Family Currents: Swimming, Ants, and a Baby Pig

All of life is learning. We just need to be alert.

Our homeschool group wrapped up classes a few weeks ago, and we’ve started to transition into fun, outdoor activities that we don’t have time for during the structured schoolyear. Don’t you just love the chance to switch up some routines in the summertime?

The children started swim lessons, which they say is the most fun activity because it feels like vacation. It’s helping them to gain confidence and the older ones to get better technique.

All the kids started flag football and softball on Saturday mornings. We have so much to learn! Nathan coaches softball, and the children seem to prefer it over flag football. It’s so good for them to get comfortable with the rules of the game and be a little sore the next day.

We also got an ant farm. Have you ever had one? They’re available here. It’s very interesting to watch them make tunnels and communicate in some way. Providence is so scared of the ‘man-eating ants’. Never, ever open the lid. Don’t ask how we know : )

We’re so excited to introduce you to Rose, the new baby pig. We got her the same way we got Holly at Christmastime. She was also free, so why not? The piglet is about 20 lbs. with a very curly tail. She’s purely pink, and since she came to us in May, Eva thought Rose was fitting. Isn’t she cute!

There are other big happenings at FirstFruits Farms, and we’ll be sharing more in a full farm update soon!

with love. Damaris


Our Many Mothers

On this special day of honoring mothers, I have been thinking and praying more than usual for my mom, my mother-in-law, and our grandmothers. Equally significant, however, are the women in my life who aren’t official moms but provide love, guidance and strength to me – the ones I forgot to commend in my early parenting days. The women who joyfully welcomed me into their home with my mothering blunders and naivety. The many mothers who are far and close, who served meals and watched our children, who have walked beside us during painful circumstances.

This Mother’s Day, I want to honor the many mothers who show up at our doorstep whether we call them ‘mom’ or not. Whether they mentor us, care for us, or just always seem to be there when we need them. Such extraordinary moms deserve our honor. This is not about a lavish gift, but simply acknowledging that they were encouragers in the waves of all the ordinary. These women helped to bring joy in the grit.

Do you have someone like this in your life? We all stand as a testimony of abundant grace shown to us through these women.

This, my friends, is worth celebrating.

with love. Damaris


Zoo Mamas

It’s been a strangely cold spring, but it warmed up last week, and we made plans to go to the zoo since our membership was about to expire. Nathan took the day off, and we headed to the zoo with packed lunches. We’re always surprised at how many school buses are lining the parking lot no matter the day we pick to go. So many people were there when the zoo opened!

My family went on in, but I took a detour to the bathroom. That’s when it happened. I saw the Zoo Mamas. The good ones. The prepared ones.

Parked at the entrance was the convoy of wagons with heaping amounts of nourishment, a week’s worth of H2O, and enough saltines to feed all the ducks in the western hemisphere. Somewhere as well were two little kiddos being thickly layered with white paste, decked out with hats, and even the cutest little sunglasses!

I am not that mom.

I am the mom who always forgets her sunblock, digging an expired one out of the glove box at the last minute. Only every other child owns a hat…so they share. We were at the zoo with a walking stroller, a grocery bag full of sandwiches, apples, and energy bites. Mostly everyone had a water bottle.

Throughout the day, I kept smiling with the thought that we are women of all different personalities, and we’ve been perfectly matched with our children. Isn’t that the most beautiful thing? I’m not implying that we shouldn’t care or should stop improving the love and care we give to our families. The truth is that those nagging voices of doubt, which make us question whether we’re good moms at all, deny God’s role in our motherhood. You and I have to come to terms that we’re the perfect one for our families. God’s fulfilling His purposes in us.

We’re driving back from the zoo as I write this, and we had a good day. We even saw a good friend! We didn’t feed the ducks, but we had plenty to eat. We didn’t burn, and we didn’t lose all the hats and sunglasses (because it would inevitably happen to me).

When we get home, I’m going to buy sunscreen because, even if I leave it in the car, at least it won’t be expired.

with love. Damaris


Rise and Shine: Morning Routines

When I wrote last week’s post about the beauty of rhythms and routines, I realized it would be helpful to give a small example of what that looks like in our home. For us in this season, it’s not about scheduling each half-hour increment, but having a rooted routine that helps with the flow as well as the preparedness of our day. We choose to accept the limitations of a full and lively house, and we keep it very simple. Our rhythm helps us feel settled and enjoying the comforts of home. Also, I actively try to be purposeful with the amount of stuff we accumulate and store. The not-infrequent debate over the found bottle cap or the treasured rock found in the gravel driveway is balanced against the alternative of a constant clutter management.

Our Morning Routines, An Example:

7am: Mom up and waking everybody up. Get dressed. Make beds and tidy rooms. Brush teeth and hair.

Morning jobs: Collect the laundry. Wipe the bathrooms. Empty trash bins.

8am: Breakfast and clean up. Devotions at the table. Finish any chores.

9am: School and creative play for the little ones (play dough, draw/color, puzzles)

12pm: Lunch and clean up. Take a break.

This is just a little look at how we create rhythms in the morning. I hope it helps!

When creating your routines, consider what brings you joy and what times of the day or tasks are stressors. If beautifully fluffed pillows on the sofa bring you joy then take the time to fluff them. If reading aloud, helping the children find outfits and doing their hair, or cooking a meal with fresh ingredients brings you the most satisfaction at the end of the day, make those things a part of your daily rhythm.

In the same way, identify what brings you the most anxiety or stress (messy house, feeling unprepared at mealtime, not spending alone time with the kids), and do what you can to fix it. Your daily rhythm will feel comfortable and help the flow of your days. How you construct your day will not the same way as someone else’s way. For example, I’m usually very tired in the evenings, so we have bath time in the morning while I scrub the bathroom.

It is important that we allow God to soften the crippling voice of guilt, failure, or striving for perfection.

Most importantly, routines and rhythms should help you soak up this season of life! Think about your favorite aspects of your days (baby’s naps, spending time with your toddler, littles’ early bedtimes, help with house cleaning and laundry). God has providentially designed this season exactly how He wants it, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.

Which routines mean happy for you and the rest of the family? I’d love to hear.

with love. Damaris


Family Currents: Early Spring at the Capitol

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

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

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

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

with love. Damaris


How to Hush our Harsh

How we talk to God is consistently connected with how we talk to others.

When I correct the little girls, I try to instruct them that by learning to listen to mommy’s voice, they are learning to listen to God’s voice. While I teach the children this lesson, the business of the day makes it hard for me to listen to the voice of God and be reminded of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Instead, I forget to spend a few minutes with God or get distracted, and my tone becomes harsh toward everyone around me (I admit to all the uglies here). I lose patience so much sooner, I snap, I raise my voice, and I don’t follow through with the commands given. Many days, my to-do list is so long that I don’t want to fall behind and take time to pray.

Recently, I was reading (you can read my thoughts on the book here) Keep it Shut: What to Say, How to say It, and When to say Nothing at All. Karen Ehman suggests to take our to-do list into our prayer time! I love the simplicity:

“To pray your to-do list, find a few moments to be alone and quiet. Ask God to bring to mind all that you must accomplish that day. Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Then briefly pray through each item on the list. If more tasks come to mind, simply add them to the list. Don’t worry that it is unspiritual to stop halfway through prayer and jot down an item. If you’re like me, it will help you to clear you mind and enable you to focus better on your time alone with God. He is concerned about the details of your life, even the errands.”

Why do we assume we’ll find the time to be with God? Setting an alert in your phone to pray on a time you know is consistently quiet is a new idea I recently came across. I have been known to write it on my to-do list : ) Some moms find the best predictable time to be at the beginning of nap time, while they sit in the pick-up line at school, during meal prep when the children are snacking or watching a little show, or first thing in the morning. It’s been working for me to pray during Samuel’s morning nap. I sit in the schoolroom at the children’s table and they’re very curious as to what’s new on the prayer list.

I also use a short devotional book. This is the one I’ve been enjoying for the last few weeks. Some days I take a minute to copy a portion of one of the Psalms. Writing it down helps me focus. Other wonderful ways to hush our hearts and minds can be listening to worshipful music during clean-up or an audio Bible app during lunch.

Due to the ebbs and flows of family life, our routines usually change every 4-6 months, so it’s important for us to be flexible and embrace the new rhythms. Being intentional about our time with God will make an immense difference in hushing our harsh. I know from experience!

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.”

– Corie ten Boom

with love. Damaris


When Kids are Running on Low

February is the shortest month of the year, but it always seems to drag on.

If you’ve been a reader for a little while, you’ll know that we embrace our homeschool days. Our little school room is bursting with books, puzzles, games, toys, Lincoln logs, play dough, craft supplies, paints, etc. This means that the little ones are with us while we do school. This also means we’re all together all day. Literally, we’re all in the same room for most of the day. I like it this way because I can train the littles in sharing and obedience while sitting next to the bigs and grading math lessons. But some days are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days (we love the Alexander books!).

If we try to be sensitive to the children’s emotional and physical needs, we’ll recognize when their little brains are tired or their focus is running out. Often times, it’s mom who’s running on low because algebra, diagraming, times tables, Amelia Bedelia, and phonics are just a little too much. I’ve compiled a list (by no means exhaustive) of our favorite activities to break up the drag:

  1. Visit the local Barns and Noble kids’ section

  2. Take a walk after lunch

  3. Load them all up and go to the McDonald’s drive-thru for iced teas

  4. Take a break, pop popcorn and watch a science video (PBS) or National Geographic Kids (youtube)

  5. Visit the free Natural History Museum in town and take the day off

  6. Drive to the nearby indoor botanical gardens instead of school in the morning

  7. Stop for a break and build puzzles.

  8. Take the afternoon off and make cozy reading corners with blankets

  9. Go to Ikea for hot dog lunch and long indoor walk

  10. Play a fun Pandora station (Disney) or Piano Guys (youtube) during lunch

  11. Pause and put the kettle on. Let everyone pick a favorite tea.

  12. Climb on mom’s bed for a cooking show episode (Great British Baking Show)

Winter weeks are running out soon, but while we continue cocooned, what activities do your kids enjoy?

with love, Damaris


5 Habits for Productivity

Time is a gift from God. He doesn’t owe it to us, yet he gives us days, hours, and minutes generously. Because time is a gift, it is never acceptable to waste it assuming that God will give us more. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

Over and over again I wonder why I don’t get as much done during my day or week as I would like. It might be because I have 7 kids. It might be because homeschooling 5 takes all day or because the baby is still nursing. But honestly, I probably waste more time then I would like to admit. I’m often hesitant at the tasks God has called me to do on any given day, and I procrastinate.

Several years ago, I asked advice from a veteran mom of 10 on how to best start the day. I was completely overwhelmed with all the children waiting for me to direct them onto the next task and organize their school day, two toddler age children that were only going to cause destruction, and a nursing infant that would wake up at any time. I asked how she started her day, and she shared with me these tips on maintaining sanity. I think these are tips for productivity that all of us can find helpful. Whether we take the children to school or not, whether we still have children in the home or not, whether it’s a large family or not, whether we live in an apartment or a large 5 bedroom home, these tips will make you feel not only sane, but also more productive:

  1. open all the blinds- even in the bathroom

  2. make all the beds- children can learn to make their own

  3. collect and empty all the trash bins- the bedrooms, bathrooms, office, etc.

  4. gather and run a load of laundry- everyday (remember to walk through the bathrooms and kitchen for washcloths and towels)

  5. wipe down surfaces- as many as you can, as fast as you can (kitchen and eating areas)

I realize that most of these can be delegated, and I leave that up to you. The simplicity and effectiveness of these tasks always energizes me and gets me feeling productive. The secret is in doing these small jobs before any meaningful activity has begun. For me, that is first thing in the morning after getting dressed but before breakfast. I’m a big believer in cleared counters before going to bed, but I still give them a fresh wiping in the morning. I guarantee you’ll feel revitalized! So blinds, beds, trash bins, laundry baskets, and wipe surfaces – now take a breath and say a prayer while looking out the windows and get ready to make some coffee. Here’s to a happy day, dear ones!

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do — do it all for the glory of God!”
1 Corinthians 10:31

with love, Damaris


Autumn in Olde Towne

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

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

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

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

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

with love. Damaris


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