Remembering the Vows on Our 16th Anniversary

Photo Credits: Maria Wild

Just this week, I came across a little piece of paper with my vows handwritten on it. It was in a box of daily letters Nathan and I wrote to each other during the months of our engagement.

“I promise to love you, obey you, respect you, honor you, and help you in time of sickness or health, and forsaking all others, cling only to you. I will do you good and no evil all of the days of my life.”

The vows are serious. Staggeringly serious. But we did not take these vows trusting in our own strength to perform. The grace that enabled us to take these vows will be there to draw on when the performance of them seems hard.

Throughout the last sixteen years, we’ve sometimes seen God quietly in our mundane, and sometimes seen in Him break into our lives with bursts of His glory. Each week turned month turned year, we’ve tasted His mercy as we see that our lives aren’t a series of rewards for doing things right, but circumstances strung together that speak of who God is and who we aren’t.

There is nothing more satisfying, glorious, and grand than to seek together the kingdom of God. In this season of life, we primarily seek the kingdom of God by teaching the children who God is and what He requires of us.

Our children are our marriage’s most precious gifts, and we tell them how God protects our vows and what He has done in our life. This is our joy, that they may know God and never remember a day when they didn’t love Him.

So here’s to one more year in the fountains of His mercy – one more year of happiness keeping these vows!

Happy Anniversary, my Love!

with love. Damaris


Second Trimester Update

All photo credits: Maria Wild

So much has changed since I was pregnant with our first! I remember going in for monthly check-ups, and my OB would ask if I had Braxton-Hicks. I had no idea what she was talking about and assured her that I didn’t have any. The weeks were eternal, the wardrobe was all new, the indulgences kept coming, the house cleaning, matching little outfits, and storing of newborn diapers was in full swing. So much has changed since my first pregnancy!

Every week, I read to the children the baby’s development, size, and weight. They’re so very curious, and it’s pure joy for me to see how much they’re bonding with baby even while in-utero. BabyCenter and TheBump have weekly updates that have been interesting to follow. This week’s baby-size-from-the-produce-isle is a head of lettuce : )

This is the last week of our second trimester, and I thought I’d let you in on a few of the latest, exciting things happening around our pregnancy. A new thing since the last couple of weeks is stacks of natural, calm birth books on my nightstand. Also exciting is that, so far, I have had no heartburn or leg cramps. No sneezing accidents or backpain. No constipation or swelling. I sleep great and enjoy feeling baby’s turns and squirms. I am immensely grateful for endurance and stamina while sporting a bump-turned belly (starting to look huge from where I see it) and keeping up with potty training an almost 2 year old, daily outings, and what you already figure is normal logistics of a large family.

I only see my midwife every 6 weeks, and this past Friday was my appointment. I’m measuring on track, my blood pressure is low, and baby’s heartbeat is beautiful. She’s the best and was ok with me declining the glucose test. I’ve declined it before with my previous OB because my blood sugar is always low even after the sugar-shock of the little drink. It’s really nice to have the professional’s trust since this is not our first baby. Since the first midwife appointment at the beginning of our pregnancy, I have been asking her many questions about unmedicated childbirth and alternative birthing experiences. She recommended that I bulk up on some good reading material, hence all of my reading.

Last week, the girls and I went to a baby store and picked out a natural baby wash and a couple zipper pajamas. I will wash everything and show you soon! This is essential for me! I have prepared for each of our babies well in advance, sewing, choosing something new, washing, folding, and maybe doing it again a couple more times : ) I pray for their little person. I bond with them with each and every loving act of preparing.

with love. Damaris


The Best Way to Make Candles With Kids

I have been curious about candle making for years, but really never looked into it. I was intimidated by the supplies, the hot wax, my lack of tools, etc. After Nathan and the boys harvested our honey last fall, I finally had a ready supply of beeswax. After a little bit of research, I learned that candles can be made by using a slow cooker. This made all the difference for me! Hand-poured beeswax candles were something my girls and I could do together with jars we already had. The only things we needed were wicks (available at any craft store). In my opinion, this method is the BEST way to make candles with kids! Also, making our own candles was fun because by choosing the ingredients, we ensured the candles were non-toxic. Plus, they’ll make really cute handcrafted gifts!

We didn’t add any scent to the candles because I wanted the beeswax’s natural aroma to come through. Maybe next time, we’ll add essential oils for the aromatherapy benefits which help stimulating or relax the senses. It seems that a good ratio is 10 drops per candle that might hold about 1 cup of wax.

The simple candle-making formula (regardless of the melting method) is 4 cups wax + 1 cup oil.

Essentials:

Wax: I used our beeswax reserved from last year’s harvest of honey (most of the wax comes from the caps which the bees put on the completed cells of honey. The caps are cut off in order to drain out the sweet honey!) and a bag of 100% beeswax chips. There are a couple other choices of wax at the craft store such as soy wax (from soybean oil) and paraffin (from petroleum), but, of course, beeswax looks, feels, and smells delicious!

Oil: I used coconut oil. Palm oil would be great too. The oil of your choice should be a solid at room temperature. I was curious as to why oil in addition to the wax is used and found out that many candle makers will add shortening to their candles to give the candles a creamier consistency and help them to adhere to their containers. Coconut oil is a natural alternative to the shortening.

Slow Cooker and Slow Cooker Liner: It was the perfect way to melt the wax + oil without watching it carefully over the stove. It doesn’t have the danger of boiling over plus it’s hard to burn anything in a slow cooker! We did use a slow cooker liner, and when we were done using up all the wax I rolled it up and threw it away. Couldn’t have been an easier clean-up. Using a slow cooker also allows for children to help without trying to work on the stove top with a bowl of hot wax that’s melting over a boiling pot of water. Also, the process is not rushed since the slow cooker can retain its temperature for a long time (especially on the warm setting). With the stove top method, the wax will begin to harden around the edges fairly quickly once the heat is turned off.

Measuring cup with a spout: I tried using a ladle to pour the wax into the jars, but the hot wax dripped off the side of the candles. Once it cooled and hardened, I was able to scrape it off, but the spouted cup worked so much better! I did use the ladle to pour it into the measuring cup.

Jars: This is the fun part! You can use mason jars, mugs, tea cups, little crocks, anything that is heat resistant. Reusing an old candle jar is very frugal. If there’s a bit of wax that can’t burn, freeze the jar for a couple hours and the wax should pop right out or use a butter knife to pry it out.

Wicks: We bought these at our local craft store. At least 6 inches is good and trim off the extra length. If the jar is more than 2 inches in diameter, you may want to use two or three wicks so the wax melts evenly.

Hot glue gun: Eva hot glued all the wicks to the bottoms of our jars to keep them in place. It work perfectly!

Easy Steps:

  1. Line the slow cooker (I used these) and add the wax and oil.

  2. Turn the crock pot on low for 1-2 hours. Whenever the wax has melted, you can turn it off (melting time will depend on the amount of wax).

  3. Hot glue (a drop of super glue or a bit of melted wax will work too) the wick bases to the bottom of the jar. Ladle the melted mixture into the measuring cup and carefully pour into the jars. If wax spills on the sides of the jar, wipe it with a paper towel immediately or allow it to dry and wash it off (dish scrubber + hot water).

  4. Add the essential oil to each individual jar (optional).

  5. Place all the candles out of the way and allow them to harden for an hour or two (depending on their size).

  6. Once the wax hardens trim the wick down close to the hardened wax.

  7. Allow candles to cure for 48 hours before burning.

with love. Damaris


Summer Bucket List

Now that we all have summer fun on our minds, I thought I would share with you our family’s Summer Bucket List. Hopefully, some of these will be frugal summer fun ideas to do with your own family and make some cherished memories along the way.

In our home, we are still in a season of nap-times, tantrums, potty-training, finger-painting, and sing-alongs; so keeping the summer dynamic pretty simple helps our family by providing rhythm, consistency, and ease. One of my favorite things about following a rhythm is that it takes the guess work out of what our day will look like. But we do, however, make a list of special, summer-related activities that hopefully prove we are far from boring : )

We didn’t always write out a Summer Bucket List, but we’ve been doing it recently simply because most of the activities are small, and in the past, we’d assume doing some of these fun outings didn’t take planning. Like going to the a family swim night at our local neighborhood pool – the weekends filled up with something else, and the pool would close for Labor Day without us making an appearance. It wasn’t a huge deal, but everyone was disappointed mostly because it’s such a small, inexpensive outing, yet we had actually missed it!

Our Summer Bucket List:

  1. late night ice cream run

  2. go the Henry Ford Museum

  3. blueberry picking in late July

  4. go to open family swim

  5. go out for bubble tea

  6. go to the town square’s children’s music day

  7. have a farm stand

  8. make loads of ice cream

  9. swim lessons at the outdoor neighborhood pool

  10. grill hot dogs over the fire

  11. bonfire night and roast marshmallows

  12. boys and Dad go to Five Guys restaurant

  13. learn to use the sewing machine and sew a couple of projects

  14. go to the Scottish Highland Games in early August

  15. meet Dad at the Farmer’s Market and have a picnic lunch

  16. go to the splash park

  17. older kids watch a movie on Dad and Mom’s bed after littles are in bed

  18. a trip: attend the family conference + visit the Museum of the Bible + visit Washington D.C.

Our Summer Bucket List isn’t extravagant or filled with expensive things. It is, however, filled with a lot of togetherness, learning, fun, relaxation, and endless opportunities for memory-making. Watch for plenty of pictures over the summer. Please share your Summer Bucket List ideas too! I’d love to hear what you have planned!

with love. Damaris


The Perfect Little Life

Once I heard that there was only one perfect home…and even that didn’t last long- ha! We all know how the story of the delightful Eden ends.

Pencil sharpeners full of shavings, library books about crafts on the ottoman, and date pits on a napkin is our ‘perfect’ today. Maybe tomorrow it will just be a basket of baby toys and books creating quiet time next to the sofa. But I’m grateful for this far-from-perfect, because to me this gives me hope that there are diligent, creative, healthy children in our home.

We’re all very aware that Instagram and Pinterest often decide for us what the perfect little life looks like. They are plastic portals into plastic worlds. We admire (and maybe covet) the pretty that we are shown, but even though pictures may tell a thousand words, do they tell the truth?? Pretty doesn’t equal happy. The truth is that our little life is messy, full of tears, nasty sibling remarks, selfishness, and so many crumbs! Yet a life of giving and love-extending is rich full but very flawed.

Today is one of the many times I realize that my little life is far from perfect, because I am far from perfect – flawed.

Our sin separates us from God, but it also separates us from each other. Strife, bickering, selfishness, conflicts, unresolved hurts… Nothing sends me to pitty-party land faster than feeling that I’ve been handed the short end of the stick. I try to be everything to everyone, and I break. This is one of those times. A very stark realization that I am flawed in my own strength. I remember a few years ago making my one-thousand gifts list, but now all I want to do is make a list of all the things that annoy me. I feel so irritated and hurt! I’ve prayed for surrender for a week – let the stuff go; cover it with love. And this is when it gets hard. When I walk out of my prayer closet, and the feelings are still there. I know this pitty-party stinks, but stinky feels pretty good right now.

When those sinful emotions grip me, I’m tempted to think that I have fallen prey and the Truth isn’t setting me free. But the truth is that God works in us even when we don’t feel the change. “God never places us in any position in which we can not grow. We may fancy that He does. We may fear we are so impeded by fretting, petty care that we are gaining nothing; but when we are not sending branches upward, we may be sending roots downward. Perhaps in the time of our humiliation, when everything seems a failure, we are making the best kind of progress.” (George Lewis Prentiss, More Love to Thee: The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss)

I’m sharing these verses that I have prayed are a sweet comfort to you today, too!

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

John10:28,29

P.S. No, I never did write the list of annoyances : )

with love. Damaris


Stop Eating Your Kids' Leftovers!

Pizza crusts, a cold bowl of tomato soup with soggy goldfish, dried sandwich crusts, brownie corners… Are you guilty of eating your kids’ leftovers and counting it as your meal, or maybe you eat them in addition to your meal? I do.

This absolutely must stop. We focus on what we feed the children. Do you carefully make menus so they enjoy a variety of nutrients? What is happening!?

The other day, I made tuna salad for the children’s lunch and gave them each a handful of crackers and a peeled banana. I went back into the kitchen feeling hungry for a crunchy romaine salad (yes, I’m one of those people-ha!) and thought that opening a can of tuna and soft-boiling two eggs would be the perfect addition. Topped with some olives- yum! So I’m chopping away my lettuce, and hear the baby waking up. Give him a little lunch, and now everyone is done eating their lunch. The kids run back upstairs to finish their schoolwork – My hunch was right, they hadn’t finished their lunches.

So I eat the leftovers on their plates and the quarters and thirds of bananas. Then I thought about what had just happened and about how often I do this. The romaine was in a bowl, the water in a pot boiling waiting for the eggs, and I ate soggy crackers with tuna salad- I don’t even like mayonnaise! Don’t count the bananas – thirds of bananas x 7 kids… This happens fairly regularly: I don’t serve myself breakfast because the kids aren’t going to finish their pancakes. Seriously!? Today, I’m gobbling up the kids’ waffle pieces and finishing their yogurts. This must stop. Here are my rules:

  1. Give them smaller portions

  2. Bag (or cover the plates) the leftovers

  3. Save the leftovers for Holly (our Yorkshire pig)

I can’t help but wonder how different if would be if I sat down to enjoy a meal together even if it’s just the children. It would be enjoyable and taste good. Mindlessly eating their leftovers while I cleaned up was not in the least satisfying! We shouldn’t just feel satiated – meaning reaching capacity, but satisfied – enjoying the meal experience.

Do you struggle with this?

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


10 Favorite Thanksgiving Books

We’ve been reading about pumpkins and the changing leaves, busy squirrels and migratory paths. But apple harvests coming to an end and busy little squirrel friends storing away for the winter means it’s time to get out a new set of story books! We purpose to make Thanksgiving a very treasured day, and enjoying these sweet books with the children is part of the anticipation and celebration of the holiday. These are the days to clasp a mug of warmed cider while cozied on a quilt in the living room with a stack of books. Some of the books we recommend are from our own shelves – we visit them every year, and some are newly borrowed from the library.

The First Thanksgiving: A Counting Story moves along very quickly because it’s written in lively rhyming verse and vivid illustrations. The book explains the story of the preparations for the first Thanksgiving feast while counting 1-12. There are hidden surprises in the art and a bold turkey on every page! Do you have a sharp eye?

Sharing The Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story is a collection of paintings set in the 19th century that exude familial affection. The simple rhythmic four-line verse mirrors the ease in which this family works together to prepare their special Thanksgiving Day meal.

Saying Grace: A Prayer Of Thanksgiving is a journey back in time to the hardships and blessings of some of the first settlers. It’s the most delightful story of a young child’s faith and prayer as she recognizes God’s bounty.

Thanksgiving Day Alphabet is filled with historical facts about the special holiday. The plentiful scenes are painted in rich fall colors. Children will learn a treasure trove of details about the English settlers of 1620. Everyone will delight in the descriptions set to each letter of the alphabet.

The Story of the Pilgrims is a nice simplified version of how Thanksgiving started. The text is clear and plain which helps the little ones follow the story while focusing on the illustrations. Perfect for the preschool-aged children!

Squanto And The Miracle Of Thanksgiving is a favorite of the boys at our house! This book captures the remarkable and providential true story that so few people have ever heard. This book clearly depicts Squanto’s Christian faith and the religious roots of the holiday. The illustrations are realistic renderings which all ages will enjoy.

Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration offers the basic history behind Thanksgiving then explains how the holiday sill has meaning for us today. Recounting the difficulties of the Pilgrims and their gratefulness to God. The illustrations are old-fashioned with a wood-cut feel. A wonderful teaching tool! This Thanksgiving story is a classic read-aloud. It is a little long for one sitting, but certainly a cozy read. A great non-fiction introduction for little ones!

Molly’s Pilgrim is the heartwarming modern story of a Jewish family who have immigrated from Russia to escape religious persecution. Anyone who has had to move to a new place will understand the difficulties that Molly faces. This book has been the girls’ favorite read-aloud! They love glazing at the penciled illustrations! With a powerful message to live in peace an safety, this is a wonderful book for the Thanksgiving season!

A Cranberry Thanksgiving is a lighthearted and maybe silly story set in New England. It’s a cold and lonely cranberry farm at the edge of the sea, but on Thanksgiving, the house is warm and full of tradition. It’s a fun holiday read and includes Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread recipe!

Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember is our family’s all-time favorite! We read short portions of this book at the dinner table everyday in November. This book refreshes our memory of the courage and sacrifice that the Pilgrims made and of God’s provision for them. It is a moving account of the Mayflower crossing and the first winter in the New World. This book will help you establish a tradition of sharing your gratefulness with one another at home. It encourages families to build a legacy of memories and thankfulness and celebrates faith, family, and freedom.

Every year we discover a new gem! What are some of your family’s favorite Thanksgiving books? Leave a comment sharing yours!

with love. Damaris


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


A Table In The Desert

It seems like a terrible confession to make, but the first year of having a newborn is not magical, blissful, delightful for me. It is sweet, yes, but that year is just plain hard. It is the most up-hill, exhausting climb I’ve endured in parenting. It is hard on many different levels – mentally, I struggle with feeling chronically disconnected, each day trying to fill the shadow of how I know I’m supposed to be. Going through the motions of what ‘normal’ Damaris would do and say. I try to be present, but the days remain hazy and somehow unnatural. Physically, I don’t feel…me. I can’t get comfortable in my clothes, my hair is falling out (yikes!), my skin is dull, and I have no stamina – no matter the amount of caffeine. Spiritually, I wander through a desert. Literally.

Looking back, I know the first year is blessed and full of joyful moments. I certainly don’t despise it! During the last few pregnancies, however, God has been graciously teaching me how to prepare my soul for the struggles of this desert place.

I never made the connection of my struggles with a desert, until our Pastor preached a message on Christ in the wilderness and ministered to by the angels (Matthew 4:1-11). The Holy Spirit used those words to make clear that my soul was hungry – that I thirsted and had no fill.

It is very difficult, in the pace of incredibly busy days, to find time to rest one’s soul. Especially during the newborn months (or, it seems, the whole first year), my doubts and fears springing from my unbelief can readily overwhelm me. I’m in the middle of a wilderness and I want to cry in frustration: “Can God really be trusted?” “Can He really take care of me?” “I am feeling so empty in this desert and see no reprieve!” When I am in the desert, even the memory of once being satisfied, filled, and overflowing has dried up. I am the Israelite who spat: “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” Psalm 78:19.

So, what has been my lesson from the wilderness? When Jesus was alone, God sent the angels to minister to Him! Yes, He sees (El-Roi)! Yes, He delights in me, and will nourish my soul! When I cannot find enough minutes to read the Scriptures between nursing, diapers, and the other children – He will provide (Jehova-Jireh)! For the Israelites in the desert wondering if God could spread a table for them, the resounding answer was God giving them the “grain of heaven” and raining “meat on them like dust.” Psalm 78:23-27

Our seventh baby’s first year has just passed, and God, as always, was all-sufficient (El-Shaddai). He is changing my unbelief for rest and teaches me that He delights in my longing to be nourished. So I pray for you, if you are in the desert, that you will seek God earnestly. He will make streams overflow in your wilderness.

“They remembered that God was their rock,

the Most High God was their redeemer.”

Psalm 78:35.

with love, Damaris