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.

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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

Traveling to Washington DC…with Kids!

Last week, our family returned from a fun trip to Washington DC. I asked for all the family members’ feedback on the places that we visited and their favorite things in hopes that you could gain some perspective on what is worth doing in the large, busy capital with kids.

During the weeks before our trip, the children helped pick the places they wanted to see during our stay in DC, and we were so pleased to go and learn more about the history of each of the places that interested them.

We were staying in Arlington, VA just across the river from DC. The evening we drove in, we walked to the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. At the cemetery, we saw several memorials, notable gravestones, and we watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We found it interesting that the children had so many questions about showing honor and respect and maintaining silence while were walking through the memorials.

Most of the children found the White House to be the best part of the trip. We went there first thing the next day. Because of security, one can only get a pretty narrow view of the White House, and that from quite a distance (across the road). We got a couple good pictures, and allowed them to enjoy the hype about their visit.

We also saw most of the monuments and spent time at the Smithsonian. There are many museums (all of the Smithsonian ones are free), but we only went to American History and Natural History. Both were perfect for children.

The next day, we took the subway around 8:30am from the nearest station to the Museum of the Bible. We were worried about rush-hour traffic, but it ended up not being as bad as our experience in Chicago or Boston. The children loved the ride and it was overall an easy way to get downtown. There was a station just over a 10 minute walk from the hotel and on the same block as the museum. We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Museum of the Bible. The building has so many bathrooms, so many places to sit and wait or rest, and was very spacious for strollers and our large family to get around : )

In the late afternoon, we took the subway back and jumped in the van to nearby Mount Vernon. Buying tickets in advance and doing a quick search online for discounts saved us $30-$40! It is a gorgeous place, and well worth the visit. We underestimated how much there was to see with there being a museum/educational center and all the grounds + buildings on the estate. We stayed until they closed, and made plans to return the next day. They validated our tickets so we could do that.

The next two days were spent at the Bible Family Conference enjoying lots of good break-out sessions from great pastors and speakers as well as wonderful fellowship.

One of the nights, we drove across the bridge back into the city to get a night view of the monuments. Even though most of the kids were already in jammies, it was well worth staying up late for!

The sidewalks in Washington DC are very wide and everything is spread out and open, so getting around with children on foot was not difficult nor stressful. The staff in all the buildings and sights were so nice! Everyone took time to congratulate us for the pregnancy, recommend a favorite children’s attraction, and share something that would be of interest to the little ones. We packed all our meals for all of six days (including the travel to and from days). Except for one breakfast. I knew that Nathan would do something special one of the days : ) He did some research and found a fun donut shop in-route home. It was a treat to let the kids pick the toppings to their hot donuts!

Almost 30 weeks pregnant and 92F with humidity that felt like 99F didn’t necessarily leave me feeling like the energizer bunny, but lots of water and good shoes certainly helped. Everyone had a terrific time, and even the children have thanked God in prayer for the opportunity to visit Washington DC and have that time together as a family.

Did I say the hotel had an outdoor pool? Fist time ever, best thing ever.

with love, Damaris


Hiking Essentials

Treading Where There Is No Path

I grew up camping and spending lots of time outdoors in the summer. Although we lived in a 9th floor, four-bedroom flat in bustling Barcelona, we went north to the hilly country during the hot summer weeks. Nathan also grew up with a passion for the outdoors by taking many trips to the mountains in Colorado. It’s important to us to share the love for camping and hiking with our kids. We always find that it’s a wonderful time to connect, regroup, refocus, and recharge.

You may remember our trip west – the kids having the run of the mountain, everyday spent outside scrambling up boulders, and climbing the trails. We recall the details of it as if it was just a few weeks ago! While in the car road-tripping back to Michigan, we made a list of all our hiking essentials. It was all fresh on our minds, so we hope you find it to be very thorough. Just a couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed a short trip and lots if hiking at a state park, which, of course, did not require as many essentials as the compiled list below. During this last trip, we were always on the park’s trails and had a map of the miles between points. Hiking in the wilderness is the best, but requires a little more preparedness.

Our favorite days in the Rocky Mountains were spent in the wild. We left the cabin after breakfast with lunches packed and ready backpacks. Since are family grows by one more every other year (we love it!), we required two backpacks to fit all of the essentials. We have found that poor quality backpacks are not worth it. We go through them quickly (they get torn at the seams or zippers break), and they hurt one’s shoulders and back. Good backpacks are full of compartments and pockets and have a chest strap to help distribute the weight.

In this list I don’t mention the obvious such as water bottles and packed lunches/snacks. When we go on hikes, we always have with us:

  • bug spray (too many times stumbling into a swampy area has taught us a lesson!)
  • sunscreen (especially with babies that don’t keep their hat on)
  • first-aid (nicely compact)
  • survival kit
  • cigarette lighter
  • camera
  • watch
  • cellphone (even if there is no coverage, phones will call 9-1-1)
  • flashlight
  • compact knife
  • binoculars (if you would enjoy the view from the summit or side of a ridge)
  • high-calorie bars (we like these)
  • water shoes (unavoidably, there will be a spot for wading)
  • topographic map
  • hats
  • chap stick with sunscreen (this one worked great this year)
  • air-horn and bear spray (if you’re trekking in bear country)
  • a pack of tissues (runny noses or inevitable potty break)

When we arrive at the cabin, the children are all to wear a small whistle hanging around their necks. We also learn to watch for changes in the clouds and feel for the wind. Both of these could mean impending storms which are quickly upon you in the mountains.

So next time you’re headed out, I hope you’ll let us know what was indispensable on your hike!

with love. Damaris


Hocking Hills: Camping Trip + Fireside Peach Pie

Last week, we got away for few days to Hocking Hills. We had never heard of it until a couple months ago, and it’s a spectacular state park in southeastern Ohio. Hocking Hills is only a four-hour drive for us, and so we were bound for the perfect camping trip! The rock formations and waterfalls make it a scenic wonderland.

The cool of the deep gorges was a nice respite from the sun, although the trails were also mostly wooded and shaded. We hiked through forestland framed by spectacular sandstone rock recess and caves. I was surprised at how potentially dangerous the deep cliffs were! The names of the trails are so mysterious. How could we leave without making it through all of them?! Old Man’s Cave, Conckle’s Hollow, Whispering Cave, Devil’s Bathtub, Ash Cave, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, and Cedar Falls did not disappoint.

We each had a favorite hike, but mostly the children can’t stop talking about the wading in clean, clear water and filling their canteens and water bottles at the many springs and waterfalls. We were surrounded by what seemed like a jungle. So much moss and fern made everything feel exotic and tropical. Can you tell one of the kids had just finished reading Jurassic Park?

Of course, it wouldn’t be a camping trip without roasting marshmallows and a late-afternoon fishing. Nathan grilled our hearty suppers over the fire. Burgers and brats never tasted so good!

As we made our way back home through gentle hills and rolling emerald pastures, we shared our blessings and the joy of spending time together. Having breakfast and Bible reading, the girls learning to pack lunches (waaaaay too much mayonnaise), and encouraging each other on to keep going as we all felt tired (6 hours of hiking each day) are some of the sweetest memories of our camping trip. Kudos to Nathan who carried Samuel in the back-carrier for all of it!

Fireside Peach Pie (Nathan’s creation – yum!)

  • peach pie filling can

  • white sandwich bread loaf

  • butter

  • Cinnamon sugar

Butter the bread slices, and add two or three spoonfuls of pie filling to one of the unbuttered sides of the bread. Top with the other unbuttered side. Sprinkle each buttered side with cinnamon sugar. Place pie in the cast iron sandwich maker (here). Cook for 3 or so minutes over the embers or until golden (grilled cheese looking). Enjoy the warm pie!

with love. Damaris


Family Currents: Early Spring at the Capitol

Some of you might have heard of the program called TeenPact. We were able to take Alexander this year. It is a civics program for junior high and high school students hosted at state capitals around the country. He participated in the one day political communications course and loved it so much. The students get to practice writing bills and resolutions and defend them in debates.

While we were in Lansing for Alexander to attend TeenPact at the capitol, Nathan came with us, and we spent the day with the other children at Impression 5 Science Center. The kids loved creating, experimenting, and discovering. The hands-on experience took all day with a little break to eat a packed lunch.

Nathan, his Dad and the boys boiled over 70 gallons of sap on Saturday! It was a gloriously sunny day and cold. They bottled the maple syrup, and it’s been going to happy homes. They’ll continue to make more maple syrup for the next few weeks, boiling as the collection tubs fill up. Later this month, we will have a full post on the beautiful and interesting process of making maple syrup.

We’ve been doing Whole30. We’re more three weeks in and living our best life…Who am I kidding?? It’s not any kind of fun without pizza. I’ll be writing a post very soon about the whole family’s experience, what we ate, and must-haves for survival.

with love. Damaris


Paths Not Forgotten

A few weeks ago, our family road tripped to the East Coast (read about it here). Everyone had so much anticipation for visiting New Hampshire and walking on Nathan’s childhood paths. He had not forgotten even the slightest details of the centennial rock walls or the trees or the thick moss carpets of the New Hampshire woods! It was magical for all of us to walk behind him, listening to his every memory and sigh. It far exceeded our expectations that these were dreamy woods to be lost at play in, listening to The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe read aloud, and playing games of pretend. In this great quietness, where he could dwell in stories of his own, Nathan was so happy. Staying curious and full of wonder in these woods of New Hampshire. Here is where he breathed the magic and beauty of childhood -unrushed. As the children and I walked behind him, we collected leaves of all shapes and sizes with the most brilliant colors. We counted one for each of the nineteen cousins and giggled at all the fun we would have pressing and laminating them as little tokens of our love. All around us, the naked oak trees were so old and laden with acorns so big that we gathered handfuls from the mossy floor to decorate our table with back home. We will plant a couple of them too!

The quiet treading in the woods all ablaze, inspired me to push against the busyness and the pressures, and be intentional about simply creating together, learning together, making together and keeping the beautiful childhood magic alive. As a former child myself, I believe childhood should be full of laughing and sunshine, running and climbing, and all the wanderlust. Looking up, enchanted by the sparkling waving leaves, having visions of greatness so overwhelming that one’s soul hurts. We should be training them to experience and know true happiness – not pursue it for a lifetime. This means that sometimes I make myself get down on the floor and play, sometimes I get under the covers with them and tell dreams. Simply looking kindly into their eyes and knowing them, or pressing their head against my chest till their breathing and my heart are in sink fuels my vision for the wonder of childhood. It’s a wonderful gift to share these short years with them, and prepare them for joy-filled ones to come!

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place

where colors are brighter, the air softer,

and the morning more fragrant than ever again.

– E. Lawrence

with love. Damaris


Autumn in Olde Towne

Is it too soon to be planning our next trip to Boston!? If you have been there, you know how charming it is! We walked, and we walked. We learned, and we were awe-struck.

Nathan had a work conference in Boston, and we had been making plans to go with him. We prepared meals and packed 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 6 suppers allowing for a seafood dinner- which did not disappoint! We stayed in a suite-style room with a small kitchenette and two rooms. The accommodations were perfect for our family!

Boston was not rushed, giant, nor overly touristy which made it perfect for our family of nine to enjoy and soak-in the history. Of course, it wasn’t me driving us in and out of the city everyday- hehe! Since it was founded in 1630, we enjoyed learning about events, people, and the charming architecture of one of the oldest cities in America! We are studying U.S. history this year, and so many of the places we visited on the Freedom Trail were fresh in the children’s memories from these past few weeks of school! The dramatic events that took place in Boston are certainly more real and meaningful to all of us now. Climbing to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, Fort Independence in Castle Island, JFK Presidential Museum and Library, playing on the pebbled beach, Boston Commons and the Public Gardens, and getting aboard the WWII destroyer Cassin Young and the USS Constitution (war of 1812) were each of the kids’ favorite sights in Boston.

For me, it was the weathered facades, the tree-lined avenues, and the glistening city lights reflected on the Charles River. The highly symmetrical Georgian architecture, the row-houses with pristine glossy front doors, and the lovely people that charmed me. If you asked, “Why was it so magical, Damaris?” I would very matter-of-factly admit that being raised in a metropolitan city did something to my soul from which I can’t escape. When city air fills my body, it makes my eyes open wider and my heart beats faster. It makes me feel more alive.

And if you live there or have visited, would you share your favorite places in Boston? I would love to hear your recommendations!

with love. Damaris


Family Currents: Roadtripping History

This last week we had the privilege of hitting the road for a historically-inspired tour through New England! We’ve had a blast and just returned. Here are a few snapshots of our two thousand mile journey. God gave us safety and grace the whole way through, sunshine & rain, harbors and cupcakes, fall foliage and Atlantic surf!

a thought from Nathan


Future Men

If you have or have had the blessing of raising boys, I hope you’ve enjoyed the boyishness of them! When our boys were little, nurturing them seemed natural, but as they’re getting taller than me and far stronger, I find myself praying for wisdom! I’ve sought out much wisdom in raising boys because my childhood memories offer no sage guidance. I wasn’t raised in a rambunctious house or amongst the shepherding of little men. Yet, God has given me to these sons and these sons to me, and I seek to find blessing in this relationship for each of us.

But boys are different, and God intends for them to serve and glorify Him differently than girls. Accordingly, Nathan and I aim to see and raise our boys as future men. Hopefully this doesn’t strike you as chauvinist or gruff. Masculinity is not tough to the extent of rude. It isn’t lacking in respectful communication. Not gross or uncourteous. Teaching boys coarseness or callousness to the point of harm is as destructive as not teaching them the purposes of manhood at all.

We teach our children the same general principles and responsibilities especially while they’re little. Both boys and girls learn to obey, share, help. Of course they are taught to make their beds, empty trash bins, wash dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher), dust, sweep, and vacuum. At the same time, Nathan and I know that there is distinction in God’s design for boys and girls, so we also strive to reflect those distinctions in how we train them.

Boys intuitively know honor, and they can thrive under authority that doesn’t drive them to resentment. Cutting remarks will not foster this strength. There is one thing in particular that we teach our boys that we don’t teach our girls. It goes back to the original garden – we teach our boys to protect others, especially those who should be able to rely on their protection. They begin with their sisters.

This is a distinct responsibility and even young boys can be trained to rise to it. The manifestations of it as they grow is that boys will open and hold doors for others, walk on the sidewalk between a girl and traffic, carry bags for mom w/o her asking, push the grocery store cart, when its overloaded, shield those who are weaker from verbal or physical abuse – essentially what I Peter 3:7 says: treating women as honored creations of great value, and John 15:14 says: giving of themselves for the aid of others.

During our trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, we hiked some steep trails that required really good shoes and expert skill (of which I have neither!). Not only that, but for most of our excursions, I had Baby Samuel (10 months old) strapped to my chest in his baby carrier! One late afternoon hike took us trekking down an old ski run. About halfway – and a dozen switchbacks – down the run, I felt my feet begin to slip on some granite shards. Suddenly the harness of Samuel’s baby carrier was jerked from behind and held taught. Alexander had noticed me slipping. He reached out and held the back-strap of the baby carrier the rest of the way down the slope. I was quietly proud in that moment – experiencing the fruit of some of the lessons we had been teaching and witnessing one of the boys protect without request.

God allows these little affirmations throughout our trials of faithfulness. Nathan and I wish you the same quiet joys of his grace in your endeavors, too!

Nathan & Damaris