Library Haul: Christmas Books for Kids

Going to the library (or the bookstore) with kids can be kind of intimidating. We want to make that experience easier for you by giving you a preview of the books in our local library and in our home library.

This way you don’t need to worry about a book being too boring, too beyond their reading level, or containing content you might want to be aware of before taking it home.

We live in Thailand, so it’s a challenge to get our hands on new books for our kids. Thankfully, there’s an international school nearby that has an open library we can raid for exciting and informative new reads every week. This week, we’re looking at (click on the links below to find them on Amazon):

Avalanche Annie: A Not-So-Tall Tale

Turtle in the Sea

Crinkleroots Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats

Animals of the World (sorry, Amazon doesn’t carry it)

First 100 Animals

Alphabet Book (Farmyard Tales Books Series)

Ladybug Girl

The Wild Christmas Reindeer

[ The Night Before Christmas [With DVD] ] By Brett, Jan ( Author ) [ 2011 ) [ Hardcover ]

Santa Calls

How about you? What are some of your favorite Christmas books?

Our Top 16 Christmas Albums (and then some)

Most people are wrong about the location of the North Pole. It’s actually located along the equator, in the capital of an archipelago called “The Philippines”. Filipinos love Christmas so much they start decorating at the beginning of November and don’t take down their lights until mid-February. That’s where I grew up and it’s a long time to be playing All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Mariah. Her Christmas album is one of the best that’s ever been made, but after a few weeks of non-stop replay, you need a little more variety to your Mariah-ty. That’s why, every year, we try to find at least one new Christmas album to add to the playlist. If you’re looking to mix up your Christmas jukebox a little, we’ve got a few classics and a few tracks you may not have heard yet. Here are the top 16 (and then some) Christmas albums rocking around the record player in our home. We’ve included links to them in the Amazon store just to make your life a little easier.

Hidden Gems

Christmas Remixed 1 and 2. This is by far our favorite upbeat mix of songs featuring contemporary remixes of classic recordings. Take Bing Crosby’s Happy Holidays and give it to Beef Wellington and you’ve got a perfect Christmas party jam that’s going to play just as nicely as background music as it is pumping over a loud speaker. The first album features The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams, Kay Starr’s I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, and, of course, Louis Armstrong’s Baby it’s Cold Outside. The second has All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth by The King Cole Trio, a poppin’ Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town by Johnny Mercer, and a gliding remix of Nancy Wilson’s The Christmas Waltz. Christmas Remixed – Holiday Classics Re-Grooved and Merry Mixmas: Christmas Classics Remix (Digital Version)

Celtic Christmas 2. If what you need is to be whisked away to the Emerald Isle this winter, then wrap yourself in your comfiest quilt, pour a cup of hot chocolate, sit by the fireplace and pop this album in. With mostly instrumental tracks and a few Irish folk songs, you’ll find yourself blanketed in some of the dreamiest, most relaxing Christmas music you’ll ever hear. We’ve actually been using a few of the tracks on this album as goodnight music for our kids for an entire year.

A Very Kacey Christmas. New this year is, the pop country singer, Kacey Musgrave’s album. This one isn’t strictly country, though, with quite a variety of tracks from Feliz Navidad and Mele Kalikimaka to I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable, more playful romp around the Christmas tree to have on while you’re going throughout your day before you lay down the heavy hitters like Nat King Cole. In addition to these jolly tunes, Musgrave also includes some original songs, which blend playfulness with sincere hopes for the season.

Behold. Lauren Daigle’s entry into the Christmas scene is marked by swelling violins and chiming bells. If you like your Christmas music worshipful and meditative, give this album a listen.

Simply Christmas. Leslie Odom, Jr. took time away from the silver screen to sit down with one incredible jazz studio band and cut this album. Odom’s voice is smooth and soulful, and his take on My Favorite Things and Winter Song doesn’t leave anything lacking. The spare instrumentality on these tracks is brilliant as piano riffs and tambala beats take you on turns you never saw coming.


Nat King Cole– Cole’s Christmas album is the epitome of Christmas music. You feel like you’re tramping through the snow going door to door with the most awesome carolers you’ve ever heard.

Mariah Carey– You know this one. I’m not even going to talk about it.

Michael Buble– Let Michael Buble entertain you this Christmas with the flair of a master showman.

Harry Connick Junior– An album from back in the day, Connick’s voice will romance the Christmas stockings off you.

Sarah McLachlan– Light, airy, and dreamy, imagine celebrating Christmas in Narnia. This is the soundtrack.

The Hotel Cafe presents Winter Songs– Studded with a roster of female artists like Colbie Caillat, Fiona Apple, and Holly Conlan, this one will give you plenty of new Christmas tunes and melodic renditions of classics.

Pentatonix– There’s a glut of acapella Christmas albums out there. This is one of the best.

An Americana Christmas– With folk and country artists rounding out this album, you’ll get plenty of new tunes and pleasant surprises.

Alvin and the Chipmunks– My grandmother had the record of this album and played it every year at Christmas time. While it might drive adults crazy, it’s some of the most fun Christmas music for kids to listen to.

James Taylor– If you’re a fan of the man, this is a great album to pick up. It’s quieter and slower than most of his stuff, much as if you were sitting on a bench with him in a snowy park while ice-skaters skidded across a frozen lake in front of you.

Shooting Stars

Some bands don’t cut an entire Christmas album, opting instead for the single Christmas offering. Sometimes an album just has one track we can’t get out of our heads. Here are a few of the Christmas singles that fill out our playlist.

Christmas Lights- Coldplay
I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas- The Drifters
Santa Claus in Coming to Town- Jackson 5
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas- Luther Vandross
The Heart of Christmas- Matthew West
One More Sleep Till Christmas- The Muppets
It Feels Like Christmas- The Muppets
Merry Christmas Baby- Otis Redding
A New York Christmas- Rob Thomas
Maybe This Christmas- Ron Sexsmith
Silent Night- Sarah Brightman
Make Someone Happy- Seal
Christmas in L.A.- The Killers
This Christmas- Mary J. Blige
Mistletoe- Lucy Hale
’Tis the Season- Anthony Hamilton
Spirit of Love- Anthony Hamilton
Love Comes Down- Shane and Shane
Run Rudolph Run- Chuck Berry
Christmas Without You- OneRepublic
Christmas Song- Dave Matthews Band
By the Christmas Tree- Jeff Pianki
Santa Tell Me- Ariana Grande

How about you? Did we miss any of your favorites? Leave them in the comment field below! We’d love to have a listen!

What’s with the name: #spilledmilkmeditations?

You know those moments when, at the end of the day, you’re crouched under the dinner table wiping up the mess that your kids (or your spouse) has left on the floor? Spaghetti noodles dried rigid and stuck to the tile, mashed up avocado tracked in adorable little footprints across the dining room, spilled milk from an overturned sippy cup. As young parents with three kids under the age of five, we find ourselves in that situation a lot. It gives you time to think, to ruminate on the day and its happenings and all the meaning to be unwound out of conversations, books read, kisses given, or tantrums thrown.

Those are the spilled milk meditations. They are about the most important things in your life: your practice and discovery of spirituality, the family you’re trying to grow, the cultures and worlds that you grapple with. We just want you to know that we’re there with you, bent under that table in the midst of the messy life we live.

Here you won’t find definite answers, an advice column from a flawless marriage or perfect parenting or the end all solution to your life’s problems, but what we are learning, we’ll share with you. Some of it works and works well. Much of it we’ve learned from other parents and mentors, from plenty of rough days, from the cultures and people that we’ve lived among.

Like we said, we’re here with you in the midst of this. That means you have wisdom, tips, and experiences that we, and plenty of other friends, need to hear too. Chime in, disagree, share posts you like within your circle of friends and add your take on it. Life is better together and we’re glad we get to share it with you. Speaking of which, if you don’t want to miss any of our family updates, sign up here to get fresh meditations delivered to your inbox every time we press publish.

So, here’s to you, wanderer, life-wonderer, spilled milk meditator, husband, wife, parent-to-be or parent-in-progress. We raise a glass of our finest full-cream in your honor and look forward to our chats together under the kitchen table.

P.S. If you’re interested in what we’re doing in missions, specifically, we’ve got a monthly e-letter for that. Sign up here and get the inside scoop of what our life as a family in missions is really like.

Digging for Treasure

We were out on the street the other day—no, literally, that’s our playground here, the road—when August looked down at the groove in the concrete and back up excitedly and said, “I’m going to dig for treasure!” With a hop and a bound, he ran back into the garage to get a stick. Once found, he brought the stick out and began laboriously driving it into the groove between two slabs where years of dirt had accumulated. The stick wedged into the ground, then he pulled it back out, flinging dirt into the air with it.

“Are you digging for treasure?” I asked him.
“Yes!” he replied proudly and excitedly.
“What kind of treasure are you digging for?” I asked.
“Dirt!” he answered, oh-so-satisfied with himself.

It struck me then, it wasn’t the treasure that he was excited about, it was the act of digging for it. As we get older, I think we lose that. We become goal-oriented. The process is a means to an end. We work to get paid to buy the thing we want or afford the vacation we want. We go to school to graduate and move on to the next thing. We drive to get to work and do our job so we can go home. We do the yard work to get it done. We have a party to take cool photos to post online. We dig to find treasure. I want to recapture some of that enthusiasm about the mundane, hard-work, “meaningless” activities that children find endless amusement with. I want the act of digging, the thrill of possibility and play to be the entire reason I do some things.

Chinese Karaoke Choir

We meet with a group of foreign-exchange Chinese students every week and a few other friends. To keep the conversations interesting, we asked them to print out some of their favorite English songs, so that we could study the lyrics. Our friends took it a little farther than that. What started as a simple English exercise turned into a full-on karaoke choir.

Singha Park Day

This is a video of a happy memory in a year full of happy memories. We gathered a few of the young leaders we meet with every week and took them and August out to a nearby park where they have zebras, giraffes, and plenty of space to run. We simply hope this video puts a smile on your face today.

Survey on Improving Non-profit Communications

Hello everyone,

We’re working on the rebranding of Emerge Missions, a sending organization that develops next generation church leaders in Asia. While doing this, I started wondering about how most non-profit communication strategies are structured. I drew up a survey to gather information on how people would like to be talked to by non-profits. If you’ve got 3 minutes, would you mind going through the 3 question survey below and answering based on your first impression? Your answers will really help us craft better communications and I’ll share the results as well for all of you who may be involved in non-profit works yourselves. Thanks!

 Take the survey here!