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Our Advent / Christmas Reads

I’ve had a few ask for a list of our Advent and Christmas reads so I thought I would share them here today. These are all ones that we own, but, be assured, we check out a good pile from the library every year that is just as large! Each year, we like to add a couple new ones to our collection. It didn’t start out big, but with every passing year {and a few good library sales!}, we are able to grow it.

These are some of our most treasured books. They get brought out at the beginning of the Advent season and stored away at the end of the Christmas season to be discovered anew the following year. Sometimes we like to wrap them like presents to use as an Advent calendar of sorts, but this year we will simply be pulling them from their basket on the hearth during reading times.

Please share some of your favorite Christmas reads in the comments so we will have new ones to discover too!

{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

Especially for Advent and Other Feast Days

 Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp — Short, lovely reflections written to share alongside your children as you follow from Adam the lineage of Jesus’ family tree.

Waiting for Noel by Ann Dixon — A perfect story to begin the Advent season. Baby Noel is due at Christmas and her family anticipates her birth, just as we anticipate the arrival of the Christ Child at Christmas. It is easy to identify with the joyful anticipation of waiting for the birth of a child!

Lucia: Saint of Light by Katherine Bolger Hyde — To celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, we read this book that shares the story of her life as well as some traditions to celebrate her feast.

 

Quiet Time Together

A Christmas Garland compiled by Grace Hudson — A lovely collection of Christmas poems, perfect for Christmas afternoon tea times or anytime, really.

All for the Newborn Baby by Phyllis Root — A song by Mary for her new little one.

Prayers Around the Crib by Juliette Levivier — Perfect Christmas prayers for your little ones.

 

Especially Sweet for Toddlers

Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate — I promise this lyrical poem told from the perspective of the manger animals will get stuck in your head. A big hit with toddlers.

One Night in Bethlehem by Jill Roman Lord — A touch-and-feel that allows children to imagine what it would be like if they had been there the night Jesus was born.

B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner — Beautifully illustrated, each letter of the alphabet gives us a glimpse of the Christmas story.

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown — A toddler favorite told in lyrical form of all the important elements of the Christmas story.

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell — No matter what, there is always room for one more in the stable.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle — As a blanket of snow quietly covers the entire farm, a surprise awaits at the end as the farmer completes one, last task.

 

Nativity Stories

This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar — Told through lyrical repetition, the story of that Christmas night.

Father and Son: A Nativity Story by Geraldine McCaughrean — Joseph’s heart is revealed in this sweet story reflection on his role in the nativity.

Saint Francis and the Nativity by Myrna A. Strasser — This story reveals the origins of keeping a Nativity scene.

 

Just For Fun

The Littlest Christmas Elf by Nancy Buss — There’s a special place for all of us, even the littlest of elves.

I Spy: A Candy Cane by Jean Marzollo — The classic I Spy book is given a Christmas twist in this addition.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson — Bear is usually asleep during Christmas, but he friends won’t let him snooze this year. Or will they?

Olaf’s Night Before Christmas by Jessica Julius — A Frozen obsession drew us to this fun book. The Night Before Christmas, Olaf-style. Includes a CD read by the snowman himself.

Paddington Bear and the Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond — Per usual, something’s bound to happen when Paddington goes to visit Santa Claus!

A Gingerbread Christmas by Jan Brett — A jolly chase to find the perfect Christmas perfect tree! Gingerbread baby is always a delight. {We also love Gingerbread Friends!}

Guess Who’s Coming to Santa’s for Dinner? by Tomie dePaola — The chaos of the family Christmas gathering. Apparently, even Santa experiences it too.

Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans — A sweet tale in the classic Madeline tradition.

The Mitten by Jan Brett — Will all the animals fit into the discovered mitten? And what will it look like when it returns to the boy? {In the same vein is her book The Hat.}

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert — A Nordic tale of a little girl’s wish to become one of Santa’s elves.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner — A rolicking tale of what those seemingly innocent and quiet snowmen actually do at night when we’re all sleeping.

 

Christmas Traditions

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas  — A story of Christmas memories beautifully told through the eyes of a child. We picked up our copy at Shakespeare and Co. when we were in Paris in October, so it’s especially meaningful to us.

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg — You will never see a candy cane the same way again. A wonderful telling of the meaning behind the candy cane.

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal — Adjectives to describe our feelings during the Christmas season, perfect for little ones to understand {and a recipe for cookies at the end!}.

An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola — Early American Christmas traditions are shared in this book by the famous author Tomie dePaola

Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker by — If you have a daughter who loves the ballet, this and the author’s others are perfect for her. Told through the eyes of a tiny ballerina, it gives the story of the ballet in a wonderful format.

 

Classics

 Comment le Grinch a volé Noël {How the Grinch Stole Christmas} by Dr. Seuss — We read {with translation} the French version of this famous story of the Grinch who wanted to make everyone’s life miserable on Christmas, until he found out the true meaning of Christmas.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers — Our favorite telling and illustration of the delightful Nutcracker story.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg — The classic tale, with beautiful illustrations, that belongs on every child’s shelf.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Christian Birmingham — With wonderful, large illustrations and big print, it is the perfect book to cuddle up with a telling of the famous Christmas story.

 

Books Sharing a Song

The Huron Carol illustrated by Fr. Jean de Brebeauf — A lovely Christmas carol by a Jesuit missionary to Canada, this is an illustrated version that shows how the Hurons took the story of Christmas as their own.

The Friendly Beasts: An Old Christmas Carol illustrations by Tomie dePaola — The song of the animals contribution on that Christmas night, wonderfully illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Good King Wenceslas read by Jane Seymour and illustrated by Omar Rayyan — The story of the benevolent king who went out on a cold Christmas night to bring Christmas joy to the people of his kingdom.

 

A Lesson Revealed

The Small One by Alex Walsh — Forced to sell his tiny, old donkey, a young boy won’t sell him to just anyone….

The Nutcracker Doll by Mary Newell DePalma — Big dreams start small as Kepley finds out in her first (yet tiny) role in the Nutcracker performance.

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider — A beautiful lesson revealed that it is more important to sacrifice yourself for others than to maintain perfection.

The Miraculous Child by Alvin Alexsi Currier — A Russian tale on the importance of hospitality

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson — Mortimer the mouse doesn’t want to share his newfound house with stiff strangers…until he hears the story of the first Christmas.

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo — The impact the smallest act of kindness can have on a person who is lonely.

 

The Shortest Advent

This year, Advent will be the shortest it could ever be. Christmas Eve falls on the same day as the Fourth Sunday of Advent, so we’ll be lighting that last purple candle in the evening…and heading to Mass to celebrate the birth of our Savior just a few hours later! It’s incentive to get my ducks in a row beforehand, so I’m making plans as it will be here in just two short weeks!

Advent may be my favorite time of the year. I like the preparations for Christmas, almost as much as the holiday itself. It’s not the hustle of the season that draws me, but the opposite that we are called to: the quiet, interior preparation for Jesus’ coming. I suppose it is a bit like nesting. A mother joyfully awaiting the arrival of her precious child. She cleans, she cooks, she prepares sweet “gifts” for her babe. She wants all the things to be just right when her little one comes.

I feel this way, too, waiting for Christmas. I want to prepare the hearth for my family celebrations, but I also want to prepare my heart for the coming of the Babe. There is goodness and peace found in the preparation as equally the celebration.

There are a few tools I shared in last year’s post on Advent that we will using once again, but a few different ones as well.

In the mornings before dawn, I will start the day with Laura‘s lovely words from Blessed is She’s In the Beginning 2017 Advent Journal. I will journey through the beginning of each Gospel, steeped in thoughts of how God is calling me to begin this new liturgical and calendar year.  It seems a fitting way to begin the day, no?

The beauty of beginnings is how they invite us to behold with fresh eyes. This is why newborns are a wonder. Why gardeners love spring. Why fans cheer at kickoff. Why falling in love makes your heart flutter. Why you can’t sleep the night before a new job. Why the start of each school year sparkles with promise

All that hope and energy buzzing in the air. Anything could happen.

~Laura Fanucci, In the Beginning 

Afternoons will be spent with my daughters reading through and reflecting on Take Up and Read‘s Rooted in Hope. During our tea time, we will follow along with their outstanding children’s guide. With its Lectio Divina style, it will be an excellent way to pray together. I will also gather with girl friends once a week for fellowship using their group guide, perhaps trying out a recipe or three from it to accompany our meetings.

I pray that it will be a fruitful Advent for our household, as well as yours!

“A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our Lord.”
Isaiah 40: 3-5

 

#write31days ~ day 5: planning ahead for Advent

Advent-light

It’s on the horizon, folks.

It seems like Advent is always upon us so much sooner than I had anticipated, so I’m making an extra effort this year, at least, to have a general plan about what we will be doing so I can prepare things in advance.

Last year, I purchased Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest GiftWe are already set to do it this year {minus a “tree” to hang our ornaments on} as I printed out her wonderful ornament accompaniments for the children to color while we read the passage for the day. It seems an excellent way to introduce children to the Jesse Tree, as well as involve them in the spirit of anticipating Christmas. There are several questions at the end of each day easily tailored for different ages.

nativity-advent-calendar

My girls love the hands-on aspect of working with an Advent calendar. We our on our third year of using one similar to this. We may have a chocolate one for each of the girls too. {I waited too long last year to pick ours up at Trader Joes so I will be running to the display this year.} I imagine we’ll also do a paper chain. These girls love their countdown helpers. We greatly anticipate the unwrapping of our Advent/Christmas books that Elizabeth introduced us to last year. It’s definitely worth the extra effort. It’s one of the reasons why I get started early — so I can find those books to add to our collection from used shops! And we love, love, love this child-friendly Nativity that gets played with throughout Advent into the Christmas season too.
blessed is she advent 2016

Coincidentally, Blessed is She just released their Advent products for this year, today. The artwork of the journal by Erica is strikingly beautiful; I know the words by Elizabeth Foss will equally be. I’m adding mine to my cart pronto because these typically sell out very quickly. I purchased the Jesse Tree cards last year and they are a great addition to our devotions for the adults in the family. Not sure I can pass up the print this year either.

 

Links are affiliate. Please support the blog by clicking through when you order — thank you!! <3 

The Beginning and The End

annuncation fra angelico

Although we will not celebrate it today, it is the feast of the Annunciation–one of my favorite feast days to commemorate.

But the reason the celebration has been suspended is that today is also Good Friday.

bouguereau-pieta

I think of Jesus today. I think of the moment of His conception in His mother’s womb. I think of His consummation, His final breath. The beginning, the end.

I think of Mary today. I think of the Annunciation — her ‘yes’. I think of her standing at the foot of the Cross witnessing her Son pass from this life — her ‘yes’. Her unwavering ‘yes’ to all God had planned for her.  The beginning, the end.

When I contemplate the life of Our Lord, I often turn to Mary for help. I feel as if the mystery of her Son becomes just a bit clearer seen through the eyes of His mother. I identify with her well as a woman, a wife, a mother. She knew how to live that ‘yes’ to God with her whole being. She kept her eyes on Him no matter where or in what circumstances she found herself. ‘Yes’ when the news was good; ‘yes’ when the news was bad. But, still, sorrow in her heart when the news was difficult to bear.

My sorrow always fills with gratitude on Good Friday, just as I can imagine Mary’s heart did in each step of her sorrow. Contemplating His Wounds, I see His Mercy, His Love. I want to walk that path with Him, being able to say ‘yes’ to all — to the wounds, the crosses, the derision, the misunderstandings — just as He did…for me. From the beginning, throughout, to the end of my life.

Surrender. Surrender to His Love.

Quietly Preparing

It gets pretty quiet around here come November. I begin to get into Advent and Christmas-prep mode, so little time is left for writing my thoughts and happenings. The cooler weather also makes me pause and become more contemplative. The introvert in me comes out full-force. I miss writing, but I’m happy to be more reserved for a time.

Advent-light

I’m gathering bits and pieces for the beginning of Advent {just only over a week away!}. This year, I’m catching on with the tradition of wrapping a book for each day and opening it as a sort of Advent calendar. The bookworm bug is strong around here, so there is always much reading done, but now Evey also gets a kick out of opening packages, so it’ll be fun to add on that extra element. I’ll be wrapping them in old, brown paper bags as I could see purchasing enough Christmas paper to cover so many becoming rather expensive.

We also will be doing our beloved Advent Nativity. This was Evey’s favorite last year. She never forgot a day, as it was her first act upon rising in the morning. More important, even, than breakfast. 😉

nativity-advent-calendar

We’ll be following along with Ann Voskamp’s, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, together as a family and making our own Jesse Tree ornaments as we go along each day. And, of course, lighting our Advent wreath on the appropriate Sundays.

A small chocolate Advent calendar may also make it’s way to our counter too. 😉

One thing I was fairly successful at last year, which I’ve made even more of an effort to do this year, is purchasing Christmas gifts before Advent starts. It allows us to really dive into the quiet preparation for Christ’s birth. And really remember the reason for the season, without fretting over whether presents have been purchased or not and rushing to beat crazy crowds.

 

What kind of Advent/Christmas preparations are happening in your household? 

Moments {Vol. 10} : 4th of July Celebration

We spent 4th of July weekend at my in-laws’ newly renovated cabin. It is absolutely gorgeous!

And, although I didn’t think it was possible, the view from the deck got better!

4th of July

Not sure if she’s trying to go out or he’s trying to come in, but they’re looking to help each other out.

4th of July 2015

Hanging with Gram!

4th of July 2015

Hard at work on multiple projects.

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

Playing ‘spinning’ with Aunt Lindy.

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

Her favorite pastime currently is placing one object inside another. Spatial awareness lessons for free.

playing

4th of July 2015

The annual 4th of July Serene Lakes sailboat race!

sailboat race Serene Lakes

sailboat race Serene Lakes

4th of July 2015

sailboat race Serene Lakes

4th of July 2015

Many refreshing drinks served all day long.

4th of July 2015

corona and lime

Chillin’ on the deck.

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

Aunt Lindy was, hands down, the favorite of the weekend.

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

reading with Aunt Lindy

4th of July 2015

Only dancing finally put Lulu to sleep. She wanted to keep the party going all day long.

4th of July 2015

Delicious ribs for dinner straight from the smoker, skewered with bamboo from the backyard (Uncle Eric’s genius move).

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

“What’s yours is mine, right, Nicky?”

4th of July 2015

The lack of fireworks was not a problem with the sunset we received.

sunset at Serene Lakes

sunset at Serene Lakes

Early morning walk the following day….

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

4th of July 2015

wildflowers

wildflowers

a man and his pipe

And the weekend wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the beach for splashing and sand digging!

beach at Serene Lakes

beach at Serene Lakes

beach at Serene Lakes

beach at Serene Lakes

Hoping your 4th was as enjoyable and relaxing as ours! 🙂

Moments {Vol. 6} ~ Christmas edition

My girls caught the plague of 2015 pretty much from the moment the clock struck midnight. {Never let the thought pass through your mind, ‘Yay, we escaped any illness this holiday season!’ because you will pay for it.} My already full hands have never felt fuller and I’m under the impression I have more like ten kids than two right now.  We’re still in recovery mode but weaning off the need to be held 24-7 {and I mean 24-7 as I (and Steve) have spent several nights sleeping with a baby held upright so they could breathe easier}.

The kind words my sweet, sweet husband wrote the other day were a great salve to my heart. <3 I’m still in awe of how I was blessed with such a wonderful man to journey with through this life.

I’m hoping to write a review of 2014 but we’ll see how life goes. It could be February….or August….before you see it.

 

In the meantime, here are a few memorable moments from over the Christmas holiday.

living roomExploring the cabin renovations happening at Steve’s parents’ cabin. We can’t wait to party there in the summer!

stairwell

Lindy at the window

red doorGram is ecstatic about her arched, red door!!! 🙂

snow playPlaying in the snow with her cousin before the Muff family Christmas party.

selfie stickOne of Gram’s best Christmas gifts: the selfie stick!! She put it to good use at the family Christmas party.

Nancy xmas storyNancy sharing the Christmas story with the family.

L + EQuality time with Aunt Lindy!

Muff family xmasSteve’s family with spouses and children included. 🙂

cousinsA whole lotta cousins!

chillin' on the couchHow Lucie preferred to do Christmas morning. {This kid!}

xmas treeOur tree on Christmas morning.

opening giftsOpening gifts with Evey on Christmas morning.

reading togetherReading her Christmas book with Daddy on Christmas morning.

LuluLucie perfecting her roll.

scooteringTrying out her new scooter. She’s a natural!

upside down snowmanThe reason why her stocking featured an upside-down snowman.

xmas morning breakfastEggnog cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. {Accompanied by the entire Hundred Acre Woods crew.}

xmas morningA quick pic before Mass on Christmas morning. My dolls. 🙂

avocadoLucie’s second food: avocado. Liked the taste of it, but even more, smashing it!

xmas readingMy brother, Ethan, sharing a beautiful essay with the family that he wrote about serving Midnight Mass at Christmas.

Munsill family xmasMunsill family Christmas photo!

Merry and Bright – Dovewood Court

Dovewood Court is a highlight of the Christmas season in the Sacramento area. The homeowners on this street have it written into their CC&Rs that they are required to put together a light display in their yard to be viewed by hundreds of thousands throughout the month of December. {This certainly isn’t a place to live if you want access to your driveway on December evenings.} One can view it by car or on foot. We usually prefer on foot to get the full experience.

They do not disappoint. Take a peek:

frosty

roses in December

penguins

Margaritaville

grinch

o holy night

support our troops

family

E and snowman

snowballs for sale

Noel

holy family

christmas around the world

magical

gingerbread houses

airport dovewood

garage display

frozen boat

winnie the pooh boat

charlie brown

snowflakes

light dome

in the lights

aglow

Merry Christmas!

train tracks family photo

 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Much love, the Muffs

Reindeer Games {and Candy Canes}

This is turning into a rather crafty Advent and I’m not one bit sad about that. On my own, I’ve been knitting whenever I have two hands free {which isn’t too often}, but what I’m really enjoying this year is getting Evelyn involved with making things. And I believe she takes after her mama on this one.

cousins

E rolling out dough

R cutting out

cutting cookies

My mom invited the girls and their cousins over for a little hands-on Christmas fun. We started out with some roll-out sugar cookies, taking turns with the rolling pin, then frantically trying to cover every space possible with cut-out snowmen, stars, and trees. We found out quickly who was fastest on the draw.

O cutting out

O rolling out dough

quick cutting

baking cookies

Candy cane reindeer is a long-time favorite in my family. We’ve been making them as long as I can remember. We would make them by the dozens and use them to fill out a mug of Kisses for our teachers that we would gift during the holiday season. Some might make it to the tree but they would never hang there for long.

candy cane reindeer

candy cane reindeer 2

candy cane reindeer 3

The easiest way to do these is with a squirt from the glue gun but that’s not a good idea with little hands around. This year we used tacky glue, and it did the trick. {Although, for some reason, the nose of mine kept sliding off. No one else seemed to be having this problem….}

candy cane reindeer 4

candy cane reindeer 5

The intricacy of the craft really stepped up when my brother, Seth, got in on the game and began creating superhero reindeer. {Can you guess which one is which?}

Green lantern reindeer

batman reindeer

superman reindeer

I can’t even.

green lantern protection

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