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Friday, January 23, 2015

Large Group Hula Hoop games for ages prek and up!


Ok.  So the hubby is planning a retreat for our church and he put the two of us down to lead an hour of recreation.  To help him out I said I'd take this on (I love doing this kind of thing anyway, but lets just say I did it out of love ;).  Since we are scheduled right after worship and right before lunch I figure we need some active games - everyone is going to need to move around after sitting for an hour and work up an appetite for lunch! :)  So I got on pinterest and starting searching.  I wanted something different...and something we could do with 50 people of all ages.  We have children from age 6 up to older adults - so we have a wide range to plan for!  After searching for about 10 minutes I saw a hula hoop game I liked.  Then I happened across another one.  Then I got to thinking - could I plan an hour's worth of activities just using hula hoops?  Challenge accepted!  I searched for a little while longer, put on my creative hat and the ideas started flowing.  Fun!!  So, here it is - our Hula Hoop Hour of Fun.  I'll post pics when we actually do them.  For now, this is like my lesson plan :)

setting: gym/large enough space to accommodate your group
materials: 1 HH for every pair (in our case 25)
# of people: we have 50 but can be played with 10 or more
Time: depending on how many people you have 10-15 minutes

1.  Like I said we will have around 50 people and you need about one HH for every pair.  In this game, start with 25 HH laid out all around the gym.  Start the music or have someone play guitar while everyone walks around.  When the music stops, they have to find a HH and join whoever else is at that HH.  There can be any number 2 or higher.  Then they have to tell the other people their favorite something (team, color, book, movie, ice cream flavor, subject, weather, sport, animal, etc.).  Pick someone to take away 5 HHs and then do it again.  Keep going (taking away 5 HHs) until there are only 5 HHs left (and close to 10 people at each one).
2.  Have someone add in enough HHs so there are three people at each one.  In our case we need 17.  turn on the music once more and tell them when the music stops to get in groups of 3.  Have them share with everyone their full name.  Do this a few more times then have them sit down in the HHs with their feet outside the hoop (and their rear inside).  (This game can be found in this video).   Tell one person in the group to raise their hand.  Tell another person to raise a foot.  The one with their hand raise is number 1, the one with their foot raised is number 2 and the one sitting normal is number 3.  They have to remember their numbers!  (make sure the trios are sitting pretty far away from each other so they don't run into one another)  The leader is going to call out 1, 2 or 3 and that person has to get up and run around their HH and sit back down first.  Start in order then mix it up getting faster.  Then, stop the game and tell them they now have to learn their left from their right.  The leader will now call a number with a direction - ex. "number 3, left!" and number three has to stand up and run around the HH going left or counter-clockwise :)  The younger kids may need help with this.  After 3-4 rounds stop the game.  Their next direction is to join 2 other groups of 3.

setting: gym/large enough space to accommodate your group
materials: 1 HH for every 9 people (or however big you want your circle)
# of people: 5-10 (much more than that and it would take too long)
Time: 10 minutes

So you ended the last game in groups of 9 at one hoop.  Have them join hands around their hoop in the form of a circle.  Have one person pick up the hula hoop and put their hand through it...then join hands again with the circle - so the HH is now stuck hanging from a pair of hands :)  This game is everywhere on pinterest, but I found it here.  When the leader says GO!, they will start passing the HH around the circle without letting go of their hands.  First one around wins!  Do it a few times - going different directions.  Stay in your group of 9 for the next game.

setting: gym/large enough space to accommodate your group
materials: 3-5 HH for every 9 people
# of people: 5-10 if you want to do groups or this could be a large group activity
Time: 10-15 minutes

I thought about doing this as a whole group activity, but I thought it would be fun if everyone got a chance to be the conductor!  So, I'm going with small groups.  I'll let you know how it goes :)  In our case, everyone will still be in a group of 9 with one HH.  They will need 3-5 HH total - depending on how brave you are to try this ;)  I got this idea here.  I'm going to do this slightly different so that everyone will get a chance (if they want to) to be the conductor.  I think I will have the group sit in a line instead of a circle.  Have them pick someone to start as the conductor...explain to them everyone will get a chance that wants one and that it will get increasingly harder...this may change the order of volunteers :)  The conductor stands in front and starts with one HH on the ground.  When the conductor stands in the HH, everyone in the group sings the ABCs.  When the C jumps out, they stop, when he jumps in they start over.  Simple, right?  Practice it a few times and then switch conductors and add a HH.  Now, when the C jumps in the first HH they sing, but in the second they clap.  Let them practice this a few times (if the C jumps out of both HHs they are silent).  Now change conductors and add a 3rd HH!  The third one will be stomping.  Let them practice this a few times.  If the group wants to be challenged even further let them add a 4th (snapping) and then 5th (humming jingle bells).  If the group doesn't want to keep adding, let them switch conductors until everyone has had a chance to try.  Once you decide the game is over, tell them to leave the HHs on the ground and walk around the gym with the music.  When they hear the music stop, tell them to find a HH and make a group of 5.  While they are walking around, pick up enough HHs so that you leave enough to make the groups of 5 (in our case, with 50 people, we need 10 HH).

setting: gym/large enough space to accommodate your group
materials: 1 HH for every 10 people
# of people: no less than 6 to as many as you want
Time: 10-15 minutes

This game sounds awesome.  I found it here.  But I love the spin that the video I posted above put on it.  Now my large group of 50 has been divided into 10 groups of five.  Once they are in their groups, have them spread out all over the gym (the farther away they are the more they will run :)  Have one person in each group come up to you and get 3 items from your box.  You can use bean bags, blocks, the little plastic thingamajigs from the link...basically anything that you have at least 30 of and doesn't roll.  Have them put their items in their HH.  When the leader says "GO!", they are to run around and grab other groups' items and bring them back to their own.  Rules: you can only pick up 1 item at a time.  2.  NO guarding your HH.  The leader will call time and whichever team has the most items in their HH wins.  Play a few times for about 1-2 minutes, then have two groups join (we'll then have 5 groups of 10) and play a few more times.  Hopefully everyone will be on a winning team at least once :)  After these four games you probably won't have much time left.  Even if they all only take 10 minutes (which they won't) and you count all the "in between" times of changing games and explaining instructions you are still up to around 50 minutes.  HOWEVER, I always like to over plan so here is one more game "just in case"...

setting: gym/large enough space to accommodate your group
materials: 1 HH for every 2 people
# of people: 4 to as many as you want
Time: 10 minutes

If you are following my plan, then everyone is divided up into groups of 10.  To get them into pairs, tell everyone to think of their favorite Disney Movie.  When the leader says Go!, they are to yell out their movie and find someone else who is yelling the same thing.  Once they have a partner, tell them to line up on the sideline.  Give them one minute and then stop them.  Tell them to pick a color and do it again.  Anyone left standing tell them to pair up and line up.  Give each pair a hula hoop.  Tell one person to throw/roll the hula hoop as far as they can and the other person tries to catch it before it stops rolling.  I got this idea from the video I mentioned above :)  Let them do this for a few minutes and then have them time each other and see which of the partners can HH the longest.  Once they have their winner - tell the 25 people left to stand out in the middle and you can do a final HHing contest to see who is the best hooper :)

I hope you have a great time Hula Hooping!!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Admire Jesus...not people

   "I'll be there in a minute!" I shouted outside to my family.  They were all outside swimming in the pool.  I was inside by the TV waiting for the Cosby show to come on.  I was a fanatic and I wanted to see if it was a rerun before I went outside...otherwise I might miss a new one.  No other show meant that much to me...but Cosby was different.  I loved the family.  I loved the jokes.  I loved the children.  When I was sick at home, I'd watch a VHS tape (we had 4) filled with cosby's we had recorded. Bored? Watched Cosby.  Couldn't sleep?  I would replay my favorite episode in my head (that I had memorized) to help me go to sleep.  I didn't just love the show...I loved Bill Cosby.  I loved his stand up as well as his show.  He was a "clean" comedian so even in elementary school I could listen to his stand up.  My favorite?  Noah.  Still makes me smile :)

   I grew up knowing Cosby.  In a way, I admired him.  As I got older I learned that he wasn't just a comedian, but he also had strong values.  I never read any of his books all the way through, but I read excerpts and have heard clips of commencement addresses.  I loved his take on diversity and the role of fathers.  I loved how he could inspire people of any race.  Yes, I admired him.  That's where I went wrong.

   I wanted to pass on my love for Cosby to my kids.  Before all the accusations started hitting the fan, I put on the first season of the Cosby show - When Rudy's fish dies.  It was a hit.  They have been asking to watch the show ever since :) How could anyone not like the show? :)  Once I started reading all the recent articles about him however, I haven't wanted to see it.  I can't watch it without cringing when he's sweet and loving towards his "wife" or "family".  I can't watch it without saying "hypocrite" in my head.  Not only is he accused of breaking the law and hurting dozens of women, he did it repeatedly...and in turn hurt the family and friends of all these women.  I was hurt when I read the articles.  I was disillusioned.  I was angry.  I suddenly was let down by someone I admired.  It has happened to everyone of you I'm business, sports, people in everyday life...the world is full of them...and they let us down because they mess up.  But in a way, it's our fault.

   If you think about it, there is no one in life that we should really admire.  We are all sinners.  We will all mess up and let people down...even people we care about...especially people we care about.  Jesus is the only one that is without sin.  Jesus is the only one that we can truly admire as a person.  I'm not saying we shouldn't have any human admirations.  I'm saying that, perhaps, instead of admiring the person, we should admire what they do.  We admire what they have done or said.    People can do admirable things and they can say admirable things...but no person can live up to anyone's full admiration.  I'm sure you can think of someone you admire.  If you are thinking to yourself - but that person has never let me down, they are truly worthy of my admiration - you are kidding yourself.  No one is perfect...except Jesus.

Acts 5:29 ESV 

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

    In Paul's cub scout troop this week we talked about faith and people we know or have read about who exhibit a strong faith.  Names came up like Martin Luther King, Jr.  and Mother Teresa.  Two very well known figures who did amazing things.  Those things should be admired, their profound teachings and speeches should be remembered and admired...but they were not perfect.  They messed up too.  Luckily, God can use messed up people to do amazing things.
Look at David in the Bible.  He is definitely not someone I would want my children to admire!  He did many things that, in this day and age would get him kicked out of the church as a leader and possibly put in jail.  Yet God used a huge way.  And we can admire the many teachings and stories he wrote in the Bible. This humanly admiration is common with pastors.  Many people hold pastors up too high and they admire them for being people of God.  Those people will always get disappointed and sometimes even disillusioned with the church because the pastor in some way or another failed.  I remember the first time I saw a pastor "mess up".  I couldn't believe it! How many times have you heard, "I don't go to church because it's full of hypocrites".  Duh.  Of course it is.  Christians want to do the right thing, they try to do good, but we go to church to remind ourselves over and over of what that is...because we all mess up.  We all need forgiveness and we all need second chances (and third and fourth and fifth...).

    So, as more horrible things come out about Bill Cosby, true or not, I am trying to remind myself that we should "hate the sin and not the sinner".  This doesn't mean we should condone what he did (I realize he is innocent until proven guilty...but I have a hard time believing that dozens of women are making up the exact same story and he has yet to deny it.  Even if only one woman is telling the truth...that's one too many), it means that he needs help.  He needs prayer and guidance because he obviously has issues he needs to work through.  Knowing how old he is, I just hope he can find peace before he passes away.  It also means that all the words of wisdom, speeches, inspiring shows and monologues that he has given can still be admired.  It's like a congressman who preaches family values and then cheats on his wife.  How many times has that happened?  It's hard to still believe their words after seeing their actions, but the words are still admirable.  That's what bothers me most about Cosby - that all the people who looked up to him and what he stood for and who based their morals and values on his words - may turn around and think that now those words are no longer true.  He obviously didn't live by them, why should I?  It doesn't work that way.

    The Cosby show is still funny and the lessons he has taught about fatherhood and racism are still powerful and true.  David's psalms are still beautifully written and faith filled.  The pastor's sermon is still relevant and inspiring.  These are all still things we should admire...just save your humanly admiration for Jesus.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why I never get up before my kids...

It's such a good idea - set the alarm 30 minutes before the kids get up so I can do a devotional, exercise, get lunches ready...whatever I feel like doing for those peaceful 30 minutes of no bustling around. I've always wanted to do it. When the children were newborn and 2 years old, 1 and 3 and even 2 and 4 it wasn't really even a possibility because sleep was too precious :)  But now, it is possible.  I want to do it...but I don't.  Here's why -

Excuse the puffy and sleepy eyes...we did just wake up ;)

And that's the only reason :)  Ever since the children were able to get out of their "big kid" beds, they would wake up, run into our room, jump on our bed and snuggle up with us until we had to get up.  My oldest monkey, who is now 8, grew out of this around the age of 6 when he got into video games and, well...priorities ;) Our youngest, now 6, will also probably outgrow it soon.  I hope not, but eventually the time will come.  Until she does, you better believe that when she comes running into the room to jump into our bed for a few pre-school snuggles, I'll be waiting :)  One day those little feet won't come running, they'll sleep later and I'll be the one running in to her room to wake her up (and she'll probably tell me to go away. lol).  When that happens, I'll set my alarm (which I don't even bother to set right now!) to get up 30 minutes early so I can enjoy some peace and quiet first thing in the morning and get a few more things done.  That time will come.  Until then, I will cherish these moments...until they become wonderful memories :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wonderful Christmas religious books for kids!

   A couple of years ago, we started a tradition of wrapping 25 Christmas books and unwrapping one each day of December.  We all love doing it and the kids are older this year (8 and 6) so they actually helped me wrap!  I wrap the religious ones in a different color wrapping paper than secular ones so that we can balance them out...secular, religious, secular, religious, etc.  I was pretty disappointed this year at how many religious ones I had :-/  I think I may have misplaced a few in the move.  I think it's real important to keep the focus on Jesus and not Santa and one way we can do that as parents is to control what we do at home.  They are going to get bombarded with secular Christmas stuff outside the home, but you can control what is IN your home.  So this is an easy way to do it.  We also read secular Christmas books...don't get me wrong...but it's so much easier to find those!  Religious Christmas books are harder to find, and sometimes not completely apparent that they are Christian (or have a great Christmas message)! Anyway, I decided to go on a mission to find more good religious books!  I'm a Christian educator and figured I really should know more than I do, but I am a member of a great group on Facebook of Christian Educators and I knew that if anyone could help, they could :)  And they did!!  I got tons of ideas :) Thanks guys :) So, here are some absolutely wonderful, tear-jerking, humorous, insightful, informative Christmas books for children...that are all about the REAL meaning of Christmas!!  They are grouped by age range and each title is a link to if you see something you like :) There is also a short description of each one from amazon.  Enjoy! Unintentionally, I ended up with 25 recommendations :)  One for every day in December!  Perfect!  But on Christmas morning we will be reading directly from our Children's Bible...the best book of all :)


Who is coming to Our House?
Product Details
"Who is coming to our house? Someone, someone," says Mouse. 
As Pig makes room, Lamb cleans up, Goose stacks the hay, and Duck lines the crib with eiderdown, Mary and Joseph are on their way by donkey. All the animals welcome the baby Jesus to their home."

I love this book and even wrote a reader's theater to use during our Christmas Eve service children's time :) My daughter still likes it and she's 6 :)

Room for a Little One
Product Details
My daughter just brought this one home from the school library :)  It was very sweet and she enjoyed it...I can see reading it with very young children as well.  Simple story, great pictures and the 90+ positive reviews can't be wrong ;)

(Peter Spier's) Christmas!
Product Details
I saw this one in our church library and almost didn't include it...but then a review made me see that I judged too hastily.  It is only illustrations - no words - which I LOVE.  I thought they were a bit "busy" for small children, but the reviewer talked about all the details that their mother would always point out when they were young :) It shows the family giving to the needy, going to church and other religious aspects of the season.  It even shows them "cleaning up" after Christmas.  The cool thing about no words is that you can make it age appropriate for any aged child!

Berenstain Bears Get Ready for Christmas
Product Details
My parents had this at their house for my kids when they were little.  It's a very cute book for preschoolers.  It's a lift the flap book and you have to "find" all the pieces to their manger scene...taking time to explain each one :)

The Parable Series: The Pine Tree Parable
Product Details
From what I gather from the review here, this is not a religious book, but does teach the importance of having a giving heart.
"The Pine Tree Parable tells the heartwarming tale of a farmer and his family who nurture tiny seedlings into fragrant Christmas trees.
When the trees are tall enough to offer to their neighbors, the farmer's wife plans to keep the most beautiful pine tree for her family, until one snowy December night when a child teaches her the true meaning of Christmas".

Ages 4-8

Animals Christmas Carol
Product Details
This says 4/5 year olds and older but I think you could probably read it to your 2-3 year old...depending how you read it :)  I read pretty much anything to my kids when they were real little...I just changed the words to fit their age.  This is a song that was written centuries ago that this author sort of re-wrote.  I love the song and my children have both sung it in church choir.  So when my daughter saw it in her school library (!) she couldn't wait to bring it home and "sing" it with me :)  I can see making this a powerpoint and using it in church...
"Inspired by a French carol that can be traced back to the 12th century, and written in the spirit of a traditional Nativity play, each lyrical verse retains all the resonance of its medieval origins. Drawn in painstaking detail, and with the addition of gold printing throughout, it is a visual feast"

The Legend of the Poinsetta
Product Details
I took a class in seminary where we read children's books and then reviewed them.  Evidently, the school started a web site to "house" all of the reviews (after my time though ;).  Thanks to a fellow CE for showing me this!  I got a few ideas from this site as well and this is one of them.  The in depth review is here if you want to read it.
"In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao flower of the Holy Night. At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the quite exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside.
This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child."

Unwrapping the Christmas Creche
Product Details
I haven't read this one and amazon doesn't let you "look inside" this book...and there are no comments, but a fellow CE recommends it :)  It sounds like a neat book to read while you set up your nativity set with your child :)
Where's my favorite box? Here it is. . . the Christmas crèche. "Rise and shine," I say in my good morning voice . . . "It's time for you to tell the story once again. Places everyone."This engaging and delightful books follows a child's thoughts and actions as the Christmas crèche is unwrapped. Each figure comes to life in this Advent adventure! Share Unwrapping the Christmas Crèche with your children as you create memories and traditions of your own.

The Joy of Giving
Product Details
I grew up reading the BB and I just LOVE them.  The newer ones aren't as well written I admit, but
they are religious which I like.  This is a nice one my kids and I enjoy reading.
"In The Berenstain Bears and The Joy of Giving Brother and Sister Bear can’t wait for Christmas and all the presents they’ll open. But during the Christmas Eve pageant, something special happens! The Bear cubs learn a very valuable lesson about the joy of giving to others."

Great Joy
Product Details
  There was not a description on this book, and I have not personally read it, but there was a comment that said, "This is a tenderly written story with gorgeous, rich illustrations. It is about a girl who is preparing for her Christmas pageant, but recognizes the sadness and poverty of an organ grinder and his money, and reaches out to them kindly." And she gave the book 5 stars :)  Plus more than one CE recommended I trust them :)

Mary's First Christmas
Product Details
The premise for this book sounds wonderful.  This is one that I would like to go out and buy.  I think my children, 6 and 8 would enjoy it.  It is written in four parts and can be read all at one time, or broken up over 4 nights.  It says for ages 4-8 but I think, after looking at the pictures and words on amazon, that some 4 year olds may have a difficult time sitting through this. Your call.  The CE that recommended this book especially liked the pictures :) Here's part of the summary from amazon:  On the night you were born the whole sky exploded with love, and the angels shouted, and more than a thousand hearts were in love with my baby Jesus on his birthday! Gather near and listen to the wondrous bedtime story, told long ago by a special mother to her very special son. Listen as Mary tells five-year-old Jesus of the first Christmas -- of his own birth and the remarkable events that surrounded it...artist Timothy Ladwig brings to glowing life the people and places of Jesus' young life. Listen. Look. And you too will experience the wonder and glory of Mary's First Christmas.

Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas
Product Details
(for ages 5 and up) This was recommended by a CE and I was intrigued as I read through some of the pages on Amazon.  Obviously this is a different kind of Christmas book, but I believe, from what I read, that it is based on a true story?  Perhaps.  Either way, it sounds like a great "bridge", and if your kids are anything like mine, their public schools teach them every holiday under the sun to be politically correct so they have many questions.  Here is the summary...Michael and Elijah are friends, but when Elijah gives Michael one of his special carved angels, Michael doesn’t know what to do. How can he possibly take home a Christmas angel, a forbidden graven image--especially on Chanukah? “A strikingly illustrated story that tenderly bridges the boundaries of age, race, and religion.”--American Bookseller

Wombat Divine
Product Details
As a preschool teacher I think I would like this one for my classroom :)  From reading the few pages on amazon I think Wombat gets to be baby Jesus (spoiler;)
"Wombat loves everything about Christmas--especially the Nativity play. He's wanted to be in it for as long as he can remember. At last he's old enough to try out. But at the auditions, the first part goes to someone else. So does the next. And the next . . . Will there be a part left for Wombat?"

The Nativity
Product Details
I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read this one.  It was by far the most popular recommendation with the CE group!  The illustrations are what makes it I think...that, and turning the story into one that would relate to modern day.  It's recommended for prek-3rd grade but I think everyone enjoys it! :)
"The biblical story of the Nativity is one about faith, love--and a miracle. With illustrations that are enchanting and unexpected, Julie Vivas reveals the human side to Mary's story, beautifully imagining the Angel Gabriel delivering the news to her, the exhausting journey with Joseph to Bethlehem, and at last the deliverance of the baby Jesus."

Voices of Christmas
Product Details
I would like to read this one.  There are less words per page in this one so it may be good for the littles. "Gabriel “paced the halls of heaven” as he memorized God’s message to Mary. He wondered what she would say. The Christmas story unfolds, as never before, through the voices of those who witnessed the Messiah’s birth. Listen to Joseph’s struggle. Rejoice with Elizabeth and Zachariah. Worship with the magi. Hear the fear in Herod’s voice. Receive the blessing of Simeon and Anna. And, like the shepherds, shout for joy!"

The 12 Prayers of Christmas
Product Details
This says recommended for 3-7 but each page has someone from the Nativity scene and there is a prayer in prose for each character.  Some of the wording is pretty complex for a preschooler.  I don't think I'd use it in my class...but I do like the idea of the's amazing how many different ways this story can be told :)
"Many were present the night Jesus Christ was born. Joseph and Mary were there, their hearts filled with peace. So were the donkey, the lamb, and the three Wise Men. Even the Star of Bethlehem looked on, casting a single heavenly beam of light upon the scene. This book gives voice to every creature present on that miraculous night and shares their twelve special prayers to the Christ Child."

Winter's Gift
Product Details
This is not a religious book, but a great book about hope at Christmastime. 
"It may be Christmastime but on a small, forlorn farm the holiday season is best forgotten, along with painful memories of loved ones lost. Mother Nature has other plans, however, and a chance snowstorm brings together two unlikely hearts, one human and one beast, yet both yearning for comfort, companionship, and that most elusive gift of all, hope."

Humphrey's First Christmas
Product Details
You won't need tissues for this one like some of the others :)  This one had me at the cover.  lol  This book has tons of great reviews but a few very harsh ones.  You have to keep in my when you read it that it isn't meant to be a serious book...but a funny one that teaches the importance of giving at the end :)
"A beautifully illustrated Christmas story...We've all heard the story of the three wise men who brought their gifts to Baby Jesus. But what about the camels who carried them? Here is the story of Humphrey the camel and his long, cold journey to Bethlehem. Humphrey has lost his blanket and schemes to acquire a new one. When the party reaches its destination, Humphrey is so drawn to the love surrounding Baby Jesus that he finds himself selflessly giving his new blanket to the Christ child."

The Last Straw
Product Details
This sounds like the Humphrey book above...just a bit different...and just as cute :)
"Everyone has heard the Christmas story before, but THE LAST STRAW is a unique and unforgettable new telling. Voices roll across the desert sands to Hoshmakaka, a curmudgeonly old camel, whispering that he has been chosen for the great responsibility of carrying gifts to the new baby king. With reluctance, Hoshmakaka accepts his task. Every day in the heat crossing the desert, his pack grows ever more burdensome as the crowds of people, anxious to welcome the new king, give him their gifts to carry. He is as strong as ten horses as he proudly tells the younger camels. But, oh, his gout! Oh, his sciatica! Nevertheless, Hoshmakaka plods on until he reaches Bethlehem. In the end he realizes the great honor of his task and never again is there a burden too heavy for him to carry."

Ages 6-9 (or older)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomy
Product Details
Our library at church had this one so I got to read it.  I'm glad I was alone when I did...but it made me cry :)  Beautiful story.  I read it to both my children and they liked it as well.  A great story that shares hope and joy but also manages to include bits and pieces of the Christmas story...
Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he is always alone and never smiles. No one knows about the mementos of his lost wife and child that he keeps in an unopened drawer. But one early winter’s day, a widow and her young son approach him with a gentle request that leads to a joyful miracle. The moving, lyrical tale, gloriously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has been widely hailed as a true Christmas classic.

An Orange for Frankie
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Another one I might get for my kids.  This is not a religious story per se, but the message, according to the numerous comments, is very clear.  This story (at least partly true), is about the spirit of giving and sacrifices.  A good lesson at Christmas.  Many of the comments said they were in tears by the have some tissues handy ;)  
"The Stowell family is abuzz with holiday excitement, and Frankie, the youngest boy, is the most excited of all. But there's a cloud over the joyous season: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and Pa hasn't returned yet from his trip to Lansing. He promised to bring back the oranges for the mantelpiece. Every year there are nine of them nestled among the evergreens, one for each of the children. But this year, heavy snows might mean no oranges . . . and, worse, no Pa!
This is a holiday story close to Patricia Polacco's heart. Frankie was her grandmother's youngest brother, and every year she and her family remember this tale of a little boy who learned--and taught--an important lesson about giving, one Christmas long ago"

To Whom the Angels Spoke
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Yet another way to tell the Christmas story.  This time, from the point of view of three shepherds.  The cool thing is, according to the reviews, all three see it a different way - showing how all of God's children are different and see God in different ways :)
"TO WHOM THE ANGEL SPOKE tells the story of Christ's birth through the perspective of three shepherds outside of Bethlehem. Distinctively different in every aspect of their personalities, the three hear a voice one night, and because they believe what the voice tells them, they are alike. In witnessing the Christ child, each understands the event in his own special way. In this touching tale, Kay gets to the heart of the Christmas story, while also acknowledging the differences among Christians. We are all different people, we all feel different things. Here we have something to bring us together."

Christmas Tapestry
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This sounds like a very touching story (again, have tissues ready :), but I'm not sure they have the age recommendation correct.  It says 6-8, but many of the comments talked about older children enjoying as well as middle schoolers and adults.  It refers to the it may not be something you would want to read with your younger elementary children.  However, I haven't read it...just going by the description and the 30 comments left...after reading the few pages on amazon however, I am hooked and now I want to know the end!!
"When a leak ruins the sacristy wall in his father’s church, Jonathan Jefferson Weeks thinks Christmas Eve service will be ruined. Luckily he and his father find a beautiful tapestry, perfect for covering the damaged wall and giving the church a festive look! But then, an old Jewish woman recognizes the beautiful cloth. Her discovery leads to a real miracle on Christmas Eve."

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie:Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth
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"It’s the Christmas season during a time when people had little money to spend. Cookie jars held pennies, not Christmas cookies. So when Jack smells something delicious coming from the kitchen, he can’t believe his nose. Cookies! But his excitement turns to disappointment when he learns the cookies aren’t for him. Instead, Mother is baking them for the needy people at their church. While Jack helps roll out the dough, his mother tells him the legend of the Christmas cookie. In a captivating interplay of simple words and beautiful illustrations, The Legend of the Christmas Cookie tells a tender story of giving—not just cookies, but gifts of the heart that last forever."

If You're Missing Baby Jesus - A true Story
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I love true stories!  I want to read this one :)  It says for 2nd grade and up.  There isn't much of a description on amazon, but the seminary review website I mentioned earlier has one here


If you have a suggestion - please share!  I will include my readers' faves below :)

Mortimer's Christmas Manger
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The Legend of the Candy Cane
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The Crippled Lamb
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The Tale of Three Trees
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The Littlest Angel
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