Family Currents: August Abundance

August has been lambing season! We had marked the week on the calendar as to when the two ewes were due, but the exact day would be a surprise. On the last evening of our trip to Washington DC, we got a little text from a friend who was coming to count the barnyard animals once a day. We were in the outdoor hotel pool, and everybody was out of the water so fast to see pictures of the new addition. By the next week, the second ewe had her lamb, and now one cannot tell the lambs apart. We were surprised at how fast they are and how soft they are. Pure white little beauties!

Our mature pig Holly is due to have her litter in early September! Did you know a female pig’s gestation is 3 months + 3 weeks + 3 days?


Nathan found a swarm of bees in the work shop this week and rehomed them into a hive box. We’ll give it a couple more days to call it a success! Hopefully they like their new home. Then we’ll move the box to join the other hive. This will make a third hive. All of the mid-summer honey has been bottled! Feel free to email us, contact us through this post, Facebook, or Instagram if you’d like to enjoy some raw, unfiltered honey.


We love to go blueberry picking! This U-pick farm has a high bush variety which makes it very easy to reach and fill your bucket without bending low to search for the little fruit. It was a later in August than peak season, so we were left with smaller berries and fewer clusters. We ate our fill while picking and still gathered 8 pounds of blueberries! We enjoyed them all weekend and froze 6 quart bags with the rest.


Samuel’s birthday was mid-August, and it was so much fun to celebrate this sweet baby boy! We cannot handle all his sillies! You can read about his special day here. Since chocolate is his favorite food in the entire world, Eva baked this delicious cake. He was so tickled to open presents with trains, tools, and tractors!


A couple of weeks ago, our family went on a road trip to Washington DC where we attended the Bible Family Conference, visited nearby Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon, and of course enjoyed the national monuments, the Smithsonian, and the Museum of the Bible. Wrote about all the trip adventures here. We can’t wait to go back and learn some more! It was a great place for families – and large families too : )


The first Saturday in August always gets marked on the calendar early in the year. Our family doesn’t want to miss the Highland Games! It is such a summer highlight for us! The St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit puts on a full day of Celtic dance competitions, scone and shortbread shops, kilts, swords and traditional jewelry booths, Border Collie dog races, Shetland Sheepdogs and long-haired cattle for petting, caber toss, tug-o’war, hammer throwing, and other traditional Scottish games. We came home with a dozen lavender-lemon shortbreads that were Mmmmmm.


Farm fresh produce are available every day at the farm stand. We pick heirloom tomatoes by the bushel. The dark purple eggplants, sweet corn, okra, bell peppers and jalapenos are glossy and gorgeous. The spaghetti, buttercup, and butternut squashes are perfect, huge, and at the stand. All restocked daily. We also have real maple syrup and raw, unfiltered honey for sale at the farm stand. Come stop by the farm!

with love. Damaris

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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


Hiking Essentials

Treading Where There Is No Path

I grew up camping and spending lots of time outdoors in the summer. Although we lived in a 9th floor, four-bedroom flat in bustling Barcelona, we went north to the hilly country during the hot summer weeks. Nathan also grew up with a passion for the outdoors by taking many trips to the mountains in Colorado. It’s important to us to share the love for camping and hiking with our kids. We always find that it’s a wonderful time to connect, regroup, refocus, and recharge.

You may remember our trip west – the kids having the run of the mountain, everyday spent outside scrambling up boulders, and climbing the trails. We recall the details of it as if it was just a few weeks ago! While in the car road-tripping back to Michigan, we made a list of all our hiking essentials. It was all fresh on our minds, so we hope you find it to be very thorough. Just a couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed a short trip and lots if hiking at a state park, which, of course, did not require as many essentials as the compiled list below. During this last trip, we were always on the park’s trails and had a map of the miles between points. Hiking in the wilderness is the best, but requires a little more preparedness.

Our favorite days in the Rocky Mountains were spent in the wild. We left the cabin after breakfast with lunches packed and ready backpacks. Since are family grows by one more every other year (we love it!), we required two backpacks to fit all of the essentials. We have found that poor quality backpacks are not worth it. We go through them quickly (they get torn at the seams or zippers break), and they hurt one’s shoulders and back. Good backpacks are full of compartments and pockets and have a chest strap to help distribute the weight.

In this list I don’t mention the obvious such as water bottles and packed lunches/snacks. When we go on hikes, we always have with us:

  • bug spray (too many times stumbling into a swampy area has taught us a lesson!)

  • sunscreen (especially with babies that don’t keep their hat on)

  • first-aid (nicely compact)

  • survival kit

  • cigarette lighter

  • camera

  • watch

  • cellphone (even if there is no coverage, phones will call 9-1-1)

  • flashlight

  • compact knife

  • binoculars (if you would enjoy the view from the summit or side of a ridge)

  • high-calorie bars (we like these)

  • water shoes (unavoidably, there will be a spot for wading)

  • topographic map

  • hats

  • chap stick with sunscreen (this one worked great this year)

  • air-horn and bear spray (if you’re trekking in bear country)

  • a pack of tissues (runny noses or inevitable potty break)

When we arrive at the cabin, the children are all to wear a small whistle hanging around their necks. We also learn to watch for changes in the clouds and feel for the wind. Both of these could mean impending storms which are quickly upon you in the mountains.

So next time you’re headed out, I hope you’ll let us know what was indispensable on your hike!

with love. Damaris


Hocking Hills: Camping Trip + Fireside Peach Pie

Last week, we got away for few days to Hocking Hills. We had never heard of it until a couple months ago, and it’s a spectacular state park in southeastern Ohio. Hocking Hills is only a four-hour drive for us, and so we were bound for the perfect camping trip! The rock formations and waterfalls make it a scenic wonderland.

The cool of the deep gorges was a nice respite from the sun, although the trails were also mostly wooded and shaded. We hiked through forestland framed by spectacular sandstone rock recess and caves. I was surprised at how potentially dangerous the deep cliffs were! The names of the trails are so mysterious. How could we leave without making it through all of them?! Old Man’s Cave, Conckle’s Hollow, Whispering Cave, Devil’s Bathtub, Ash Cave, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, and Cedar Falls did not disappoint.

We each had a favorite hike, but mostly the children can’t stop talking about the wading in clean, clear water and filling their canteens and water bottles at the many springs and waterfalls. We were surrounded by what seemed like a jungle. So much moss and fern made everything feel exotic and tropical. Can you tell one of the kids had just finished reading Jurassic Park?

Of course, it wouldn’t be a camping trip without roasting marshmallows and a late-afternoon fishing. Nathan grilled our hearty suppers over the fire. Burgers and brats never tasted so good!

As we made our way back home through gentle hills and rolling emerald pastures, we shared our blessings and the joy of spending time together. Having breakfast and Bible reading, the girls learning to pack lunches (waaaaay too much mayonnaise), and encouraging each other on to keep going as we all felt tired (6 hours of hiking each day) are some of the sweetest memories of our camping trip. Kudos to Nathan who carried Samuel in the back-carrier for all of it!

Fireside Peach Pie (Nathan’s creation – yum!)

  • peach pie filling can

  • white sandwich bread loaf

  • butter

  • Cinnamon sugar

Butter the bread slices, and add two or three spoonfuls of pie filling to one of the unbuttered sides of the bread. Top with the other unbuttered side. Sprinkle each buttered side with cinnamon sugar. Place pie in the cast iron sandwich maker (here). Cook for 3 or so minutes over the embers or until golden (grilled cheese looking). Enjoy the warm pie!

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


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

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Entertaining Evenings and A Farewell (Trip Part 5)

Grandparents and cousins join our Rocky Mountain stay for the last few days of our trip! Cousins’ lining-up at the swing, playing make believe adventures, swinging at the pinata, playing in their forts, and roasting s’mores at the fire pit bring so much joy to all my children’s hearts! I pray that they tuck these moments in their minds for many years, and the memories become seeds of faith and happiness.

Now that we are all together, we hike the nearby old homestead and listen to the stories told and remembered for four generations.

photo credit: Nathan

The sun begins to sink below the ridge, and we all take in the pleasure of the gilded sunset, golden-rose flamed across the sky. Mount Meeker slowly and solemnly fades all shades of gray.

Restful afternoons make way for entertaining evenings spent mostly indoors. As we sit on the deck distracted by the busy hummingbirds, family dinners pass quickly! The children spot fifteen hyper hummers in these ponderosa pines! The rugged hundred-year-olds make a perfect sanctuary for them.

photo credit: Nathan

As dusk deepens, we clean up the meal and give little toes, ears, and faces a good scrub. Nora and Providence aren’t going to play any of the table games, but they linger awhile to sit on our laps with eyes as big as saucers! Evenings grow loud with exciting card or board games and popcorn by the fire.

We enjoy a sweet time of singing and Scripture reading; little prayers and big prayers are spoken at family worship just before bed. Then Grandma reminds us to bring the humming bird feeders in at night, because bears visit the cabin hoping for a taste of the sugar water – no bears, please!

It’s been sixteen years since I was first introduced to these mountains, and it only gets harder to leave. Our departure morning’s breakfast on the deck was the most memorable – the sudden appearance of a moose jumped us to our feet! A moose! Everyone was so thrilled they were speechless. Silently, the moose vanished just as he appeared. A couple more pictures, a couple more hugs to cousins, then in the sunshine and warm breeze, we load into the van and start our decent. Once down from the cabin, we pick up speed as we course alongside the winding St. Vrain river. Steadily the terrain turns from grand peaks and crests to deep gorges and boulders, to the rolling Front Range. Daddy tells everyone to say farewell to the mountains…we’re leaving the Rockies …but we’re leaving with more treasures than which we came – quartz stones, mica, some bones (?!), and plenty of gracious memories!

with love. Damaris


Afternoon Adventures (Trip Part 4)

photo credit: Nathan

It’s a steep path to the creek! We skirt elk droppings and follow the loud rushing of mountain water. The wild roses still in buds on the right and the late lupines on the left make this stroll one of the most pleasurable. Spending our afternoons playing in the snow-melt creek, splashing, wading, building dams washes away travel-weariness and deepens our appreciation of the unhurried moments. All too soon, we’ll be back at home in the routines of busy family life and schedules. But for now, it’s a time to bask in the respite and be thankful!

photo credit: Nathan

The ponderosa pines are home to stellar jays and gray squirrels that arrogantly help themselves to our leftovers from the back deck banister. Every time they pay a visit, searching for treats, the kids squeal like they are long awaited company! These wild afternoons are loud with birds that have no music lessons, but their melodious tunes praise an Infallible Composer.

photo credit: Nathan

Nathan’s great-great grandparents homesteaded in these mountains in the mid 1890s, so we talk about the simplicity and hardships of those days frequently. A few stories have made it down through the generations – mountain lions & outhouses, logging wagons toppling over, breadmaking in baby preparation….Every time I scrub fabric against fabric at the kitchen sink and hang Samuel’s now-clean tiny pants to dry on the thin log rail, I faintly channel a pioneer.

photo credit: Nathan

Windy afternoons turn to grumbling thunder and cool rain. Everybody’s back at the cabin requesting mugs full to the brim with hot chocolate! Just below the living room windows, we see elk trotting, weaving their way as the storm subsides! Sudden weather changes are not unusual in the mountains, and this rain will chill the heat of the day into a crisp and beautiful evening.

photo credit: Nathan

I have found a dream of beauty

at which one might look all one’s life and sigh.

– Isabella L. Bird, Adventures in the Rocky Mountains

with love. Damaris


Mountain Mornings (Trip Part 3)

Photo Credit: Nathan

The silver underside of the aspen shimmer with the slightest breeze, and I feel the sweet morning wind from the wide-open window. Mornings begin much earlier than at home. Partly because of time zones, and mostly because we can’t wait for a hearty breakfast! I sit to enjoy my coffee, and smile at the little chilled mornings faces and bright eyes. We enjoy baked oatmeal with cherries, and Daddy reads a portion of a chapter in the book of Proverbs.

We decide on a hike and pack lunches quickly. Alexander and William fill water bottles and load it all in backpacks. It’s a joy to start our trek in sweatshirts – in the end of June, but the day always warms up while we hike. The smell is unmistakable – a mix of ground granite and arid pine needles crushed under our feet. The chatter of squirrels’ quarrellings accompanies us always, and at the summit, the sun beats hard. I always fret about kids holding on and watching their step! On cue, Nathan begins instruction about keeping a low center of gravity and walking on the sides of our feet : )

Photo Credit: Nathan

Of all the children, invariably it’s William who finds our wilderness wonders – strange animal bones, remains of an old camp sight, quartz stones, and even antique engine parts!

Photo Credit: Nathan

After a picnic break, and as we make our way back to the cabin, we divide up some juicy apples to munch on the way. Now back at the cabin (a little sun-kissed and a lot tired), Baby Samuel goes down for a nap, and we breathe in the quiet afternoon.

Days unrushed, unplugged, and unexpected.

with love. Damaris


Family Currents

During our Costco trip this week, a sweet lady asked to get her picture taken with us! The kids quickly lined up and grinned while her friend took a few pictures of our circus. We ran into her two more times in the store, and as we were checking out, she handed us a couple dozen cookies from the Costco bakery! It reminds me of the words of Jesus, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”


To say we had a lot of laundry would be an understatement. The cabin (see trip posts here and here) doesn’t have washing machine. Since we had packed 6 outfits per person – for a family of 9 – we did go to the laundry mat in the nearest larger town. The workload was spread over a couple of days, but we washed 8 sleeping bags, 2 loads of whites, 5 blankets, 5 pillows, 4 loads of colors, and a half dozen stuffed animals! It feels so good to have drawers of clean clothes!


Stone fruit is in season around here, and the sweet peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, and cherries are on the table in one way or another. We make lots of cobblers in the summer, but this crisp was a welcomed change! It comes together very quickly (I used a food processor to cut the butter in), and we doubled the crumb mixture to have ready in the fridge for the next crisp.


We have an owl in our garden! He’s the new addition to keep away the critter muncha, munchas (ugh!). We’re trying to improve on the long-standing odds of:

One for the blackbird,

One for the crow,

And that will leave

Just two to grow.

with love. Damaris