Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey

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Best and Easiest Sugar Cookies

This has been my go-to recipe all December.  These cookies are super easy and very good–crunchy on the edge, soft in the middle.

1 cup coconut oil (I’m guessing softened butter would work just as well, or its evil twin, Crisco)

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

5 T. water

4 t. vanilla

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

3  1/2 c. all-purpose flour, chilled (I keep mine in the freezer.)

Cream coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Add egg and water, mix well.  Mix in dry ingredients.   You are aiming for dough that’s the consistency of stiff play dough, but not crumbly.

Roll into 2 smooth logs.  Roll logs in granulated sugar.  Wrap in waxed paper and chill completely.  (Actually if you use flour from the freezer like I do, you sometimes don’t have to chill…)

Slice into 1/4″ slices and place far apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from pan immediately.  Enjoy with a glass of milk!

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Christmas Joy

Growing up, Christmas was a huge deal at our house. We started celebrating at Thanksgiving and didn’t stop till after the New Year.

But when I say Christmas was a huge deal, I’m not talking about gifts. My parents handled gift-giving so wisely, no matter how much or how little we had on any given year. They got us each just three gifts, both on years when my dad was in corporate upper management, and years when we could barely make ends meet. (Grandparents usually gave us one gift each.) One of those gifts was always a book. We were never encouraged to ask for what we wanted, but rather to be happy with whatever we got, knowing it was chosen with a great deal of thoughtfulness and love.

Christmas remembrances are among my sweetest. My parents taught me that Christmas is about more than how much there is under the tree. We focused on the birth of Christ, of course. And we just made memories.

This week I told my kids a story about one Christmas that could have been less joyful than others. I was a teenager. We had just come through a very devastating situation, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and we had a lot of healing to do. My parents bought a small farm in East Texas, with a tiny old house that needed extensive renovation. We had money set aside to fix our new place, but my dad was unable to find work. So in the meantime, we put most of our belongings in storage and rented another tiny old house two miles up the road.

It was a little yellow place, pier and beam. We could see daylight between the floorboards and dirt sifted up through the cracks. The tiny living room had a crooked wallpaper border, and the dining room was covered in a jarring coca-cola pattern, red, black, and white. The boys had to pass through the girls’ room to get to theirs, which was essentially a big closet. That was an exceptionally cold winter, and the house had no insulation. There were a couple of broken windows. We woke up many mornings to icicles hanging on the inside of the window sills. The only heat was provided by a couple of antique porcelain space heaters that would burn you or melt your clothes if you stood too close. The septic system was a mess, and we had to take drastic measures not to overload it. Among other precautions, several of us usually had to share bath water (there was no shower in the only bathroom) to keep the whole thing from backing up into the house.

We thought for sure we’d be out by Christmas and things would be better, but December rolled around and Daddy still hadn’t been able to find work, in spite of his best efforts. (On one hand, he was free to work on the new house when he wasn’t job hunting, but on the other I know this was a really difficult time for him because he has always been such a conscientious, hard-working provider.) The remodel was taking longer than anticipated, as so often happens. We realized that we’d still be in the little yellow house for the holiday.

Looking back, our spirits should have been dampened, but they weren’t. I have to applaud my parents for never allowing self-pity or discouragement to take over and ruin that time. (This applied to other times as well, probably why I have no patience with negativity and complaining.) I’m sure they were stressed and worried, but that didn’t affect the atmosphere at home. After all, we had enough to eat and wear and we were together. It wasn’t perfect, but we could make the best of it. We were thankful for what we did have.

Some of my best Christmas memories are of that Christmas…Singing carols with friends in the small, cold living room, making cookies, my sister and dad working puzzles in the coca-cola dining room. I have no idea what I got that year, although I’m sure it was no more than three gifts. Gifts didn’t matter though. Love made it a great Christmas.

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Free or Cheap Gift & Gift Wrap Ideas


Even so, gift-giving is one of the great joys of the season.  Here are a few ideas for Christmas giving for next to nothing.

Time–babysitting (YES!), a free date with spouse/child…What about a commitment to spend an hour a week alone with just that child, going for a walk, playing a game, or doing a craft?  Promise of a meal delivered on a busy day?  The possibilities are endless—just make sure you follow through.  What about giving a mom the gift of a day to herself?  Now that’s my idea of a great gift!

Service-raking leaves, household repair, painting, cleaning, donating some other kind of service.

Photos (Grandparents especially love pictures of grandchildren).  Frame in thrifted or dollar store frames, or a dollar store album—CHEAP!

Handmade ornaments (salt dough, wood, stuffed felt—google for instructions)

Homemade play dough packaged nicely with a thrifted or dollar store cookie cutter (Easy recipe here)

Sewn gifts

Food/baked goods

Write a story for your children—one about yourself growing up, or make one up!  Illustrate it if you have any talent in that direction.  Kids will love even stick-figure illustrations.

Read a book on tape/cd for your children

Printable coloring book—google for free pages on the theme of your choice

Don’t rule out dollar and thrift stores! There are treasures to be found!

This looks like a good roundup of frugal gift ideas.

~~Frugal Wrapping~~

Brown paper packages tied up with string.  Brown paper and jute string are cheap.  Let your kids stamp/sponge/handprint/draw pictures on the paper in Christmas colors—or leave it plain.  I think it’s fun, simple and understated.

Or…same idea…white paper tied with whatever.  Here are some pics of white boxes, but the same look could be achieved with a cheap roll of white paper and bargain ribbon.  Big Lots is my favorite place to find cheap ribbon.

Martha Stewart—75 gift wrap ideas, some very inexpensive and beautiful.



Related: Have Yourself a Thrifty Little Christmas


Keeping Jesus the Center of Christmas

No one needs to point out that in our materialistic, commercialized culture, the real meaning of Christmas will get shoved aside if we aren’t careful.  Here are a few ideas for keeping our children’s focus on Jesus this Christmas.

1.  Count down to Christmas with a Christ-honoring advent calendar.

There are many available to buy.  Predictably late, I am just getting to this.  I’m making a simple countdown–numbered envelopes clipped to a ribbon.  Inside each envelope are advent coloring pages for each child, one of the names of Jesus written on a card, and a scripture.

24 Advent Coloring Pages

Some of the many names of Jesus in the Bible

Daily Advent Scripture readings

2.  Put up a nativity scene.

I received this one as a gift years ago and it’s my favorite.

Willow Tree Nativity Scene

It’s too fragile for little people though.  I think the Fisher Price nativity set is so sweet.

Fisher Price Little People Nativity set

If you aren’t into plastic, here is a nice kid-friendly wooden set.  (Unfortunately sold out.)

Wooden Nativity Set

3.  Keep picture books that tell the Christmas story in an accessible place

–a basket in the living room, a low book shelf, or on your child’s night stand.  You can even put a Baby Jesus board book in the play yard for littlest ones.  I love this one (some available for ONLY A PENNY at Amazon!).

The Newborn King board book

4. Teach your children Christmas carols about the birth of Christ.

I love Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart.

Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart book and CD


Bottom line, I think our children absorb our attitudes about Christmas.  If they see us frenzied, stressed and obsessed with buying and all the external trappings of Christmas, they will subscribe to the idea that that’s what Christmas is about.  If our hearts are Christ-focused, it’s more likely that theirs will be also.