Family Currents

We thought we had a great plan and told the kids that they’d earned a reward of a day at the beach for all of their hard work this summer – and then it turned cold! Grey weekends seemed to be all we had for August, and Damaris and I (and the kiddos) were sure we’d missed our chance. You can imagine the little girls with their floaty toys and snorkels and disappointed faces : (

Who would have thought that the end of September would bring us 90 degree weather?! What a blessing – here we were, mid-September, and we finally made it! The beach was pleasantly secluded in that we had the whole lake to ourselves! Most of our kiddos are not swimmers yet, but there was no need to keep track them. This was the first time I can remember actually being relaxed around water!


Kittens playing. Kittens tumbling. Kittens climbing. Kittens sneaking. Kittens meowing. Kittens purrrrrrring. Kittens peaking.

Kitten playmates. Kitten baby dolls. Kitten jesters. Kitten sleepmates.

Kitten Joy!

One thing I love about these times of year, when you cross the bridge from one season to the next, is changing out the…..library : ) Sure we change out lots of other things with new seasons: bedding, decorations, linens, etc. But ordering a fresh set of books from the library to inaugurate a new season and all the it will have in store for us is such a satisfying joy. The kids gobble up the new books. Their excitement mounts for pumpkin carving, geese coursing south through the sky, leaf kaleidoscopes, final harvests, and on and on.

a note from Nathan

Please Exit Through the Gift Shop

I haven’t been to Rockaway Beach, New York.

I haven’t been to Trestles Surfing in California (let alone the championship).

I haven’t been to Ibiza, Spain.

But I do have a collection of $5 t-shirts from Old Navy that make me look like the hippest world traveler!

I don’t think I own even one t-shirt from any of the places I’ve actually traveled to! That goes for the family trips, for sure (of course, if Costco sold t-shirts…)
Truth is, I’m always a little sheepish (and surprised) when people ask me if I’ve visited any of these places. My response is usually something like: “$5. Old Navy. I’m cheap.”

Most of the places we vacation as a family aren’t the t-shirt shop places, anyway. A few have been, but we’ve been blessed over the past couple of years to spend that rare and special time in a cool way with the whole family – family conferences. Yes, you read that right – a conference for families.

photo credits: Noah Conference 2016

What? and Why?

OK, so if you’re picturing TED Talks on how to up your sales game, or grown men running around in comic book hero costumes, or lectures on the newest dental implants hardware…this is not that type of conference. There are several organizations which host Family Conferences around the U.S. and other countries:, NCFIC, Teach Them Diligently, state home education associations (like CHEC), and Voice of the Martyrs for example. These conferences all vary in subject and program, but the ones that our family have attended have held sessions over the course of several days on biblical parenting, discipling children, apologetics, worldview, mentorship, science, life-skills for teens, and fostering entrepreneurship in the home.

Some of the conferences have had teen learning paths or kids programs, as well.

Alexander would probably say one of his favorite conference sessions was in Denver from a professor at the University of Colorado. He spoke of advanced mathematics’ revealing a universe of intelligence and design (Fibonacci numbers, etc.).

Damaris would say that her favorite sessions have been related to tips and truths for moms on how to thrive in the busy years of raising little ones.

Probably the most motivating reason that Damaris and I have focused our efforts of vacation planning on family conferences is because our time with our kids is so short and there is so much to learn! It has been fun to see the older kids enjoy choosing sessions to attend and then holding discussion afterward about what they took away.

As Americans, our first-world challenges always seem to be choosing between limitless options of…toothpaste, potato chips, cell phone plans, and where to spend our time (and $$) on vacation. In the sea of vacation spots, condo rentals, and destination ‘”been-there, done-that’s” it can be an up-hill battle to be purposeful and intentional in how we spend our family ‘down-time’.

Making it a Success

Traveling across country (or at least out of state) with 7 kids, 12yo and under to stay at a hotel for 4 days of conference sessions takes some serious planning, as you can appreciate! Maybe Damaris will share some secrets to success on a future post – we’ve had some great experiences and some lessons-learned.

A few things I would throw out there would be:

  1. Plan for downtime – for the sake of everyone’s sanity, plan beaks from the schedule and a place/way to spend those breaks.

  2. Put your Bug-Out bag to use – spending an entire day at a conference center is not exactly conducive to nap-takers, diaper-doers, or seat-squirmers. You’re essentially camping in a building. Meals have to be prepared, snacks stocked up, crayons and dolls in-queue! Over-prepared is under-prepared.

  3. Become a Local – the hotel pool saves the day…every day for us. Local tourist spots (museums, cool parks, city centers, donut and ice cream shops) are an awesome way to break-up the conference schedule and make the trip even more memorable.


It’s worth looking into! We’ve enjoyed the close family time that attending conferences has afforded us. We’ve loved the mix of fun and relaxation with challenge and stimulation. We’ve felt the satisfaction at the end of the vacation, knowing that we’ve made some decisions of how to spend our free-time which will, we pray, produce fruit where seeds have been planted. We’ve met some great folks from all over the country and talked about God, family life, businesses, farm animals…you name it!

a thought, Nathan

Family Currents

This is our first year having a farm stand! It has been so beneficial for the children to work together on harvesting, sorting, wiping all the veggies and, of course – counting the coins in the jar! Now they know some reward for the hot days of weeding. If you’re in the area, stop for a visit!

Nathan and I got away for the evening while the kids read books and played with Grandma. Our hot date: We went to a sheep farm! That’s what everybody does on a date (wink). It’s a farm nearby, and we met our future ewes and lambs there.

We spent all of our time talking, and then got Chipotle on the drive back. Of course, a quick stop to pick up bubble teas to-go for the children, and even Grandma loved it too!

We enjoyed a couple days away last week as a family. As a surprise to the kids, we stopped at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. They didn’t know until Nathan pulled on to the base!

Our trip was short, but jam packed. We spent an afternoon at the Air Force Museum and a day at the Ark Encounter, then finished with a weekend family discipleship conference. You’ve probably heard about the life-size Noah’s ark exhibit. It was truly huge! It took longer to get through it than we thought it would. We had packed our lunches but left them in the van when we went into the ark… About 2:30 we were making our way back to our van after pressing on to finish the experience. Everyone had a good time – lots to see, but they were definitely hungry!

with love, Damaris

Taking the Mountains with Us

photo credit: Nathan

Damaris has been sharing about our recent family journey out West. What was looked forward to as a long-awaited 2 weeks of adventure, relaxation, and quiet time has now been catalogued in our minds and filed along side so many other memories of such trips – a camping trip by the lake, family visits down south, road trips into Canada… We are blessed, and we’re not afraid of road trips, so the list goes on!

As we hauled the crew off the mountainside our last morning in the Rockies and I told everyone to “say goodbye to the mountain,” it wasn’t a cheerful “goodbye” from any of us. All the kiddos were sad to leave their cousins at the cabin without them, Damaris probably was sighing at the thought of leaving all the quiet solitude behind, and the boys especially were realizing that there were a lot of chores waiting for them at home! The magical, crisp, spiced air of the mountains was soon to be replaced by Interstate 80 (through beef country) for the next 1,000 miles…

photo credit: Nathan

To us flatlanders them-there-mountains were a big deal : )

However, a 20+ hour drive back to middle-America gave me enough time to ponder this and see a flaw in my/our thinking.

While we certainly don’t get to see the granite sentinels of the Rockies very often, there are mountains that we don’t have to ever leave behind. After two weeks of R&R in ponderosa paradise, I don’t have to tell my children to bid these mountains ‘farewell’. In fact the more I think of where God has brought Damaris and I and our little caravan of pioneers on this journey of family, the more I realize that we’ve been living amidst, clambering up, and erecting our own mountains this whole time.

photo credit: Nathan

Have you ever considered that God has a thing for mountains…and piles of stones? He’s strangely intentional with big rock formations which stick up from their surrounding terrain.

Just a few thoughts on this:

The word “mountain” appears around 175 times in Scripture. About 1/3 of these instances are in just two books – Exodus & Deuteronomy.

What’s God up to in these books? …well, mainly:

  • Revealing Himself to His people as the “I AM”…on a mountain.

  • Giving all mankind the LAW…on a mountain.

  • Giving the designs for the tabernacle and how He wants to be WORSHIPED…on a mountain.

As far as big piles of rocks…this is what God had the Israelites do over and over:

  • After crossing over the Jordan River on dry ground – pile up 12 large stones in the middle of the river.

  • Upon the finding of Achan’s sin of theft and lying – stone him and make a pile of stones heaped over his body.

  • After finally defeating the city of Ai in Canaan – pile up large stones (strategically on top of the defeated king) in the middle of city gate.

  • Joshua defeated the 5 kings of the Amorites – piled up large stones in the mouth of the cave where they were buried.

photo credit: Nathan

It’s No Big Secret – God made it clear what he was doing, in Joshua chapter 4 God says about the Jordan River pile of rocks: (21)”When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ (22) then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ (23) For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, (24) so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

photo credit: Nathan

And here are OUR Mountains! God has used mountains and rock piles as markers and memorials of His works. As Parents we are called to do the same. Whether it is through purposeful vacations with our children to get away for focused time together and with God, or it’s through daily instruction and observation of God’s hand in our families – we are building granite sentinels, too. We are charged, and given every opportunity, to point to God’s workings and teach our children who God is and what He has done. Ultimately, as verse 24 says – that the whole world might know and reverence Him!

some thoughts. Nathan


Entertaining Evenings and A Farewell (Trip Part 5)

Grandparents and cousins join our Rocky Mountain stay for the last few days of our trip! Cousins’ lining-up at the swing, playing make believe adventures, swinging at the pinata, playing in their forts, and roasting s’mores at the fire pit bring so much joy to all my children’s hearts! I pray that they tuck these moments in their minds for many years, and the memories become seeds of faith and happiness.

Now that we are all together, we hike the nearby old homestead and listen to the stories told and remembered for four generations.

photo credit: Nathan

The sun begins to sink below the ridge, and we all take in the pleasure of the gilded sunset, golden-rose flamed across the sky. Mount Meeker slowly and solemnly fades all shades of gray.

Restful afternoons make way for entertaining evenings spent mostly indoors. As we sit on the deck distracted by the busy hummingbirds, family dinners pass quickly! The children spot fifteen hyper hummers in these ponderosa pines! The rugged hundred-year-olds make a perfect sanctuary for them.

photo credit: Nathan

As dusk deepens, we clean up the meal and give little toes, ears, and faces a good scrub. Nora and Providence aren’t going to play any of the table games, but they linger awhile to sit on our laps with eyes as big as saucers! Evenings grow loud with exciting card or board games and popcorn by the fire.

We enjoy a sweet time of singing and Scripture reading; little prayers and big prayers are spoken at family worship just before bed. Then Grandma reminds us to bring the humming bird feeders in at night, because bears visit the cabin hoping for a taste of the sugar water – no bears, please!

It’s been sixteen years since I was first introduced to these mountains, and it only gets harder to leave. Our departure morning’s breakfast on the deck was the most memorable – the sudden appearance of a moose jumped us to our feet! A moose! Everyone was so thrilled they were speechless. Silently, the moose vanished just as he appeared. A couple more pictures, a couple more hugs to cousins, then in the sunshine and warm breeze, we load into the van and start our decent. Once down from the cabin, we pick up speed as we course alongside the winding St. Vrain river. Steadily the terrain turns from grand peaks and crests to deep gorges and boulders, to the rolling Front Range. Daddy tells everyone to say farewell to the mountains…we’re leaving the Rockies …but we’re leaving with more treasures than which we came – quartz stones, mica, some bones (?!), and plenty of gracious memories!

with love. Damaris

Afternoon Adventures (Trip Part 4)

photo credit: Nathan

It’s a steep path to the creek! We skirt elk droppings and follow the loud rushing of mountain water. The wild roses still in buds on the right and the late lupines on the left make this stroll one of the most pleasurable. Spending our afternoons playing in the snow-melt creek, splashing, wading, building dams washes away travel-weariness and deepens our appreciation of the unhurried moments. All too soon, we’ll be back at home in the routines of busy family life and schedules. But for now, it’s a time to bask in the respite and be thankful!

photo credit: Nathan

The ponderosa pines are home to stellar jays and gray squirrels that arrogantly help themselves to our leftovers from the back deck banister. Every time they pay a visit, searching for treats, the kids squeal like they are long awaited company! These wild afternoons are loud with birds that have no music lessons, but their melodious tunes praise an Infallible Composer.

photo credit: Nathan

Nathan’s great-great grandparents homesteaded in these mountains in the mid 1890s, so we talk about the simplicity and hardships of those days frequently. A few stories have made it down through the generations – mountain lions & outhouses, logging wagons toppling over, breadmaking in baby preparation….Every time I scrub fabric against fabric at the kitchen sink and hang Samuel’s now-clean tiny pants to dry on the thin log rail, I faintly channel a pioneer.

photo credit: Nathan

Windy afternoons turn to grumbling thunder and cool rain. Everybody’s back at the cabin requesting mugs full to the brim with hot chocolate! Just below the living room windows, we see elk trotting, weaving their way as the storm subsides! Sudden weather changes are not unusual in the mountains, and this rain will chill the heat of the day into a crisp and beautiful evening.

photo credit: Nathan

I have found a dream of beauty

at which one might look all one’s life and sigh.

– Isabella L. Bird, Adventures in the Rocky Mountains

with love. Damaris

Mountain Mornings (Trip Part 3)

Photo Credit: Nathan

The silver underside of the aspen shimmer with the slightest breeze, and I feel the sweet morning wind from the wide-open window. Mornings begin much earlier than at home. Partly because of time zones, and mostly because we can’t wait for a hearty breakfast! I sit to enjoy my coffee, and smile at the little chilled mornings faces and bright eyes. We enjoy baked oatmeal with cherries, and Daddy reads a portion of a chapter in the book of Proverbs.

We decide on a hike and pack lunches quickly. Alexander and William fill water bottles and load it all in backpacks. It’s a joy to start our trek in sweatshirts – in the end of June, but the day always warms up while we hike. The smell is unmistakable – a mix of ground granite and arid pine needles crushed under our feet. The chatter of squirrels’ quarrellings accompanies us always, and at the summit, the sun beats hard. I always fret about kids holding on and watching their step! On cue, Nathan begins instruction about keeping a low center of gravity and walking on the sides of our feet : )

Photo Credit: Nathan

Of all the children, invariably it’s William who finds our wilderness wonders – strange animal bones, remains of an old camp sight, quartz stones, and even antique engine parts!

Photo Credit: Nathan

After a picnic break, and as we make our way back to the cabin, we divide up some juicy apples to munch on the way. Now back at the cabin (a little sun-kissed and a lot tired), Baby Samuel goes down for a nap, and we breathe in the quiet afternoon.

Days unrushed, unplugged, and unexpected.

with love. Damaris

Family Currents

During our Costco trip this week, a sweet lady asked to get her picture taken with us! The kids quickly lined up and grinned while her friend took a few pictures of our circus. We ran into her two more times in the store, and as we were checking out, she handed us a couple dozen cookies from the Costco bakery! It reminds me of the words of Jesus, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

To say we had a lot of laundry would be an understatement. The cabin (see trip posts here and here) doesn’t have washing machine. Since we had packed 6 outfits per person – for a family of 9 – we did go to the laundry mat in the nearest larger town. The workload was spread over a couple of days, but we washed 8 sleeping bags, 2 loads of whites, 5 blankets, 5 pillows, 4 loads of colors, and a half dozen stuffed animals! It feels so good to have drawers of clean clothes!

Stone fruit is in season around here, and the sweet peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, and cherries are on the table in one way or another. We make lots of cobblers in the summer, but this crisp was a welcomed change! It comes together very quickly (I used a food processor to cut the butter in), and we doubled the crumb mixture to have ready in the fridge for the next crisp.

We have an owl in our garden! He’s the new addition to keep away the critter muncha, munchas (ugh!). We’re trying to improve on the long-standing odds of:

One for the blackbird,

One for the crow,

And that will leave

Just two to grow.

with love. Damaris

Welcome to the Mountains (Trip Part 2)

Photo Credit: Nathan

Upon arrival to our little mountain town, we stop for the freshest spring water that runs uninterrupted. We fill jugs and water bottles for a few days’ supply. Crystal Springs is our first stop, and we frequent it on numerous walks during our stay.

The old ski road is as bumpy a ride as ever! The cabin is waiting for us on the right. Plain and tall, it’s large door stands locked. We’re the first to break the winter fast, and no doubt, fill it with all manner of happy sounds! First things first, the children pick a flag, and Nathan raises it high over the top deck. We often see this flag peering amid the trees on our hikes.

Photo Credit: Nathan

Making and filling the humming bird feeders in another first day ritual. Nathan and Eva follow a recipe for “juice” (sugar water) that will keep the humming birds busy at the three feeders. Ruby Throated and bronze Rufus had been watching in the pine trees, no doubt. The “honeybirds,” as Nora calls them, buzz by so close to us the instant Nathan hangs the feeders!

A hike to Big Rock, which is a large boulder out-crop about 500 ft. in elevation above the cabin, is the most celebrated and anticipated tradition. Nathan reads a Psalm at the summit, but this year we recited Psalm 121.

Unload, unload, and unload some more – we’re ready to call it a day, except, of course, a visit to the outhouse. Nathan says that a visit to the outhouse makes you fit for the mountains (no, thanks!).

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

with love. Damaris

The Journey West (Trip Part 1)

Smooth shades of green lay on both sides of the road for miles. The sandhills of western Nebraska are beautiful! It’s definitely beef country, and the little girls love to call out all the cows they see! Daddy asks, “Who would like to have a ranch out here?” We see calves following their mamas, and some are black, camel-colored, and brown with a nose spot. The girls comment on the sheen of their hide and at how healthy the cows look as they make their way to the shade of a cloud.

Tumble weeds roll in these prairies and gets caught on wire fences. Not a tree in sight. The boys spot antelope on top of the knolls, and two stare at us driving by. Finally, still in Wyoming, the peaked clouds at the end of the road are still. The further we drive, the higher and wider they grow towards the sky. Then we realize that there before us, calling us, spread the Rockies.

Photo Credit: Nathan

As we get closer to the foothills, the snow makes Indian Chief’s face more pronounced than I remember. We make the obligatory last-ditch stop at the grocery store, then up the mountain we wind – through the Saint Vrain Canyon. It always takes my breath away – feeling so small in between these momentous rocks. We follow the Saint Vrain River, the road clinging to the side of the rocks, as we gain altitude and feel the temperature drop. Nathan rolls the windows down and tells everyone to breath deep….ahhh the mountain air!

Our first stop is Crystal Springs.

with love. Damaris