Countdown to Christmas

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It’s hard to imagine that we are already over halfway through November. This Friday, the town we live in will hold its annual light-up night celebration. A few days later, it will be Thanksgiving, then shopping day on Friday. After that? The season of Advent will begin, our tree will be out, our house will smell of spruce and apples and cookies, then then it will be Christmas. Yes, the countdown to Christmas is officially on.

Our family has a lot of traditions, including attending advent calendars. Similarly, Theresa Seidlitz, a young girl (and now author), and her family had traditions. Her family had a Jesse Tree at Christmastime and her dad asked her and her siblings to find kids’ Bible stories to go along with the ornaments they were using for their tree. She decided that the stories should become a book, and thus “Countdown to Christmas : 24 Days of the Jesse Tree Tradition” came to being.

countdown to christmas

I’ll admit – I didn’t know before this book what a Jesse Tree was, but we’ll be doing one this year along with reading Theresa’s book (which comes with 24 paper ornaments matching the Bible Stories she shares). What do you need for a Jesse Tree?

  • A small 2-3′ tree
  • 24 Bible stories to read each night (we’ll be using Countdown to Christmas)
  • 24 ornaments
  • Simple lights
  • Tree skirt

Your Jesse Tree should be simple and be focused on reflecting on the bible stories read each night before bed. You hang the ornament associated with the story on the tree each night leading up to Christmas as a way to get to know Biblical characters.

Are you intrigued? If so, I’ve been given a copy of Countdown to Christmas to share with one of you (enter below!). If you don’t win, you can pick up a copy of the book through the publisher (Canter Press) or on Amazon. Watch us on social media for more about our Jesse Tree!



Demanding Dudley

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“Say please.”

“What’s the magic word?”

“Pardon me! Is that how we ask for something we want?”

If you are saying these things daily (over and over again) like Greg and I do, perhaps it’s time to introduce a picture book from The Wiblets
collection that will teach your children about respect and the right way to get what they want. Our kids heard about 4 pages of Demanding Dudley before they realized the message we were trying to get through to them.


It was that powerful that they knew right away what Dudley’s mama was going to teach them about how screaming and stomping does not get you the apple juice you want. Does it mean they took the message to heart and haven’t screamed or cried or stomped or yelled to get something they want, but it does mean that they think a little more about where those actions get them (the stairs for a ‘lil timeout!). But, all we have to do is remind them of Dudley:

In the case of Demanding Dudley, The Wiblets take on issues of thanklessness and impatience. Children will see the harmful effects of such negative behavior through the example of Dudley, a young Wiblet who forgets the value and importance of “using his magic words.” Dudley and his mother discuss the hows and whys of self-control and gratitude, ultimately demonstrating in a positive light how kindness and patience can go a long way in making and granting requests. After reading and discussing the story of Dudley with their children, parents can make use of the positive trigger question, “Are you being a Demanding Dudley?” in order to establish an immediate understanding with their child if and when the lessons taught by the book have been forgotten.

(From The Wiblets Press Release)

And you know what? I was actually supposed to share this info with you over a month ago, but the kids. Those kids of mine. They “stole” the book from my review pile and were “reading” it to each other to remind themselves (and their imaginary students) of how to ask for the right things. When I asked for it back to remind me of the colorful pictures and [adorable] text tone to show Dudley’s emotions, they told me they appreciated me asking with my magic words. Dudley taught them some big words,  not just the magic ones! Mom win.

If you’d like your own copy of Demanding Dudley, you can visit or get a copy on Amazon for around $11. If your kids like Dudley, there are other Wiblets ready to teach them lessons through books and games on their website.


Goodnight Songs

Odds are, you have not only read Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon but also have read it to your children. A new book by Brown is being published this month, Goodnight Songs, and it is sure to delight you just as much as your other Brown favorites.

Goodnight Songs is a collection of poems found in Margaret Wise Brown’s unpublished collections. Within the poems, readers will find comfort in the familiar routine of going to sleep. Children and adults alike will be captivated by the words and rhymes, finding peace.

Goodnight Songs

Twelve award-winning illustrators came together to provide beautiful scenes to accompany the words. While yes, the words are moving and beautiful, the images accompanying them are also a delight. With calming colors and various artistic styles, there’s sure to be a handful of favorites for each member of your family.  They’ve put together a video about the work that went into creating this book and have shared it on YouTube.

Additionally, musicians came together to bring Margaret’s music to life. (She began writing scores for her poems shortly before passing at age 42.) The accompanying CD, filled with soothing mandolin, guitar, harmonica, and light percussion beats, further brings these poems to life.

This gorgeous book and CD pair were found enjoyable by my ‘lil Burghers, and they evoked a sense of stillness and quiet in our nightly routine. We recommend adding this collection of poems to your child’s library or select several to become a routine lullaby. It’s definitely a perfect choice for a new parent or parents fighting the sleep battle with their ‘lil ones.

Goodnight Songs is available from Sterling Publishing for $17.95. It is a hardback book that contains a 12-song CD.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book/cd in exchange for this review. All opinions, however, remain my own.

Mixed-Up Love

Disclosure: I received the book discussed below in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Mixed-Up Love, written by a Jewish rabbi, Michal Woll, and her husband, Jon Sweeney, a prolific Catholic writer, explores their experience as an interfaith couple. Between deciding if and how to get married, how to practice religion, and how to raise their family, there were a lot of decisions to make.

I connected with the text as Greg and I are living this life. As a Christian married to a Baha’i, I often worry that my decisions to have our kids be raised in the UMC might not be the approved way…but it is the way that works for us. As Michal and Jon write in this book, families need to talk about how their faiths will work together and do it in a fashion that works for them.


My favorite part of Mixed-Up Love was the section on “Coming Together”-going from friendship to dating to marriage. While some people in my life may not get it, faith was was a big player in our decision to marry. We followed the Baha’i practice of holding our wedding ceremony within 90 days of our engagement (talk about whirlwind). We followed UMC marriage ceremony norms and had a separate Baha’i ceremony immediately afterword. Later that night, my dad handed us the state certificate. All of this followed 90 days of making sure it was all *just* right and we weren’t conflicting any practice. It wasn’t easy, but growing up kids of faith leaders, we felt right doing it this way.

And if you ask Greg what one of the things that made him fall in love with me was? He would tell you my dedication to my faith.

Reading this book, I found myself nodding a lot. While I don’t understand the Catholic and Jewish references,  I get the concept and reason they wrote it. And, I appreciate knowing other couples are doing what we are…living our lives as individuals engaged in our relationships and faiths.

You can get a copy of Mixed-Up Love on Amazon. Retail value is $15.

Letting Go

Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

In Sandie Freed’s “Letting Go of your Limitations”, readers will find ways to experience God’s transforming power in their lives. She takes a look at 11 limitations we put on ourselves and helps readers find ways to let go of those.

Source: Chosen from

Each chapter looks at a specific limitation such as “pride”, “disappointments”, or “pressure to achieve results” with a Scripture story and reflective activity.

When I first picked up the book, I was a bit surprised that the first chapter was Letting Go of “Religion” – this is a book about God, after all. Reading it, I realized Freed was looking to help her readers become free of the vision of oppressive/persecuting/hypocritical religion. Both Greg and I have struggled with organized religion at points in our lives, so to read that we were not alone in our struggle was refreshing. The important thing is to hunger for God and let his blessings into our lives. The rest will come as we move with Him (and if I am interpreting my feelings right, lead to finding the right faith community to help build up that journey with God).

The reason you decide to pick up this book and read it will likely be different than mine. You may read one of the eleven chapters and it really speak to you when none of the others do. This is exactly why I believe Sandie wrote this book. If you feel like it is time to let go of your limitations, you can pick up a copy of this book from Chosen: (Available via paperback and e-book for $13.99.)

“God is in the restoration business. His desire is to restore us, heal up the brokenhearted and demonstrate Kingdom power as never before.”–Dr. Sandie Freed

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!

Disclosure: I was sent a book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

“Making connections” is one of the comprehension skills of literacy. Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is a book that made such awesome connections to our ‘lil boy that I shed tears that first time I read it.


Do you see why, yet?

So sweet, this story by Kathleen Long Bostrom tells the story of four-year-old Ryan who takes his stuffed monkey (Rufus) to church.

Just like our Evan and Monkey/Baby, Ryan and Rufus:

  • Greet the pastor
  • Love the Bible story (especially the Ark)
  • Fidget
  • Say AMEN!

I seriously shed tears the first time I read it, because I know Evan would enjoy reading a book like him. Sadly, he didn’t get it at first, but Arianna totally made the connection. She was dancing on her carpet square as the story went on, smiling ear to ear. When it was done, she said, “Bubby, that story is just like YOU!”. And then I think it clicked with our ‘lil boy. 😉

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is the first in a board book series for kids ages 2-5. This series (which includes Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers) provides a simple, child-friendly introduction to the concepts of Christianity, starting with going to church and saying prayers. In addition, the books focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan’s voice as he teaches Rufus about the things he is learning himself.

You can find the series at This book retails for $7.99.

Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

As Brownie the Groundhog settles in for her long winter nap, she warns her friends not to wake her. Of course, they miss her and give her a surprise. The story of “Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise” tells the tale of the shenanigans her forest pals create as they work to make the wake-up worth it.

Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise
Credit: Sterling Publishing

At first, I wasn’t really getting the theme of “they’re waking her because they miss her”, but I definitely laughed along at author Susan Blackaby’s plot and fun language (like “Bumble Crumpet”). And the illustrations by Carmen Segovia are colorful and entertaining, too.

While a bit long to keep my kids up with the plot, they enjoyed the book and laughed lots as we read it. They even liked the extra surprise for fox at the end…because it involved one of their favorites, pie. And I have to give Brownie credit, I would have been pretty upset if my friends woke me up before spring!

You can find this book in bookstores on online through Sterling Publishing. It retails for $14.95 as a hardback and is recommended for children ages 3 and up.


Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Here’s another fun holiday book to add to your collection: M.P. Hueston’s “Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus”. Via Heuston’s words and Teri Weidner’s illustrations, your children will learn what exactly happens at the North Pole while Santa is out and about bringing gifts to the world.

Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus
Credit: Sterling Publishing

Mrs. Claus is hard at work baking treats with the help of her North Pole creatures. The book is full of lift-a-flaps for surprises as to where the missing ingredients are stowed. At the end, there’s even a surprise for Mrs. Claus thanks to her helpers.

This book is charming and a fun “is it here” game for the kids. Mine enjoyed the flaps and got a hungry tummy while reading about the gingerbread, biscuits, and other treats the Mrs. Claus is whipping up. (And my kids are rough readers…the flaps should stand up to normal use. We’ve yet, knock on wood, had an issue.)

You can find your own copy to add to your collection (or Holiday Wish List) at Sterling Publishing‘s website. This book, a hardback, retails for $12.95 and is recommended for kids ages 3-7.

The Gifts They Gave

Disclosure: I received a copy of a book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Based on the traditional Christmas hymn, “The Friendly Beasts” with two new verses (written by author/illustrator Patricia Reeder Eubank) to include the cat and dog, “The Gifts They Gave” is sure to delight your ‘lil readers this Christmas season.

Jesus our brother, kind and good,
Was humbly born in a stable of wood,
And the friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

Adding precious illustrations to the verses, Eubank tells the story of the nativity. Animal lovers will appreciate the tenderness that the stable friends show to the newborn babe. The creatures are illustrated as “fluffy” or snuggly, and are sure to wow your kids. (My ‘lil animal lovers kept saying “awwww” and “so sweet” as we read this story.)

The Gifts They Gave
Credit: Sterling Publishing

While I love all of the pages, the one with the dove and resting Baby Jesus is my favorite of them all. Eubanks made Him look so sweet and peaceful, a perfect Christmas moment.

You can find a copy for your holiday enjoyment in your bookstore orat Sterling Publishing to order online. This hardback book retails for $9.95 and is recommended for children ages 2-5.

The First Christmas Night

Disclosure: I received a copy of The First Christmas Night in exchange for an honest review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

You’re all probably very familiar with the rhyme “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, but have you ever heard a version about the night before the real, first Christmas?

The First Christmas Night
Source: Ideals Children’s Books


Keith Christopher, author of “The First Christmas Night”, has brought us a beautiful poem in the style of this familiar rhyme. A beautiful telling of THE Christmas story (accompanied by illustrations in oil paintings by Christine Kornacki) brought me to tears. I haven’t read this to the kids yet (saving it for Christmas Eve around the tree), but I am sure they are going to love it just as much as I did. Even though we know the conclusion of the story, it’s still a magical, beautiful moment, making me fall deeper in love with all.the.things.

And now, we that know can say with delight, Jesus was born on the first Christmas night!

Suggestions for using this hardback book:

  • Family story time during the holidays
  • Children’s ministers and Sunday school teachers
  • Chirstmas carolers
  • Literacy skills in kids ages 4-8 (rhyming, verbal language, early reading skills)

From the journey through Bethlehem to the visit from the Wise Men, this story is a gorgeous way to celebrate the season. You can get your own copy through Ideals Children’s Books for $16.99.