The Dance Of Parenting

You make it look so easy!” were the words of a Costco mom who offered them with kindness. She was younger than me by a decade, and was now watching me trying to keep my kids from wandering in front of other people’s carts…again. I think she was referring to parenting looking easy.

As I lapped the store a few more times, I thought about what she said. Sometimes I think that parenting is like ballet. I’m not speaking from first-hand experience here – I never wore a tutu, but the girls have fun looking at books and imitating a few pirouettes now and again. Like ballet, parenting can provide the illusion of effortlessness, but it never reaches a plateau of ease or simplicity. The demands keep changing, and the challenges evolving as our children grow. This requires constant vigilance – even the pros have bloody feet when they practice. So, this illusion of grace and control truly lies only with the spectator.

Painfully slow-moving, weak and awkward is my parenting reality. In fact, I’m pretty terrible at parenting. As I stick with it, I pray I will improve, but I know I will not achieve mastery. No amount of time or practice will result in my mastering the art and skills of being the perfect godly mother. God’s plan for parents is proficiency in faith and perseverance in servanthood (no diplomas or credentials here!).

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1Corinthians 15:58

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1a

Parenting is my test of faith. The labor of parenting, no matter our season, is the Lord’s.

with love, 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:, 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

The Trap of Comparison

photo credit: N

OK, Confession Time:

  • when the Kirkpatrick’s go on vacation, we plan our itinerary around stops at either CiCi’s pizza or artisan donut shops;

  • to avoid cleaning-up mealtime messes at home, we eat outside at the picnic table – even in inclement weather;

  • when it’s been a long busy day (or week), a dinnertime favorite is cold cuts, cheese, crackers, and dried figs!

I have a feeling that we’re not the only family with quirks and habits a little outside the norm : ) C’mon, feel free to share yours, too!

photo credit: Alexander

We all adopt and implement certain ways of doing things. You can read more about methods of that here. There are many reasons for our particular methods (e.g. our mothers did it, it has always worked well for us, our husband’s prefer it, our personalities, etc.). This is why every family has a unique family culture. This is also a main reason why we often fall into the trap of comparison.

Some of us are more vulnerable than others to fall into the trap of comparison. And I’ve found that there are seasons of life where this is true, as well. Sometimes the proclivity of comparison is rooted in envy or resentment, or maybe it’s ingratitude that masters our thoughts. But when these ungodly thoughts canker our hearts and consume our minds, criticism surfaces in our words. Ouch! These are those cringe-worthy moments we would so love to forget!

Needless to say, critical remarks are unproductive and unhealthy to all relationships. Our conversations are supposed to bring joy, encouragement, and comfort.

photo credit: Alexander

The goal of our daily living is not to compete with others. In fact, this is really just an all-too-effecive distraction of what we’re supposed to be spending our energies on each day.

Time for a heart-check? – Rather than disapproving and critical, are we approachable, affectionate? If so, maybe you know the joy of having a conversation with a friend that had a soothing effect on your own soul.

photo credit: Nathan

Recognizing the goodness of God’s gifts to us is a good thing to share, and discussing our way of doing things (methods) is appropriate, too – if we do so humbly and with graciousness. I often need to remind myself that this type of conversation should have no sense of flaunting. Preaching our methods or spreading anecdotes of our sisters and friends is harmful and destructive.

We need grace to bear and protect one another’s different ideas and methods. I’ve found that being reminded that my home and family belong to God, helps me keep a humble and content attitude before Him and others.

“You keep in in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

with love. Damaris


Taking the Mountains with Us

photo credit: Nathan

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

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

photo credit: Nathan

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

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

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

photo credit: Nathan

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

Just a few thoughts on this:

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

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

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

  • Giving all mankind the LAW…on a mountain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Nathan

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

photo credit: Nathan

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

some thoughts. Nathan


Welcome to the Mountains (Trip Part 2)

Photo Credit: Nathan

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

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

Photo Credit: Nathan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with love. Damaris

Sharing Life…not Just a Roof

photo credit: Daddy

Spending time with all the children is a such a delight to my soul, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to be home with them. I’ve found that, just like any other relationship, spending time together fosters closeness. Over the years, I have found different approaches which have helped enable getting to know each child better.

Even though for the past…seems like forever…years we’ve had a baby, a toddler, and a couple school aged children; because we homeschool, spending individual time with the older children has not been difficult. We’ve worked on reading, memorization, writing, etc. on a regular basis and often in a different room focused from the other children. Of course, the way homeschooling goes, this time was often more than just schoolwork and would include conversations, prayer, instruction, and yes, correction.

In addition, one rewarding activity that I have grown to love is playing a board game on my bed with one child at a time. When Nathan works in the evenings on this old farmhouse’s aches, I invite one school age child to pick their favorite game. We play on my bed, where it’s just us, but only on the nights that Daddy’s working and usually for about 30-45 minutes.

With the toddlers, there is always much time spent daily in discipline or instruction. These times of correction are spread throughout the day and require my undivided attention. These are not always “happy” moments (as you can imagine), so I have always loved dedicating some moments for sitting on the floor in their room with them on my lap, reading board books just before laying them down for afternoon nap. As parenting goes, most of them may never remember these moments, but the joy is mine, and I cherish the memories!

I’ve always been able to nurse our babies, and one benefit I’ve enjoyed, is that I get to spend lots of restful times sitting and holding them and talking or singing while I change them. My babies have usually had their last feeding after the other children are in bed – this has worked great for Nathan and I to get special one-on-one time with the baby and enjoy this fleeting stage of togetherness.

I’ve left my most favorite family time for last! For the last several years, Monday night has been family read aloud night after dinner. We have read through poetry books, kid’s classics, but most often Nathan reads Christian biographies. Mostly I fold laundry while he reads; curled up in their pajamas, the children hang on every word!

with love. Damaris

And I Miss Him

photo credit: Eva

Moms with little ones understand that days can be long and nights far too short. Days are so full, and nights too brief to feel revitalizing. This is a reality that many can identify with (and some of you are identifying with as of last night!)

When the children were little, Nathan and I took for granted our freedom to converse during dinner, then enjoying each other’s company the rest of the evening. As many of you can appreciate, time and life have changed this dynamic…ever so slightly – Ever since we’ve had a table (yes, there was a time when all we had was a countertop!) Nathan would sit at the head, and I next to him. Now at our long farmhouse table, it’s that way, and it’s been this way since the beginning. These days, however, even though I’m sitting comfortably at my place beside him, I feel the need to raise my hand to have a chance to ask him how his day has been – and I miss him.

When people ask me: “What’s the hardest thing about having seven children?” I don’t really have much to say, although if forced to answer, my reply would probably shock them – not the laundry or the diapers or the grocery bill.

“I miss my husband.”

Sometimes it’s only a couple of trite questions I want to ask, and sometimes it’s truly a deep concern I need to share; but when Daddy’s walking in the door, all the little people long to see him as much as I do! I will wait while they cheer, jump-on, hug, and kiss – and I miss him.

For a long time now, Nathan has been encouraging me to let the children do dinner clean-up – and not me. He insists that they can do it, that it will be fine, that they have to start somewhere, that they’ve done it before, to get out of the kitchen! But I’m just not good at it. Slowly, I’m realizing that I’m not good at it, because I haven’t completely shifted out of the day’s hustling, yet. And I can’t quiet that little voice in my head that nags me to check for empty milk cups that might somehow have ended up in the fridge, or for shrimp left-overs safely stowed – in the pantry (both of these are true events – grrr!)

Since the evenings have been warmer recently, we have been eating supper out back under a massive maple. We sit al fresco on benches at the pine table. Tonight I am resolved – I will sit with him on the bench as usual, but I will allow the minutes to linger while I cherish the moments of slow. The busyness will be for the children (they have the energy, after all!) and mine will be the cleansing, not of the kitchen, but of the days’ pesky stressors. We will talk about vision and inspiration and just relax. We will have time to think and to listen, to breathe in the air and breathe in each other’s presence. I will be present, honest, and renewed.

My prayer is that this new habit will be recreated again and again!

And that’s my prayer for you too, no matter what your presence-plunderers may be.

After all, while our children have graciously become our overflowing joy and bounty….Adam and Eve were alone-in-the-garden!

with love. Damaris

Family Currents

The girls’ hair is getting longer, and we have some fun experimenting with braided buns. They are also more patient at my bobby pin stabbing . The braided buns are really easy, and they keep the hair out of the honey-coated cornbread. These hairbrushes have helped lessen the detangling tears.

When schooldays are shorter, we can be open to more creative leisurely learning. An atmosphere of exploration encouraged the children to seek beauty in art and in nature this week. The clean up is well worth it!

How many can you spot? Nature fills them and me with zest and enthusiasm. We praise our Creator for His glory displayed around us!

As you can imagine, the rooms in our home need cleaning very often – ha! But, in between deep scrubs, I love to use this to freshen up the bedrooms! I don’t know about you, but I feel more accomplished in my day when the linens smell good.

Photo Credit: Daddy

Nathan and I were so blessed when a couple friend called us the other week and offered to watch all of our munchkins, so we could enjoy some alone time. Baby Samuel agreed to chaperone. Oh, what a treat! And what a good example to us of someone ministering in their season of life. Their children are all out of the home now, and our friends graciously gave their time and effort (puppet show included) to care for our children.

with love. Damaris

Seeds, Soils, and Hearts

Gardening with children has gone from a labor of love to a joy and a help. Still, none of them can recall what has happened to my brand new pair of gardening gloves. After an inaugural dirt clod fight, the rows and mounds in the freshly tilled garden plot slowly began to take form.

Listening to the children’s conversation while we were planting, I gathered that a couple of them were beginning to understand how seeds germinate. This got me thinking about our discussions of the parable of the seed in the gospel of Luke, which we were having as we prepared for planting day.

“And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’ “

To continue to read the words of Jesus and His explanation of this parable, you can go here.

photo credit: Eva

photo credit: Alexander

How we pray that the Word of God be planted in the hearts of these little ones! That the seed may be received with joy and take root. That they may not fall away nor be chocked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life. May the soil of their souls and minds be good and honest. As parents, we sow, and we water, and we weed – and it’s hard work! But it’s God who gives the growth. Praise be the Lord!

photo credit: Alexander

So, after a long, sweaty day of back-breaking garden work (in which we never could find those garden gloves) we plopped under the big maple tree for family dinner. At some point in the day, we did find a forgotten bottle rocket in the bottom of a crate, however (probably left over from a July 4th celebration).

We finished 2017 planting day with a family picnic dinner and some firecrackers!

with love. Damaris