Advent Activity #2: Wild Travels!


My passport is not too exciting.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a few stamps in it—after all, I do live in a foreign country.  But, for the most part, the places stamped are few and not what I would consider exotic—You know—where I have to travel on the back of an elephant, crossing a river, going uphill, and sleeping under the stars eating insects kind of fun!

Most of my traveling, as much as I might complain, is done very modernly—via car, train, or airplane.  Only on a few occasions have my travels included boat or parachute ;)

Can’t forget the flying car, too.

BUT—I did travel internationally at 35 going on 36 weeks pregnant with Adelyne via airplane.

I was huge.  An elephant had nothing on me.  I was uncomfortable.  And I was ready to burst.

Yet I hopped on an airplane and went over the ocean, across an entire continent, and landed in Arizona where I later popped out my first baby.

I did not have to have my baby in Arizona—I wanted to.  After all, it was my first baby, and I thought it would be really nice to have my first baby close to my family.

But, let me reiterate, I chose to have my first baby in Arizona.  Therefore, I chose to travel.  And despite my backside being bigger than the coach seat, at least it was not a donkey, right?

Can you imagine traveling while pregnant—via donkey?  I can’t.  Yet that is most likely how Mary traveled.

Which leads us to Advent Day #2:  The Journey!  

What you can have out if you so choose:  

a world map

a map of a place where you’ve been or traveled to

a passport to look at the countries and stamps

Materials you do need:



Coloring crayons or markers or paint

Printed Materials

Or blank paper

Before we get to the Scripture for the Day…

Part 1:

Before we read, as you are gathered as a family, take turns asking and answering the following question:

Where were you born?  Where were your parents born?  Your grandparents?  

Do you know your family’s heritage?  Where they came from?  Or what family they came from?  Do you have any royalty in your family line? 

There is a great chance that each member in your immediate family was born in a different place.  After all, I have 3 children, and they were all born in different cities or countries.  And I know my maternal grandma’s mom was born in Baja territory.  So the fun you will all have discovering where you come from will be great.  Quite a geography lesson, too!

Once everyone has had a chance to answer (or at least help the little ones answer), you can move on.

Part 2:

Tell your children that you are going to read Scripture today from Luke 1:1-5 and it is going to talk about a LOT of things, so keep their ears sharp for:

Caesar, Census, Roman World, Register, Nazareth, Bethlehem, House of David

Read Luke 1:1-5 (or have one of your children read)

Ask the kids:

Back then, Caesar Augustus was in charge of The Roman World and wanted to take a Census.

Who is in charge of your country?  What country is that?  Do you know what a Census is?

Explain that Census is something taken to record information of each person in the country/land.  For example:  How many women live in your country?  How many men?  How many children live in your home?   For fun, you can take a quick family census—and also throw in fun questions like:  If you had to choose your favorite color of the rainbow, what would it be—and record the results; favorite ice cream; favorite day of the week—just some silly but fun questions. In fact, one person could be the Census Taker ;)

Ask your children if they are registered somewhere?  Tell them that they are!  In fact, as soon as they were born, it was one of the first things you had to do for them.

If you have more time, you could have your kids fill out a registration form for you about them or about their pet or their favorite toy.  It could include:  Name; Date of Birth; Place of Birth; Mother’s Name; Father’s Name; Favorite Color; Eye Color; Hair Color; Favorite Food;  What Makes Them Giggle; What Makes Them Scared; Their Favorite Thing To Do…and so forth.  Or you could put your family name on a piece of paper at the top and then each member of the family answers the next order—so you’ll have a fun but funny family registration of all of your personalities.


Ask the children what they bring when they travel somewhere (Maybe a special pillow or stuffed animal.  Maybe they’ll say clean clothes).  Ask “When you travel, do you pack a big bag with too much stuff or a small bag with not very much?  Do you ever have to pack food? ”

Let them take turns answering what they would bring.

After you get a few answers out of them, you can produce this sheet and ask them what they believe Mary and Joseph brought with them on their travels:  Mary and Joseph’s Traveling Bag

Do this activity sheet together.

Following this activity, ask them the following:

Would you like to travel via donkey?

Do you think it would be safe?

Do you think it would be fun?

Fast travels or slow travels?

Bumpy or smooth travels?

Do you think it would be smelly?

Where do you think they had to park their donkey at night?

Do you think you would get “donkey sick” like people get carsick?

How do you think Mary felt during her travels?

Do you think she had a choice to travel or not to travel?

Do you have a choice when you travel?

Do have a favorite time when you traveled somewhere?  What was it?

Then you can end with the following if you choose:

Have your children pray and thank God for their family, and ask God to protect them each and every day as they travel.  Thank God that Joseph and Mary were obedient to Caesar’s request to travel for the Census because then what was foretold in the Old Testament and the place of the Messiah’s birth came to fruition (of course, use words for your children’s levels).

After you pray, they can choose one or all of the activities:  

Road to Bethlehem Word Unscramble

Road to Bethlehem Word Find

Road to Bethlehem Crossword

Road to Bethlehem Coloring Sheet

Or, if you don’t want to do the coloring sheet, you could have blank paper and art materials and fun supplies (or old newspapers or magazines they could use) and everyone could make their favorite place where they have travelled.

After everyone is done, you could share or post them on a nearby window or cabinet for the Season.

Hope you have fun with Day 2—but, don’t feel as if you need to do these back to back.  In fact, i will probably only do 3 things a week.

Up next will be SNOW for Advent Day 3.  Make sure you come back to have some “Snow Day Fun” with us!



Advent Activity #1 For the Entire Family to Enjoy!


If you are gearing up for Christmas, like we are, then you are gung-ho ahead with everything that Christmas entails:



More lights







Angel Tree Gifts (or giving through Rescue the Forgotten)

Pictures with Santa

Driving around to look at others lights

Christmas music 24/7


Christmas play

The Polar Express

The Nativity Scenes

I know…The list goes on and on and on.

And in the beautiful hustle and bustle of it all, Advent gets rushed.

It does.  We are human and it is a beautiful and full time of the year.

Perhaps, however, we could all slow down—a couple nights each week leading up to Christmas, and allow ourselves to spend some quality time with our family reflecting upon the Reason for the Season and do a bunch of fun stuff to celebrate Jesus!

If you are like me, then you’ll need some help.

I would like to say that I will now present to you the 24 fantabulous ideas leading up to Christmas Eve.  But I won’t because I don’t have that.

What I do have for you, though, are about a dozen ideas for you to use as your family prepares for Christmas.  Perhaps some of these you’ll incorporate after an evening meal and enjoy doing so!  Don’t worry, though, I won’t overwhelm you with a dozen all at once.  I’ll give you one at a time so that you can prepare and then come back for more.

Although our family (much like yours) is busy this time of the year—we realize that this beautiful gift given to us, Jesus, is the reason we love so abundantly—and, therefore, we try and incorporate great family celebrations leading up to his birth (and always beyond—but you know what I mean).

Let me know if you use any of the ideas I list and how they go!



***These may appear simple, but I am doing these with kids with the ages 1, 3, and 9.  You can always alter or add for older kids—but the ornaments will be fun for all ages***

First up:  You could talk about NAMES!

Share with your kids why your parents gave you your name?  What do you know about your name (do you know its meaning)?  Do you have a nickname?

Why did you name your children their names (or you can ask them why they think you gave them their names)?  What are the meanings of their names?  Do they have nicknames or pet names?  (Remember, my son believes his name is Maxwell Loren Big Boy—so this will actually be a real memory-making time for you if you have Littles, too)

Well, kids, did you know that hundreds of years before Jesus was born, he also was spoken of in the Old Testament and given many names.  Tonight we will read a couple scriptures that tell of the coming of the birth of Jesus and what names he is to be called /// given!

Read:  Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6

What names are Jesus given in these scriptures?

What does Immanuel mean?

In the New Testament, an Angel of the Lord goes to Joseph and tells him what to name the baby.  What is it and what does it mean?

Read:  Matthew 1:21

Can you believe it?  Jesus has many names just like you and me!

And just like you have a name given to you for a reason — Jesus was also given his name for a reason.  Isn’t that fun to know?!

Today we get to do a really fun craft—make ornaments with ALL of the names of Jesus.  We can hang them on the tree and all over the house—and even give them as gifts.

Click here to go straight to the link:  Names of Jesus Printable (free) Ornaments

If your kids are older, then you may want to challenge them with finding the scripture references for the rest of the names of Jesus that we did not read through today.

As you are coloring the ornaments together, remind your children that when preparing for a baby, one of the most exciting things we get to do is think of names for our baby—and Jesus was no exception to that—his name was given with great thought to convey a great message—he was not to be any ordinary baby—but the Savior of the World.

Now that’s a gift worth celebrating!


Perhaps add glitter or special art supplies to your ornaments

Play the picnic game going around the table while crafting (My name is Brooke, and I am going on a picnic.  I will bring with me a bunch of bananas)…even though you are family, it is still a fun game to play with names.

Christmas music is always a great idea while coloring

Perhaps make cookies together (sugar cookies) and they can spell out their names


Have one child choose to pray, thanking God for each person in your family BY NAME… and for the gift of Jesus and what his very name means.

Well, that’s all for today.  I hope you come back for the next one:  The Journey!  

See you then.

Mom Struggling Well


I was in a made-for-my city-tv movie when I was in high school.

It’s true.

I had to dress the same (or similar) each day—and run down hallways pretending to be afraid of something and scream at nothing when opening a door.

It was really weird for me because I didn’t understand how television or movies are made.

And I probably did a horrible job.  But it was with a couple friends from high school and was made for our personal city’s television channel.

I actually never watched it—because there was no way I was going to watch myself running down an empty hall screaming in fear at basically nothing.

I am sure, if anything, it was good practice for my friends making the film—and great entertainment of horrible acting by anyone that actually spent time watching it on actual television.  Haha!

Since, I have been on the radio.

On one program (KFLR) where we had the opportunity to talk about building the New Life Center, I was asked the question, “What will your role be at the New Life Center once it is opened?”

What’s the New Life Center?  It’s a transitional center my husband and I opened to help men out of homelessness.

Okay—so let’s get back to my answer, “Uh…I guess I’ll pick up a shovel and shovel…dirt.”

Yes, I did.  I did say that, “…shovel…dirt.”

Goes to show how suave I am at anything in the communication world.

A time before that I was actually taking a Communications class at university (Arizona State University, Baby!) when my professor approached me after what I thought was an amazing speech.

Guess what she asked, “Brooke, do you mind if I use you as an example for the class tomorrow?”

Golly Gee!  Of course!  So, I totally agreed—just completely flattered at the request—thinking my speech was just complete ROCKSTAR!

When the next day in class, it happened.


“Class—Brooke gave her speech yesterday, and I would like to point out 5 things that you should NEVER do when giving a speech…”

Where she proceeded to point out a million and one flaws (felt like a million more than 5, at least) in my speech giving and how they don’t have to make the same mistakes that I did.

So flattered to be used as a bad example ;)

Good thing I am made of apparently EXTREMELY thick skin.

Believe me, these are just a few stories.  I shan’t repeat more.


All of these stories are brought up to basically share with you the fact that I had the immense honor of being interviewed for one of my favorite podcasts Mom Struggling Well.

And here is the interview.  I hope, if you can get past the initial awkward recording of my computer loud voice, that as you listen it will encourage you—-as it charges into many subjects that are close to my heart and soul and I found myself laughing and crying through it—even though it was me (oddly enough).

Episode 10:  Mom Struggling Well

I hope that you will have a chance to listen—and that in some small way you, too, can be encouraged throughout.

xoxo b


Independence Day in Poland!

I mean, seriously!  We could not have asked for a more beautiful day of weather to celebrate Poland’s Independence Day!   

And we, meaning my awesome family, celebrated true American style—all dressed to a T in Polish colors:  white and red!

We ate Polish flags for breakfast and sang patriotic Polish karaoke and delivered homemade Polish and American flags with the traditional rogale to our neighbor who lives alone and has no family.


We went into town and watched the March and fed and chased pigeons.


What do pigeons have to do with Poland?

Completely nothing.  It’s a European thing ;)

The night ended at a restaurant off the square and ice cream for dessert.

Reflecting upon today, we thanked God that we live in a country that is free and safe.  A country that provides an education for our children and allows us to worship Him freely.

We may be Americans celebrating Polish Independence Day, but we do so with as great of pride of country as our fellow Poles.

Thank you, Poland, for this opportunity to live in your land—and thank you, our Polish  friends, for being a country of unending resilience and an example of freedom!

We love you!

Polish Obiad?

In Poland, the biggest meal of the day is lunch.

Lunch, however, comes after sniadania and drugi sniadania—which means first and second breakfast.  Yes.  It’s true.

And, of course, after a spot of tea, as well ;)

You would think that in a country where all they do is eat that they would be rolling everywhere.

But no.  They are thin.  Don’t be jealous.  I’ll host those feelings for you (smile and wink).

After their two breakfasts and tea, Obiad finally comes into play…

It looks something like this:  soup, potatoes, meat, and coleslaw.

If you’re lucky, you also get dessert—homemade cake.

No.  I have never conformed to this culture.  Except for eating it all.

When I was at the grocery store yesterday, I thought “You know—these items are quite different than the American grocery shelf—perhaps I’ll take a few photos and invite you over for lunch.”

The question is, “Do you want to come?”

Wait to see what I have to offer, and then you can let me know :)

First up:  my favorite pet—the bunny!


Although it doesn’t look as fluffy skinned, does it?

Next:  The bloody liver sausage!  And, yes.  I’ve eaten it.  My students served it to me after I served them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Sounds like a fair trade, eh?


Yum yum?

What’s my opinion?

It’s salty.

But this was nothing compared to that Scottish haggis I ate once.

Last on the menu today—just for you—smoked trout.  Whole.  Eyes and all.  I am sure you will love it!


How do you eat it?  Why just punch, pull, and pop it into your mouth.

What does it taste like?

In my desert rat opinion—it tastes like it looks.  But Europeans love their fish served 1001 ways, so don’t tell them it’s not my favorite.

Don’t fret.  Although their main meal of the day is in the middle of the afternoon, they still have something like a snack time around 4-5 and then kolacja (supper/dinner) later.

No, I’m not joking.

And it usually consists of either Belgian  waffles that they call gofry, crepes (nalesniki), soup, pierogi, or simply kanapki (sandwiches).

Do I cook like a Polish mom or babcia (grandma)?

This should answer your question:

“Mom, what’s for dinner tonight?”

“Dry cereal.  Eat as much as you want. Wash it down with some water.  Smacznego, my darlings!”


How about you?  How does the community around you eat?  

How to live with the toddler tornado season of your life.


Yesterday started and ended in a tornado.  If we had a storm cellar, I may have hidden down there.  I don’t have twins, but I have toddler-like twin tornadoes that swirl through my home daily—and I just can’t keep up.

In a few short months, I will be 40.  Did you read that correctly?  FORTY!

That’s like the beginning of Phase 2 of life.  And I feel great and look so forward to it.

But there is this thing.  Having a baby at 30 versus 40 is a new ballgame.  It’s like the NBA Stars in their prime versus the Dancing Grannies that move and kick at all rhythms, even though they are suppose to be kicking together.

I am kicking at my own rhythm and the toddlers are not kicking with the nearly 40-year-old me.

And when I feel worn down, I look the tornadoes in their faces and realize that, although I am in the eye of their storm, too quickly this storm will pass—and I will miss the mess!

I feel as if I failed miserably raising my first daughter who is now 9 (my toddler-like-twin tornadoes are respectively 1 & 1/2 and 3).  I feel like I pushed her too hard, disciplined her too much, and expected her to grow too quickly.

Perhaps I feel as if I had to prove to the world that I was a fantastic 1st time mom?  Perhaps I had to feel as if I had the world’s greatest daughter?  Perhaps I just had too many expectations for myself in my mind—even though everyone around me told me to Stop.  Enjoy.  Love.  Care.  Laugh.  Don’t stress.  And Just be.

But I didn’t heed any of their advice.  Before I knew it, my daughter was no longer the tornado toddler, and I miss every naked moment when she was running around in nothing but pink cowboy boots or singing and skating in flour skating rinks on the kitchen floor.

I miss the days when she invited the dogs to sit at the table to eat with us.

And I miss the days when she told me I was greater than Santa and any present he may bring.

Therefore, although I am nearly 10 years past the birth of my oldest — and far more feeling 40 than 30 — technically “nearly” the middle-aged mom of toddlers — I am TRYING … OH TRYING SO HARD — to get it right this time.

If you feel as if your life is a toddler tornado zone—remember me.  And remember how I already miss the toddler tornado moments because I have already seen one child exit the zone and have come out on the other side.  Oh how I wish that I could relive every moment with her in that tornado again.

I would actually throw open that cellar door and run out into the storm with her and say, “OH!  Look!  It’s snowing inside again, is it?!”  And simply vacuum up the baby powder that dusted her doll house and carpet later.

Because, after all, how much longer will she truly believe that it snows inside?

But my other 2, my toddlers, are still there—living every moment of that beautiful snowball of imagination.  Yesterday reminded me how glorious their brilliant imaginations are—and I intend, in my aging and wiser years, to soak it up this time.

And not rush it out.

I hope you throw open the storm cellar and run into the tornado with your toddlers.  May snow grace their bedrooms and monsters be slayed in the halls.

May little Batman briefs and diapers with tutus grace your living rooms…

And may crumbs tumble onto your floors.

Because the toddler storm will end and your house will seem far too clean and quiet—and you will wonder where time went.

Seize the day, my toddler mom friends.  Which means—you will hardly get to eat, sit, shower, or breathe—but seize the day in toddler imaginations, mess, and a good ol’ squeeze them tight and watch them squeal sort of day.

Enjoy your storms.

I do!


Here is my Facebook post from yesterday where I was inspired to enjoy the tornado versus get myself upset over the newfound work before me:

i walk up the stairs during maxwell and josephine’s nap time —this is what i find:

max in the hallway in his batman pajamas, hello kitty pink ballerina shoes, and gold princess gloves—wielding a pop-gun “sword” shouting, “I am fighting the monsters, mom!”

to which i think—is josephine sleeping? 

so i walk into their room — where i find:

josephine trapped in her bed, standing up, , wearing a ballerina skirt and superman baseball hat shouting “UP! UP!”

i don’t stop there—i look around the room === this is what i see:

fish and turtle food everywhere.

every clean sheet that was once (only a mere hour earlier) tucked away waiting for the future use—strewn about the floor covered in fish food and turtle food.

but at least max is keeping our house free of monsters, right?  wink emoticon

hope your day is made up of the most beautiful of memories. i know mine is! 


and the night ended with baby powder all over the floor—because, you know, it snowed ;) haha!  #whenthemessendsiwillmissit

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

I won’t ever forget the NICU…Not because I was in a foreign land watching as they tried to keep my baby alive…But because as I looked around the NICU, there was not just my son needing to fight for his life.  In close proximity to him, there were others.  Two babies were just over 1 and 2 pounds.  On the other side, a bigger baby that did not have functioning bowels.  Next to her, twins born at 32 weeks.  And then there was a completely second side of the NICU.  Like a different NICU village.  A village of NICU babies that had been in there longer and were not at the “will this child make it through the night” phase.  They had graduated to Side 2 NICU—yet still NICU.

On my son’s side, there were 3 nurses for 6 babies.  Three highly trained nurses.  And there were moments when we were literally CODE KICKED OUT!

Which means alarms and bells were going off and one of the two smallest babies needed full attention right away.

How they manage to find the veins in these tiny infants was amazingly shocking to me.

To realize that they flipped these babies and changed their diapers the same as they would my son (who was 3 times their size)—also shocking to me.

These nurses were made of steel—yet I wonder how many babies never made it out?  I wonder how their steel doesn’t melt.  Because you don’t want it to melt on your baby…And the next baby following your baby.  And the next baby.  Yet each baby was in so much desperate need, it was a bit scary.  And, of course, your baby was the most important (well—in your heart they are all important—but via nature—you want to make sure that your child is receiving every ounce of attention that he needs when he needs it).

The NICU is an amazingly beautiful place of fight.  Fighting for the lives of the newest babies brought into the world.  Of the babies that some families wait an immensely long time to bring home.  But it is also a place of great sorrow, as some never go to their earthly home.

And the entire purpose of the NICU is to do their darndest to make sure your baby will see you on the other side of the glass or outside of the incubator or make it into your arms, cords free, one day!

Maxwell’s stay in the NICU made me realize that it’s not just getting the babies into the world that is sometimes the hard part—it’s also keeping them here once they’re out!

This month of November is Prematurity Awareness Month.  And, as my child was born in a foreign country, I had to live all of this in a foreign language as most doctors and nurses didn’t speak any English.  Thankfully Maxwell, in the NICU (not later when he entered the hospitals at 6 weeks old) was in great hands—but I was horrified to see that the United States received a C on preterm births.


My daughter brought home her math test today and got a C.  C!  I was not happy at all with that grade.  Would you be?


And yet it is the grade the United States received from the March on Dimes, “This is the grade…which measures individual states’ progress by comparing prematurity birth rates in each state to the projected goal.” (article from Huff Post Parents)

Why is this such a big deal?  Because “Babies born too soon are at higher risk for breathing and feeding problems, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and more.”

And, something I believe with all of my heart because my son at 6 weeks of age was nearly a statistic for this, “Just recently, preterm birth was named the number one killer of children under 5 globally.”

If preterm birth is the number one killer of children under 5 globally, then we, collectively as the world, should fight with all we have to make sure that all report cards strive for Straight A’s.

No “Ifs” “Ands” or “Buts” about it.


Here is the article, that I quoted from above, showing the miracles that make it from the NICU home:  Meet 51 Babies Who Were Born Too Soon.

Here is my NICU boy that I’m celebrating this November (going along with the theme of the article above:  NICU and Present Day):

maxinnicu   maxathis3rdbday

And here’s the little boy in person (via cyber world) that does not like to be told he’s handsome:  Maxwell Loren

#november #prematurityawarenessmonth #marchofdimes #fightforthelittles