My Favorite Family Read Alouds {For Cold Winter Days!}

three boy read book indoors

We love to get lost in books around here. I’m always on the hunt for titles to read to my whole crew…and I mean my whole crew. With four kids spanning the ages of thirteen down to six, I have to keep hunting for books we can all chew on and sit still for. We love to cuddle up on couches, on the floor or under the covers with big cups of tea and a great story. It is really the sweetest moments we make together. As the cold weather gets colder, we need this time more and more.

If you’re looking for books to warm the hearts in your home too, here is my list of favorite Read- Alouds that children (and adults) of every age will find captivating!

1.  A Wrinkle in Time- I used to imagine myself into this family as a child. Meg and her brother Charles Wallace must search for their father through space and time in order to save him and the Universe from a deep blackness. This book awakens something new in my soul every single time I read it.

2.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle- This sweet lady has a  very unorthodox (ahem) remedy for every childhood ill you may be facing in your home. If whining, not sharing, laziness or bickering ever pop up in your house, you may have found a new favorite too! It has been the best way I have found to address bad manners in our home and we never read it without a complete giggle fit.

3.  Little House on the Prairie- I become captivated by the daily life and immersion into a childhood on the prairie every time I read this book- and the recipes are amazing! This series always makes my children count their blessings, want to bake and imagine just a bit more.

4.  The Chronicles of Narnia- I  cry every time we read this series. It is an allegory to our faith and world view, but it is also literature that awakens the best of our character, our longing for valor and courage to be real in our lives and quite literally opened up a whole new, quite cherished, world to our family.

5.  The Railway Children- This was one of the most pleasant books I have ever shared with my children. Three siblings loose their father to a false-imprisionment and head to the English countryside to live a simpler life, finding a sheer love for the railway and all those connected to it in their vicinity… and end up solving a mystery too!

6.  The Mysterious Benedict Society- Four very gifted and out of the box children are called upon to rescue their town and become under-cover agents for the Mysterious Mr. Benedict. My children are captivated by the adventure in this story and I love the loyalty and comraderie of the characters.

7.  The Saturdays- Four siblings in turn of the 20th century New York City determine to pool their allowance and each take a Saturday to do what they have always dreamed of. Each chapter highlights a respective adventure that is beautifully woven into the whole of the story of this family. It is lovely!

8.  The Burgess Animal Book- Peter Rabbit discovers his neighbors and gives you a naturalist’s education as you read and truly get to know the characters of the forest well. My children ask for this one again and again and even with higher language use, my little ones are in love and learn so much!

9.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins- This was my favorite as a child and I was so thrilled to read it to my own children. They loved the story of Mr. Popper, the unkempt house painter, his special Antartic penguins, and all their shenanigans, just as much as I did.

10.  The  Trumpet of the Swan- This is the story of a boy and a swan and the latter’s migration and struggle to be reunited with his family, all the while he overcomes an inability to “talk” learning to play the trumpet. This book made us laugh and learn and soak in the seasons all at once.

11.  Understood Betsy- Betsy is a frail girl who is sent to live with relatives on a farm in the country. They gently spur her to independence with love, extraordinary faith in who she truly is, and by requiring more of her than she thinks is possible. She soon begins to find her own inner strength and fortitude and leads young readers to do the same.

Ok, now it’s your turn! What is one {or more!} of your favorite read alouds? My library basket is waiting!



How to Raise Thanksgiving Children


The toaster is broken.

The washing machine gets stuck on every cycle so I have to manually move it to the next or it will just soak, or spin, forever.

The dryer isn’t drying. I turn it on for two hours and the clothes are still damp when they come out.

The stove won’t budge from 350 degrees, so everything has to be cooked at that temperature. Which is fine until you want to cook something easy, like pizza.

And then, the fridge begins to growl.

That’s when I have to go for a walk, one of those long walks under a blue sky and the leaves falling, yellow. I can smell apples fermenting on my neighbors’ lawn and I know my washing machine is probably stuck in the middle again and I’m not there to adjust it but that’s okay.

Because sometimes we need to step back, so we can move forward.

So we can encounter a bigger perspective.

As I walk I think about my friend, Esther, our Lulu Tree staff mama who has been hired to run our program in the slum of Katwe, Uganda. The Lulu Tree is a non-profit I founded in June, dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers, and Esther is working tirelessly to care for these mamas and their children. I think about how she walks for miles to get to the slum, and does it with a smile on her face. How she sits and waits for hours to speak with the pastor of the church and then how she waits some more to interview the mamas there. And then, how she walks all the way home to her son who is being taken care of by her mom in their one-bedroom home. And Esther is pregnant. She doesn’t have a washing machine to get frustrated at. She doesn’t have a fridge that growls or a stove that gets stuck on one temperature. What she would give to have a stove that had one temperature. And yet, the joy in that girl’s heart.

I want what Esther has.

We’re so quick in our fast-fix culture to get rid of the old when it starts to break or to complain when things go wrong. But what if we did the opposite? What if we took time to step into gratitude?

Photo by Elizabeth Gadd

Photo by Elizabeth Gadd

Because that is Esther’s secret. She is grateful.

She is grateful that she has food each day to eat, even if it’s just one meal of posho and beans. She is grateful she is not HIV-positive. She is grateful she knows the Lord, and that He loves her.  She is grateful for the roof over her head, and the room she shares with her mother and son.

We always want big, and new, and now. We always want more, and exciting, and better-than. But what if we we wanted for nothing?

What if we were okay with cooking pizza for an hour instead of for forty minutes because the oven is stubborn that way? Praise God for a stove that turns on!

What if we were okay with manually rotating the washing machine dial? At least we don’t have to wash the clothes by hand!

What if we were okay with a broken toaster? Hey, we still have bread!

What if we didn’t let these circumstances affect us at all?

I want my children to know what it is to be content in each and every circumstance. But it starts with me. It starts with me coming home from my long walk and singing a hymn of praise while I turn on the dryer for the umpteenth time to dry those still-damp clothes.

Let’s make Thanksgiving year-round, friends. Let’s be a grateful people. Starting now.


Emily Wierenga

To learn more about The Lulu Tree and how YOU can be involved, please visit

Do his Hobbies Leave You Parenting Alone?

It’s hunting season here in Montana, which means the men in this family are pouring over maps and pulling out camo.

Saturday night my husband and his brother headed out, going east for a scouting trip. This wasn’t a big deal for us, but it was hard for my brother-in-law to leave his wife and three young boys alone for Sunday.

Twenty-four hours is a long time when a woman is parenting little kids by herself.

A really, really long time.

Here's a helpful tip for when your husband needs some recreation but you feel alone in parenting. while he's gone.

After the men got back (and for any guy readers –no, they didn’t see anything), Matt and I were enjoying a cup of coffee on Monday morning and were remembering how hard those hunting trips were when our kids were little.

I remember fighting an internal battle, I said. Part of me felt resentful that you could just take off and be free of responsibility for 24 hours. The other half of me was happy for you to get a day in the woods with your hunting buddies.

I know there were times when he left with a hunting pack weighted down with guilt because I pouted him off at the door.

Have a good time, I would say with my voice. While my eyes would say, Don’t worry about me here just going crazy being a mom all by myself, with no rest or any fun for me. No big deal.

My husband is a professional counselor and very wise, so over coffee I asked, What’s the answer? What would you say to the young mom who wants her husband to have fun and pursue his hobbies but who also is weary from 24/7 parenting?

His answer made me cry right there in the kitchen.

Nothing brings me home quicker than a wife who sends me off joyfully, he said.

Why is that? I asked.

It cements the value of the relationship, he said. Why would I want to stay away when I have her?

Here’s his message to you moms with young kids:

Women, if you want to be a magnet, cheer them off as they leave.

That got me thinking about being a magnet, and I said, What if I were to slip a piece of lingerie into your duffle bag?

He answered, Then I would say to my brother, “Oh, I injured my knee. I’ve got to go home RIGHT NOW.” 

So there you have it.

Anyway, my kids are just about raised, and I’ll tell you my husband’s words are true. The more I have celebrated and encouraged him to pursue his hobbies and enjoy some guy time, the more he seems to care tenderly for me.

(And then there is that whole lingerie thing. Don’t think I’m joking about that.)

You don’t have to feel happy that you’re going to be alone with the kids while he plays. That part is still hard work. But you can smile sincerely when he leaves, as you consider his needs above your own. I think you’ll find that as you encourage his rest and refreshment, he’ll have more energy for you and the kids down the road.

What could you encourage your man to go do for enjoyment in the next few weeks?


Christy Fitwater

When I Forget To Ask


Some days seem longer than others.

Those days when I am not the mom I want my kids to learn from.

The other night after each of my children fell asleep I went into their rooms. I felt like I didn’t enjoy them that day.

It wasn’t until they fell asleep, when I realized that my patience level was embarrassing to admit. I held each of their hands and watched their peaceful faces as they were sleeping. I began to cry and ask God for help. I thought about how it was the only time I had asked him for help that day.

I talked to each of my dreaming babies about how much I love them. How much I really do enjoy them but I forget about what really matters. I forget that speaking truth to their hearts is much more important than how they act on the outside.

I was reminded that I wouldn’t need prayer if my life was perfect. I wouldn’t need to depend on God if I never felt the guilt of my impatience. I forgot God’s truth and I relied on myself. My needs and what I thought was best ruled our home—but all of it is broken.

Nothing without God.

I held their little hands and was humbled. I am reminded of the good that I don’t deserve. How sweet is grace, I need it every day.

With Love,

Natalie Falls at

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