Favorite Kids' Christmas Books

Our tree is up, warming scents fill each room, and festive wreathes with big velvet bows are hanging on the front porch. It’s December, and it’s Christmas! This year, we have a new sweet babe who helps us remember to savor the delights of slow and simple.

Our day is busy and our plate is full, but we try to give books a cherished piece of our day. In the chaotic flow of the holiday season, sitting down to read aloud a lovely picture book is soul-filling and grounding.

During these first days of December, we got out a new set of story books! Sometimes it’s my spontaneous craving to see a dreamy smile light their small faces yet other times we sit to read intentionally. Either way, each bed has a throw, so no matter where we plop down to read, we can grab for pillows and blankets to get comfortable.

We purpose to make Christmas a very treasured day, and enjoying these sweet books with the children is part of the anticipation and celebration of the holiday. Some of the books we recommend are from our own shelves, while others we borrow every December from the library.

The Very First Christmas tells the story of Christopher, an eight-year-old boy who no longer wants to hear fairytale bedtime stories. His mother recounts the miraculous events of Jesus’ birth and answers many of Christopher’s questions about Christmas. Christopher and his mother read familiar portions directly out of the Bible at bedtime. Children of kindergarten age or so will thoroughly enjoy the many truths in this little book.

The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey must be the most heartwarming read-aloud that takes place in the 19th century. Even though we read the story each year, we still savor every page. Gloomy Mr. Toomey has a broken and hardened heart, but his relationship with Thomas, a seven-year-old boy, and his mother begins to brighten his life. This is powerful and humorous story of hope and joy. The gorgeous artwork will captivate all ages!

The Little Drummer Mouse is a loose rendition of the Nativity story starring a little mouse. Children of all ages will be engaged by the paintings. Everyone will be lost in the details of the artwork and find it absolutely beautiful. This story will both delight and surprise you.

Christmas Farm is a little hidden treasure about Wilma and her young neighbor boy Parker. This little neighbor comes to share the doughnut Wilma makes every Saturday morning. With his help, she plants a Christmas tree farm from seeds which they care for year after year. As Parker gets taller, so do the trees. They count how many trees perish, and slowly begin to make a business together. We always feel as if we can smell the green balsam branches while we read!

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree tells of a tree so, so big, that it needs trimming. The tree top gets passed on to the maid, and continues to be passed on to bears, foxes, rabbits, and a little mouse family. A timeless and adorable children’s story.

The Nutcracker is gem that has fascinated imaginations for over two-hundred years! Written in 1816, it appeals to both little ones and adults’ sense of wonder. This charming tale is worth reading again and again.

The Twelve Days Of Christmas is a traditional tongue twister of a song, and everyone enjoys singing along as we flip through the delightful pages. Jan Brett’s illustrations never disappoint!

The Night Before Christmas is the well-known delightful poem. The arrival of St. Nick on the most memorable night of the year is enchanting. The art work is visually brilliant and full of antique ornaments and toys. A classic poem that reads very quickly as the exciting story unfolds.

The Tailor Of Gloucester is the Beatrix Potter tale of a poor hardworking tailor struggling to finish a beautiful coat for the Mayor’s wedding on Christmas Day. Written and illustrated in 1902, Beatrix Potter’s art is always darling and the story always sweet. This year was our first time to discover this little treasure!

How The Grinch Stole Christmas is still as popular as ever! In classic Dr. Seuss rhyme, it tells of how joy changes everything. The author exposes the greed and materialism of this season through the Grinch, who is so cranky an heartless. Throughout the story, you’ll witness his transformation. A fun, little classic everyone should own!

The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy who embarks on a magical adventure on Christmas Eve. The train’s many excitements lead him to the North Pole for a most fantastical night. It’s a beautiful book all ages will enjoy!

Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas is a collection of picture puzzles to search and solve on every page. This is a favortie book to have in the car or carry in your bag because it’s perfect for holiday travel. Definitely a fun treasure-hunt! It’s actually Nathan’s favorite, I think : )

Each year we discover a new treasure! What are some of your family’s favorite Christmas books? Share your favorite titles in the comments below…

with love. Damaris

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Calm and Comforting Holiday Hosting

Baby James is a month old today, and oh how sweet this first month has been! He is getting little rolls and nothing cold make me happier! I will be sharing his birth story soon, but I seem to be having difficulty finding enough uninterrupted time to write it : ).

We shared five simple ways to prepare for all your holiday hosting here, and since we’re all gathering in our home for Thanksgiving again, I’ve been doing a little more putzing around the house than usual. Moving a few things from room to room and picking up a couple new, inexpensive items help me savor the joy of preparing for guests. Tasseled throws, velvet pillows, candles that delight the senses, and specialty maple coffee help to warm up our home and make it a place of comfort.

Although keeping the décor and the traditions simple is key during this busy season, I try to make an effort to maintain enough routine and tradition that it’s motivating and inspiring to me and those that share our home. This special season of gathering with those we love is the perfect time to find joy in arranging cozy, spaces that are lovely and inviting.

We’ve all been most giddy and filled with excitement about cousins, siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents gathering in our home for the upcoming feast. We’ve also been taking time to write down reasons we are thankful and sharing gratitude to the Lord for his steadfast love fills our hearts and home with contentment.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

– Psalm 138

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


15 Simple Fall Pleasures

Today I gathered all of our autumn books from the schoolroom shelves and brought them to the coffee table in the living room. This simple ritual seems to the official inauguration of the new season in our home.

I love autumn! While I am fond of the fall foliage, the quieting outdoors (no more toads, cicadas, nor crickets), and the abundance of apples and pears, what I truly love most is the change. Just the change. Each time I begin to feel it in the air, I am in awe of a God who delights in giving good gifts to his children. I can’t help but thank Him for the new colors, textures, and light of the moments that make the transition from summer to fall.

The other day, I sat down to write a list of things I can’t wait to enjoy in the coming weeks. I thought it would be fun sharing it with you!

Here are the Simple Fall Pleasures that have me all giddy lately:

  1. candles flickering all day

  2. pumpkins on the porch

  3. deep bowls of chili

  4. crunchy leaves under my feet

  5. visits to the cider mill

  6. brown paper bags of warm donuts

  7. plaid flannel shirts

  8. lamps lit early

  9. hot drinks to warm my hands

  10. slow simmering soups

  11. picking apples

  12. collecting colored leaves

  13. hikes in zipped up sweatshirts

  14. warm cups of cocoa and a game of Masterpiece

  15. pumpkin spice everything

What are the little pleasures you’re delighting in this new fall season? I’ll love to add some to my list : )

With love, Damaris


Autumn in Poetry

If you need a little fall inspiration, I hope you enjoy these seasonal selections of lovely poetry.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

September Midnight

by Sara Teasdale

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,

Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,

Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,

Ceaseless, insistent.

The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,

The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence

Under a moon waning and worn, broken,

Tired with summer.

Let me remember you, voices of little insects,

Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,

Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,

Snow-hushed and heavy.

Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,

While I gaze,

O fields that rest after harvest,

As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,

Lest they forget them.

October

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!

For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—

For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

The Beautiful Changes

by Richard Wilbur

One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides

The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies

On water; it glides

So from the walker, it turns

Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you

Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed

By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;

As a mantis, arranged

On a green leaf, grows

Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves

Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.

Your hands hold roses always in a way that says

They are not only yours; the beautiful changes

In such kind ways,

Wishing ever to sunder

Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose

For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

Ode to Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease;

For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river-sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

With love, Damaris


A Candle in the Window

While I sit here on the porch swing on this gorgeous afternoon, my mind is replaying all of the kids’ excited chatter about a recent experience our family had to host through A Candle in the Window.

If you have never heard of it, A Candle in the Window is a hospitality ministry that provides a network for Christian families around the world. When you sign-up, you can offer your home for conversational dinners or for folks to stay the night if needed. A couple of weeks ago, we received our first email request from a father and son who were on a long-distance road trip and needed a place to stay for two nights. As we cleaned and cooked and prepared beds for them, the children grew more and more curious as to how it was these “friends” were coming, but we knew nothing about them. Meeting new people from far away places can be intimidating, but it didn’t take long after their arrival for us all to feel comfortable and blessed to have the opportunity to welcome them into our home as family.

A Candle in the Window, provided an opportunity for us to learn to be gracious and generous, and it was a good chance for the children to practice being engaging and well-mannered. While we were prepared to provide for our guests’ physical needs after long days of travel, we all were spiritually filled.

During the couple of days of hosting, our family had the privilege to have other believers join our table, sharing their testimony, and speaking of God’s goodness in their lives. It was such blessing for us and our children to be exposed to God’s working in the homes of believers clear across the country! We also enjoyed their musical talents at the piano and the accordion, we shared in family worship, sang together, and stayed up late talking about our families.

This was our first A Candle in the Window experience, and our whole family was enriched and blessed. We’re excited about opportunities to host again. Do you think this sounds like something your family would enjoy too?

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby, some have entertained angels unaware.”

Hebrews 13:2


Managing Mom Expectations

Expectations are not easily silenced, especially when they come from those closest to us (and whom we love most) or from ourselves.

Just the other week, I woke up with a tight grip on the day. Really, it started the night before. The surety of my control over all the phone calls I would make, the blog post I would write, the chores, piano lessons, library returns, etc. I had high goals for the day, and then children bickered instead of getting dressed, the oatmeal boiled over onto the stove, and I forgot to confirm an appointment, and an email came that it got cancelled. To top it off, over the weekend we had run vinegar through the coffee pot to clean it. My elated anticipation turned to horror when my cream curdled to the top of my coffee cup because of the vinegar that hadn’t been flushed enough from the machine. I was utterly frustrated because I had lost all control no matter how hard I tried. In my world, this is not an isolated occurrence – my expectations leave me feeling like a failure all too often. How I want to surrender my moments to God!

Do you ever wonder what went so wrong from your well-laid plans?

At the end of the day, we feel unhappy about how our day went – not feeling as accomplished as other days, or may even feel guilt. I have watched for the things that make me feel satisfied at the end of the day and not disappointed about how the day went. I absolutely love a clean house, and baking, and hosting Bible study, but at the end of some of those long days, I would feel down – not fulfilled in the events of the day. All are good activities, but sometimes may be unrealistic expectations. Spending a little time in prayer, reading to the children, asking them to work with me in the kitchen, or sitting at their side to learn a new school lesson are the top activities that always leave me lying in bed with a full heart from a full day. I am not advocating for not getting anything done here! There are days for accomplishing a lot, and we try to tackle those together. We say ‘yes’ to tub scrubbing and window wiping, and ‘no’ to tea time with an audio book. It is what we were aiming for on that day. Changing our expectation makes all the difference.

We need humility to accept our limitations and admit when we are wrong about unrealistic expectations. Expectations can be unrealistic not because they cannot be accomplished, but because they are not for us at this time. Unrealistic expectations can creep into all areas of our life and can often be poisonous. They quickly drive us to stress and self-pity. Our mind wanders, and our hearts flutter with fear at our inability and failure to meet the unrealistic expectations.

Are you feeling unfulfilled when your marriage supposedly isn’t like someone’s else’s? Are you letting a messy house or running behind schedule irritate you? Do your kids’ childish mistakes and accidents annoy you? Do you feel like a failure when you see disobedience in the children, again? These all have the potential to be unrealistic expectations that leave us with ragged emotions that overtake our hearts – hearts that God wants to shield and strengthen (Psalm 28:7).

Watching over our thoughts and wants will prevent unrealistic expectations from creeping in. I have prayed for both of us, that we make every thought captive in obedience to God and be sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5) so we can be filled with peace as we manage mom expectations.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

with love, Damaris


My Sweet Girl

My Sweet Eva,

God made you wonderfully, and we marvel at the gift of having you in our lives! Your cheerfulness is a delight in our family! My heart bursts to see how you watch for the needs of others and serve them with joy.

When you’re helping the little ones on the swing set or doing farm chores, I watch you from the kitchen windows and pray for you. I pray for your understanding of His love and mercy. I pray that you breathe in His goodness daily. I plead with the Lord that He protects you from all harm and evil, and that He continues forming you to have a gentle and quiet spirit, full of good works.

I pray that my own mothering mistakes won’t prevent you from seeing what a desirable and noble calling being a mother truly is. Being your mom is the greatest gift of my life.

Happy 12th Birthday, My Precious Girl!

with love. Mommy


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