Zoo Mamas

It’s been a strangely cold spring, but it warmed up last week, and we made plans to go to the zoo since our membership was about to expire. Nathan took the day off, and we headed to the zoo with packed lunches. We’re always surprised at how many school buses are lining the parking lot no matter the day we pick to go. So many people were there when the zoo opened!

My family went on in, but I took a detour to the bathroom. That’s when it happened. I saw the Zoo Mamas. The good ones. The prepared ones.

Parked at the entrance was the convoy of wagons with heaping amounts of nourishment, a week’s worth of H2O, and enough saltines to feed all the ducks in the western hemisphere. Somewhere as well were two little kiddos being thickly layered with white paste, decked out with hats, and even the cutest little sunglasses!

I am not that mom.

I am the mom who always forgets her sunblock, digging an expired one out of the glove box at the last minute. Only every other child owns a hat…so they share. We were at the zoo with a walking stroller, a grocery bag full of sandwiches, apples, and energy bites. Mostly everyone had a water bottle.

Throughout the day, I kept smiling with the thought that we are women of all different personalities, and we’ve been perfectly matched with our children. Isn’t that the most beautiful thing? I’m not implying that we shouldn’t care or should stop improving the love and care we give to our families. The truth is that those nagging voices of doubt, which make us question whether we’re good moms at all, deny God’s role in our motherhood. You and I have to come to terms that we’re the perfect one for our families. God’s fulfilling His purposes in us.

We’re driving back from the zoo as I write this, and we had a good day. We even saw a good friend! We didn’t feed the ducks, but we had plenty to eat. We didn’t burn, and we didn’t lose all the hats and sunglasses (because it would inevitably happen to me).

When we get home, I’m going to buy sunscreen because, even if I leave it in the car, at least it won’t be expired.

with love. Damaris

Rise and Shine: Morning Routines

When I wrote last week’s post about the beauty of rhythms and routines, I realized it would be helpful to give a small example of what that looks like in our home. For us in this season, it’s not about scheduling each half-hour increment, but having a rooted routine that helps with the flow as well as the preparedness of our day. We choose to accept the limitations of a full and lively house, and we keep it very simple. Our rhythm helps us feel settled and enjoying the comforts of home. Also, I actively try to be purposeful with the amount of stuff we accumulate and store. The not-infrequent debate over the found bottle cap or the treasured rock found in the gravel driveway is balanced against the alternative of a constant clutter management.

Our Morning Routines, An Example:

7am: Mom up and waking everybody up. Get dressed. Make beds and tidy rooms. Brush teeth and hair.

Morning jobs: Collect the laundry. Wipe the bathrooms. Empty trash bins.

8am: Breakfast and clean up. Devotions at the table. Finish any chores.

9am: School and creative play for the little ones (play dough, draw/color, puzzles)

12pm: Lunch and clean up. Take a break.

This is just a little look at how we create rhythms in the morning. I hope it helps!

When creating your routines, consider what brings you joy and what times of the day or tasks are stressors. If beautifully fluffed pillows on the sofa bring you joy then take the time to fluff them. If reading aloud, helping the children find outfits and doing their hair, or cooking a meal with fresh ingredients brings you the most satisfaction at the end of the day, make those things a part of your daily rhythm.

In the same way, identify what brings you the most anxiety or stress (messy house, feeling unprepared at mealtime, not spending alone time with the kids), and do what you can to fix it. Your daily rhythm will feel comfortable and help the flow of your days. How you construct your day will not the same way as someone else’s way. For example, I’m usually very tired in the evenings, so we have bath time in the morning while I scrub the bathroom.

It is important that we allow God to soften the crippling voice of guilt, failure, or striving for perfection.

Most importantly, routines and rhythms should help you soak up this season of life! Think about your favorite aspects of your days (baby’s naps, spending time with your toddler, littles’ early bedtimes, help with house cleaning and laundry). God has providentially designed this season exactly how He wants it, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.

Which routines mean happy for you and the rest of the family? I’d love to hear.

with love. Damaris

The Loft Reveal!!!

Happy Monday morning, friends! Through the pictures on the blog, Instagram, and Facebook, you’ve been able to see small frames of our beautiful farmhouse. We’re excited to welcome you into our home and plan to slowly introduce you to our little piece of world by sharing more “now and before” posts. I’ve been looking through some of the before pictures, and I could hardly believe it! Honestly, I had forgotten what some of the rooms used to look like. Nathan is responsible for most of the transformation. He has great taste, and I know you agree : )

We bought the farmhouse in 2014, and like most homes, there’s always one more thing to fix. The latest remodel that is pretty much completed is The Loft.

Our house did not have a loft, but in the renovation of the girls’ bedroom, the ceiling collapsed! You don’t even want to know the plaster/dust/black debris that covered Nathan and two church friends that were helping that evening. The three of them slaved away to clean up the mess with shovels and wheelbarrows. One of the guys helping out was an architectural student at University of Michigan, and had a great idea – “Hey, instead of replacing the ceiling, why don’t you just leave the attic open?” And now we have a loft : )

We opened up the ceiling to follow the roof rafters, that allowed us to expose some beautiful hewn beams. Then we extended the wall above the girls doorway back into the attic about 8 feet, that gives the girls an attic loft that’s about 8′ deep by 16′ wide.

Carpet cozied up the space immediately, and we found a perfect dresser in the IKEA clearance room. Our oldest daughter, Eva, had been looking forward to this little space, and she has made it all her own.

with love, Damaris

The Bedroom: Peace and Calm

Over the last few months, I’ve received several comments about our bedroom, specifically how peaceful the space looks. So I wanted to give it some thought and share with you what might help to make your bedroom a more restful room.

First of all, is your bedroom the dumping grounds in your house? Oftentimes, the bedroom is out of sight and get’s all the mismatched socks on the chair, library books on the dresser, mail on the nightstand. Get better sleep and reduce stress? Would a special haven and safe place from the busy demands feel soothing to you? Our bedrooms can be more than just a soft place for us to lay our head. Spending time in our bedroom should inspire rest and rejuvenation everyday.

Let’s consider ways that your own bedroom could bring calm and melt the pressures of the day away. To achieve serenity in the bedroom, less is more. Eliminating clutter will instantly help you feel relaxed when you enter your room. Anything that is stimulating needs to stay in the kitchen or the office! TV and work desks are not conducive to calm and tranquility. Cleared surfaces in the bedroom and minimal décor will welcome you with comfort and relaxation.

Here are a few ideas to help you create a peaceful bedroom:

  • Paint a light neutral color

  • Keep only the necessary things in the bedroom: bed, nightstands, dresser or vanity, maybe a stool/bench/chair and a mirror

  • Sconces or bedside lamps

  • A larger rug or two bedside rugs

  • Oil diffuser helps relax and clear the air

  • A scented candle open on the dresser will give your bedroom a soft fragrance

  • Soft sheets in a neutral and tiny pattern

  • Natural textiles (cotton, linen, knit or wool throws) add comfort

  • Display favorite things – only those that are useful and beautiful

  • Down comforter and a few extra pillow that you can use to prop up and read or relax before sleep.

  • Add texture for a cozy feeling

  • Add plants for an organic feel

What you see when you first wake up will set the tone for the rest of your day.

with love. Damaris

On Holy Week

As I was reading the Matthew 27 account this week, I couldn’t help but imagine which of the characters I would be or would want to be. I concluded that the most enviable would be the women. The women had front row seats, after all – they were at the foot of the cross, they were at the burial, and they were right there at the resurrection! They didn’t miss it – any of it. Neither do we?

Not only for these women disciples, but even for small children, Holy Friday – this Good Day, is a high point in the cadance of our faith. It is the pinnacle of “good news” to everyone on earth. It is redeeming news. This brilliant shock of news following the smear of darkness which had fallen across the quaking earth forever marked the day God fulfilled His promise of eternal goodness to mankind.

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

Following those poignant, sober days, the resurrection was a surprise – a most jubilant experience for those women who believed! It proved to them, as it proves to us now that our faith is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:17).

God allows us to celebrate a Resurrection Sabbath and worship because there is hope and deliverance in the words “He is not here. He is risen.” Jesus’ resurrection empowers the gospel – it completes it. It is the power of God for our salvation.

As much as Easter was a momentous surprise to those ladies in the garden, it is also radically altering for all the children of Adam who have come since.

On Sunday His body was glorified at day break, now we pray that He breaks into our daily lives with His glory; that we grow in intimacy with God; that we are surprised by His sacredness and see Him sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. So that we may bow the knee and proclaim: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-6)

He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed – that we may live.

with love, Damaris

4 Easy Steps to Drastically Change A Room

Outer order contributes to inner calm. -Gretchen Rubin

Having spent more time at home during the cold winter months, we’ve accumulated and now feel overwhelmed by the “extra stuff”. Maybe simplifying was one of your new year’s goals too, and January and February were trial months : )

Though ideally you may want to purge all drawers and closets, when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the mess, I’d suggest to start by clearing off just one surface! Clearing off surfaces can drastically change the entire room. Cluttered tables and counters feel disorganized, and it affects how you use that space. Streamlining surfaces is a manageable and tangible goal that can give you a sense of accomplishment right away. I always aim to maintain an atmosphere of peace and hospitality in our home, and with cleared surfaces, our home most often looks clean. Less stuff means less mess- always.

The first step to streamlining surfaces is to communicate with your family how the problem affects everyone, and how the solution will improve the flow and use of the surface and really the whole room. Identify your clutter-free zones and state it as that. Remember that it’s a work in progress because each family member needs to learn to manage their own things and their own habits.

The second step to clearing surfaces is to find/create a home for things. Over the years, I’ve noticed that I usually keep more papers than I will ever do something with (the orthodontist’s card, the window replacement ad, department store sale flyer). If you’re hesitant about the excess paper, put it away for now. Add them all to a paper bag, a shoe box, a folder and look through it while you’re watching a show. Sometimes putting it away for a couple of weeks allows me to be more subjective and realistic about the clutter (mailers/catalogs/flyers/ads).

The third step to decluttering surfaces is to take a look at your most problematic area (kitchen island, dinning room table, etc.) and identify the things that don’t belong: bills to pay, incoming mail, magazines, homework that’s waiting to be graded. Paper-clutter bogs us down like no other kind of clutter, so group the same things and find them a home!

The fourth step is to use what you have for storage or organization. Going to the store and buying an all new storage system maybe counter-productive. Sometimes decluttering and purging opens up bins or storage boxes that can now find a new use. A huge clutter problem for most readers that I hear from is kids’ papers/crafts/art. This hanging line has been a life-saver for all of the art that the children wish to see displayed. It gets it off the table and provides a perfect spot for everyone to enjoy. When they make new pictures and paintings, we have this sturdy container where I file only the favorites. Each child has a folder, and the papers all have name and date on the backside, which simplifies the filing and brings us all so much joy when we pull them out years later.

Less stuff means less mess, but understanding that there is an amount of material belongings that are bottom-line necessary when having a large family and schooling in the home is something Nathan reminds me of often. Be encouraged and embrace this season of life! We’re always creating new ways and systems to make our homes comfortable, welcoming, and peaceful.

I’ve experienced that streamlining one surface often gets the ball rolling for more decluttering. Even so, if one surface is enough for the day, then at least you’ll be pleased to have one spot where your eyes can rest.

Better blogs for simplifying and organizing:




with love. Damaris

Family Currents: Late Winter at the Farm

As I write this by the window, the sun flooding my pages, I have hope that the sun will shine warm again. It may very well be that the days of braving the bitter cold and snow are behind us, and I couldn’t be happier! The children have missed their bikes and the creek adventures. Not only are the humans pleased, but the sheep and the llama love every blade of grass they see even if it’s crunchy and yellow. The snow is gone, and they couldn’t be more exuberant about it. Just minutes ago, Larry the llama was trotting like a mini giraffe.

On my last visit to Trader Joe’s a picked up this little rose water. It smells clean and pleasant, so I thought I’d try it as a face toner. The little pink bottle has migrated to the girls’ room. They love spritzing it on their faces – I imagine it feels grown-up : ). And I don’t mind since it’s just water and rose extract. I haven’t noticed a difference on my face, but at least it smells of midsummer around here. Have you tried rose water as a facial product before?

All the maple trees have taps in them, and the clear sap runs constantly. The kids love taking breaks from their running around outside to pull a tube from a bucket and drink the sap straight from the tree! It tastes like slightly sweetened water. Depending on how much gets collected by this weekend, Nathan and the boys will start to boil the sap down to thick amber syrup. Stay tuned because we’ll start selling it soon!

with love. Damaris

A Case for Lent

Should Christians observe Lent?

Having been raised in the Baptist tradition, the observance of Lent was not practiced. I knew that some people ate no meat and ate fish on Fridays because when I went to the market with my mom during this time there were signs for sales on fish all over the indoor stalls. Talks with the neighbors revolved around innovative fish recipes, and street vendors sold crisp, fried fish dumplings (much like a savory donut hole) – so good! These practices were foreign to me, and it never occurred to me that Lent could be an observance I could benefit from.

I grew up calling it the Holy Week, but truthfully not much about the week of Easter was ‘set-apart’. And naturally in my own family that was even more the case as parenting brought the busy school spring season. We didn’t prepare special meals, have special readings with the children, or sing special hymns during the week (only on Easter Sunday). It wasn’t long until, in the days after Easter was celebrated, I was left thinking I’d missed something. As I pondered this, I was utterly disappointed that the most precious day of observance to a believer had come and gone with only my cursory attention.

Lent is a purposeful preparation of our hearts for the celebration of the most pivotal moment in all of human history – and the most intimately revolutionary moment in each of our lives if we are believers in Christ. This spiritual preparation of the believer ultimately culminates in a joyous celebration of Easter, Resurrection Day!

Daily discipline is a key part of this preparation as it spurs and strengthens our faith and is intended to point us toward Jesus. If the observance of Lent, however, as only a short-term exercise that does not encourage us to intimacy with Christ the rest of the year, it will be an empty tradition. Lent itself isn’t the issue. Lent doesn’t inherently add spirituality to our lives. Grace isn’t gained by any spiritual discipline that we may commit to. Fasting, prayer, baptism, repentance, communion are not a means to God’s love. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8) Participating in the practice of Lent is not about the tradition for tradition’s sake, or obeying an edict to remain in God’s good favor. Mindlessly repeating a practice is superfluous and will harm, rather than profit, our souls. Furthermore, it’s certainly not a way of penance, or self-punishment because of our sins:“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Last year, my friend Jen commented that she was about to start Lent, and I asked if I could do it with her. She suggested 10 minutes of quiet daily prayer. Those daily minutes to ponder on Jesus’ death, His suffering, and His burial drew me into the events like it never had before. Approaching God daily for the purpose of preparing my heart for Gethsemane, Golgotha, and ultimately Resurrection Day heightened my awareness and joy. By meditating upon the depths of Christ’s sacrifice, His glorious resurrection was beautiful and solemn.

Lent is a way to appreciate more deeply the meaning of the cross and the victory of the resurrection. How can we be purposeful and simple in our efforts to focus ourselves on Him? You may want to participate in some act of kindness – especially something that is small and you could do everyday, use a Lenten devotional to focus our thoughts, or maybe read portions of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection each day.

I pray that God will prepare us for a fresh experience and renewed anticipation this coming Easter!

with love, Damaris

Family Currents: New + New + New + New = : )

Breaking into the new honey harvest!

We have bucket-fulls of raw honey from our hives. Nathan, his dad, William, and Alexander spun it out of the honey frames and screened out the wax. It’s so fun to see the difference in the honey the bees produce from year to year – this year’s bee sweetness is more gold than amber, and the raw texture is beautiful! Nathan bottles it fresh for each customer, so contact us through this post, facebook, instagram, or email. You’ll want to get a taste of this year’s honey harvest.

Fresh and green makes the kitchen feel new!

My little potted rosemary is surviving the winter in our kitchen. It’s perched on the window sill, and I water it everyday. Rosemary is my favorite herb in cooking and baking, but I’ve been hesitant to cut sprigs in case it saddens. It’s alive greenness makes me happy.

Fresh textiles bring a new mood!

Two warm days in a row and I already changed up the pillows in my bedroom – hah! Something so simple made the room reflect the sunshine and brightened up the room. It’s amazing how quickly our mood perks up with the sun warmth and glow through the windows. Now I’m off to pick up some Trader Joe’s eucalyptus and spruce up the bathrooms.

Bring on a new year!

This good-lookin’ lad had a birthday this week! He’s the firstborn, and we all enjoyed the excuse to love on him. Last year, his sisters practiced a little dance to perform in celebration of his special day, but this year,I dropped the ball. Nathan ordered a cookie dough ice cream cake for him, which was really fun. Not only did the cake make birthday dinner preparations much simpler, but it was a huge hit. First time, but may not be the last : )

with love. Damaris

Happy Birthday, Alexander!

I didn’t know motherhood until I met him.

So many nights, I laid my hand on his tummy, and prayed that he would be healthy, that he would be safe, that he would be intelligent, that he would live a long life, but more than anything, I pleaded that he would love God all of his days.

This handsome has been my honey boy for 13 years! I had loved him since May of 2004, but on Sunday morning, January 23, 2005, our joy was full when a bundle of softness and red fuzz was graced to us. God’s blessing of good health and a curious mind has always characterized this lad, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the gift of his life. Alexander didn’t mind if I shared a letter I wrote to him at the start of a new school year. He was 7.

Dear Alexander,

You are a gift from God! We were so excited when we learned that you would be a boy because we wanted your name to be Alexander! It is Yayo’s name, and it is a strong, manly name. Alexander means “defender of the people.” We pray for you daily that you will always love God and defend His Word above all else. Remember to let your light shine, so others may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven and that even as a child, you are known by your deeds. Defending those that are younger and weaker brings joy to our hearts and glory to God. We love you so much, Alexander Scott Kirkpatrick! We are so happy that God gave you to us as a blessing to our family!

With lots of love,

Dad and Mom

Photo credits: Maria Wild

with love, Damaris