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

Family Currents: Fall Favorites!

We love fall hikes! It’s really the best time of the year to head into the woods and follow the trails. Nathan found a state park that we hadn’t been to yet, and the trails were covered with leaves! It was so beautiful! The best part was running into a couple of ladies riding their horses. Ariel was a very gentle horse!

Changing up the book basket for fall brings new interest and conversations. We’ve had these books in the bookshelf since last year, and we kind of forget about them! Autumn, Fletcher And The Falling Leaves, The Fox Went Out On A Chilling Night (the kids favorite), Pumpkins, and Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn (new to us this year).

Another favorite thing at our house (I’m sure you noticed – ha!) is gathering to eat. We do it several times a day, and this spice cake was the highlight of our baking this week. So delicious! The only change we made was adding a tablespoon of molasses to the cream cheese frosting which made it all the more autumn-y! You’ll enjoy this recipe too, I’m sure! We even ate it for breakfast in a bowl with a little milk.

Nathan and the big boys took field trip (with his office staff) to the BIG HOUSE this past week. For anyone not in the state of Michigan, the Big House is the football stadium for the Michigan Wolverines. We’re not football fans, but the boys still found it to be tons of fun. They loved touring the massive structure, pretending to announce from the announcer’s booth, visiting the locker room, and even playing a down on the field!

with love, Damaris

Family Currents

Do you have an artist in the family? A couple of our children love to draw, color, make sketches and even comics. The stay up at night with a little flashlight shedding enough light for them to see their masterpiece! But we have a couple younger children that are intimidated by the process and often give up before they really try their hand at it. That’s where this book comes in! A friend from our homeschool group had it with her a couple of weeks ago, and I knew it would make a difference in the way my kids approached the little sketches and drawings. It simplifies the pictures and also gives a step by step. I would love to own the whole series, because it’s an amazing tool for drawing with younger kids.

Yesterday, we went to the most charming general store! I had been there years ago, and it was fun to take the whole family! They also had an antiques tent sale with beautiful furniture. If you’re in the area, they’re hosting a huge Fall Festival this weekend.

On a recent visit to Aldi, we picked up these tea biscuits called Spekulatius. They are a crisp butter cookie with a hint of spice. There is a print on the front which is mostly hard to decipher. The days have been cooler this week, and the change in temperatures calls for afternoon tea. We’re enjoy dunking our little German biscuits into hot cups of herbal tea and talking or listening to the audio Bible. It has been a wonderful reset for the second half of the day!

with love, Damaris

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

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

Family Currents

As we begin to trade one season for another, September brings new joys. Today has been long awaited for around here! We talk about it, we plan for it, we check in on the orchard, and finally today we kick-off our cider-making season! Even Grandparents join in on the exciting time of the year when apples are ripe and at the peak of their sweetness. It’s a FirstFruits Farms pure pleasure! So, Happy September to you!

Neighbors’ peach trees are still loaded with fruit, and before the season passes, you’ll have to try these peach muffins. They can be a quick sweet bread too! I have trusted this recipe for years, and never fails. Mix 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup any milk, 1/2 cup oil or melted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups petite diced peeled peaches. Grease your muffins tins or 9×5 loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. They freeze great in a ziplock bag! Nothing better than a peach muffin with your favorite cup of tea!

This was our first full week back to school, and it went by so fast! I think because the days are more focused and full, not even the children could believe it was Friday! Isabel gets done pretty quickly and Nora only has a little bit of schoolwork that she does with me, so often they and Providence find a “quiet” activity to do.

One of August activity that has become a family tradition and something that we look forward to every summer is the local Scottish Festival called the Highland Games. I’m not sure what we like best, the bagpipe competition, the caber toss, the sheep dog demonstrations, or the Highland dancing competitions We got pet the Highland longhaired cattle for the first time! We thoroughly enjoyed the family outing!

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:, 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

Haying Time

photo credit: Alexander
It doesn’t get much more fun than playing in the tall grass! It’s up to our waist, and it’s beautiful to see the breezes sway the meadow grass! Patches of clover, orchard, timothy, and alfalfa bend low around our legs as we walk. The little girls disappear when they leave a clearing to enter the grass adventure!

photo credit: Alexander

There is a natural cadence on a farm, and haying time marks one of them. Mid-June is a busy and exciting time when the grasses get their first cutting; the hay is harvested for fodder – livestock feed. Haying time is the season for cutting, drying and storing the hay.

Not enough grass grows year around in Michigan, and we’ll need a source of winter feed. So it is essential that we store hay for the winter. Hay is what we call nutritional grass. The best hay is a combination of grasses harvested at the beginning of the flowering stage when the grass has its rich green color, good plump leaves, and fine stems.

Afternoon is the best cutting time because the dew is off and the plant’s sugars are at its peak. The tractor cuts the grasses, and they’re left flat in windrows for a day of two. The sun dries the dew, and the tractor flips the cuttings for the sun to dry the other side. If the hay doesn’t dry well, it will mold. A rake or tedder on the back of the tractor fluffs the windrows and turns the hay to speed the drying process. Now it will be ready for bailing. Ours are the small, square bales – the type most often used by shepherds.

Soon after bailing, bales are ready to be retrieved from the fields. The smell is sweet, and the pale green bales seem to be stacked as high as the sky on the hay wagon! The boys work all morning to store it in a dry place for the winter months. Because careful storage is necessary, they will stack the bales in the darkest part of the barn. Low moisture and away from sunlight will help the hay preserve its vitamin content. Now it’s behind the great red barn doors.

For evening supper, Daddy grills enormous sausages which seem to please the hard-working boys. At night, all the kids get their sleeping bags and camp out on the long flat bed of the hay wagon!

photo credit: Alexander

with love. Damaris

Family Currents

Found a new favorite family game – PIT! The kids have loved shouting out their trades like they’re on the stock exchange. Well, new to us, anyway. I think the game has been around since paper-rock-scissors was invented ; ) This box that’s been a staple out our cabin is from 1964.

William was gifted a pair of military aircraft models for his birthday. Alexander is more then happy to help him put them together & paint ; )

(He also reminds me they are a ’45 P-51 and a Navy Corsair)

I forget sometimes how helpful models can be to get kids (boys) focused on an activity, with a goal in mind, using their problem solving and creativity skills!

We’ve been making plans for summer! The kids get excited about the possibilities and we talk about the value of planning in order to be stewards of our time. Michigan summers can be short, let’s make the most of it!

Prolific Petunias! The summer Nate and I were married, my mom had petunias blooming on all of her window boxes in Madrid. We have brought at least a couple of flats or hanging baskets each year since. It’s fun to see their spurts of blooms throughout the summer.

with love. Damaris

Family Currents

Haying time marks exciting days at the farm! The boys worked hard to store the bales behind the great barn doors. Grilled brats and sleeping on the hay wagon helped restore some sore muscles.

Isn’t it hard to find grown up hair accessories? This week I found my new favorite! This chunky circle hair clip requires a large amount of hair for it to stay in place, but using a couple inconspicuous bobby pins does the trick. I have been wearing it everyday!

Our third-born William Dean’s 9th birthday was just a couple of days ago. He’s a birth story junkie (really, all the kids are), but we’ll spare you the details. William was born on the perfect summer Sunday. We welcomed him early in the morning on Father’s Day.

My parents visit was the most delightful event! So many fun activities planned that I will have share in a post all its own. We were sad to let them go back to Spain, but we’re thankful we don’t have to let go of the memories.

with love. Damaris