the siblings. I always buy a few craft kits from Hobby Lobby of Michael’s. Many years ago, my sister-in-law mailed us a new Cat in the Hat DVD soon after having a baby, and it was so hepful for the siblings. Having the littles sitting at the table with a craft or on the couch while you nurse is priceless peace of mind. A container with new puzzles, coloring books, crayons, stickers, etc. is also handy.

routine. I try to have a couple things that I do everyday that make me feel normal.  Notice I said a couple :). Little daily anchors, if you will.  Mine are to have a cup of coffee in the morning, take a shower (even if it’s mid-day), sit down with the family at dinnertime, pray with the littles and kiss them in their beds.  These few and little things are big deals in postpartum and can help make you feel sane.

What other advice would you give an expecting mama?

 with love, Damaris

family currents: last call to summer

August began with a hot sun, though it didn’t hang on to the summer song long. We all seemed keenly aware this year that the changing days would soon give way to the start of school, and we savored the last of summertime’s fun.

Eva and William got to take tennis lessons through our township’s Rec and Ed. Thursday evenings were spent at the park riding bikes, playing in the play structures, or walking the trails while we waited for them.


Since our anniversary and my birthday were in August, we went on a couple outings without the children. We took lots of pictures and told them all about it, though : ). We are so blessed to celebrate 17 years of wedded bliss!


Samuel had a birthday. He’s 3!!! It’s truly the magical birthday age. He was very aware his special day was coming and couldn’t contain his long trains of questions, “And get presents? And blow candles? And my birthday? And get presents?”


We also went to the lake because if you live in Michigan, it is the proper way to enjoy summer. Of course, thunderstorms rolled in, and we packed up our encampment pretty quickly to enjoy a bowl of lentil stew at home.


This was the year of the frog. The children found so. many. frogs and toads! Cicadas, katydids (green leaf bug), praying mantis, and garden spiders also went into Samuel’s new bug box. And sometimes all at once. Not a good outcome for some. Nope.


This was also the summer we ran an animal rescue. Eva started the summer with a baby raccoon she named Boone.

And the three little girls found three baby bunnies!


We enjoyed pizzas on the grill most Sunday afternoons, and sometimes shared it with friends. Alexander would get pretty creative with the toppings, and Nathan grilled them to a crispy perfection. Our long picnic table makes for easy after supper clean-up, so we ate most suppers al fresco.


Nathan had bought a few large sky lanterns, and on the last weekend of August (while lovely friends were visiting), all the boys released the lanterns as a Farewell to Summer.

 with love, Damaris

modest teen girl outfits for back to school

Since summer is coming to an end, we’ve begun looking at the fall clothes that we have and what we need to add to the children’s wardrobes. I’m especially focused on the older kids’ wardrobes, since they don’t have a previous sibling’s clothes waiting to be rediscovered from a storage tote in the basement…

So that means Eva and I have an awesome excuse to go shopping! Shopping for clothes for Eva, who is now 13, means browsing the women’s section. Yes! She’s all grown up, and I couldn’t be more pleased. She’s a true blessing in our home as a sister/friend and a loving helper.

As we picked transition outfits for the new season, we had two criteria:

  1. modest yet stylish
  2. at a good price

Looking or shopping for clothes is a good opportunity to talk about and instill in our daughters a sense of modesty. Finding age-appropriate, feminine, fashionable clothes can be hard, and it is equally challenging to find them at a reasonable price.

It’s important to add that modesty is a virtue, and dressing modestly doesn’t make you modest. Trying not to draw undue attention to ourselves is both in action and in dress. Particularly as moms, we should help our teenagers recognize that their attractiveness is not tied up in their clothes. We should encourage them to feel respectable, appropriate, decent, and humble as they transition throughout the seasons of life.

This past week, Eva and I looked for items that she’d like to add to her wardrobe. We’re including some that she already owns or are very similar. Both of us think you’re going to love these outfits and find them perfect for the transition from summer to fall.

 with love, Damaris

our summer road trip: part 2

Our family had the privilege of taking a road trip to Colorado this summer, and amidst many fun adventures (read about it here), our van broke. Descending down the mountain after our long hike to Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park, the brakes broke on the van.

It took a couple of days for Nathan to find the parts, get to town to pick them up, and repair the van brakes. The Lord kept us safe, and we were so grateful for a running vehicle to make the two-day trip back to Michigan.

While it was still so cold in the mountains (and five days without a van), doing laundry at the kitchen sink, reading picture books (which we brought with us from the library) by the fire, and playing board games filled our days.

Finally wrapped in sunshine, we spent the day at a nearby town picnicking, fishing, carousel riding, and visiting the obligatory ice cream shop. I almost forgot about the tiny homemade donuts we ate in a 19th century train car!

The whole family enjoyed the company of our cabin neighbors from down the hill for a few dinners and good games of cards. The big kids roused to the added competition. They have been family friends for three generations watching our family grow from trip to trip. They shared good stories and smoothly engaged the children in conversation.

As for wildlife, on this trip we saw many stellar’s jay, a magpie, wild turkeys, deer, and three male elk (bulls). I’m always very happy to not sight a bear : ).

When our cabin days were over, we began our descent through the St. Vrain canyon, rose skies ahead as we drove east. The older children took a melancholic glance saying “good morning” and “good-bye” and everything that goes in between.

 with love, Damaris

P.S. Both on the way out and on the way back, we stayed in Nebraska getting to attend church together and sharing much special cousin time with all of Nathan’s family. Fire works, fishing, building and shooting potato guns, swimming, target shooting, and a talent show made for a most memorable time.


our summer road trip: part 1

Family travel is such a privilege and a gift. This summer we enjoyed a trip west to Colorado. The blur of passing landscapes, munching messy sandwiches, and playing I-SPY until we had a headache, was all part of the whimsy and sense of adventure we experienced.

We welcomed the changing horizon through the different states with the excitement of spending almost two weeks at the family cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

On the second day of driving, the mountains were lifting themselves up as if by magic out of the distance, small in the begining and growing bigger the closer we got.

The familiar cabin greeted all ten giddy vacationers, and the unloading took the rest of the first day. We slid a frozen pasta dish into the oven while we made beds, settled into our rooms, and filled the fridge and pantry with our groceries. For this long cabin stay, I like to have several meals prepared and frozen from home so kitchen prep is minimal allowing us more time to relax. You can read about one of the recent road trips here.

Summer was delayed this year. The air was sharp and supremely clear with even a little snow. On Sunday, we awoke while it was barely light to flurries. For lack of clean warm clothes, we relished our little family worship instead of walking to the village log church.

Nathan and I savored the empty mornings, when the sky was so blue, the floating piles of clouds so shimmering and pearly. We brewed full pots of coffee and swirled pancake batter in a bowl. Slowly, the children would make their way downstairs to the smell of breakfast. With their clean morning faces and bright eyes, each day looking ready for a new adventure.

We hiked as many mornings as we could (if it wasn’t too cold or raining) with the children scampering ahead of us like puppies. Pine needles crunched under our feet as we ascend to Big Rock. While mom frets over holding onto each kid and trying not to look over the edge of the rocks, Nathan and the children love to look for dark roofs of cabins that lay scattered and follow the ribbon of road.

The temperature rose enough that the pine needles smelled their nostalgic sunburnt scent, and we played many rounds of horseshoes.

The wildflowers all around us assumed their full glory. God’s design is perfect!

The only long hike this year was Calypso Cascades. The eight miles round trip were an adventure mostly of endurance. Even little Samuel hiked the whole way there, and Nathan carried him on the way back. We stopped several times on our hike to take in the air and the view. The scape far and wide was rocky and evergreen.

Driving back to the cabin, the van’s brakes broke.

That wraps up this first road trip post, but you can expect more about what happened to the big family van the rest of our trip experiences next week.

 with love, Damaris

using herbs for homemade gifts

The herb garden is my favorite!  The immediate reward compared to the little input in maintaining it is what I love. The little plants are inexpensive and several of them come back every spring. You’ll be surprised how particularly prolific herbs are! The delight in stepping out of the farmhouse kitchen and cutting a handful of sage for the chicken roast can’t be easily surpassed. Of course, the herbs’ various scents are pleasurable for even the littlest ones in the family : ).

They enjoy chewing on the leaves of most of the herbs. “Spearmint tastes like chewing gum, but it doesn’t make a mess in your hair.”

Over the summers, we’ve put together little herb favors from our own harvest. Homemade food gifts are always cherished for their thoughtfulness. Maybe consider presenting the herb-infused gifts to friends with a list of serving suggestions.

Lavender sprigs are a delicate bundle to gift.  It will brighten anyone’s day gathered in simple ribbon.  This takes no time nor effort, yet it may cheer the recipient alongside a simple batch of cookies or a pot of soup.

Salt-Herb Blends – Sprinkle a custom seasoning onto vegetables and meats before cooking, or pass it at the table.  Combine 1/4 cup coarse salt with 2 to 4 tablespoons mixed ground spices, chopped fresh herbs, or zest (be sure to refrigerate fresh-herb and zest blends; discard unused portion after 1 week).  Try mix-ins such as caraway seeds and pepper; thyme and lemon zest; toasted black-and-white sesame seeds; and chile powder and oregano.

Herb Infused Honey – Enhance the flavor and aroma of an ordinary jar of honey by putting in two or three sprigs of fresh herbs into the syrup.  Lavender is a wonderful addition!

Herb Infused Olive Oil – Choosing a pretty bottle always makes the gift special.  Wash the herbs and dry them thoroughly.  Extra virgin olive oil will taste best.  Add the herb sprigs, a couple of whole garlics (unpeeled) and even a little chile pepper for a full flavored oil.  Oil is often used for preserving food, so it will not go bad at room temperature.

Herb Infused Vinegar – Select a favorite mild vinegar (white wine or rice) and add 5 herb sprigs to 2 cups of vinegar (a 12-16 oz. bottle will do great).  Oregano, rosemary, tarragon, or thyme, lightly crushed or left whole add a fair amount of flavor to the vinegar.  The vinegar can be stored at room temperature. 

 with love, Damaris

10 things you’d never know about me

As you can tell from previous posts, sometimes Nathan shares his thoughts in this space, often we have pictures that Alexander or Eva have taken, but mostly it’s my joy. I relish making this little corner of cyberworld my delightful dwelling.

Hence this post – a get to know me of sorts. Just a few things about my life which may surprise you. In compiling this list, I asked the children if there were any more “strange things about mom” that I should add. Quickly and puzzled they replied, “You want people to think you’re weird?” Ha!

Here are 10 things you’d never know about me:

  • born and raised in a pastor’s home
  • never owned a curling iron
  • pregnant 11 times
  • never floss
  • doing yoga on and off for 12 years (Just the exercise not the meditation)
  • never had a big mac or a whopper
  • had 1 cesarean, 1 unmedicated delivery and 6 with epidural
  • vegetarian before I had children
  • never broken a bone
  • learned English as a second language when I was 8 years old

Now it’s my turn to hear about you. I would enjoy that very much!

 with love, Damaris

anxiety

I began writing this post in late January.  For reasons which you will understand through the post, I have been absent from this space for several months.  I can hardly remember writing it, but it seemed fit to return with this post.  I found it in my drafts this week, and the words came to finish it.  Even though it was difficult to revisit these days as I wrote, I have prayed it brings the praise to God which my heart longs to share.


We’re snowed in on this frosted Sunday, and my mind keeps racing back to the last time I stayed home from church on a Sunday.  A couple of the children were sick, you know, the little guys that don’t cover their mouth when they cough.  Although it was prudent to keep them home from church, the worst part was that the baby was sick too.  I can’t remember having a sick baby this tiny before, and his cough was bad.  Even though I’d taken him to the doctor a couple days before, hearing clear lungs and nothing to worry about didn’t calm this mama’s heart.  Making things worse, I had been dealing with an awful sinus infection for almost three weeks.  

The pressure was aggravated by having extra people in our home since everyone is a bit out of sorts.  My parents were here visiting us for a couple of weeks, and they all went to church together.  As soon as my dad walked in, he cheerfully (clearly his soul and body had been refreshed by worshiping) asked how the morning had been.  I about lost it.  Seriously!  He wants to know?!  “Wiping noses again and again, pumped twice, changed three diapers, bathed the baby, dressed the toddler, made beds, ran the laundry, rubbed eucalyptus on their chests several times, gave them cough syrup.” And I stopped. 

The more I was rattling off the stresses of the morning, the more my anxiety grew. Right then Nathan walked in and immediately knew I was a mess. “We’ve just walked in, and you’re in a terrible mood.” All the sickness, all the messes I can’t get to –everything is getting to me. I knew what it felt like, so I excused my behavior and said it was anxiety. I thought I was being very brave to call it by name, but Nathan reminded me “It’s still wrong.”

Since the birth of our eighth child, it has been a stretching season. From experiencing a colic baby for more than three months, to not training to sleep very well, to nursing difficulties, I have felt challenged like I haven’t experienced before with our previous babies. It’s been a constant journey of laying my burdens down before the Lord, seeking His wisdom, and crying out for help. How easily I succumbed to the lie that this is too much for me! I wanted to wallow in defeat.

Living in a state of feeling overwhelmed means I lose sight of joy, and God’s sovereign and good plans for me, and I’m depending on my own strength instead of His. After weeks and perhaps months of feeling overwhelmed, my natural tendency is to become anxious.

Anxiety is deep fear that we can’t keep up with our calling.  It becomes too large to bear and too heavy to share, yet God has been bringing deep refreshment to my soul in the last few weeks.  He gently continues to calm my anxious heart.  The lie that I can’t do it comes from the enemy, but the truth is God did not give me more than He would also supply the grace for me to handle.  He will equip me for the calling.  

As we allow these verses to dwell in our minds and hearts, let us also pray for each other:

God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:5-7

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 with love, Damaris

The Peaceful Birth of James Nicolas

On Saturday evening, October 20th, we had plans to watch a kids cartoon movie and get ready for church. I prepared baked French toast for Sunday breakfast (ready to bake in the morning), ironed necessary outfits, and we all sat to watch the little movie. That’s when I realized that the sporadic contractions I had a few times a day the last couple of days were just a little more intense. They came so far apart that I would even forget to look at the time in order to keep better track of the progress.

I chose to sit on my exercise ball while everybody cozied up on the sofa under blankets. Of course Samuel wanted to sit with me, so we bounced on the ball for the duration of most of the movie. Since I was hoping this was labor, I held Samuel close and whispered in his ear all sorts of sweetness during the movie. It’s always a silent goodbye to the toddler when one brings a new baby home. At least that’s the tiny heartache I was feeling that Saturday night.

At around 7:30pm, towards the end of the movie, I went upstairs and took a shower wondering if it would all progress during the night and wanting to be ready. When the children were all ready for bed, I was drying my hair and told Nathan about the contractions, but that labor didn’t seem to be moving along. He agreed that we could have everything ready just in case. I saw that he pulled the hospital bag from the closet adding a few things to it. He asked if I was going to bed, which I begrudgingly did. By now it was 10:30pm, and the contractions were still 8-10 minutes apart. There was no reason to stay up to wait for what might slow down or even go away during the night. Nathan fell asleep while I watched the nightstand clock…Every…Ten…Minutes.

By midnight, I was sleeping between the contractions, since I could no longer stay awake. Nothing had changed since 7pm. At 3:04am (8 hours later), I couldn’t get comfortable to work through this contraction, and got out of bed. Four minutes later came another one just the same, and another one. By 3:15am, I knew this was it.

I woke Nathan up, made the bed, grabbed the bag, and he made the call to his parents. And we called again. And again. And again for half an hour! By 4am, we knew we had to go, so Nathan woke Alexander and Eva to explain that Grandpa and Grandma would listen to their voicemail first thing in the morning and come right over. Thankfully, our children are not early risers. : )

We headed to the hospital down quiet, empty streets – I wanted to remember it forever. We checked in to triage where they asked for my birthing preferences: unmedicated and water birth. The midwife said I was 7 cm along and that baby looked great and head down. Perfect! Then we walked to our spacious and birthing tub room. The nurse brought an exercise ball, and I rested over it with my knees on the floor. I had my verse cards and read and meditated on one for 15 minutes or so. This kept my mind focused, filled my heart with peace, and gave my a prayerful spirit.

At around 7am, I got in the warm tub. I imagined we were getting closer although the contractions didn’t seem to have become stronger during our time in the room. Now in the water, they were 8 minutes apart. I knew that the water might slow labor down, so this didn’t bother me. At 9:30am (after being in the tub 2 1/2 hours and contractions still 8 minutes apart), I asked the midwife what her opinion was on breaking my water.

I had requested not to be checked during labor, but I realized the midwife would need to confirm the baby’s head engagement before breaking the bag of waters. She returned at 10am, examined, and baby’s head was perfect to proceed with breaking the water. I was still at 7 cm. I had not dilated any more since our arrival at the hospital at 4:30am (almost 6 hours later). This confirmed that the decision was timely.

I got back into the tub, and a few minutes later, by 10:30am, contractions were very different. I stood up out of the water and hung onto Nathan’s neck. Then came another one so strong that I walked out of the tub much to Nathan’s alarm. “Where are you going?” He asked repeatedly with concern. I couldn’t say, I just needed to get out and move. I never went back into the tub.

Things moved so quickly. I asked Nathan to call the nurse because I needed help. “There must be something they can do for me.” Nathan brought me a nose strip to put on my nose! (I had asked him to pick them up at the store, for better breathing in case I felt the need). I had been feeling lightheaded during these last few intense contractions which made me feel like I couldn’t catch my breath – I just couldn’t take a breath that was deep enough. This made me very anxious, and I felt that I needed help. I couldn’t do this. Nathan gave me the nose strip which made me annoyed because I couldn’t believe he thought this is the help I needed!

In the previous weeks I had made Nathan promise that he wouldn’t give-in if I asked for pain medicine. It. Was. INTENSE! I managed to get past Nathan to press the nurse button. The nurse and the midwife came in, and I was on the end of the bed working through transition. I still wanted help, and Nathan said to me, “Remember all the people that are praying for you.”

The midwife suggested that I get on the bed because I seemed a little unstable (shaky legs). With each of the next few contractions, I felt the need to push at the end of the contraction. I was on my knees and with each contraction, I could feel the progress. I held onto Nathan next to me and just focused. The midwife and the nurse were sitting in chairs next to the table of post-delivery supplies. All was quiet the entire time, until I called out that the baby was crowing. It was 11:06am when the midwife came to the bed and said to catch my baby. “That’s it. He’s here. I’m done. He’s here. He’s mine.” I was elated.

James is now almost 2 months old, and it’s a daily delight to get to know him. We are grateful for the gift of God of this new boy, and for all of your prayers and sweet words of encouragement throughout the pregnancy and as labor approached. It made all the difference to remember those cherished prayers!

with love, Damaris