For Mike and Julie Bergmann, Christmas usually means a pile of gifts under the tree for their three kids.
"I wouldn't say our kids are spoiled, but we like to be able to give them what they want," Mike Bergmann said. "We always want them to have a really good Christmas."
But this year, things are different. Mike Bergmann was laid off from his job as an art director at a toy company last October. More than a year later, there is no money left for Christmas presents.
"Christmas really sneaks up on you," Mike Bergmann said. "I'm thinking I'm going to be getting a job soon, and that it's going to be covered. And all of a sudden, the Christmas decorations are going up, and you're thinking, 'Oh great, what do we do?'"
"We had to make some really strong choices this year," Julie Bergmann added.
One of those strong choices was that the family would exchange only homemade gifts.
"We had to think outside the box and just become creative," Julie Bergmann said. "Luckily, we are pretty artistic or hands-on kinds of people, which has really helped, but it's definitely a different Christmas."
The Bergmanns' two sons, ages 18 and 20, took the news of no store-bought gifts well. But the couple worried about their 8-year-old daughter Mackenzie.
"She's still looking for the dolls and the little girl fun toys under the tree … because she's still believing that Santa is going to be here," Julie Bergmann said.
"Good Morning America Weekend Edition" decided to help Santa along, by sending in do-it-yourself expert Michele Beschen to help the Bergmanns build a gift for Mackenzie that would make even Kris Kringle proud.
How to Do It Yourself
Beschen began by working with Mike and Julie to make a plan for their daughter's gift.
"She has always loved dolls, and she would absolutely love a dollhouse," Julie Bergmann told Beschen.
Together, they settled on a classic-scale dollhouse measuring about four-feet-tall by three-feet-wide, constructed from half-inch plywood that had been pre-sanded on both sides.
While the Bergmanns may not be home improvement experts, with Michele's help they were able to put together the dollhouse and do some basic decorating by the end of the day.
Here are some of Beschen's tips:
If you don't want to buy plywood for the frame, break down old furniture and recycle that wood.
Inexpensive picture frames from discount stores can be used to make real windows. Just remove the backing, secure the glass with a bit of glue, and glue the frame over the cut-out window holes.
Sandpaper can be used to simulate roof shingles. Cut the paper with decorative scissors to give it a scalloped edge, and glue on overlapping strips.
Use what you have! Leftover paint, wallpaper, shelf liners and scraps of fabric can all be used to deck out the interior without breaking the bank.
All Wrapped Up
Finally, after a day of hammering and sawing, the finished dollhouse was wrapped up and put under -- or at least next to -- the tree. But it was clear that for the Bergmanns, more had changed than just one present.
"I couldn't imagine being able to give that to her," Julie Bergmann said. "She's going to be completely blown away. I cannot wait to see the look on her face."
"It makes me feel like other people may have more needs than us ... [but] why do we get to be the lucky ones?" Mike Bergmann said.