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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A Bundle of Boy

Photo credits: Maria Wild

After so many months of waiting, after so many weeks of prayer, after so many days of anticipation, on Sunday, October 21st, we met the newest life that had been growing – James Nicolas Kirkpatrick!

Born at 11:06 am, 6lbs 15oz, and 21inches long. Handsome, intelligent, brave…and according to Daddy, looked as squishy as all of our other ones : )

We have been so thankful for all of your prayers, and we cherish those who continue to pray with us that one day little James will know the one who brings true life, the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ!

Jesus said to them,

“I am the bread of life;

whoever comes to me shall not hunger,

and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

With love, Nathan & 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


Verses to Meditate Through Labor

At 38 weeks pregnant, the reality of labor is very near. We anticipate the arrival and long to see the joy this new baby will undoubtedly bring to our family. The Lord has been providing through the waiting with reminders of the blessing of children and the heavenly gift that children are. These verses fill my soul with longing and gladness during the last few weeks of expectant pause:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

Psalm 128:3,4

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:13,14

God often uses pain as a means of drawing our attention off ourselves and on to Him. It is a beautiful process for a woman to see this pain as a means of helping her refocus her attention on her Savior, who is her provider and source of strength. Therefore, focusing on worship, Scripture and prayer during labor are appropriate responses to the process. I believe this is all a part of the sanctifying process of childbirth. Jesus promises the peace that passes all understanding. This does not mean a perfect pain-free labor, but rather the calmness to embrace God as my strength.*

Fear in labor produces excess amounts of stress hormones in our body that can lock up your muscles and limit the supply of oxygen to your uterus and baby. More fear means more pain one will experience. Acknowledging the fear and turning to the Lord for help to let go is surrender.

I believe the Word supplies us with much needed sustaining grace to enable a mother to proceed through labor and delivery. Drawing near to the Lord while learning about the physical process of childbirth glorifies the Lord.Seeking God’s will for one’s care during pregnancy and birth while trusting in His design for your body is acknowledging that He made us and takes care of us.

As I seek to rely on the Lord and wait for Him, I found it helpful to write a few verses on little cards that I keep on my nightstand. Also, these verses will be beneficial to mediate on Scripture to help conquer fears and surrender during childbirth:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6,7

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter5:7

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26:3,4

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.

2 Timothy 4:17.

*passionatehomemaking.com

With love, Damaris


Taking Time to Evaluate and Refocus

I recently shared here how much I enjoy having the children home and the delight of spending the moments learning together. I am grateful to be their encourager, for the time to get to know them and they me, as well as the satisfaction it brings me to complete all the homeschool tasks of the day. I thrive on list-making and getting things done, so every subject for every child is that many more opportunities for me to cross something off my list : )

Although we can all admit that a job completed is rewarding, it is equally important to take a bit of time to evaluate how the days and weeks are going. As much as I love checking lessons, tests, and reviews off the list, it’s good for me to stop and see where I need to refocus. These are some questions that I found to be helpful*:

  • Did I feed myself with the Bread of Life today?

  • Did I discipline my children to love God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength?

  • Did today’s homeschooling give my children a clearer picture of who God is, what He has done, how He sees them, and how He calls them to serve Him?

  • Did I prioritize learning wisdom at the feet of Godly teachers over academic achievement today?

  • Did I focus on character and help my children apply their learning to life?

  • Did we worship God in the chemistry experiment (or the math class, etc.)?

*The complete chart is on generations.org.

I also wanted to share some of the verses that help me to refocus on my calling. We have these verses hanging with a magnet on our schoolroom whiteboard:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:36

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


The Joy of Having Them Home

We now have over a month of completed schooldays, and there are so many things I am pondering.

I adore this season! I’ve been loving this September weather with chilly mornings that turn to warm afternoons. The leaves on the maple outside the schoolroom will be glowing golden soon enough. Even though I love the apple orchards, the sweaters, the colorful leaves, and the hot cider, I mostly love what this season represents – a fresh start. The intentions, goals, vision, and perspective that come with a fresh beginning.

This summer was a fun-filled adventure, as summer should be! However, I’ve been good and ready to inch back into a flow of more home-days of learning. This last month of homeschool has brought that rhythm, and I have to acknowledge the delight it brings to my soul. Taking care of our home and the people in it while consistently schooling is a daily act of worship. These are a few of the reasons that having the children home bring me joy:

I am grateful to be their encourager.

Many layers of learning concur while we spend our day together at home. There is emotional, spiritual, physical, and intellectual training that happens not only in the children, but in me as well. I find great delight in encouraging them and hearing them encourage each other. I love to see them learn to serve one another even in the little things like buttering toast at the breakfast table.

I love the time to get to know them, and they get to know me.

The multiple opportunities for discipline and correction are truly a privilege. I am able to see the problem, address it, and pray with them for forgiveness and God’s merciful help. I get to know the kids, and just as important, they get to know me. The moments reading Scripture, praying, confessing our sins, eating every meal, and just being gathered in the same room is a joy.

I thrive in the satisfaction of completing a task.

As I think about these last few schooling weeks, I smile because I love the routine – the early morning coffee, the quiet rooms (everyone working), and the reward of tasks accomplished. Perhaps these are more superficial joys though gratifying none the less. As much as I admit to embracing simple and slow, I love to work hard and get things done. I gravitate towards productivity, so the fulfillment of giving a spelling test, finishing the first phonics book, completing and grading math lessons, working through two diagrams, and reviewing the memory work by lunchtime makes me very happy.

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


Daily Homeshool Schedules

Last week we shared how we prepared this year for back to homeschool. One of the things we did was take time to make each child’s daily schedule. Then Nathan and I reviewed it and went over it with each child. Now their daily structured learning is written out on a small card and taped to their workspace.

At this point in our homeschooling, we mostly have three learning stages. Just as a broad view of the day, Alexander is in Classical Conversations Challenge B and follows those daily tasks. He does schoolwork until 3ish. Eva and William have the same rhythm because they do the same amount of subjects, and they can be done by lunch with their formal learning. Isabel and Nora are both learning or improving on phonics and share a smaller subject load than the rest of the children. Isabel and Nora have time to read and play after their lessons before it’s even time for lunch. Providence has a letter and number tracing workbook, and she joins in our singing, nature walks, art, and whatever intrigues her that day.

It never ceases to amaze me the wisdom and direction that the Lord gives us as we find a rhythm with each new school year! Every year has a different set of circumstances such as a new baby, a house move, new books or added subjects, toddlers that need entertained, but I can testify that as we begin our ninth year of homeschool, He has been faithful to provide the time, energy, creativity, and all that has been needed for a healthy home routine.

We’re all up by 7 and at the breakfast table by 7:15. I read to them a short devotional and by 7:45, the children are doing/finishing morning chores (laundry, wipe bathrooms, empty trash bins, feed animals). 8 means everybody at their workspace ready for daily Bible time. They each have a Bible or devotional book that they read. This could take 10 – 15 minutes. At this point, the daily tasks become more individualized.

Alexander is following Challenge B, a course with Classical Conversations. He is taking a once a week seminar-style class on his own with friends and developing the rest of the learning at home through research, writing, and discussion. The work load has been a big change for our home’s rhythm, but he loves it and is thriving! His daily structured studies are math, Latin, logic, astronomy, writing, and debate.

Eva and William have math, handwriting, spelling, grammar, and writing. They also join Isabel and Nora for Classical Conversations memory work in a little math, Latin, science, history, and a timeline. In the afternoons, both Eva and William have self-directed and independent research/reading. Usually it’s books from the library about a place, culture, person, or event in history. This independent study will often inspire them to do mapping or illustration. In the afternoon they also practice their instruments and finish an uncompleted subject from the morning (we try to avoid this from happening).

Isabel and Nora have Bible time where Isabel reads the Bible story aloud and has a little bit of copywriting and drawing. This means that Isabel picks one sentence from the story and illustrates it on the same page in her notebook. Isabel and Nora move on to math and handwriting followed by phonics (different levels). By this point, Eva and William should be ready for reviewing the memory work from our Classical Conversations with Isabel and Nora. I try to do this with them too. We sing the songs and identify places on the map for just 15 minutes or so daily.

By this time, our stomachs are growling – lunch is all we can think about.

Nathan reads aloud at least one school night. We purpose to inspire the children during this time as well as teach them about different cultures, so for years we’ve been read missionary biographies.

I don’t know if it sounds like we do a lot. Because we don’t. And I am ok with that.

Thanks for taking a peek into our day!

with love. Damaris


Remembering the Vows on Our 16th Anniversary

Photo Credits: Maria Wild

Just this week, I came across a little piece of paper with my vows handwritten on it. It was in a box of daily letters Nathan and I wrote to each other during the months of our engagement.

“I promise to love you, obey you, respect you, honor you, and help you in time of sickness or health, and forsaking all others, cling only to you. I will do you good and no evil all of the days of my life.”

The vows are serious. Staggeringly serious. But we did not take these vows trusting in our own strength to perform. The grace that enabled us to take these vows will be there to draw on when the performance of them seems hard.

Throughout the last sixteen years, we’ve sometimes seen God quietly in our mundane, and sometimes seen in Him break into our lives with bursts of His glory. Each week turned month turned year, we’ve tasted His mercy as we see that our lives aren’t a series of rewards for doing things right, but circumstances strung together that speak of who God is and who we aren’t.

There is nothing more satisfying, glorious, and grand than to seek together the kingdom of God. In this season of life, we primarily seek the kingdom of God by teaching the children who God is and what He requires of us.

Our children are our marriage’s most precious gifts, and we tell them how God protects our vows and what He has done in our life. This is our joy, that they may know God and never remember a day when they didn’t love Him.

So here’s to one more year in the fountains of His mercy – one more year of happiness keeping these vows!

Happy Anniversary, my Love!

with love. Damaris