Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

The ultimate Christmas gift guide round-up

Great holiday gift ideas for all ages!

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

The holiday season is fully upon us, which means most of us have Christmas shopping to get done. Some folks are already finished, which is awesome. I am not one of those folks, though! In fact, I think I’m farther behind than usual this year, but I’ll get there.

I’ve been hard at work coming up with holiday gift ideas for you over the last couple of weeks to help myself as well. But, I’m still just one person. I can’t come up with every gift idea ever. So, I turned to some fellow bloggers for their ideas as well — and they haven’t disappointed.

I’ve put together a round-up for you of some great holiday gift ideas to make your shopping easier!

Christmas gifts for just about anyone

15 gifts under $20 for almost everyone on your list

Quirky fun gifts under $25 for everyone on your list

Christmas gifts for kiddos

More than 100 children’s books worth reading

5 Cheap games for small children the whole family will love

Gift guide for VSCO girls

Holiday gift guide for creative kids

30 best video games for kids on the Nintendo Switch

Non-toy gift ideas for kids

Ultimate gift guide for ages 1-3

STEAM and STEM gift ideas for 2-year-olds

Allergy-friendly Christmas gift guide

Christmas gifts for adults

Gifts under $25 that are for your mom tribe

The gift guide for natural moms

The ultimate gift guide for her

$50 and under gift ideas for dads (all dad-approved)

10 Go-to hostess gifts

Yoga lover’s gift guide

Looking for more Christmas ideas? Check out these posts!

Quirky, fun holiday gift ideas under $25 for everyone on your list

44+ Unique Christmas gift ideas for kids and adults that they’ll love — and your wallet will, too!

44+ Quirky, fun Christmas gift ideas for everyone on your list
Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Coming up with unique Christmas gift ideas for everyone on your shopping list can be a challenge. And coming up with ideas for the people in your life who have everything is even more challenging. But there are some quirky, fun and practical gifts for pretty much everyone on your list that you can find without breaking the bank.

And, even better, these are all on Amazon, so you can order them and have them show up at your house with the click of a button. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

For almost anyone

I am a huge fan of stainless steel insulated tumbler cups. And I am also a huge fan of drinking with straws. I don’t like the stainless steel straws, though. These silicone straws not only work well and look good, but they’re also affordable and dishwasher safe. What’s not to love for only $5.99 for 10?

Unique Christmas gift ideas: silicone straws

Evidently this is called a pin art board. Who knew? No matter what you call it, I can’t think of anyone at any age who wouldn’t love playing with it. From preschoolers through adults, these things are just so much fun. They’re great for a desk, bookshelf or wherever you want to have something to do with your hands while you’re thinking. (Or wherever you want to occasionally gently smush your face and look at your profile!)

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Pin art board

Unless your friends and family live somewhere magical that it never rains, they could use an umbrella. These reverse inverted inside-out umbrellas are awesome! I’ve been using one for a few years and love how easy it is to put up and down as I’m getting in and out of my car. It’s my favorite. These come in 39 different colors and patterns.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: reverse inverted inside-out umbrellas

Everybody has a slew of pencils and pens that need organized whether it’s at home or at work or both! You might as well organize them in something fun and clever. Even better, this adorable elephant pen and pencil holder can hold writing utensils and a phone!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Elephant shaped phone and pencil holder

If you think just a device holder would be a better unique Christmas gift idea for your friend, I’ve got you covered for that. I use mine all the time. In fact, I use it so much that it resides on my kitchen table. It is ideal for a Kindle. I love being able to prop up my Kindle Paperwhite and read during my lunch breaks. There are all sorts of fun options!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Dinosaur phone holder
Unique Christmas gift ideas: Dog phone stand
(comes in 6 different dog breeds)
Unique Christmas gift ideas: Ninja phone stand
(also has a horse option)

While you’re at it, you might as well add a fun charging cable to go with the phone stand. This 46-inch USB charging cable that lights up like Christmas lights.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: USB charging cable that lights up like Christmas lights

And then there is this 14-in-1 hammer tool. It looks cute because it looks like a little hammer, but it’s also incredibly functional and would be something pretty much anyone could use in one of their kitchen drawers.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: 14-in-1 hammer tool

For the person who loves retro

It pains me a bit to say that cassette tapes are retro, because they were such a big part of my childhood, but the truth is, they are. My kids were recently confounded by cassette tapes, in fact. This tape dispenser and pencil holder looks like a cassette tape and would be a fun, useful addition to any desktop — at home or at work. It’s definitely falls into the unique Christmas gift ideas category!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Tape dispenser and pencil holder that looks like a cassette tape

To go even more retro, check out these cute vinyl record drink coasters. I won’t even pretend that I also didn’t have a few records as a kid, because I certainly did. I’m a fan of fun coasters. If you’re going to use a coaster to be a responsible adult, you might as well have fun with it!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Vinyl record drink coasters

This Hemingway typewriter pencil holder just makes my heart happy. I’m not really sure why because I was only on the very tail end of using typewriters way back in the day, and then they were electric. But something about this just makes my old soul happy, and I’d bet you know someone who would agree!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Hemingway typewriter pencil holder

So not all of these literary themed socks are retro (there is an adorable pair for Harry Potter fans!), but my favorites are the socks that look like old-school library check-out cards. They come in white, pink, yellow, green, gray, multi-color and black. The socks are in two different sizes and there is even an ankle sock option for this design.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Library card print socks

For the person who can use kitchen stuff

I love having fun stuff in my kitchen, and I assume everyone else does, too! I found some great, unique Christmas gift ideas that I would enjoy having and get a kick out of.

Fun in the kitchen kicks off with making food. If you’ve got to measure out ingredients, you might as well have some fun measuring cups. These OXO Good Grips Measuring Beaker Sets are great for that. You get a set of seven. I love things that are useful AND fun!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Measuring beaker sets

Whether you’re buying a gift for a novice cook or someone who seldom cooks, everyone can use spatulas. They just seem to make any kitchen work a bit more fun and days brighter. There are a few available designs as single full-size spatulas, including a honey comb and bee, ladybug and leaves, the word “love” and various cooking-related sayings.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Honey comb and bee spatula

And if that doesn’t get you smiling while you cook, add on this smiley face turner, which is perfect for making pancakes on a weekend morning.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Smiley face turner

When it comes to unique Christmas gift ideas, this clever Nessie Ladle that looks like the Lock Ness monster would bring some fun to soup night!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Lock ness monster ladle

Staying with the theme of fun utensils, this dinosaur pasta server makes me smile. Anyone with kids would enjoy having this in their kitchen. Kids love pasta and dinos, so it’s a great combo. My son would think this was fabulous if I used it to serve him dinner! As a bonus, it’s dishwasher, top-rack safe.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Dinosaur pasta server

To keep the kitchen dino fun going, you have to know someone who would love this TriceraTaco Taco Holder. While it is adorable and cracks me up, it’s also helpful and useful. Hard taco eaters would love it. There’s also a TacoSaurus Rex for or a NachoSaurus snack and dip bowl set.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: TriceraTaco Taco Holder

This funny kitchen towel is a great option to go with the dino taco or nacho holders!

Unique Christmas gift ideas:  "Every now and then I fall apart" taco kitchen towel

An incredibly clever Christmas gift idea for any Star Wars fans on your list (and I’m sure there’s at least one if not more!) are these light saber chopsticks that actually light up. You can get two sets in red and blue or opt for 8-different color options for two sets. The 8-different color light saber chopsticks can also be bought as a single set or a set of four.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Light saber chopsticks

With all that fun going on in the kitchen, it’s going to have to be cleaned. While cleaning a kitchen isn’t the most fun job in the world, this adorable sponge holder makes me smile every time I see it! For only $12.90 and Prime One-Day, it’s a great gift for pretty much anyone on your list who has a kitchen!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Sponge holder shaped like a bed

We have been using a crumb eater to help clean off our table for the last year or so. Ours is just plain. My kids still like using it to clear off the table, but how much fun is this adorable ladybug mini tabletop vacuum?! It comes in red or green as a lady bug and red or black as a funny face. If you’ve got to clean up dust or crumbs, you should at least have fun with it. And, bonus for giving it to a family with kids, because they’ll find it fun for clean-up time. It’s a win-win!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Ladybug mini tabletop vacuum

Finally in kitchen, check out this Gracula garlic crusher. It’s functional in that it crushes garlic, but it’s funny and quirky in that it looks like a vampire.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Gracula garlic crusher

For a family

Coming up with a gift to give to a family can be a challenge sometimes, so I’ve got some great ideas for gifts that you can give as a family present and all family members would love!

This indoor electric smores maker is one of my favorite things we have! I can make smores year-round. I don’t have to worry about an open flame. And it really does toast the marshmallows just like I want them. My kids get a kick out of it, too. It’s a great family gift! It’s a unique Christmas gift idea that works well for families with small children, older children or no children. Who doesn’t love a smore?!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: indoor electric smores maker

Another great option is family conversation starter cards. They’re perfect for chats at dinnertime or even long rides in the car. Check out this set of 101 Conversation Starters for Families for or 88 Conversation Starters for Husbands and Wives.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: 101 Conversation Starters for Families
Unique Christmas gift ideas: 88 Great Conversation Starters for Husbands and Wives

For the coffee or tea lover

I don’t drink coffee or tea, but I love a fun mug nonetheless. I mean, I do drink hot chocolate. And it tastes better when it’s something fun to drink it out of! Mugs make a great gift for nearly any adult. They even make good pencil holders! You can give mugs solo or pair them with a coffee shop gift card or fill them with candy. There are lots of good options. And there are even more fun options when it comes to finding the right mug.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Harry Potter cauldron mug
Unique Christmas gift ideas: Unicorn mug with tea infuser
Unique Christmas gift ideas: Lllama in a Christmas sweater mug
Unique Christmas gift ideas: Bobba Fett mug

(If you go with the fishing mug for the angler in your life, consider pairing it with this fishing memory picture frame for a very nice — and meaningful — gift!)

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Fishing memory picture frame

For the kiddos

And, of course, we can’t forget unique Christmas gift ideas for kiddos. I’m making a priority this year to only buy things my kids will use. Of course they have given me ideas for bigger things they want. But I purposefully trying to add small gifts that they will actually play with or use versus just buying a bunch of cheap stuff that breaks quickly or is tossed aside. It was with that in mind that I looked for some interesting gifts kids would actually like.

The first one has to be this Little Live Pets Wraptile. I got this for my son. for Christmas this year. Then he inadvertently saw it (through no fault of his own), so I let him have it. He has played with it every single day ever since. He absolutely loves it! One of his favorite features is that he talk into a microphone on it and it will say what he said (in its voice). He also likes that the eyes change color based on what mood the creature is in, which is pretty neat.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Little Live Pets Wraptile

The Lego Creator sets are different from usual Legos. Each set builds three different things. My son has had various sets of them and loves each one. This Extreme Engines kit builds a speedboat, race car and hot rod. I like them also because they are reasonably priced (especially for Legos) and with three different design options, it just increases the value for your money.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Lego Creator Set Extreme Engines kit

For kiddos as young as 24 months, this dog grooming and doctor kit actually straps on like a backpack. It comes with an adorable white plush dog and a variety of accessories that any kiddo would enjoy playing with.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Dog grooming and doctor kit

This Ken Wildlife Vet playset is pretty darn cool. It comes with adorable animals as well for lots of pretend play fun!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Ken Wildlife vet playset

And as the mom of a 10-year-old girl who enjoys crafts, we have had our fair share of craft kits, jewelry making kits and the like. What I love most are crafts that the kiddo can actually use. This DIY water bottle fits that bill nicely. It comes with markers and and gemstones so your kiddo can personalize it.

Unique Christmas gift ideas: DIY Water bottle

When I was a kid, I had something very similar to this rainbow silk streamer and loved it! I made up so many routines and dances and flung that thing all over the place. It would be a hit with kids a wide array of ages. I can see my 10-year-old playing with it now but also from the time she was 2 or 3 as well!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Rainbow silk streamer

Continuing the stroll down memory lane leads us to a Light Bright. Remember those? It’s a great holiday gift idea for any kiddo. Mine have one they share that they got a couple of years ago. They both really like it. (And you can also order a refill pack if you have missing pegs!)

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Lite Brite

Games are also a great idea for Christmas gifts. If you’ve got little kiddos on your list, check out this list of five cheap games for small children the whole family will love. Then add to it a couple of classics that have been updated! First up is the classic hot potato game. Instead of someone having to play music and hit stop at random, the potato now plays music and stops on its own. How nice is that?!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Hot potato game

Another update on a classic game is this Connect 4 Shots game. I got it for one of my nephews one year and my own kids the next. We have had fun with it. It has the same basic rules as the classic Connect 4 but with the twist of having to bounce balls into the holder instead of dropping in pieces. Our whole family enjoys it!

Unique Christmas gift ideas: Connect 4 Shots
Looking for more Christmas ideas? Check out these posts!

30+ White elephant gift ideas under $20

White elephant gift ideas that are good, clean fun — and can be delivered right to your door!

30+ White elephant gift ideas under $20 Pinterest image

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

While figuring out gifts in general can be a challenge, one of the categories I struggle with the most is white elephant gifts. It’s hard to find something out-of-the-ordinary and maybe funny but also not too much money. And also appropriate. Searches for white elephant gift ideas often bring up results that are PG-13 or R-rated.

So I dis some searching and put together a list of white elephant gift ideas for $20 or less that are fun and will be a hit at any gift exchange!

Office fun

How fun is this desktop wacky waving inflatable guy?

Christian white elephant gift ideas: Wacky Waving Inflatable Guy

If you’re stuck at the office, you might as well have some fun on your break or if you’re on a long call. Enter desktop mini games like this desktop tetherball or desktop basketball game.

Clean white elephant gift ideas: Desktop tetherball
Christian white elephant gift ideas: Desktop basketball

It’s a little gross, but this nose pencil sharpener works, could come in handy and is sure to make everyone at the gift exchange giggle.

Clean white elephant gift ideas: Nose pencil sharpener

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I don’t feel like you can ever really have enough notepads. I love the fun of this adulting notepad that also allows you to mark off important adult things you’ve done for the day like taking a vitamin or wearing pants.

Christian white elephant gift ideas: Adulting notepad

And sometimes you just need a sticker for doing serious adult living.

Clean white elephant gift ideas: "I Adulted" Stickers for Grown-Ups

If you’re going to have to cut things, you might as well do so with toucan scissors!

Christian white elephant gift ideas: Toucan scissors

This adorable little Groot flower pot works for a plant, as a pencil holder or whatever else. It’s so stinking cute that it would be in demand at a white elephant gift exchange!

Christian white elephant gift ideas: "I am Groot" mini flower pot

Funny books

I am a sucker for a good punny joke, which means this book of dad jokes would be something I’d legitimately find amusing — and I’m guessing I’m not alone. It’d be a great white elephant gift!

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Book of Dad Jokes

This book of useless information that would be fun and interesting plus sure to spark some conversation!

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: "The Totally Awesome Book of Useless Information"

Having a worst case scenario handbook sounds like a joke, but it could actually come in handy — maybe!

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook"

Sometimes you just have to have a good insult in Shakespearean style!

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Shakespeare Insult Generator

Fun socks

Novelty socks are always good for some laughs. I’ve seen socks that say “If you can read this, bring me…” But, I’ve not seen a pair that ended with “tacos” until now! There are other options, too, like coffee ($5.99), doughnuts (7.99) and bacon ($7.99).

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: "If you can read this, bring me tacos" socks

You can’t beat these socks that look like you’re wearing sandals with socks!

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Socks that look like white socks with brown sandals

Golden Girls socks?! I’m not sure these are white elephant because they are just pretty stinking awesome!

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Golden Girls socks

A tad bit pricier at $19.99, these set of sushi socks will be sure to have everyone talking at the white elephant gift exchange.

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Sushi socks

Fun home products

This bed-shaped sponge holder makes me grin every time I see it. It’s silly and fun!

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Bed-shaped sponge holder

For a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, consider this cereal killer spoon.

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Cereal Killer Spoon

Fun ice cube trays can also make for some good white elephant gift options. These two options were my favorites: dogs and the United States.

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Dog ice cube tray
Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: United States shaped ice cube tray

Dishwasher magnets that tell you whether your dishes are clean or dirty can be fun like this one featuring Star Wars.

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Star Wars Dishwasher Sign

Or check out this cute open and closed dishwasher sign magnet.

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Open and Closed Dishwasher Sign

I like tabletop vacuum. We have a plain one that we use all the time. But this cow tabletop vacuum cracks me up and would be great for a white elephant gift exchange.

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Cow tabletop vacuum

Cactus-shaped tea light candles are pretty interesting and come in different styles to pick from.

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Cactus-shaped tea light candles

Staying with the cactus theme, check out these fun cactus shaped dryer balls. You can get one for $9.50 with Prime or two for $19 with free shipping.

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Cactus shaped dryer balls

Funny mugs

Yep. Mugs are technically home products, but with so many different funny ones they needed their own category! Here are all of my favorites:

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Prescription bottle coffee mug
Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Donut shaped coffee mug
Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: "Of course I talk to myself. Sometimes I need expert advice" Mug
Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Bob Ross color changing coffee mug
Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Toilet bowl shaped coffee mug

Misc. fun stuff

And then there were a few other finds that I had to include for white elephant gift ideas like this bacon flavored lip balm. I’m quite intrigued!

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Bacon flavored lip balm

My son would totally love if I came home from a white elephant gift exchange with this Ninjabread cookie mix.

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Ninjabread Gingerbread cookie kit

This basket head game could be the next family game or opened and played at your white elephant gift exchange party.

Christian White Elephant Gift Ideas: Basket head game

Even non-artistic folks (like me!) can handle paint by numbers, right? This adorable Bob Ross paint by number kit comes with everything needed to make tiny masterpieces.

Clean White Elephant Gift Ideas: Bob Ross Paint by number kit
Looking for more Christmas ideas? Check out these posts!
25 gag gifts that are clean

The only pumpkin bread recipe you need

Once you make this pumpkin bread recipe, you’ll never make another one!

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

The weather has definitely cooled off here in the Midwest, which often puts me in a baking mood. One of my favorite things to make this time of  year (and really year-round) is pumpkin bread. Does anything taste more autumnal than pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon? Nope!

My husband is a fan of many pumpkin treats. I can usually take or leave them, but pumpkin bread is the exception. It is my favorite sweet bread, hands down. I found a recipe for pumpkin bread made from scratch quite a few years ago and did a small amount of tweaking to make it just a tad healthier. It is definitely in regular rotation for my family.

I’ve made it as muffins, and it made lots of them. I’ve also made some mini loaves, but most often I make it into full-sized bread loaves. Even though it’s a from-scratch recipe, it’s super easy! When my daughter was in kindergarten, I helped a group of kindergarteners make this bread. So you can, too!

You’re going to need a large bowl for this. I used a large plastic bowl that I also use for serving potato chips when we have a family cookout. Everything mixes in that one bowl so it’s the only one you need to use — and clean!

First, stir together the dry ingredients: both flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Measure them out, pour them in and stir them together. Also, I use part wheat flour for this recipe just to cut down on white flour, but you can use all white flour if you want. I’ve not tried it with all wheat flour.

You mix all the dry ingredients together first, including the sugar.

Next, get ready to add the wet ingredients. Make sure that you’re using canned pumpkin and NOT pumpkin pie filling. 

I usually buy the store brand of pumpkin. This particular one is from Walmart.

Add in the 15-ounce can of pumpkin, water, vegetable oil and eggs. Give it a really good stir. More often than not, I stir by hand with a spoon, but you can you a handheld mixer if that’s easier. You want to get everything mixed together well, and it’s a pretty full bowl.

Once it’s all stirred together, it will look like this.

Then it’s all ready to go into pans that have been greased and lightly floured. I usually use cooking spray. I sprinkle a very tiny amount of flour and am not sure that’s even needed now that I have these awesome Rachael Ray loaf pans. I’m loving her line of bakeware because it really is good at being nonstick! I loved the one loaf pan that came with my set so much that I ordered a second one, in fact. My mom fell in love with my Rachael Ray bakeware when she tried it. She got a set of her own, and she doesn’t even bake as much as I do!

The batter divides equally between the two pans. I don’t measure it and just eyeball it.

Slide those pans into the oven and bake for an hour to hour and 10 minutes. I check mine around an hour and go from there. The loaves go side-by-side (not touching) on the same rack in the oven. I use the toothpick test to see if it’s finished. You know, the fancy method of sticking a toothpick down the center and seeing if it comes back clean (done!) or gooey with batter still stuck to it (needs to bake longer).

This deliciousness is what comes out of your oven. The top crust is a bit crunchy while warm, and the inside is moist!

This pumpkin bread so incredibly good! I store mine in either a gallon-sized zip-top bag or wrapped in Glad Press ‘n Seal (love that stuff!). It is good for at least a week. I’m not sure how it freezes, because my family eats it too quickly for me to have a chance to freeze it.

And just to show you what I mean about the Rachael Ray loaf pans, this is mine after I dumped the cooled loaves of pumpkin bread. I had prepped them with a light spritz of non-stick cooking spray and a tiny amount of flour.

Nothing sticks to these pans and they clean so easily! I’m in love with the whole set of them and have even bought the muffin and mini muffin pans as well.

Pumpkin bread


  • 1-1/2 cups white flour
  • 1-3/4 cups wheat flour If you don't have wheat flour, just use 3-1/4 cups of white flour
  • 2-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 can 15 oz. packed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs


  • Grease and flour two 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5-inch pans. (You can also use three 7 x 3-inch pans; just bake 10 minutes less.)
  • Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  • Combine flours, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices into a very large bowl. Stir well to blend.
  • Add pumpkin, water, vegetable oil and eggs.
  • Beat until well combined.
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!

6 tips for protecting your teens on social media

Ivana Davies, from Find Your Mom Tribe, has some practical ideas for keeping kids safe online.

This guest post is part of the Families with Grace’s Social Media Savvy series that covers a commonsense approach to handling social media as a parent.

Social media has its positives, but like pretty much anything else online, it also has dangers. Scammers and predators are always on the prowl, and online bullying has risen significantly in recent years. Teens are constantly bombarded with ads, threats, frauds and general bad influences.

If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with the little gnaw of worry whenever you think about the darker corners of the web. How do I keep my child safe? What can I do to protect them without smothering them?

You aren’t alone. Many parents have these concerns, but a few tips and tricks can help keep your teen safe online.

1. Get familiar with social networks.

Most teenagers don’t use Facebook. Studies have shown that it’s less popular than sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat. Teens also do most of their browsing on their phones rather than traditional computers or laptops.

Knowing these things are important if you want to understand what your child is doing on social media. You don’t have to be a technological genius, but you should have a working knowledge of the problem if you want your actions or advice to carry any weight.

To put it another way, your child isn’t going to let you deal with Snapchat bullies if you don’t know about or can’t even operate Snapchat. Your first step in becoming a social media warrior is learning what the battlefield looks like.

2. Protect their identity.

We live in a world where our GPS-enabled smartphones can track and analyze our locations. Our social media accounts are full of names, addresses, schools, workplaces and family pictures. Most people don’t even think twice about letting an app announce who they are or where they’re going. They might even help with things like vlogs and livestreams!

Make sure your child understands the danger of giving out too much information on the web. For example, they might complain about a late ride, but they shouldn’t share street names or broadcast the fact that they’re a stranded minor at a particular location without any adults around. Don’t let them ask their followers for a lift or accept any offers from accounts they don’t know.

You should also warn them against divulging personal information just because people ask for it. You might be stunned to realize how easily teenagers are willing to share their bank information just because someone claims to need it to resell them some concert tickets.

“Could a weirdo use this against me?” is the golden rule of posting things on social media. Tell your child to memorize it and ask it of themselves before they post anything. A little diligence today can save them a lot of trouble tomorrow.

3. Remember the internet is forever.

People don’t always understand the permanency of things posted online. While this applies to both kids and adults, impulsive, short-sighted teenagers are particularly vulnerable to it.

If they make a questionable post that gets taken out of context and publicly shamed, they could be haunted by the screenshots for years to come. If they share racy selfies that get passed around, both sender and receiver could be in trouble under child pornography laws.

The “delete” button is pretty much useless on the Internet. Make sure your child understands this. If necessary, remind them of all of the silly or embarrassing things that they might’ve posted before, and ask if they would still want to be known for these things five years down the line. Remind them that whatever they post today will have to pass the five-year test someday.

4. Watch out for stranger danger.

Unfortunately, lots of predators are on the web. Some are scammers or identity thieves; others have more nefarious purposes, especially for young people.

The simple truth is you can’t protect your teenager from every creep on the Internet. You can, however, teach them how to recognize the signs of one, and make sure they’re comfortable coming to you if they suspect someone is trying to take advantage of them.

Here are a few danger signs:

  • Anyone who offers to send them money or buy them things
  • Deals that are too good to be true
  • Deals that require them to give personal or financial information to strangers
  • Weird links, ads, promos or direct messages

You should also teach your kids to never trust a profile of someone they don’t know. It’s way too easy for a 40-year-old man to pretend to be a 16-year-old girl! It’s called catfishing, and people do it for money, power, influence, sexual gratification or personal amusement.

If your child doesn’t understand the dangers of catfishing, try registering for a fake account yourself to show them how little effort it takes to lie on the Internet.

5. Install controls and blockers.

Lots of parental control software is on the market and doesn’t have to be a bad thing that your child rails against.

For example, your teen might not appreciate any programs that monitor his web activity or limits her screen time, but he or she shouldn’t be bothered by adblockers or virus blockers. As long as you’re not butting into their conversations, they probably won’t care if you know who’s on their friends list.

Content filters are usually the biggest argument. Teenagers don’t want to be restricted from seeing “inappropriate” content like they’re little kids being denied access to an R-rated movie. Try sitting down with them and seeing if you can agree on reasonable content filters for things like violence, pornography and hate speech. R-rated sites might be okay for older teenagers, but you can draw the line at X-rated.

You should probably stay away from things like keyloggers. Unless your child is being punished, that level of scrutiny is only going to foster resentment.

6. Always be willing to listen.

At the end of the day, there’s only so much that you can do to protect your child on social media.

Your best bet at staying “in the know” is to keep an open line of communication with them. Emphasize that you’re always available if they want to chat, discuss, whine, rant or ask questions about something that they’ve seen. Even if it’s just complaining about spam accounts or a bad website design, it’ll build trust between the two of you, and they’ll be more likely to seek you out if and when they have a real problem.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. You won’t have a rapport with your child after a single conversation. Just like parenting classes would tell you, it takes consistent, everyday effort to maintain an open and honest relationship about their online activity, but it can definitely be done.

About the author:
Ivana Davies is an educator turned stay-at-home mom to a beautiful 7-year-old girl and a playful 5-year-old boy. She found so much parenting information online that she started her own blog, Find Your Mom Tribe, to share her experiences and struggles as a mom. You can connect with her on Facebook and Pinterest.

This post is part of Families with Grace’s Social Media Savvy series that covers a commonsense approach to handling social media as a parent. Check out these other posts from the series:

How to decide which holiday traditions to keep

Holiday traditions should be about making good memories and not be stressful and over-complicated.

The holidays are fast approaching. I’ve been thinking of things like getting my kids dress clothes for their programs at school, what cookies I’m going to bake this year and what gifts I need to order to cover everyone on my list. But, I also don’t want to overlook the good parts of the holiday season.

I’m a person who likes holiday traditions. In fact, last November, I told you all about 8 simple Christmas traditions that will bring your family closer. In that post, I included two free printables of traditions my family does yearly: an Advent calendar and a daily Bible verse that leads us through the Christmas story.

We will maintain those holiday traditions this year along with other things like unwrapping a Christmas book each evening Dec. 1 through 24, having a cookies for breakfast on Christmas Eve and driving around to look at Christmas lights.

Through the years I’ve learned to evaluate traditions and whether we should continue them or let them pass on by. Sometimes figuring out which traditions to keep and which to let go can be challenging.

Why it’s hard to let traditions go

Traditions in and of themselves are things we have come to count on. Some traditions we’ve done for most of our lives, so we have feelings strongly attached to them. And if those traditions are associated with family members who are no longer with us, it gets even more intense.

Traditions carry so much emotional baggage that they can be very hard to let go. We feel like we are betraying our loved ones if we stop carrying on their traditions. Or we feel like our kids are deprived because we’re not continuing traditions we started or we did ourselves as children.

Plus we often think we HAVE to do something because it’s ALWAYS been done. We can treat traditions like if we don’t do them, the world will come crashing to a halt and all will be ruined. We can take them very seriously.

And then traditions can also be hard to let go because we are creatures of habit who typically don’t like change. Change can be hard, especially for some of us (raising my hand high!).

How to evaluate traditions

Nearly every year is a good time to evaluate holiday traditions. For example, my family’s tradition of unwrapping a Christmas book every night Dec. 1 through 24 has been something my kids have enjoyed. However, I am also aware that the year will come when neither of them get excited to open a picture book to read each evening. This isn’t that year; it will be bittersweet when that time comes.

As we head into the holiday season, we need to think about the traditions we do and evaluate whether they are still important to our family. If they aren’t, then it’s time to let them go.

We also need to consider how much stress a tradition is causing us. Sometimes traditions can be stressful. For a few years while my kids were toddlers and preschoolers, we would bake sugar cookies and have our parents over to help us decorate the cookies all together. We’d order pizza and make an evening of it.

Last year, that didn’t happen. Because this tradition relies on baked goods to be fresh, it added too much stress into our lives at Christmastime. This year it may work out to do or it may not, but I’ve realized that either way we’ll have a good holiday season. Letting go of one thing won’t ruin the holiday. In fact, trying to do too much and stressing myself out ruins the season.

And sometimes we let go of a tradition for even just a year or a season. The Christmas I was pregnant with my youngest child, I was on modified bedrest for intense pain. I had to let some traditions go because I physically couldn’t do them. Some years are just like that.

In evaluating holiday traditions, we also should consider how our family feels. Talk with them and see what they think about certain traditions. What’s important to them? What do they most look forward to each year? If your kids are old enough, ask their opinions. Have them pick their top three traditions they love. Prioritize those!

Remember that Christmas Eve cookie breakfast I told you about? That’s one of those traditions. It was a small thing that I had done with my daughter and didn’t think much of it. It has become something she looks forward to every year. I’m glad I asked her to know what she liked most. And the best part is that it’s a small, easy tradition to maintain!

Consider tweaking a tradition or creating a new tradition

While sometimes just letting go of old traditions is best for us and our families, other times changing them can work well. Maybe nobody is so interested in driving around to see Christmas lights, but instead they’d love a Christmas movie night in with hot chocolate and PJs.

Thanksgiving Day has brought one such tradition for me. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved watching the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” As an adult, I continued doing so. I have a photo of my 3-year-old daughter and me watching the parade together the Thanksgiving I was pregnant with her baby brother. It was a tradition I was excited to share with my kids.

However, getting to actually watch the parade on Thanksgiving can sometimes be challenging. Last Thanksgiving was particularly out of sorts. My husband was gone on a trip to help hurricane victims in Florida, and my kids spent the night with my in-laws to help get everything ready for Thanksgiving dinner. I was alone on Thanksgiving morning and during the parade. I decided that instead of moping, I’d record it and we’d watch it later.

So Thanksgiving evening, the kids and I had snacks and watched the parade together. We fast-forwarded through some of the performances we weren’t interested in. My mom stopped by. We tweaked a tradition with great results.

This Thanksgiving my husband will be here. But I’m guessing that parade watching on Thanksgiving evening will stick with us. It’s just easier for us right now.

And easy is what any new holiday tradition should be. Traditions that are easy to do are easier to maintain. The most simple traditions are often the most memorable ones because they are low-stress and easy to do. The less stressed you are, the more you enjoy them and so does the rest of your family!

Focus on what’s important

Overall, traditions should highlight what is important to your family. You need to decide at the holidays what you most want to remember and focus on. What are the things you’ll remember most in 10 years?

I want to make sure that we focus on things like being thankful at Thanksgiving and remembering the gift of Jesus at Christmas. I also want to make sure that we have fun together. Those things are most important to me. If any of our traditions don’t fall into one or both of those categories, then I’m fine to let them go.

If we’re deciding to change a tradition or add a new one, I evaluate it with the same criteria as well.

Traditions really should be all about making good memories. They shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress and be overly complicated.

This post is part of The Blogvember Challenge on Forever Beloved!

Looking for more Christmas ideas? Check out these posts!

Learning to wait

Waiting for God can be difficult but for our best.

In July we got a Lhasa Apso puppy. Pixel is adorable and keeps us on our toes. While he’s settled down and learned more about how we want him to behave, one thing he has also learned is that when we get ice out of the refrigerator, ice cubes sometimes fall on the floor.

One thing we have learned is how much he loves ice cubes. They are one of his favorite treats! I think with teething the ice feels good to him, but he loves them. Any time someone uses the fridge, he sits right at their feet, just in case.

This is especially true in the early mornings when just Pixel the Pup and I are up. He has learned the sound of me getting my kids’ Thermoses ready for their lunchboxes and runs anxiously to the fridge to stand by for ice. Many mornings, I give him an ice cube, because he waits patiently and looks so cute that I can’t resist.

One morning last week, this very thing had happened, but the only difference was that making the kids’ breakfasts (which I do first) had taken a bit longer and I was later in putting ice in their Thermoses. I checked the time and knew that as soon as I filled the Thermoses, I’d have to head upstairs to rouse everyone else out of bed.

I also knew from previous experience that while Pixel loves ice cube treats, he also loves going upstairs with me to wake up the kiddos. He can’t eat his ice and go upstairs at the same time. It’s too much for one pup. So, like all of us crazy dog moms, I explained the situation to Pixel.

“I’m not going to give you an ice cube right now, because we’re about to go upstairs to wake up the kids,” I said to him. “I will give you one when we come back downstairs.”

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t know what I was saying and sat there waiting for a treat that never came. He did follow me upstairs. He also did get an ice cube from me when we came back down. But as I looked at his little, furry, expectant face, I thought of myself.

I’m neither that furry nor that adorable, but I do wait for things sometimes. I ask God for something that makes complete sense to me in my head. I even beg and plead for His intervention, a miracle or a specific blessing. And sometimes I miss what He says back to me.

I don’t always hear Him when He tells me to wait. Or I do hear Him and balk at the idea of waiting longer for something I want. I don’t know the big picture and plan, just like Pixel didn’t know that waiting for an ice cube would mean he got to go wake up the kids AND get an ice cube. Otherwise, he’d have just had an ice cube or his ice cube would have melted while we woke up the kids.

I had better in store for Pixel the Pup than what he thought he wanted. God so often has better in store for me. I don’t always sit patiently and expectantly like Pixel did that day. I mope and complain and feel bitterness edging in sometimes. Waiting is hard. Not knowing the big picture is hard for me, because I like to plan.

But I have learned and continue to learn that waiting for God is OK. His timing really is always right even when it doesn’t seem to make sense to me at the time. I learned that in the nearly decade it took to sell our house and move. I ended up in a completely different place than I thought I’d be and in a much better home than I dreamed. God’s timing was at work.

Sometimes when God tells us to wait, it’s less about Him being mean or even about our decisions causing repercussions. Instead, it’s about being patient because something better is coming. He has us wait sometimes because we aren’t ready for the blessing at the time we ask for it.

Pixel wasn’t ready for an ice cube at the time he wanted it last week. He thought he was. It made sense to him, because that is often when he gets an ice cube. But his ice cube would have melted when we went upstairs.

Maybe that blessing or answer you’ve been waiting on is still coming, but the time isn’t right yet. Maybe if God answered your prayer how you want him to today it would all fall apart and you’d miss something even better.

What I do know is that God has promised us that He has a plan for us to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He doesn’t plan for our harm, so if He is saying “no” or “wait,” He has a reason. He’s not being mean or vengeful. He just knows better.

Sometimes you just have to wait for your ice cube to come at the right time.