Category Archives: holidays

Christmas 2012

It’s hard to believe the Christmas season is already upon us once again. It seems like just yesterday we were taking down the decorations and talking about how we can’t wait for the next Christmas, and now it’s here! We’re excited to continue some traditions we started last year and begin some new ones. Our hope for our kids is that they look back and treasure the experiences and memories we created, not so much the things that we gave them and we feel that Christmas is one of the best opportunities we have to do this.

Last year, I collected up twenty-three Christmas books that we unwrapped and read each evening in December before Christmas (with the the Bible as the last one on Christmas Eve). It was a really fun and sweet experience that the kids looked forward to each evening. Over the last few weeks I’ve mentioned our Christmas books and the kids get very excited about doing it all again this year. I’ve made just a few changes in the books this year, as I felt a few of them from last year were a little “young” for my kids and wouldn’t grow very well with me over time. If you’re looking for some ideas, here’s the list of what we’re reading this year:

1. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

2. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

3. B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner

4. Silver Packages Cynthia Rylant

5. The Legend of the Christmas Rose by William Hooks

6. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer

7. Night Tree by Eve Bunting

8. The First Christmas by Carol Heyer

9. The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown

10. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck

11. The Christmas Tree Ship by Jeanette Winter

12. All is Well by Frank Peretti

13. The Candymaker’s Gift by Helen Haidle

14. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston

15. Lucy’s Christmas by Donald Hall

16. A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill

17. Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect by Dick Schneider

18. The Story of the Three Wise Kings by Tomie DePaola

19. The Fourth Wise Man by Susan Summers

20. The Legend of the Poinsettia Tomie DePaola

21. The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus’ Birth by Dandi Mackall

22. Cranberry Christmas by Wende and Harry Devlin

23. The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt

24. Bible (Luke chapter 2)

Twenty-four books wrapped! It was a very time consuming task, but well worth it!/strong>


Another thing we’ll be doing this year is putting even less emphasis on presents for ourselves. We’ve tried to be pretty consistent with our message to the kids that life is not about gaining possessions and we’ve tried to carry that over into what we’re teaching them about Christmas. They’ve even been known to remind us or eachother “What’s important is not stuff and things!” so I think they’re getting the message. Our kids are not making lists of things they want and we don’t really talk much at all about presents for Christmas. There’s plenty of opportunity to make gifts a big part of birthdays, but Christmas is about the gift that Jesus is to us and how we can give back to Him. I was greatly impacted when I read this post by Ann Voskamp about how we can give gifts to Jesus by giving to those who are in need rather than just collecting up more stuff for ourselves. So this year we’ll be spending most of our Christmas spending money on things from gift catalogues. We’ll each have a budget, make our selections, cut out the picture or description, and wrap it up as a gift for Jesus. We’d love it if our tree had more gifts for Jesus under it than for any one of us. On Christmas we’ll get to open them up and celebrate all the wonderful things we were able to give as birthday gifts to the King!

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40


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Christmas Book Advent- Week Two


We did this one at the table and enjoyed hot chocolate and peppermint ice cream while Josh read. This is a great book, but it’s LONG. It took us 45 minutes to get through it all. Probably not for little ones or kids with short attention spans.


The Christmas Tree Ship (Jeanette Winter). This is definitely one of our favorites. Great story! Not too short, not too long.


This is probably the best version of the Christmas story I’ve read yet.


This one is also probably on the top of my list of the best books we’ve read. What a great story!

The kids enjoyed candy canes while listening.


This is my absolute favorite one yet.

This one is an old favorite. It’s the only book the kids were already familiar with. We read it last year and enjoyed it a lot.

We ended up changing our day 18 book at the last minute. Josh remembered a book he loved from his childhood that he really wanted to include. It’s called All is Well by Frank Peretti. We got an old copy through the mail, which unfortunately came with a very damaged cover, so it’s hard to tell what it is.

Near the end Josh got choked up by the story and I had to finish reading it for him. I love my sweet husband!


This is an excellent one too. Elliot particularly enjoyed it and flipped through it on his own for quite a while after we finished reading it together.

There sure are a lot of great books underneath that tree!

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Christmas Book Advent- Week One




We decorated the tree after reading Mr. Willoby’s Christmas Tree.




We opened our new nativity set.








After reading about Saint Nicholas leaving money in the shoes of some young women who needed a dowry to get married, the kids went to take a peek into their stockings and found some chocolate coins I had hidden in there.





Elliot took his turn reading a book to us.

The kids have enjoyed admiring the tree with it’s ever increasing number of unwrapped books underneath.

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Our Christmas Book Advent

This year we’re starting a new family tradition where we’ll read a Christmas themed story each night from December 1st- 24th. I was so thrilled to find the idea on Pinterest because I just love building family traditions around books! Over the last several weeks, I’ve researched exhaustively to determine what books we would use. Not just any Christmas book would do. I was looking for quality literature that is either entirely about Christ’s birth, weaves His birth into another story, or at least reflects the importance of loving and caring for others. I did not want to use any books that would feed the idea that it is all about getting things. I am so thrilled to have found so many wonderful books. I really feel that the true meaning of Christmas will resound loud and clear with all of our selections. So, with all that said, here is our book list! I will try to update periodically and review some of our favorite books, but considering it’s the holiday season, I may get pretty busy.

1. Mr. Willoby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

2. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

3. B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner

4. Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant

5. Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell

6. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer

7. Night Tree by Cynthia Rylant

8. The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown

9. This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten

10. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

11. The Christmas Tree Ship by by Jeanette Winter

12. The First Christmas by Carol Heyerdahl

13. The Candy Maker’s Gift: The Legend of the Candy Cane by Helen Haidle

14. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by by Gloria Houston

15. The Fourth Wise Man by Susan Summers

16. A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill

17. Cranberry Christmas by Wende Devlin

18. There was no Snow on Christmas Eve by Pamela Ryan

19. The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie Depoala

20. Lucy’s Christmas by Donald Hall

21. Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect by Dick Schneider

22. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck

23. The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt

24. Luke chapter 2 of the Bible


We’re really excited to place these under our tree in just a few days and begin the reading! I’ve also matched several of them up with activities. For example, we’ll start out with Mr. Willoby’s Christmas Tree on the evening we decorate our tree. We’ll get out our Melissa and Doug wooden nativity when we read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (about a man who carves a nativity from wood) and we’ll read B is for Bethlehem on the evening we go to Journey to Bethlehem. We’ll also do some Christmas baking when we read Cranberry Christmas and we’ll enjoy candy canes while we read The Candy Maker’s Gift.

Just as a side note, you may notice none of these books are about the modern-day Santa (We will read about the real Saint Nicholas.) and that is because we don’t “do” that part of Christmas. We don’t think any less of people who choose to do it (and our kids know not to ruin it for others who enjoy pretending), but we have made the choice not to include it. We have a long list of reasons, but at the top of that list is the strong desire to make Christmas all about Jesus and not invite any confusion about what we are celebrating. We also don’t want to encourage the materialism, greed and self-centeredness that the secular Christmas can often encourage. In addition to all this, we want to build an unwavering trust with the kids and we don’t believe purposely deceiving them will provide a good foundation for that. We want to stand for truth first and foremost.
I know people think our kids will be deprived and miss out on excitement, but that certainly is not the case. Our kids anticipate the joy of Christmas as much as much as any other kids. It’s just not based solely on what they are going to receive. There is still a very wonderful, mysterious, and magical element to Christmas when you really think about what happened in that stable in Bethlehem so many years ago and we want our kids to understand that. With our book collection and several other traditions we’re going to be including year after year, we hope to create a joyous Christmas experience that completely radiates God’s truth and love.

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Thanksgiving Break

So, around here when we take a “break”, we very rarely do nothing. We just enjoy a little bit of deviation from the regular routine. Between now and when we leave for St. Louis on Wednesday, we’re going to be doing some reading on a few different things and will probably try to keep going a bit farther in our read-aloud as well.

In St. Louis we’re going to be visiting the Lewis and Clark Museum, so I thought it would be a good idea to make sure we have plenty of background knowledge on the subject. A few weeks ago Elliot and Josh briefly read about Lewis and Clark in the history book they read together, so he is familiar with them, but I thought we could still learn a bit more.


We’ll also be doing our annual reading of some Thanksgiving books in the few days prior. Sadly, I could not manage to secure Cranberry Thanksgiving from the library in time, as it is very popular and all the copies were checked out. I’m taking it rather hard that we won’t be able to read it, as it was going to be a yearly Thanksgiving tradition. (It’s an out of print book that is really expensive to get, otherwise I would have just bought it..)


Elliot is also finishing up a fiction book about a family that moves west from Kentucky to Kansas in the 1800′s. I am loving how all of our various themes (exploration of the west, Indians, and that time period in the U.S.) seem to all weave together even though I really didn’t plan it this way. It’s so fabulous when that happens!

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President’s Day

We were excited to celebrate President’s Day today, since the presidents happen to be one of Elliot’s favorite topics at the moment. We read a library book about the presidents, did our presidents floor puzzle, Elliot did some coloring pages of some of his favorite presidents and we listened to our favorite song about the presidents on YouTube!

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Our Field Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

I love field trips! Today the weather was amazing and it was the perfect day to visit the pumpkin patch, so I decided on a whim that’s what we would do. I love that I get to experience this kind of stuff with my kids and even better that we can make our school days more exciting by going to all sorts of fun places!

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