5 Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

Do you still make cookies at Christmas? Fudge? Other family favorites? There is something in me that just feels like I MUST bake cookies in December. Two years ago – since I was pregnant last year – I made cookies for weeks. Our kitchen overflowed with red velvet crinkles, chocolate chips, and iced sugar cookies.

When I was growing up, we spent a whole Saturday make cut-out cookies and decorating them precisely – from reindeer to stars to, on occasion, a dinosaur in a Santa hat or Bob the Tomato. I try to carry on this tradition with my children, too. I think my daughter is to the phase now that she’ll really have fun this year!

Here are my favorite Christmas goodies to make. Share yours in the comments!

christmas cookies

 

 

He Sets the Lonely in Families

SNV31315

My family moved to Richmond, Virginia, when I was 8 years old – quite far away from where my parents grew up and where all of our extended family lived. Dayton, Ohio, was a LONG trek now, and with two little kids my parents decided we’d go for Thanksgiving OR Christmas.

One of those first Christmases we were in Virginia alone, I remember a strange guest around our Christmas tree: my dad’s work friend, who had recently had a broken engagement and was suffering heartbreak. We loved having him among us, and he gifted me with my very first (and only) Paula Abdul cassette tape, for which I will be forever grateful to him.

Fast forward a good deal of years, and I am 22. It is my first married Christmas, and I live in Nashville, Tennessee, far away from my own parents and even my husband’s. I started a job in customer service on November 1, leaving me with no vacation time and the inability to take any even if I had it, due to the nature of service jobs.

I cried in my office one day over the injustice of it all. Christmas had always been steeped in tradition for my little family unit and the thought of those traditions continuing without me was enough to make me physically ill. I wanted my mommy.

Lo and behold, one of my motherly co-workers invited me and my new husband into her home for Christmas Day. They made us feel like family, let us hold the new babies and pet the dogs and call Miss Sheila’s elderly mama “Grandmother” like they did. It wasn’t my family … but it was enough. And it was a blessing.

So here is my holiday advice: don’t get so wrapped up in your own family unit that you don’t see the hurting, lonely people around you during the holidays. What’s one more mouth to feed at your  buffet? Bless others by taking them into your family and loving them. It will set a wonderful example for your children and who knows … you might be entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2).

When Jessie Weaver is not busy being the resident ParentLife Blogger, she writes at Vanderbilt Wife and also for magazines like HomeLife and ParentLife. She lives in Chattanooga with her husband, where they run after three little ones (ages 5, almost 3, and 8 months). 

 

This post originally published December 13, 2011. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here at ParentLife, we are so thankful for each and every one of you. This year, we want you to share with us what you are thankful for. Leave a comment here, or come visit us at our Facebook page.

15 Unique Advent Calendars

15 advent calendars

December is creeping closer. I’ve already told you about two favorite Advent activities we try to do around here. But I also love Advent calendars, don’t you! We have a sweet little one with drawers now that my mom made. But here are some fun ones you could make, buy, or download to be prepared for December 1!

 

  1. Free Printable Bible Verse Advent Calendar
  2. DIY Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar
  3. Felt Christmas Tree Kit (buy it here)
  4. Paper Bag Advent Calendar
  5. Chalkboard Countown – buy it from Etsy or draw your own on a chalkboard decal or regular chalkboard
  6. Chinese Take-out Box Advent Calendar
  7. CHRISTmas Tree ($5 download)
  8. 25 5×7 prints ($35)
  9. Button Cone Advent Calendar
  10. Print a Nativity picture and color in one star each night (free printable).
  11. Love Came Down Pocket Calendar
  12. Basic Chocolates and Little Doors Calendars
  13. Coffee Cups with Gifts Inside
  14. Glitter Tape Advent Bags
  15. Stenciled Muslin Bag Advent Calendar

Do you use an Advent calendar? What kind?

Preparing for Advent

I know, I know. I don’t want to skip over Thanksgiving! I love it! But if you want to make a meaningful experience for your children this December, it might take some prepping.

I wanted to share with you my two favorite Advent activities that I’ve been doing with my (little) kids the past few years.

 

 

My lovely friend Amanda has such a heart for helping parents reach their kids for Christ. A few years ago, she wrote this e-book called Truth in the Tinsel. It’s an Advent experience: a 25-day guide with Scripture, crafts, activities, and application to help you tell your child the whole Christmas story – from Isaiah and the prophecies to the cross.

You can see my personal post about it here. But I just have to tell you how much my daughter enjoys this. I think this year, now that she’s 5, it will be even better. The Bible stories and truths are really starting to sink into her little heart. And I think Truth in the Tinsel is one of the best ways to fight back against secular Christmas. Make your focus Jesus … not presents.

{I love Amanda’s FAQ post if you have any questions about it!}

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Last year I also put together a list of 25 Jesus-centered Christmas books on my own blog. I wrapped each one in Christmas paper. Last year, each night in December the kids picked one book to unwrap and read. They thought this was the BEST THING EVER, and I loved the time reading together and again, reinforcing the true meaning of Christmas.

I would really urge you to take December as yours as a parent. Refuse to go to every party and event if you need to. Spend the holidays impressing Scripture and truth on your child’s heart, so you can emerge from December refreshed and in awe of God’s great work through Christ.

 

Mother’s Day Cards and Crafts

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching (it’s May 12!), you might want to guide your kids to make cards or small gifts for their moms and grandmothers. (Pssst, Dad, that means you.) Here are a few fun ideas to run with!

scrapbook paper flowers

These flowers are made from scrapbook paper. My daughter painted the paper (not necessary, just gave her something to do!); then we cut it into different-sized circles and layered them. Libbie (4) glued everything in place and drew the stems and leaves. You can use pom-poms, flat marbles, sequins, or buttons for the flower centers. We found the idea at Hands On As We Grow. These would be perfect to grace the front of a Mother’s Day card or to use as framed artwork for Mom or Grandma.

handprint art

No one will love your child’s artwork more than his or her grandparents. Hand and footprint crafts are especially sweet and preserve a memory of a specific time in your child’s life! I have a whole Pinterest board full of ideas for hand and footprint artwork. Make one on a painted canvas for Grandma!

These tulips painted with forks would be a fun and cute painting for the front of a card.

One last idea – how cute are these pool noodle flowers?

Last-Minute Ideas for Easter Weekend

 

Use a playdough mountain to teach about the crucifixion and resurrection

Make a resurrection garden

 

Easter fruit tart

 

resurrection rolls

Do you have any Easter traditions with your kids?

 

 

Easter Crafts

Are you, like me, a parent of a craft-loving child? I have a 4-year-old who would “make art” all day long if I had the motivation, ideas, and supplies!

All of the chicks and bunnies floating around in Springtime are cute, but they don’t teach about the true Easter and the Resurrection. Here are some craft ideas I dug up that do help teach that to your child!

Mosaic Cross at That Artist Woman

Remembrance canvas at OhAmanda

Hand and Footprint Donkeys at Catholic Icing

Easter Light Ray Cross at Philzendia

 

How do you keep Easter about Christ?

Celebrating Valentine’s Day at Church by Christi McGuire

Valentines Heart Bag & Packaging
source: Premier Packaging

Want to help the families in your church celebrate Valentine’s Day next week? Here are a few ideas.

  • Youth Childcare Night. The youth group can utilize the church’s nursery, preschool, and children’s ministry rooms to host a night of babysitting. For a minimal fee, couples can drop off their children to enjoy activities planned by the youth group and youth leaders and then enjoy a date night together. Proceeds can go to the youth department for missions or outreach events.
  • Spaghetti Dinner. The youth can host a dinner at church for couples of all ages, complete with performances by the youth. The youth can showcase their talents, whether singing, playing an instrument, or creative dancing, to popular love songs. Couples can engage in a game of “Valentine’s Trivia,” a game of the history and facts about Valentine’s Day. The youth group can plan this event as a fundraiser or as a thank you to the church for supporting them throughout the year.
  • Grandparents and Grandchildren Party. Host a party for proud grandparents to bring their grandchildren. Activities may include checkers, hula hoop, making Valentine Cards, a scavenger hunt, and an ice cream sundae buffet.
  • Newlywed Game. Give the spouses of staff members a questionnaire about themselves with 10 questions about their favorite food, hobby, Bible verse, movie, and so forth. Either at a church-wide Valentine banquet or during the Sunday worship service, ask the staff members the questions about their spouses. See who gets the most questions correct!
  • Marriage Memories. Choose a few of the couples in the church who have been married the longest. On the Sundays leading up to February 14, ask one couple to share each week during the worship service the stories of how they met, how they got engaged, how God has worked in their marriage, and advice for younger couples. Share a slideshow of pictures of each couple and play their favorite love song.
  • Love Bible Study. During February, engage the entire church in a study of what God says about love in the Bible. Preschoolers and children can learn that God is love and He wants them to love others. Youth can learn about God’s plan for purity. Adults can study the book of Song of Solomon. End with a commitment ceremony that includes teenagers and singles committing to remaining pure until marriage and married couples committing to remaining faithful to one another.

What has your church done to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the past?

Special Needs and Resolutions by Ellen Stumbo

Happy New Year!
source: erjkprunczyk

With the New Year here, it is time for me to think about resolutions. The thing is, having children with special needs has changed the way I look at these hopeful declarations of a better me. So I turn to my daughters and see in them examples of who I want to be.

1. I want to love people despite of their appearance.

I tend to judge and keep my distance from people based on their exterior. My daughter with Down syndrome has the ability to look past appearances and accept people fully.

2. I want to give it all.

Sometimes, I don’t try very hard; I just do enough “to get by.” My daughter with cerebral palsy gives it her all, she is fully in, trying hard, never giving up. Everything she does, she does it to the best of her ability.

3. I want to experience joy in the little things.

My daughter with Down syndrome seems to find joy easy. She is not just happy; she is filled with joy (when she is not filled with crabbiness). The way her face lights up with a smile, and the deep laugh that comes from her soul when she is surprised with a bowl of ice cream reminds me I need more joy in my life.

4. I want to celebrate with others.

In our home, we celebrate every little accomplishment our girls achieve. Celebration is a normal part of our life; we clap, jump, and cheer often. I want to take that beyond my home, I want to encourage others and celebrate with them. We all need more celebration in our life.

5. I want to make a difference.

The world might see my children as less than perfect, but I know that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives. My children have inspired not only me, but many others around them. Hopefully some day, I will be able to do for others what they have done for me.

Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor.