thanksgiving reflections

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Hence, since everything we possess, and everything in heaven and on earth besides, is daily given and sustained by God, it inevitably follows that we are in duty bound to love, praise, and thank Him without ceasing, and, in short, to devote all these things to his service.” -Martin Luther

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” –A.W. Tozer

“True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. [which is] God’s own excellency.” -Jonathan Edwards

“A sensible thanksgiving for mercies received is a mighty prayer in the Spirit of God. It prevails with Him unspeakably.” –John Bunyan

“Let us thank God heartily as often as we pray that we have His Spirit in us to teach us to pray. Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him; it will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room in our hearts.” -Andrew Murray

“The best helps to growth in grace are the ill usage, the affronts, and the losses which befall us. We should receive them with all thankfulness, as preferable to all others, were it only on this account, that our will has no part therein.” -John Wesley

“We are surrounded by God’s benefits. The best use of these benefits is an unceasing expression of gratitude.” -John Calvin

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” –Charles Spurgeon

 “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.” –Corrie ten Boom

“The Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us, therefore, pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient.” -John Newton

“God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.” –Elizabeth Elliot

“Yes, give thanks for ‘all things’ for, as it has been well said ‘Our  disappointments are but His appointments.’” –A.W. Pink

 with love, Damaris


family currents: fall edition

our big red barn at dusk

It’s been a little while since I gathered a few pictures and filled you in on what we’ve been enjoying lately. So, let’s catch up!

Since Michigan summers are not unbearably hot, we extend hospitality weekly throughout the warmer months. It works well because we can easily host larger groups outside. Since the kids are now older, Nathan had the great idea to find a used volleyball net. It would be such a fun game to share with friends. After much searching, he came across a local ad for a volleyball net in great shape and picked it up. We’re so grateful. It’s been fun to help the older children learn and play numerous games with family and friends!


A few months ago, Nathan saw a never-been-used ice cream maker still in its box on craigslist. We picked it up and realized the ice cream maker is brand new from the 60’s. Our family used to have a small Cuisinart maker years ago, but it didn’t provide enough ice cream for all of us. This is a 5 quart electric ice cream maker, which yields a generous amount for us all and friends. We have been loving the varieties of vanilla and the simplicity of a handful of ingredients. Although we’ve been eating loads of ice cream, the old machine is still going strong. “A lot of ice cream making,” corroborates Eva, who was our ice cream maker.


For my birthday, William surprised me with a garden arch. He created it quietly in the barn and even made a “MOM” sign with copper strand. He was so careful to not talk about it or show anyone for weeks. Definitely surprised, and I love it so much! It’s right in the view from the north kitchen windows, and my heart is full of gratitude for the tender ways children seek to show devotion.


We’ve had the best bonfires this year! Our family and friends gathered around in the evening cooking all sorts of Sunday night simple suppers over the fire. We enjoyed grilled cheeses, hot dogs, fruit pies, and of course, roasted marshmallows. This recipe was a recommendation from my good friend Rachel, and it was a huge hit! The fire was so inviting that the boys made plans to sleep outdoors on cots several nights. Even during the cold fall season, the boys stayed warm by feeding the fire throughout the night, wearing wool caps and socks, coats, and thick sleeping bags. On Saturday morning, they would come in with a frosted nose ready for hot coffee (yes, they do) and pancakes. I’m glad we’re back to everyone sleeping in the house : )


Lastly, we are so thankful for a cozy place to live. It took us all a couple of Saturdays, but we painted the upstairs hallways and all the downstairs (except the piano room). I really like it. I love the calming white and also feel that it suits the age of the house. It was a controversial topic here for a little bit – ha! What do you think?

copen blue by sherwin williams
pearly white by sherwin williams

I hope you enjoyed our little fall family update. Stay in touch!

 with love, Damaris


kids’ chores and responsibilities

photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

We had a couple over for dinner last week, and after the meal, us ladies came into the kitchen to see how the meal clean-up was going. Just then, she noticed the “responsibilities list” on the wall next to the slate chalk board. She quickly took a picture of it and seemed equally amused and intrigued by our little list. It’s a humble note paper cut to a square and taped to the wall with washi tape (I love washi tape – I can finally display all the children’s drawings!). I’ve seen many a fancy bordered chart ,or better yet, chalk-art-decorated board for displaying the assignments. Ours is simple, folks!

I have a friend who makes a very valid case for calling the children’s job’s for the family home assignments, because chores has the connotation of burden or drudgery. Whatever the semantics, our family’s been trying to clean up messes for 15 years : ) The mess is not peaceful for me. I feel calmer, happier and can think much clearer when the spaces are orderly and tidy. I think it is this way even for children.

Our family’s chore list is for the year. At the beginning of the school year, we sit down and discuss all the old chores and how they are changing hands. Everyone is usaually happy to switch it up and understands, so the only purpose of the paper chore list is mostly for reference (in the case that Nathan or I forget or there’s a need to switch it up for a day). The children don’t really look at it, because they’re doing it all the time.

I read a quote years ago from an older mom who said, “Life is messy, so clean it up.” I couldn’t agree more. Have grace to allow the mess, and be adamant about cleaning it up. Even though tidying up is agreeably necessary, each household has a cleaning routine. If it is part of the family’s regular rhythm, it hardly is much effort to have visitors. This has proven true for us many, many times! When the children were younger and schooling was less rigorous, we cleaned before the weekend in efforts to enjoy all the time with Daddy when he was home. I always knew I’d have to forgo this little luxury when schooldays grew longer and our days got fuller. So here we are, a few years into the routine of cleaning a little everyday and a little more on Saturday morning : )

Cleaning the family home for us is divided into two categories: Daily and Weekly Responsibilities

photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

Daily

  • collect laundry and wash (first thing in the morning), flip, fold, and put away (by dinnertime)
  • wipe bathrooms, change hand towel (morning)
  • empty trash bins (morning)
  • feed the animals (morning and evening)
  • wash dishes, dry and put away, wipe counters (after each meal)
  • wipe table/chairs, vacuum kitchen and dinning room (after each meal)

Weekly

  • vacuum stairs
  • clean mirrors and spot clean windows
  • dust
  • vacuum all floors
  • mop all floors
  • scrub bathtub, sinks and toilets
photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

A few things that we try to remember:

  • Involving the children in cleaning and taking care of the family home takes time and patience both for the children and the parents.
  • Always look for age-appropriate tasks.
  • Try to find a home for everything. It is too overwhelming for a child to tidy up if there is no specific place for things.
  • Remind little ones to clean up one activity before moving on to the next activity. Small habits make a big difference!
  • Set a regular tidy-up time. Before lunch or naps, before supper and before bedtime may be a natural rhythm.
  • Work along side them even if it isn’t on the same assignment.
  • Take a break and then keep going.
  • Encourage and praise them profusely during the task and when they’re done. Celebrate small victories together. A little reward like a high-five and reading aloud one picture book can feel special.
photo credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

It is a joy to take responsibility in the care of the possessions God has entrusted us with. We all enjoy the sense of accomplishment and equally appreciate the reward for our efforts when we can use the tidied up spaces.

 with love, Damaris


simple homeschooling schedule

I can’t believe it, but we were able to start school early this year, so today completes our third week of school. Currently, our family has children in four different stages of learning, but we try to weave everyone into the same daily rhythm. We have shared about our school day here before.

It is more fruitful for us to begin early in the morning, although no one at our house is an early riser – not daddy, not mommy, not anyone. For us, it really is rewarding to get into the rhythm of starting early. Our day’s routine has slowly formed over years of tweaking. When we were not getting done until supper, it was very frustrating to the children. When I was losing them to various activities in the morning or during lunch, it was very frustrating to me. This rhythm has helped to shape our days, and we have followed a very similar version of this schedule for several years.

STAGES OF LEARNING

1 – Alexander and Eva are part of the Classical Conversations homeschool group where they receive tutoring once a week on all their subjects. Hence, for the most part, they require little input from me. Their days are mostly outlined by their assignment guide which has a checklist of what to work on for each day at home. Alexander (15) does Bible reading, geometry, British literature, Latin, Spanish, biology, Western Cultural History, debate, and Traditional Logic II. Eva (14) does Bible reading, math, Latin, History of Astronomy (science), American history, exposition and composition (language arts), and Introductory Logic.

2 – William (12), Isabel (10), and Nora (8) do Bible reading (devotional), math, handwriting, spelling, grammar (William and Isabel), writing (William and Isabel), and reading aloud (Nora). These subjects they do daily. History (early modern) and science (astronomy) we only do three days a week. William, Isabel, and Nora require some help like answering questions, grading homework, taking tests, and listening to them read aloud. They are learning to follow instructions and understand the lesson’s directions without my guidance. Nathan’s mom comes one morning a week to teach grammar and writing to William and Isabel. We’re so grateful for her help!

3 – Providence (6) is doing kindergarten. She does letters (phonics), numbers (easy arithmetic), and handwriting. I sit with her for all her lessons.

4 – Samuel and James sleep in and usually get up after 8. If we’ve already started school lessons, then they have breakfast, and I turn my attention to them for a little bit. My goal is to read to them during this time. They miss Bible study in the morning, so I recently ordered a Bible story book and look forward to reading to them a short story every day. I spend some time with the little ones while being in the same area where the children sit to do school. In our house, this is crucial for progress : ).

DAILY SCHEDULE

  • 6am – wake up. personal care. make beds.
  • 7 – instrument practice. chores (feeding the animals, wipe bathrooms, empty trash bins)
  • 8 – start school
  • 12 – lunch. chores (flip laundry, collect eggs, dishes)
  • 1 – back to school

During the afternoon, I do history and science with William, Isabel, and Nora (3 days). Alexander and Eva continue their schoolwork until 3 or 3:30. Providence and Samuel play, and James takes a nap.

The late afternoon is left for nature walks, going to the park, sewing with mom (mainly Eva), watercolor (mainly the older girls), writing letters/pictures of thank you or encouragement, baking/cooking with mom, outside projects (mainly the big boys), or just playing and riding bikes. The season determines much of what happens during this part of our day.

This is what this year’s homeschool schedule looks like for our family. It was really helpful for me to put this post together, and I’ll be glad to have this reminder of what the years with so many stages of learning looked like in our home.

 with love, Damaris


For Our 18th Anniversary

photos credit: Eva L. Kirkpatrick

From the very beginning of our relationship, we’ve both always said that “opposites attract” is not a true statement. Very shortly after we meet in that creative writing class, we talked for hours discovering how much we had in common. Even though we’d been raised worlds apart (literally), we were so alike that we couldn’t imagine anyone, so dissimilar being this close.

Today is our 18th wedding anniversary. Even though we have so, so many ways and things in common, I (and the children) came up with 18 things in which we are different. Nathan has not seen this list, and I can’t wait to hear him chuckle in consent.

1- I don’t use the snooze, but he plans for it.

2- He loves water, and I’m not a confident swimmer.

3- I thrive on change. He’s steady.

4- His virtue is delayed gratification, but I enjoy something new.

5- He’s good at impromptu, and I need to plan.

6- “Sleep is overrated,” he says. Bedtime is never too early for me.

7- I like sweet drinks, and he enjoys bitter coffee.

8- He’s prudent, but I move quickly.

9- I have wanderlust. He’s a homebody.

10- He enjoys a juicy burger, but I live on vegetables.

11- I’m from the old world, and he’s from the new.

12- He’s daring, and I’m fearful.

13- I’m cautious, but driving dangerous roads is a thrill for him.

14- I was trained in music, and he was trained in sports.

15- He says,”I’ll find another use for it.” I throw it away.

16- When I see a crisis, he sees a resolution.

17- I can feel overwhelmed and nervous. He’s calm and collected.

18- He rules his life by principles, yet I fall prey to convenience.

Regardless of differences, we are two sinners who God chose to bring together for such a time as this: to serve Him in this place as we nurture eight beautiful children.

On a very warm Spanish summer evening, eighteen years ago, we said “I do.” I’ve never looked back. Happy 18th Wedding Anniversary, My Love!


postpartum care and wardrobe

There is so much hype surrounding labor and preparing for baby’s arrival that many moms don’t even consider how they’re going to feel when they get home.

It’s not uncommon to feel like time is both standing still and moving too quickly. The fourth trimester is an important time that shouldn’t be rushed. For our baby, for ourselves, and for our families, we’re better off to prepare. While the magical and exhausting days after birth bliss pass quickly, we need to be aware of our body’s healing.

“I don’t have time to shower!” is something every new mom feels in the first few weeks (okay, months). Today I’m sharing what I’ve used to feel a little more put together without taking much time. Also, the fourth trimester attire is real and necessary.  Mandatory soft sweats, stretchy jammies, and soft sleeping/sports bras make a tremendous difference in our mood and comfort during the several weeks of postpartum.

Here’s a list with links to all of my favorite items for postpartum wardrobe and care:

Cleansing Face Wipes – I love these! They are perfect to keep in the nightstand for washing my face at the 3am feeding, if I haven’t gotten to it earlier. These are quick, no getting out of bed, no waiting for the water to run warm at the sink, no lathering, etc. : )

Dry Shampoo – always smells good and when you spray the roots, you actually get lots of volume. It’s a multipurpose product that helps you feel fresh and combats flat, day-old (or two or three) hair.

Perineal Spray – it provides healing and relief without the chemicals. The application is just a simple and light spray.

Feminine Pads – the length of time you may use these varies tremendously between 10 days or so to 6 or more weeks. I like the long and thin for most comfort and extra coverage at night.

Depends/Always Discreet Underwear – what the hospital provides is usually not tight or secure. It’s mesh and itchy and never stays in place. I brought these to the hospital and was so happy I did! I wore them until the package was empty which was just right. They are very comfortable, you feel very dry with no leaks, and they have a little built-in support for feeling covered and all tucked in.

Breast Cream – this is a must. I always use it consistantly for the first couple of weeks. I’m so afraid of getting chapped or worse. This balm gives very thick protection.

Nursing Pads – disposable is quick and you may not need them for very long. I like to wear them especially during the weeks I apply the breast cream since it can stain or leave a greasy residue on clothing.

Witch Hazel Pads – these are my secret weapon. I have used them for all of my postpartums (eight), and it feels very cooling and clean. I use them until the package is gone. First, I wear them over the pad, later, I use them to wipe and feel like the healing is coming along.

Underwear – just a couple of these help smooth out the middle-section so fabrics don’t cling in all the wrong places ; )

High-waisted Leggings – they cover the tummy when nursing for more comfort. These have a gentle compression that secures the post-baby belly and feels supportive on my back.

Seamless, Soft Sports Bra – I always wear one through labor and delivery and really for the first few weeks. It doesn’t tug or dig anywhere and you still feel supported. Later, when I wore regular nursing bras, I still wore these to bed for the comfort for sleep and ease of nursing.

Sweatshirt – soft and cozy adds a little comfort when you’re extremely tired. This works great when you’re too sleepy to change into pajamas.

Protein Drink – helped me get to the next meal if we were going to be out or if i was nursing/pumping and couldn’t get a bit to eat until a little later.

Concealer – this one is thick and a very little bit goes a long way. I’m still using it over a year later.

Audio Bible – listened everyday and brought so much joy to my soul. I would switch up the versions (a different reader with each one). I purposed to listen during my morning feeding/pumping session. It was very comforting and I looked forward to it.

Tylenol – when you’re not a first-time mom, afterbirth pains may be intense. I have sometimes taken it just to not think about it. Afterbirth pains should taper off within the first week.

Nursing/lounging Clothes – you may have taken some to the hospital, but if not, having a couple sets at home is very practical. You’re comfortable and discreet for visitors, but can slip into bed for a quick nap midday, too. It’s a wonderful feeling to change into clean clothes when there are so many messes around : )

Probiotics – I mentioned similar ones in a previous post regarding postpartum preparation. It was helpful to take them through the postpartum weeks to keep the digestive system regular. It may boost the immune system, so I take it in hopes to compensate for lack of sleep lowering my immune system.

Water Bottle – staying hydrated is so important! It will affect your milk supply. I like this kind because I can sip it while driving without having to tilt the bottle. It also doesn’t require two hands to unscrew when nursing.

Extra Set of Bedsheets – if baby’s diaper leaking and spitting up the whole feeding doesn’t convince you, then mom’s night sweats and midnight snacking in bed will. You’ll need another set of sheets for a 3:15am bed change. Choose natural fibers like cotton or linen.

 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