Monthly Archives: November 2017

My Crazy History of Christmas Cookies

No matter how old I grow, my stomach will always cherish one hallowed holiday tradition: cut-out, frosted Christmas cookies with colorful sprinkles.

During my childhood, Christmas cookies had such a short life expectancy that baking them hardly seemed worth it. The December appearance of a mixing bowl at our house ignited a war to determine who would “help.” When Mom or I dared take a restroom break, the kitchen was plundered by cookie-starved barbarians.

The first holiday stay at my future in-laws’ home completely muddled my Christmas cookie worldview. Perfect reindeer, Christmas trees and Santas were baked, with no fear of masked marauders. After decorating them like a culinary Michelangelo, my future mother-in-law openly displayed her creations on kitchen counters.

It was like visiting an unguarded art museum.

A kind woman, she chose not to prosecute me. When I married her son, she gave me her recipe!

Forgetting my brothers now lived hundreds of miles away, I baked a typical triple batch. My new husband and I ate little stables and mangers until Valentine’s Day — and loved it.

When our eldest, aged two, took her debut Christmas-cookie-baking lesson, the initial batch of dough hit the floor. Experimenting with the mixer’s beaters, she distributed another batch on the ceiling.  Finally, I shoved a bowlful into the refrigerator to chill. She parked in front of it.

Toddler: Cookies ready yet?

Mommy: No, honey. They have to get cold.

Toddler: (Yanking on fridge door) Don’t want cold cookies!

Mommy: We’ll bake them, but first, they have to get cold.

Toddler: (Suspiciously) Okay.

Mommy: I’ll set the oven timer—

Toddler: For the ’frigerator??

Mommy: (Looking heavenward) When it dings, the cookies will be cold.

Toddler: Okay. (Sits in front of oven.) Timer ready yet?

Later, she mixed frostings so that her mossy green and dark blood-red Christmas cookies could have graced a vampire’s holiday table.

As my slate of helpers grew, I learned to make dough one day, then bake/decorate the next. Using this system, we survived two decades of making Christmas cookies.

New sons-in-law, however, scorned cookie cutters as insults to their rugged individuality. They custom-designed mutant mittens, alien reindeer and Christmas carburetors. With the appearance of additional little helpers over the years, we once again turned out dozens of Christmas vampire cookies.

Worst of all, Grandma sneaked store-bought dough into the equation.

Now, a few years later, the grandchildren make their own — circumventing Grandma’s appalling shortcuts — and bring them to family gatherings.

With them taking charge, our family’s Christmas cookie history should flourish for generations to come.


Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What favorite cookie will you bake (and sneak) this Christmas?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: The Morning After

O my God, thank You for Thanksgiving! Feasting, fussing, playing and praying, our four generations celebrated Thanksgiving with everything in us. Today, however, I will make lunch for two instead of 18. I walk without laming myself on Legos. Quiet reigns again in our empty nest …

OMG, how I miss that marvelous mess!

Weird Things for Which I Am Thankful: Thanksgiving 2017

No doubt, our Creator appreciates gratitude for freedom to worship Him, for family, friends, food and shelter. But my cornucopia also bursts with weird things for which I am thankful, including:

  • Avocados. As a missionary kid in Mexico, I picked them up like apples under big trees. I still am a guacamole junkie. How many other fattening foods are good for me?
  • Shots. Immunizations don’t rank as my preferred activity, and certainly not my grandchildren’s. But because of shots’ protection, holiday hugs and kisses induce only mild winter plagues.
  • Black, washable pants. They love sparkly holiday tops and simple ones. They’re immune to stains and grandbaby spit. Roomy in the rear, they don’t desert me after the holidays, as many of my clothes do.
  • My piano. I don’t own a grand or even a baby grand. But my little Baldwin comprised our first major purchase after Hubby finished medical school. I thought we should spend his first paychecks on practical items. He insisted, “You miss having a piano.” Whenever I play, it still sings a love song.
  • Our baby trees, whose lanky little branches and colorful fall foliage inspire me with lavish dreams for their future.
  • Our camper. The one Hubby purchased when I was too sick to fight it. Even sitting idle, it sets us free. Already, we picture days in the green woods and s’mores around campfires on starry nights.
  • Gummy worms. Incredibly lifelike, they possess magical powers. When decorating a grandson’s birthday cake, they enable me to resist eating it.
  • Our brown sofa. Thank God, Hubby talked me out of buying a red one. Otherwise, after eight years, it would present a less-than-artistic mosaic of peanut butter, jelly, pizza, mustard and gravy stains. Because of, um, the grandchildren. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
  • My neighbor’s yard. Raked and pristine, it gives me a goal to shoot for when I grow up.
  • Free chips and salsa. A highlight of dining in Mexican restaurants.
  • Laid-back drivers. People who drive sl-ow-ly on two-lane highways annoy me to the point I pray aloud to occupy mind and mouth. They even force me to notice the loveliness I miss when whipping by as usual.
  • Accelerators. Cars wouldn’t be much good without them, right?
  • Ditto for brakes. And headlights.
  • Paper towels. While living in Ecuador for two months, I missed them terribly. (Thank goodness, Ecuador did manufacture toilet paper.)
  • Baby smiles. They always ruin a bad day.

A critic might protest, “Your list goes on forever!”

True. I never run out of weird things for which to be thankful, because my Creator never, ever stops giving.

He’s weird that way — and wonderful.


Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What odd reasons for gratitude pop up on your list?



OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Love Company Coming! (Hate Cleaning Bathrooms.)

My grandmother always welcomed everyone, despite lacking indoor plumbing.

O my God, today I’m scrubbing bathrooms. Feeling thankful? Not much. Till I recall that visiting my grandmother included “over-the-river-and-through-the-woods” trips to an outhouse.

OMG, have I ever thanked You for two-and-a-half baths? With 16 precious people coming for Thanksgiving, I’m thanking You now!

Boring Old Dad?

Many pay tributes to caring but unexciting dads who worked hard, fixed things, and helped keep them out of trouble — most of the time.

In honor of my dad’s 90th birthday.

My father did the basic dad drill, too. But boring?


A pastor, he refused to wear neckties. He led his congregation in “Joy to the World” … every Easter. Even my siblings and I listened intently to Dad’s sermons — because we often comprised the subject matter.

As a missionary, Dad approached challenges in ways that wouldn’t make Sunday school storybooks. Take, for example, the Mexican Chicken Wars.

Fifty years ago, our home in Linares, Mexico, featured an outhouse and nightly rat races. Though poor, my folks shared with neighbors living in shacks. Ready to open his thin wallet, Dad still drew the line at “Thou shalt not steal.”

Gilberto, the mission compound caretaker, said thieves targeted our chicken coop, an important income source for the mission. Determined to protect his feathered flock, Dad kept his ax beside his bed at night.

Those who didn’t know the Ten Commandments would learn them fast.

Soon, Dad awoke to the chickens’ squawking, grabbed his ax and headed for the henhouse. Stooping low, he spotted unknown blue-jeaned legs walking through the orange groves. He let loose his war cry, swinging the ax above his head.

The thief saw Dad — a tall, shirtless phantom with burning eyes who wielded a shining blade. The would-be robber dropped shrieking chickens and scaled the mission compound wall like a terrified spider.

Dad returned the chickens — vastly relieved the ax wasn’t meant for them — to their nests.

A week later, Dad awoke to another hen house ruckus. Again, he swung the ax with Old Testament vengeance.

This crook, however, screamed, “Aaron! It’s me, Aaron!”

Gilberto had checked on the chickens’ safety, too. They were fine, but Gilberto nearly lost his head to Dad’s ax.

Throughout his pastoral career, Dad confronted numerous dangerous situations. He housed ex-gang members and ex-prisoners and provided protection for domestic violence victims whose husbands/boyfriends vowed vengeance.

But few scenarios matched the peril Dad faced when, hiding behind church classroom partitions with his fishing pole, he cast a big, sugary doughnut amid members of a weight-watching group.

That incident nearly drove his guardian angel to drinking. Still, Dad survived to finally retire at 77. He now lives in the Louisiana piney woods where he was born and raised. Occasionally the angel chews his nails when Dad, now 90, wields his ax in a forest full of rattlesnakes.

But the angel’s not bored.

Sigh. Neither am I.


Your extraordinary ordinary: What’s your favorite dad story?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Still Daddy and Daughter

O my God, Thank You for my dad, who starts each day with a booming, bass chorus of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Yet this past week, when I traveled to celebrate his 90th birthday, he extended his usual greeting: “So . . . how much weight have you gained this time?”

Thank You that this Monday morning, I’m back home, a thousand miles away. But OMG, how I miss my reverent, rascally dad!

Who Comforted Whom?

This past weekend, when our two-almost-three-year-old grandson was staying with us, an odd November tornado also dropped by our area for a visit.

Thankfully, our little guy slept through much of the storm, then seemed to enjoy the novelty of the accompanying power outage. We cuddled and read stories by the light of a camping lantern and flashlights and sang songs about the wise man who built his house upon a rock.

We comforted him when the thunder and lightning and wind grew too scary. But the scenario reminded me of years ago when my little ones — and a God surprise — comforted me.

Purple-blue clouds raged and roiled in the yellowish sky. Enormous trucks roared around us on the interstate through curtains of blinding rain, shaking my little car like a wet terrier. Tornado warnings crackled on the radio. But my preschooler played contentedly with her Barbie® Dolls in the backseat. My two-year-old munched the crackers I’d given him.

How I envied their serene trust in me! If only I possessed such faith.

“Let’s pray Jesus will take care of us!” I said in the bright mommy-tone I always use when all is lost.

They bowed their heads and folded chubby hands. Their sweet prayer calmed my terrors.

“Look!” I cried.

An exit loomed ahead. We would leave this nightmare and seek shelter!

Even as I pulled into a truck stop and parked, the rain began to diminish.

My little children taught me a little about faith.

I turned to my children, almost crying with joy. “Jesus is with us!”

“’Course He is.” The two-year-old stared at me. “I see Him.”

“No, honey,” I patted his little hand. “We can’t see Jesus. But He’s with us all the time.”

My toddler looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Jesus is right there, Mommy!”

My stomach, which had quieted, lurched anew. “Wh-where?” The hair on my neck prickled. “Where’s Jesus?”

He pointed an indignant finger. “There!

Slowly I turned around, quaking.

On a nearby semitrailer, a huge colorful mural of the smiling Savior with wide-open arms offered us a hug.


Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you remember when children taught you a thing or two?



Oh, Baby!

Each day, young mothers parade past my window, taking children to the nearby elementary school.

I feel for pregnant moms whose steps slow as the months pass. Although decades have gone by, I remember well those exhausting days. I doubt these lovely young women believe their husbands’ reassurance any more than I believed mine, who told me I was beautiful.

What insanity had blinded his usual astute vision? Seven months pregnant with our first child, I felt like a walking ottoman.

“Turn around.” Hubby gave me a gentle push. “Look in the mirror. See? From the rear, you can’t even tell you’re pregnant.”

“So if I just walk backwards, nobody will know?”

“It means you’ll lose weight fast after the baby’s born.” A family practice resident at the local hospital, he knew how to handle cranky women in their last trimester.

I kissed him goodbye. Would I splurge and take the bus to my part-time job or ride my bike through our quiet neighborhood? I grinned. Each time I rode up on my three-speed, Mr. Plunkett, an older man in my office, threw his window open in horror.

Mrs. Phillips!” he shouted. “Come in and put your feet up!”

He always brought me a glass of water. Where was my mother? Did my husband really find this acceptable?

But graying skies made a ride risky. Mr. P. might have a coronary if I rode up amid thunder and lightning. So I decided to take the bus.

I donned my pink maternity outfit and slipped into comfortable shoes I’d bought when I no longer could see my feet. I arrived at the bus stop five minutes early, drifting into daydreams of nursery rhymes and rock-a-bye songs.

“Hey, Pink Pants!” Masculine voices called over my shoulder. Long whistles echoed through the air. “Hey, baby! Oh, baby!”

I stared at my stomach, confused. Sure, I was going to have a baby, but—? I cast a cautious glance behind.

Two linemen, perched atop an electrical pole, hooted at me. And yes, unless I had lost feminine instincts along with my waistline, ear-to-ear lecherous smiles gleamed on their faces.

Blank disbelief washed over me—then a joyous rush of wickedness. But Niceness pointed a finger at me, and I wavered. Should I? Or shouldn’t I?

I turned around and waved sweetly at my admirers, who nearly fell to the ground.

I waddled up the steps onto the bus. As it rolled away, I watched them hugging the pole, trying in vain to hide scarlet, guilty faces.

“Whoa, baby,” I whispered to my stomach. “You’re already knocking ’em off their feet.”


Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite prego story?