Advent Family Activity #3: Snow!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

heading up the mountain

My children are eagerly awaiting the snow.

It actually snowed one day.  A bit.  And then the rain washed it away.  My son was so sad.  He asked where it went.  I told him on a trip with the rain.

Kids are so cute.

But—as this Season of Advent is upon us—so is the beauty of winter!

Today’s special Advent Family Activity is just a flurry of snow!

No worries—you need not have the real stuff—you’ll make plenty on your own!

Without telling you what materials you may need, instead I’ll simply share all the fun activities that you can go through and decide which ones suit your family best!

To Begin:

Today, we are going to read Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”

This Season is Christmas!  And it is the Season when we remember the gift of Jesus, born as a baby, and given to us as a gift from God—the son of God!

It’s also celebrated during a time of year where everywhere North of the Equator generally relishes the thrill of chilly weather, hot chocolate, and lots of snow!

So, today, as a family, we are going to have a lot of fun making, playing, and eating snow!  And if you’re from a desert like I am (or South of the Equator enjoying your sunnier weather) this will be a lot of “cool” fun for you, too!

Ready…Set…Snow!

Snow Activities (Hands on, messy, and fun!):

Erupting Snow Recipe

Shivery Snow Paint

Snow Clay

Snow Game:

Snowman Dice Game

Snow Food:

Melted Snowman Cookies

And, our personal family favorite, blending ice in the blender, scooping it into a bowl or making it into a snowball, and eating it as if it were real, outside snow!

Hope that you have the most wonderful evening as a family playing in the SNOW!

xo

b

Here are the Advent Activities we’ve already shared.  Next week, I’ll share 3 more.  Hope that you will have a great time as a family, spending time as a family, reading the Bible, talking about Jesus, and playing together!

Advent Activity #1:  The Names of Jesus

The Names of Jesus allows you and your family to talk about why each of you were given your name, if you know the meanings, if you have nicknames, and read the scriptures that share the names of Jesus.  There is a fantastic site that has created the ornaments with the names of Jesus. With a simple print or click or drawing ideas from it, you and your family can then make Christmas ornaments as glittery or non-glittery as you want that share the names of Jesus.  Decorate them together, hang them on your tree, or give them as gifts!  It’s a great start to the Advent Season!

Advent Activity #2:  The Wild Journey

The Wild Journey takes a look at the instructions given by Caesar Augustus—that a Census is to be taken and all must return to the home of the family line.  We discuss journeys, where you or your children were born, and how we travel—then we take a look at what and how Mary and Joseph probably traveled.  There is a fun opportunity to take a family Census of a bunch of fun stuff—as well as crosswords and coloring pages for everyone to enjoy!

Advent Activity #3:  Snow!  (Today’s post!  Read above)

 

Advent Activity #2: Wild Travels!

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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:

Bible

Pencils

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.

Next: 

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!

xo

b

Advent Activity #1 For the Entire Family to Enjoy!

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

Lights

Tree

More lights

Cookies

Shopping

Giving

Donating

Helping

Serving

Angel Tree Gifts (or giving through Rescue the Forgotten)

Pictures with Santa

Driving around to look at others lights

Christmas music 24/7

Church

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!

xo,

b

***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!

Extras:

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

Ending:

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.

Well, don’t just look at your presents under the tree. Open them!

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A gift becomes a gift once it is given.

The thing, however, about gifts is that they are given with the hopes that they will then be received.

And, usually, a gift is given in brightly colored wrapping or placed gently and beautifully in a bag.

They are pretty. And enticing. And exciting.

Gifts. They usually are calling our name! We can’t hardly WAIT until that moment when we can take that beautiful wrapping and tear it apart! Or, if you are a wrapping paper saver, slowly and carefully start removing the tape and gently folding back the paper.

Or take that bag and peek inside, throwing tissue paper up haphazardly in the air so that you can get to the point where you can pull out the present. REVEALING the gift.

But that’s the thing…

Action has to be taken to get to the heart of the present.  And that action is:  You must receive the gift (accept it) and then open it.  I don’t know anyone that keeps their Christmas presents under the tree all year long, just looking at them in their wrapping and saying, “My, what beautiful boxes under the tree.”

Heavens no!  Christmas morn or the eve before, when it comes time, your family probably sits down together and you pass the gifts around, and you open them.  And you proclaim how great the gifts are and how happy you are to receive them!

That’s how presents are done.

And that’s exactly what Jesus is.  A beautiful gift.

But he was never meant to only be given and placed under the tree, just to sit there and wait.

He was meant to be given and received.  Unwrapped and accepted.

And then proclaimed…

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11 (KJV)

For you this is what I pray.

That you accept this beautiful gift of Jesus.  The perfect Christmas present.  And share this good news of great joy!

Wesołych świąt i szczęśliwego nowego roku!  

May your Christmas be filled with love and laughter and may God guide and protect you into the new year!

 

I am a consumer. And I like it.

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I am a consumer.  And I like it.

Let me tell you why.

You see, I am a consumer of many things.  One, airline tickets.  We live in a foreign country, and we live in a day and age where we don’t have to take only boat and train.  We can fly.  And, therefore, to get where I am, I fly.

I am a consumer of medicine.  My son, very unfortunately, is one of “those” kids.  One of those kids that needs a bag of medical supplies when I even travel to the grocery store.  Gotta have emergency meds on hand at all times.  Gotta take daily meds without fail.  And gotta.  Just gotta do it.  No essential oils will heal this little man.  So we appreciate the consumption of medicine.

I am a consumer of diapers.  God bless throwaway diapers.  I live in a place that sells them.  I, precious people that use cloth diapers oh how I admire you, but I love taking off a diaper and throwing it away.  I am a happy consumer of diapers.  And I am so thankful I don’t have to wash my son and daughter’s dirty nappies multiple times every day.

I am a consumer of food.  Such yummy divine goodness.  Last night, we fed the kids breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, toast, fruit), and then we bathed them and put them down.  Then the hubs and I had a “date” at home.  Steak, salad, and sweet potato marital bliss.  He lit a fire, and we watched a Christmas movie.  It was relaxing, romantic, and a sleeping pill (as I fell asleep before the movie ended).  So, I guess I am also a consumer of wood and media.

I am a consumer of electricity, and coal, and internet (although no one really owns that—so I guess I am a consumer of companies that deliver it).

I am a consumer of coffee and soda.  And dog food (for I have 3 dogs).

I am a consumer.  And I like it.

But you know what I love to consume more than any of the above, including Christmas gifts from the store?

Love.

I love to consume hugs.

And kisses.

And tickles.

And backrubs.

I love to consume smiles.

And cheers.

And giggles.

And tears. Because that means at least I am there.

I love to consume wrinkled papers that come from backpacks with markings from school.

And half-eaten candy canes smothered in drool.

I love to consume wet towels and laundry and dishes galore.

I love to consume it all—and a little bit more.

For with all of these above that I consume, I am reminded each day that I live in a house full of love.

And as we await the holy night,

I know in my home that all is right.

After the bath, all cosy in bed, I cover my three with a happy gait.

And then I slip quietly off…

To sit and eat, sleep and wait.

Before I know it, tomorrow is here.

And I get to consume a little bit more.  It’s truly a dream, this consumption of mine.

But, no matter what it looks like in the heart, it does cost plenty of dimes.

For even though my love is free…

To feed and diaper and take care of my 3 takes a grocery store connected to a clothing store connected to a school supply shop.

And more.

But I gladly consume because I know what it’s for!

Adelyne.

Maxwell.

And Sweet Cheeks, Little Miss Josephine.

For these three, I would gladly buy out the store.

So, you see, I am a consumer.  And I like it.

But OH HEAVENS NO…there will be no number four!

When you believe in Santa, how do you pray?

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We love Jolly Old Saint Nick, otherwise known as Swieta Mikolaj here in Poland.

We love his red suit, his white beard, his jiggly belly, and his bright smile.

We love the twinkle in his eyes.

And did you know he actually sent us a couple of those elves while we were living in Arizona? Yep! Charleston and Swenson. Oh, they are clever little elves up to lots of good fun.

Today I found them in our Marks and Spencer bag EATING our salt and vinegar chips!

Don’t they know that is a HUGE NO-NO! After all, Poznan is an hour away from where we live. We only get to Marks and Spencer every month or so…And even our two-year-old, Maxwell, LOVES those chips.

Pesky, fun-loving, excitement for the next magical place they will appear, ELVES! I do have a feeling, since our home is heated by coal, that they will wind up in the furnace room—in a pile of coal—before long!

I wonder if this will scare Adelyne, our 8-year-old? Perhaps she’ll think she’s getting put on the naughty list. Sometimes she actually is…but aren’t we all?!

Our son, Maxwell. He’s not sure what to think of our elves. The elves received Oreos the morning St. Nick came and brought goodies for the shoes. And one elf had an Oreo out and was eating it when we must have surprised them. And so his Oreo dropped on the ground.

All Maxwell, the 2-year-old, saw was a perfectly good Oreo lying on the ground. OHHHHHHH! What torture.

He kept trying to grab the cookie. I told him, “No, Maxwell, that cookie does not belong to you.”

It was hilarious. He laid down on the floor with his hand stretched out to the cookie, his fingers merely wisps away from it and just cried, “Cookie! My cookie!” (See above picture for accurate depiction of this story)

Of course, his age has a LOT to do with pretty much everything right now.  But it was a FANTASTIC lesson in “We don’t take what does not belong to us, even if the magical elves will not finish eating it later.”

I must say, (pat-pat-pat on my back) he did not take the cookie.  He practiced self-control.  And that is a HUGE deal, if you have a 2-year-old.  So, these magical elves also help us teach lessons.  Lessons like:  listening to your mom; and practicing self-control.   Well done, C and S (Charleston and Swenson).

And, as much as my daughter (Adelyne the 8-yr-old), LOVES the elves.  She does freak out sometimes.  Like the other day she was downstairs alone, Christmas music was playing, when she heard, in a high-pitched voice, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Sure enough, at the speed of lightning that we don’t often get to see her travel in, she was up those stairs, in our laps, crying, “Mom!  Did you hear that?  Do you think the elves spoke?  I heard, ‘Merry Christmas!’ in a high and squeaky voice!”

Her dad and I hugged her and said, “Wow!  How exciting!  You heard them speak.  What fun!”

It did little to curb her excitement, and then she refused to go back downstairs and finish her homework.  Perhaps you aren’t laughing—but we were.

The minds of children really are delicate balances of excitement and wonder with the never-ending tier of, whether it is based upon sense or not, “Protect me, please!”

But, before you get worked into a lather, she wrote her elves notes later that night, yes, they write her notes back, and asked if she heard them speak.  They responded, “YES!”  And she was so excited.

So, even in the midst of uncertainty, the child-like joy of the magical remains.  And that is WHY I love living these phases of life with my children.

BUT…

And this is the big BUT.  How do we pray in our home when we so obviously are also in love with the big, red suit and the joys of the magical parts of the Christmas Season?

It’s simple.   Christmas is a glorious season of giving.  And receiving.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with either and something beautiful about both.

Why it’s better to give than receive!  You may say.

Why, yes, the Bible is very clear about that, Acts 20:35,  I respond.  But let us take a moment to look at both!

And that is why I am writing this post.

The GREATEST gift that was ever given to us came as a small child, in a miraculous way, over 2,000 years ago.  You probably have heard the song, “Away in a Manger”.  Well, perhaps I should have said, “In a miraculous way in a manger…”

Anyhow.  We did not deserve this precious gift.  Yet this gift was given.  To me.  The BIGGEST sinner of all.  Really.  You should see me wife-it and parent-it and live-it.  I am a big ol’ failure each and every day.

“Oh, but Brooke, we do see you—you put it on your blog.”

Oh, that’s right.  So you know.

And I will never fail in proclaiming how hard this thing called life is and how grateful I am for the gift of forgiveness and grace.  So grateful.

Therefore, this miraculous gift that was given to us as a baby, so very long ago, remains the GREATEST focus of our home.

How do we do that and love Santa?

It’s easy.  Every night when we pray, we thank the Lord for what he has provided in our lives.  And, just so you know, provisions do not merely mean monetary things.  We are thankful for health and family.  We are thankful for our precious international church and our best friends.  We are thankful for our baby that was taken in pregnancy to heaven (and, yes, we thank God every day for this baby with our children).

And we also thank him for the home he has provided, and our dogs (especially when they foil the plans of robbers).

We thank him for our daughter’s school, and our son’s medicine (our son is a life-survivor).

Josephine!  She’s our last surprise miracle.  We thank God for her chubby goodness.

And we thank God for our marriage (even though the kids are unaware of the depths that have gone into fighting for it).

We thank God each day for so many beautiful things that he has placed in our lives===the men at the New Life Center and the people that give so that these homeless men and former prisons can have new starts to life…

Our lists are long.  We are unendingly (is that a word) THANKFUL!

And, now that the Christmas season is upon us and everywhere you walk you see the Jolly Red Suit, we continue to make an extra effort to remind our children that as much as we love Santa, we love Jesus more.

This is how we end our prayers, “And, Lord, thank you so much for this season of the GREATEST gift of all…your son!  Your son that you gave to us so humbly.  The angels rejoiced and so do we.  Thank you for the gift of Jesus and the life that he lived and the sacrifice he made at the cross and the victory that took place when he conquered death.   It’s because of this gift of Jesus that we know you in such a personal way.”

And two out of 3 say, “Amen!”

But, to be fair, the third is only 10-months-old, so she pretty much only says, “Dadda and Ada” right now.

When they drift into their child-like slumbers, what do they dream?  Well, that is a question for the next morning.  Tucking them in, kissing their faces, and hugging them tight, however, we send them to bed with the reminder of the greatest gift.  And this is the last thing on their hearts before we close the doors, whispering, “Good night!  We love you more than life.”

That’s it.  My friends.

That’s why it is not hard for us to love Santa and yet remain focused on Jesus in our home.  Because, in the end, he’s what matters most.

And, if you think about it, he was a gift.  So, in a way, receiving is also blessed, too.

How about you?  How do you love Santa and keep your family’s focus on Jesus?

***

Here are some other blogs related to Christmas that I have written in the past:

The Christmas Mullet…what a shame!  http://wp.me/p3Bh9m-30

It shares about some of the Polish traditions to Christmas and the very unfortunate incident of my daughter’s personal hair cut.  Which means she personally cut her own hair.  At Christmastime.  Oh, and there is a carp in our bathtub!  Enjoy.

Jesus Good.  Santa Bad? http://wp.me/p3Bh9m-OO

A blog written that questions “Is Santa Bad?”  My look on it in my life.  Enjoy!

AND…Click on any of the above highlighted words in the article to go to a different article regarding the highlighted topic.  Enjoy!

xo always,

b and my crazy gang

Your Christmas Tootsie

tootsie!

I am entering the Christmas season with a new perspective.

And it is one that will never be Tootsie-less.

You see, my only living grandparent just graduated to heaven this past July.

But, technically, she wasn’t just my “only living grandparent” as I wrote. She is the woman that we named our first daughter after—-Marguerite. Known to all as Tootsie.

She passed at 91 years young. With a full heart. And family by her side.

Not me, however, I was a world away. On the last night that I saw her before flying across the continental US and then the Atlantic, I gave her a kiss on her lips, told her to behave, stay out of trouble, and I would see her in 3 years.

I left fully believing I would see her in 3 years—and fully knowing that perhaps I would not see her in 3 years. A conundrum of the worst sorts.

There is not a day that passes that my heart doesn’t skip a beat thinking about our Tootsie.  Beloved, feisty, kind-hearted, slap-happy, Tootsie.

The woman that ate ice cream for breakfast and caramels for dinner.  It’s a true miracle she even lived to see 91 years.

But as Christmas Day approaches, I want to make sure that my life and the lives of my children are never Tootsie-less.  How do I go about that?

In the following ways…

Devotion!

As a child-bride (1 day 15 and married to the same awesome Papa Charlie for 54 years), I want my children to learn devotion.  Ups.  Downs.  All arounds.  Devotion.  You are never too young to learn devotion, commitment, and how to stick to it.

You can be too young, however, to learn how to cook.  Tootsie asked her mom, one time years after she married, “How come Dorothy is a good cook and I am not?”  Dorothy being her sister.  And her mom answered, “Well, you never stuck around long enough to learn.” Tootsie said after that answer she stopped asking her mom probing questions.

How else do I want to ensure my children live Tootsie-full lives?

By dancing in the barn!  

When my grandma and I were in New Zealand together (yep, she took me to New Zealand with her), we were talking about her life.  She said one of her favorite things to do with Papa Charlie was go down by the border (she lived on the border of Mexico) and go barn dancing.  And then she picked up her pants a little and showed me her footwork.

You know, my Papa always whistled at those legs of hers—and I know why.  Even as she aged, they were hot stuff.

Where am I going with this?  In life, take moments to run to the border and dance in the barn!  Take moments to have fun.  Take moments to embrace the one you love and let him whistle at your legs.  Take moments where you make moments and turn them into life-long love memories.

Yep.  I want my children to one day, with the ones that they love, to dance in the barn!

Eat Dessert First!

Now, do my kids actually get to eat dessert first every morning?  No!  But I have taken to getting them donuts for each Thursdays breakfast.  And they are thrilled.

You may say, “Sugar kills!”

But so do cars.  So do storms.  So do viruses.

There is a lot out there that can end your life.  Sugar being one of them.

But Tootsie lived 91 years strong (only weeks away from 92), and she had the sweetest 4 teeth known to man.  Yep.  4 remaining teeth.  She did have dentures, but she didn’t find them comfortable.  And so, with her 4 remaining teeth, we would always say, “Smile, Tootsie!”  And then she would laugh and laugh and laugh!

You know, in our household, we are all for eating well.  But, and I’ll paraphrase Cheaper by the Dozen II, when the mom of the dozen runs into the mom of her husband’s rival family, “You need a little sugar in your shopping cart!”

I agree and believe it’s true.

Life should include the sweet.  Even if it means eating dessert first.  Tootsie-style!

And, finally, Live in love with life.  Live in love with the Lord!

When I was in the 3rd grade, and we were in the mountains for Christmas as a family, Santa showed up at our door.  He was short and rosy-cheeked and stuffed with all sorts of goodness.  Unfortunately, Tootsie wasn’t there to see him, but we did, and we told her all about him when she got back from her errand.  And she relished the moments of our excitement and stories, with rosy cheeks of her own.

And even though she loved living with us in our hearts and minds of excitement, she never failed to praise God for his goodness—even in the silliest of moments—like winning in dominoes!  Although, in our home, that’s quite a serious moment, too.  Any domino game (smile and wink for all competitive families out there).

You see, she was a top-grandma…Teaching us to fish in the rain barrel, watching Papa chop the head off of a rattlesnake, allowing us to raid her closet-putting on her shoes, bras, and makeup, or teaching us how to make porcelain dolls.

But she lived her life devoted to her husband, her children, and her God.

Her God that got her through the death of two of her infant baby boys.  The death of her husband.  And then the death of her adult son.

Tootsie lived life encouraging our childhood imaginations and joys—but Tootsie lived life more by encouraging our devotion to God, teaching us, “God remains your constant.  So, go out and continue living!”

And with a mighty slap on the shoulder, coming from a petite figure, you would know that Tootsie meant it.

Live life with God as your constant, and go out and continue living!  And let your children invade your closet.  But NEVER lose in dominoes!  And I mean Never.  Oh, and cheer for the Arizona Diamondbacks!  Always.

You know, Christmas will bring with it many beautiful gifts, all glowing warmly beneath the evergreen tree.  But I hope this Christmas to give my kids the greatest gift.  A Tootsie Christmas. One where I teach them:  Devotion; Dancing in the barn; Eating dessert first; Living in love with life and living life for God.

For those are truly gifts that will last.

Just like my memories of Tootsie.

Now, tell me.  What about you?  What lasting gifts can you give your children this Christmas?

Raising a bilingual child.

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I’m so blessed.  My one-year-old, Maxwell, is already bilingual.  I remember it being a bit more difficult for Adelyne, my now 8-year-old, to acquire the Polish language.  She had, for about 2 years of her life, her very own Polish.  And she would speak it.  She would use it.  She would even sing it.  But it was like listening to gibberish.  She understood what she was saying but not another living soul did.  No one but her.  It was like she had the keys to her own secret kingdom.

We were in Kalisz one year leading a Carols by Candlelight Christmas program.  Adelyne was about 4 years of age and attached to my hip.  And that’s difficult when you are the MC of an event.  But she was attached.  I had a microphone.  She did not have stage fright.  And she insisted on “Singing a Christmas Song” for the audience that we were entertaining.

Now, you see.  I was in a REAL dilemma.  Here I was in front of nearly 200 people and my child was on the verge of a major breakdown if she did not get to perform.

I looked all over for my husband to come and rescue me.  I did spot him, but he remained faithfully in the audience snapping pictures.  You know, capturing these “glorious” moments.  Or meltdowns?

Well.  I had a bit of time.  So I allowed her to perform.  But, the funny part is, this is how it all came about…

At Carols by Candlelight there are people from other countries around the world that perform in their languages songs about Christmas.  So I knew that I could slightly get away with Adelyne singing.  Because, after all, she is American and we were in Poland.

Therefore, I introduced her like this, “And now my daughter Adelyne would like to sing a song for you.”

Friends.  Big mistake, I tell you.  Big.  Mistake.

When your 4-year-old wants to perform a song, on the spot, in front of an audience of strangers, in a foreign language, be FAR bolder than I was and simply tell your child, “No!”

But I, I must admit, I was a weakling.  A weakling that gave in to the whims of a 4-year-old.

Sigh.

So, I handed her the microphone.  And she began to sing.

You need to also realize something about my daughter.

She can sing.

She can act.

She can play sports like a pro.

Pretty much NOT on all of the above.  But she THINKS she can.

Funny side note.  Each evening we watch the Olympics (Winter since they are on right now), and she says to me, “I think I would like to be an Olympic athlete.  How do I become one?”

And I looked blankly at my very, very, very minimally aggressive (when it comes to sports) daughter.  I mean, in basketball she won’t even rebound because the ball once hit her in the head.  If you tell her to hustle down the court, she looks at you and canters slowly, albeit gracefully, and acts as if she needs a water break after all of that effort.  And now she is asking how to become an Olympic athlete?  I said the only thing I could think of, “Um.  Well, you pretty much need to pick a sport in the Olympics and begin to train.  NOW.  You must decide and start training NOW for it.  It’s a lot of hard work.”  And I say all of this wondering if it will sink in.  After all, she does not like to put hard work into any athletic activity.  But she does like the snacks at the end of the game.

Anyhow.  Back to my point.  My point is that my daughter believes that she is very, very talented and can do anything.

Yep.  I totally must have fed her this absolute stellar self esteem.  Well done, Momma Bear.  Way to make your child feel as if they get Gold Stars for every.stinking.thing.

And that is why she had no fear to sing a solo in front of 200 strangers during a Christmas program in Kalisz.  In a language, mind you, that she did not know.

Yes.  I gave my 4-year-old the microphone and hoped that she would choose a VERY SHORT song to sing.

But once she opened her mouth, I knew it.  I was doomed.

Out came not English.  Out came not Polish.  Out came the language of Adelyne.  The very language that only Adelyne knew.  For she had made it up.

And she sang it, whatever IT is, with all of her heart and soul.  She sang.  The audience.  They were mesmerized.  Or stunned.  Let’s say mesmerized.  Lol.

Problem.  Once she started singing and realized she had a captive audience, she did not stop.

She kept singing.

And singing.

And singing.

For 4 minutes she “sang” her Christmas song.

Four LONG minutes.

At the end, when I was finally able to PRY the microphone from her chubby little fingers, I don’t think the audience knew what to do.

Clap?

Maybe.

Yeah.  I guess.  And a sprinkling of clapping took place, and my daughter beamed with pride.

Like I said, her language belonged to only her and her imaginary kingdom.  That sprinkling of clapping must have sounded like thunderous applause, for she nearly took a bow before I quickly introduced the next (actually talented) guest and dragged my proud daughter off of the stage.

Raising bilingual children.

Yep.  It’s not easy work.

My daughter.  She’s living proof of that.  After all, in order for her to finally speak Polish, we all had to live through her gibberish.

But my son…Ah.  He’s already got it down pat.  Each and every day he looks at us and with a perfect Dutch accent shouts, “Nee!” (also known in English as “No!”)

Our friend Reinier would be so proud.  Or would he?

Regardless…I am not sure how “Nee” is going to help Maxwell much in Poland.

Perhaps instead of trying to raise bilingual kids, I’ll try to raise trilingual kids.  I bet that is much easier, eh?!

In the words of Maxwell, “NEE!”

Throwback Thursday…Nearly 2 years and two worlds later. Whoa!

It’s amazing how time flies and can change life so quickly…

Two years ago, we were a family of 3, living in Poland…baking Maxwell.

Two years later, we are a family of 4, living in Arizona (for the time being)…baking Josephine.

Two years ago, my little gal did not have an American accent—and had never spent more than a total of 3 months in all of her life in the States.

Two years later, she has lived in the United States for an entire year—and, although she is still learning the art of the “American smile”, she no longer sounds like our own personal version of Mary Poppins.  Slightly a bummer.

Hope you enjoy her precious (1 minute) video wishing you a Merry Christmas in English and Polish.  And hope you also enjoy our throwback photos from life before Maxwell and Josephine.

Amazing how time changes things…

Many hugs for today—looking forward to writing tomorrow about “The Impossible Task”!

xoxo

b

ImageImageImageImageBaking Maxwell:  Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany…2011

Jesus good! Santa bad?

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There is a Christmas song and it sings, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

I couldn’t agree MORE!

I love Christmas.  I am like ELF (you know the one I speak of…).  “SANTA!  I know him!”

I love the Christmas trees, Christmas lights, Christmas decorations, I love the Advent calendars, Christmas Eve services, and the constant caroling through the speakers on the radio…

I love the cookies, the cookie exchanges, the neighborly cookie gifts, and the Christmas parties galore!

I love the giving, giving, giving spirits of people all around me.  I love the sparkling eyes of those that receive.

I love the Polar Express and the “trip” to the North Pole.

I love the letters to Santa…

And I LOVE Elf on the Shelf (even though ours are elves from different shelves).

But it’s funny…people are raised and brought up in many, many ways.  Totally okay, folks.  No problem here. The problem I have is when people feel bad for being Santa fans because they love Jesus and they think both cannot exist together.

Totally breaks my heart.

Let me break it down for you…My mom—raised with Santa.  Cool.  My dad and his sisters—raised only with the “Hope that St. Nick would soon be there.”  Noses pressed up against the window, believing in their hearts he would stop by…even though his existence was neither confirmed nor denied by his parents.

Then my mom and dad had kids and BOY did they have fun.  One year, Santa’s reindeer even left a barnyard mess on top of our roof!  We all climbed the ladder to the roof and witnessed that Santa’s reindeer were totally on top of our roof by the “deposits” they made!

Other years, we heard the bells outside…And, other times, Santa even stopped by on Christmas Eve, with his busy schedule and all, to give us a hug and a reminder to be good little girls and boys.

Let’s not forget The Evening News…The News always tracked Santa’s sleigh.  And our eyes would be glued on the map of the world and where Santa was nearing next…

Santa Mouse always left presents in the tree.

And Christmas morning was a magical experience, walking into the room and seeing the twinkling lights, the ornate tree, the stuffed stocking, and the presents with our names spelled out correctly on them!

Our parents never failed to tell us that Santa loved us very much.

Can you tell that I’m a HUGE Santa fan?!  Huge.  I really do give Will Ferrell an ELF-SIZED run for his money.  Hand over those tights and that hat, Ferrell.  Now!

But let me say this…as exciting and magical and lovely as Santa is in our home, our children (more appropriately our daughter since our little man is only 1) have never forgotten or failed to celebrate Christ as the Reason for the Season.

You see…It’s okay, folks, to love Jesus and raise your children to also love Santa.

Because, when it comes down to it, they know—they know that Santa loves them and gives them gifts.

But Jesus loves them and gives them life!

There is a big difference between a Barbie Car and the opportunity to know, talk to, and walk with Jesus.

It’s huge…Not even Santa’s sleigh can compare with that.

And so, we, in our happy and cozy household, love Santa—but we, in our happy and cozy household, serve Jesus.

I saw and understood that even as the tiniest of a mere child…just like our daughter sees and understands that today.

So, Jesus lovers…If you somehow feel “guilt” over the excitement of Santa in your home, stop.  Give yourself a break.

Because, truly, as long as your family loves Jesus, your children will always know…A Barbie car does not compare to Jesus the real Star!

Now, go and enjoy your holiday…in the holiday spirit that you choose.

Santa—a-okay!

No Santa—it’s not the end of the day!

Jesus—all the way!

Merry upcoming Christmas, my friends.  I can’t wait to see and hear all about your holidays!

With a love for Jingle Bells,

Brooke

(aka the next ELF!  Hollywood, give me a call.  I’m ready!)