The Peaceful Birth of James Nicolas

On Saturday evening, October 20th, we had plans to watch a kids cartoon movie and get ready for church. I prepared baked French toast for Sunday breakfast (ready to bake in the morning), ironed necessary outfits, and we all sat to watch the little movie. That’s when I realized that the sporadic contractions I had a few times a day the last couple of days were just a little more intense. They came so far apart that I would even forget to look at the time in order to keep better track of the progress.

I chose to sit on my exercise ball while everybody cozied up on the sofa under blankets. Of course Samuel wanted to sit with me, so we bounced on the ball for the duration of most of the movie. Since I was hoping this was labor, I held Samuel close and whispered in his ear all sorts of sweetness during the movie. It’s always a silent goodbye to the toddler when one brings a new baby home. At least that’s the tiny heartache I was feeling that Saturday night.

At around 7:30pm, towards the end of the movie, I went upstairs and took a shower wondering if it would all progress during the night and wanting to be ready. When the children were all ready for bed, I was drying my hair and told Nathan about the contractions, but that labor didn’t seem to be moving along. He agreed that we could have everything ready just in case. I saw that he pulled the hospital bag from the closet adding a few things to it. He asked if I was going to bed, which I begrudgingly did. By now it was 10:30pm, and the contractions were still 8-10 minutes apart. There was no reason to stay up to wait for what might slow down or even go away during the night. Nathan fell asleep while I watched the nightstand clock…Every…Ten…Minutes.

By midnight, I was sleeping between the contractions, since I could no longer stay awake. Nothing had changed since 7pm. At 3:04am (8 hours later), I couldn’t get comfortable to work through this contraction, and got out of bed. Four minutes later came another one just the same, and another one. By 3:15am, I knew this was it.

I woke Nathan up, made the bed, grabbed the bag, and he made the call to his parents. And we called again. And again. And again for half an hour! By 4am, we knew we had to go, so Nathan woke Alexander and Eva to explain that Grandpa and Grandma would listen to their voicemail first thing in the morning and come right over. Thankfully, our children are not early risers. : )

We headed to the hospital down quiet, empty streets – I wanted to remember it forever. We checked in to triage where they asked for my birthing preferences: unmedicated and water birth. The midwife said I was 7 cm along and that baby looked great and head down. Perfect! Then we walked to our spacious and birthing tub room. The nurse brought an exercise ball, and I rested over it with my knees on the floor. I had my verse cards and read and meditated on one for 15 minutes or so. This kept my mind focused, filled my heart with peace, and gave my a prayerful spirit.

At around 7am, I got in the warm tub. I imagined we were getting closer although the contractions didn’t seem to have become stronger during our time in the room. Now in the water, they were 8 minutes apart. I knew that the water might slow labor down, so this didn’t bother me. At 9:30am (after being in the tub 2 1/2 hours and contractions still 8 minutes apart), I asked the midwife what her opinion was on breaking my water.

I had requested not to be checked during labor, but I realized the midwife would need to confirm the baby’s head engagement before breaking the bag of waters. She returned at 10am, examined, and baby’s head was perfect to proceed with breaking the water. I was still at 7 cm. I had not dilated any more since our arrival at the hospital at 4:30am (almost 6 hours later). This confirmed that the decision was timely.

I got back into the tub, and a few minutes later, by 10:30am, contractions were very different. I stood up out of the water and hung onto Nathan’s neck. Then came another one so strong that I walked out of the tub much to Nathan’s alarm. “Where are you going?” He asked repeatedly with concern. I couldn’t say, I just needed to get out and move. I never went back into the tub.

Things moved so quickly. I asked Nathan to call the nurse because I needed help. “There must be something they can do for me.” Nathan brought me a nose strip to put on my nose! (I had asked him to pick them up at the store, for better breathing in case I felt the need). I had been feeling lightheaded during these last few intense contractions which made me feel like I couldn’t catch my breath – I just couldn’t take a breath that was deep enough. This made me very anxious, and I felt that I needed help. I couldn’t do this. Nathan gave me the nose strip which made me annoyed because I couldn’t believe he thought this is the help I needed!

In the previous weeks I had made Nathan promise that he wouldn’t give-in if I asked for pain medicine. It. Was. INTENSE! I managed to get past Nathan to press the nurse button. The nurse and the midwife came in, and I was on the end of the bed working through transition. I still wanted help, and Nathan said to me, “Remember all the people that are praying for you.”

The midwife suggested that I get on the bed because I seemed a little unstable (shaky legs). With each of the next few contractions, I felt the need to push at the end of the contraction. I was on my knees and with each contraction, I could feel the progress. I held onto Nathan next to me and just focused. The midwife and the nurse were sitting in chairs next to the table of post-delivery supplies. All was quiet the entire time, until I called out that the baby was crowing. It was 11:06am when the midwife came to the bed and said to catch my baby. “That’s it. He’s here. I’m done. He’s here. He’s mine.” I was elated.

James is now almost 2 months old, and it’s a daily delight to get to know him. We are grateful for the gift of God of this new boy, and for all of your prayers and sweet words of encouragement throughout the pregnancy and as labor approached. It made all the difference to remember those cherished prayers!

with love, Damaris

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A Bundle of Boy

Photo credits: Maria Wild

After so many months of waiting, after so many weeks of prayer, after so many days of anticipation, on Sunday, October 21st, we met the newest life that had been growing – James Nicolas Kirkpatrick!

Born at 11:06 am, 6lbs 15oz, and 21inches long. Handsome, intelligent, brave…and according to Daddy, looked as squishy as all of our other ones : )

We have been so thankful for all of your prayers, and we cherish those who continue to pray with us that one day little James will know the one who brings true life, the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ!

Jesus said to them,

“I am the bread of life;

whoever comes to me shall not hunger,

and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

With love, Nathan & Damaris


Have You Heard the News?

Photo Credits: Maria Wild

We’ve lingered for weeks into months holding this secret.

My body is slowly, conspicuously telling what’s been growing inside.

During a slow winter Saturday morning, Nathan read a Scripture passage in Exodus after pancakes. It was the story of Moses’ birth and how his mother kept him because he was beautiful. Nathan explained that there was nothing extraordinary and charming about baby Moses – he wasn’t especially handsome, but that she saw God’s creation. “She knew the little baby was made in the image of God – he was a fingerprint of the Creator. Life is beautiful.” I almost cried both hormonal tears and tears of joy.

Never before have I not told Nathan the news of a positive pregnancy test as soon as I find out. But this time, I felt that I had the courage of cupping my hands around this secret. Since Valentine’s Day was only three or four days away, it would be special to share on that morning. In the excitement (and my usual lack of control over secrets), I celebrated Valentine’s Day a day early. Nobody said anything until I was all done with my gifting and sharing The News! If you follow us on Instagram, we posted a little video of the unveiling of the secret. The children were at the breakfast table when Nathan opened his card which read, ‘Lots of Poop and a Whole Lot of Love.’ He knew instantly, but the children wanted to get a clear interpretation : ). So much excitement on that early morning! We were all so giddy that we wanted to take the day off to celebrate.

We chose to tell my parents on Father’s Day, which in Spain is on March 19th. We were all on speaker phone, and the children announced it so loudly that it took several attempts until my parents understood. To Nathan’s parents, we shared the news the day before Easter. Providence (still 3) asked Nathan’s mom if she was having a baby. Upon her glancing at me, and I blushing, Providence finished by saying that we were. Lots of joy and congratulations brought relief that the secret wasn’t mine to keep any longer.

God is so good!

We have a lifetime of blessings still growing inside, and I’m so glad that it’s no longer a silent family affair. It feels great to know that all of you know and care. Thank you!

with love, Damaris


Are you Fun?

Why don’t you laugh as much as my friend’s mom? I was stunned. Next, I was hurt. But really, I was disappointed in myself. On a very rare occasion, my kids had been in the car with another mom. When the kids came back, they were retelling me all the fun they had on the car ride. Walter’s mom laughed when they told funny stories.

There were many demands with six little ones. The oldest was 9, and he wasn’t very in tune with serving his siblings. This left me with a mission- all day – to get the work done. I was obviously wearing the seriousness of the stress of mothering and the busyness. I moved from one task to another so quickly, that anything requiring more than 30 seconds of my time had to be stopped. I interrupted because I had to move on. My mantra was moving on, moving on, which I often said out loud. The lists did get shorter, but my temper did too, and my face grew longer. Usually wearing a stern face, the last thought on my mind was to add fun and laughter to my day!

My girl’s question was a convicting reminder that my countenance affects my kids. They need clean clothes, nutritious meals, and orderly surroundings, but they also need my joy. I’ve often thought since then, what would my girl say now? Am I more lighthearted? Do I listen to the children’s “knock, knock” jokes and laugh? Is our atmosphere fun? Can we sing sillies, and dance deliriously? Our days are short, and I want to fill their lives with joy.

A joyful heart is good medicine.

Proverbs 7:22

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


We Wish You a First Christmas!

From our family to yours, we wish you a“First Christmas”!

Our prayers as a family this advent season seem to have focused on the desire for God to grant us the freshness of sight of that first Christmas.

Amidst all the festivities of the season, the pageantry, the stockings and growing skirt of presents under the tree, even the familiar carols and Scripture passages; we flail out for rescue. Our hope lies in revisiting His Christmas anew:

May He shock us with His glory like those shepherds cowering on the night hillside.

May He bewilder us with His mercy like old Zechariah.

May He humble us with His favor like young Mary.

May He bolster us with His strength like obedient Joseph.

May He draw us with His inextinguishable light like those searching scholars from the east.

Let us all together flee with desperate need to the overwhelming graciousness of the Immanuel, God with Us!

One recent resource we found that helped our family to these ends was this video produced by VidAngel. It is a fresh, poignant reminder of the tangible need of each of us and our children for God’s divine intervention into our darkened world, and of the welcome light His Son has brought!

a thought from Nathan


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


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


Summer's Final Sunset

I see the petunias on my front porch, and there’s no denying that summer days are fading quickly. The tomato and cucumber plants in the garden have yielded up their fruit. Last night at dinner, with red watermelon juice running down the children’s chins, we all recounted some of this summer’s favorites. I know that we won’t remember all of the days, but we’ll remember the moments of this season. Some of the highlights that the kids already recall: a surprise late-night run to a new ice cream shop, a visit to the zoo, camping in the backyard (really just sleeping in the tent) and a day spent at the fair!

Some folks choose to do school throughout the year, and not break (or maybe you have to if you’re in a state that goes year-round). One of the main reasons why I like to take an extra long breath for summer is because I have so many sweet memories of my own of the long and slow days as a child. We’ve wanted the children to learn to work hard for a season, so we can play hard in the summer. “Playing hard” isn’t exactly doll & GI Joe time ; ) It looks more like weekly visits exploring the library, mid-day grocery shopping (taking time to hit all the Costco samples), Tuesday breakfasts at Panera (read more on our fun here), and lots of talking, staying-up, sleeping-in. Evening bike rides and big-kids-only late night board games bring togetherness and connection that we will draw from for many weeks to come.

Another favorite that we have enjoyed for many past summers is listening together to audio book series throughout the summer. Summer break provides time to listen while building Legos in the living room or while riding in the car on our way somewhere (since we’re pretty much always at home during the school year). This summer we read all 9 books in the Little House On The Prairie series! Everyone loved them! Because we all listen together, I have found it easier and natural to engage the kids about the stories, their themes and lessons.

So here we are in the transition days – trying to get back into the discipline of being early-risers, calendar-watchers, and list-creators. There’s a little less lingering at the table, and we should be getting to bed earlier each night (right). The air is crisp, almost chilly, in the mornings, and soup makes the menu; but I’m not quite calling it quits yet. I think we have room for at least one more watermelon!

with love, Damaris


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: Generations.org, 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.

Take-Aways

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