A Villainous Birthday Bash

I always say every party is my favorite. But for real this time. The Disney villains, people.

The Invite. I wish I printed the invites but realistically, ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m a texter-inviter. I love these little characters- I normally try to not spend money on the invites, but this was $3 well spent on Etsy.


The Music. Never forget the music! Especially when it comes to a Disney party. Nothing puts you in a villainous mood like listening to Cruella Devil & Poor Unfortunate Souls 😉 Follow my Villains Spotify playlist here.

The Cake. If you know me, you know I love to make cakes with my girls. We started last spring because I figured with 4 girls, this would be a helpful lifeskill. Our villains cake was our biggest challenge yet. Far from perfect, but so much fun! From top to bottom: Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Ursula and Cruella!


Decor. Black, purple, green. Think white roses painted red (queen of hearts reference) with some tissue paper & cardstock to create a magic mirror. And a bunch of pictures you find on google image of villains (search villain minimalist). Also-once again, you know I’m a sucker for a kids party in the garage. Go for it, kids. Spill EVERYWHERE!


The Food. I’m a huge fan of party themes where the food comes to life, so to speak. It makes it fun for the kids and my girls like to help with EVERYTHING. For villains, we did Ursula tentacles, Maleficent brownies, poison apples, puppy chow and “pupcorn.” For drinks- Wishing Well Water and my favorite, Queen Grimhalde’s Drink (aka dry ice & green Hawaiian punch). Click here for my Printable Villain Labels.

Best decision EVER: renting the evil queen costume!

For these, we just bought 2 cans of purple frosting. My girls dipped them in there, added the sprinkles (that came with) and put them on parchment paper. We froze them so (1) they weren’t messy and (2) I like to make most all the food ahead of time.

These were little mini brownies with leftover purple frosting and little chocolate molds I made.

Though the poison apples were pretty much inedible, there were a HUGE hit and the talk of the party. My sister in law helped make them by using this poison apple recipe. They kids thought they were so cool.

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Please excuse me while I swoon over the dry ice!! I was a little shocked by how well it worked!

The Favors. I ripped the favor tag idea from Pinterest & the girls helped stuff with these Halloween candy.



Games. Bags, Hook Toss, Villain Bingo and a Poison Apple Piñata. With the bags game, I may just paint cardboard for every party now- it’s too easy and provides a little something else for the littles to do.  I stumbled upon this Villains Bingo game, but there were only 8 cards. So, we split the kids up into teams of 3, which worked great. The girls and I made the piñata with a balloon, newspaper & paper mache. My girls are at ages where they like to make things like that it is something fun we can do together where they can contribute and get excited for the party.


Recycled from our Neverland party!


Go June, go!

I pretty much lived my piñata party fantasy where almost every child got to take a turn and then when it broke, it was mayhem. If you knew how poorly constructed the piñata actually was, you’d appreciate this miracle.



Happy Birthday, Juney. We love that you are sassy as a villain, but sweet as a princess.

5 Tips on Hosting A Royal Afternoon in the Neighborhood

I think because we have 4 daughters and they know they’ll get used, friends have generously given us more princess dresses than we know what to do with. And the last thing I want is for those to hang in a closet during these magic years. So, partly for that reason, combined with my love for neighboring, we added a Royal Afternoon to our list of neighborhood parties. I admit, that was in some measure code for Princess Tea Party. But it was my way of at least trying to open it up to all the neighborhood knights!

Here are a few simple ways to host your own Royal Afternoon in the Neighborhood:

  1. The Invite. Keep it simple & post to your neighborhood Facebook group or text to a few neighbors & ask them to help you spread the word.


2. The Food. I’m a sucker for a theme. And given this was NOT a princess tea party, the theme was NOT Cinderella, rather “Once Upon a Time: A Royal Afternoon With Snacks.” So, naturally we had pumpkins, mice, brooms & carriage wheels, aka mandarine oranges, strawberries, cheese and donuts. And cake and cookies. Oh, and “Dragon Juice” for the knights, of course. And I need to add that one neighbor completely ran with the food! I came up with the vision but she executed! And then another neighbor helped with set up! It was an all around team effort.

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Because you can never have too much cheese.

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A neighbor made these gorgeous cookies!

Dragon Juice!

3. Photo Prop! I’m a sucker for a good photo prop & there were two neighbors who wanted to help with the party… So, the two of them magically created this gorgeous carriage from cardboard & glitter. I was so impressed!


4. Jousting. Though I knew very few boys might actually end up coming, I still wanted to try to have some games that weren’t so girly. So, I  bought these cheap swords/shields and covered them with a pool noodle. We divided the kids into two teams and I sprayed whipped cream on the end of each sword. The first one to get whipped cream on his/her opponent won! This was a HUGE hit!

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5. Dance Party. When in doubt, dance. I brought a portable speaker and blared “Let it Go” at an ungodly volume. It was a really fun ending & got the parents involved as well. Here’s my Disney Spotify playlist– enjoy!



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Originally, I had wanted to also coax the dads into being waiters, but I probably did not (a) pick the best weekend (b) plan far enough in advance and/or (c) have the best persuasion skills. It was still a TON of fun & a great memory with the neighborhood littles.

What’s your favorite princess tea party memory (ahem, I mean Royal Afternoon for Knights & Princesses)???

Why Halloween is My Boo

Football is in full swing, people are buying more Yankee Candles than usual, Starbucks has a new Chili Mocha and fruit flies are beginning to die. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year: Fall. Which also means that we’ve taken our family vote (no more vacillating between Disney movies and weather pattern costumes) we’re all going as Inside Out characters for Halloween.

As a mom in full-time vocational ministry, I’ll be honest: I first felt like a closet Halloween-lover. Despite the fact that I grew up trick-or-treating my whole childhood, I always had this awkward uncertainty: “Is it really okay to love a day that’s been relatively taboo in the church in years past and that some Christians abstain from altogether?”

But then my love for planning neighborhood parties collided with this controversial holiday and something really special happened that freed me up to not only participate, but to go all in with Halloween.

My husband and I had been co-hosting block parties and Easter Egg Hunts for a couple years, but with ours being a newer neighborhood, we were all dispersing to the more established neighborhoods for our trick-or-treating merriment. In cahoots with our neighborhood party planning posse, we decided drastic measures needed to be taken to keep people local. So, we started with our neighborhood Facebook group and what happened blew my mind. Before we knew it, we were designing treasure maps for all the different “stations” which included everything from hot dogs, hot chocolate, popcorn and s’mores to a haunted garage and haunted trail!! It blew everyone’s mind. We had neighbors coming together- young & old, single and married with kids- and our neighborhood CAME ALIVE. People were saying that they had never had so much fun on Halloween- even as a child!

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Our neighborhood treasure maps with all the stations.

All of this caused me to further consider the Christian subculture concerning Halloween. In short, here are 4 objections I’ve heard (and maybe even had myself) and why they may be “Christian,” but not necessarily Biblical:

Objection: But Halloween has pagan roots- doesn’t that go against what I believe as a Christian?

If you are concerned with pagan roots, you might not want to think about the implications that would have on other things such as wedding rings, our calendar, the English names for days of the week, eye makeup, piñatas, kites, bridesmaids and saying “God bless you”, to name a few. But it’s comforting to know that the Bible addresses some of these very concerns- in different circumstances, but with principles that apply today. The apostle Paul wrote to a church that was arguing over whether or not they could eat meat that had been sacrificed to demons and which of the Jewish holidays they should and should not recognize. Though he was “fully convinced that nothing is unclean in and of itself,” he also understood that for some, it went against their conscience. Consequently, he urged them to withhold judgment, be motivated by love, and use their conscience to determine how to proceed on these opinion level issues. As  one author said, “There is no demon meat – just meat that can be eaten in celebration of Jesus. Jesus made meat, and it is a good gift. Don’t get rid of the meat. Rather, get rid of its demonic association and redeem the meat for Jesus.” Just as you are free to wear eye makeup and a wedding ring without violating your conscience, you are free to enjoy, celebrate and redeem Halloween.

Objection: But I can’t. There are skeletons and tombstones. 

Jesus called out the religious leaders for being like whitewashed tombs, which may look deceptively clean on the outside but are full dead bones on the inside. How’s that for scary? The reality is, I should be more afraid of the self-love and vain conceit in my own heart than my neighbor’s haunted garage. I want to push back against the temptation for Christians to disappear and disengage because we’re spooked by a few lawn decorations and would rather hang out with people who are frankly more like us. As we resist the urge to sensationalize and shift our view from the big, bad world out there to the big, bad world in here we become less fearful and freed up to see the redemptive parts of Halloween. That it’s unlike any other day of the year: Families all go out together. They dress up in silly costumes, knock on neighbors doors and eat candy until their tummies hurt. It’s glorious.

Objection: Bad things happen on Halloween. 

Bad things do happen on Halloween. Awful, evil things. And as believers, there are parts of this holiday that we don’t condone: inappropriate costumes, taking part in anything demonic (i.e.: ouija boards, séances, etc.), drunkenness and sexual sin. But consider broadening your view of evil. The average American Christian family who celebrates the birth of Christ on Christmas morning also lives in the tension of a season where western commercialism runs rampant. The evils of greed that give way to compounding credit card debt that can eventually destroy marriages don’t stop us from celebrating Jesus. And they shouldn’t. My point is that we live in tension. Hopefully, we reject the rotten, evil, wicked pull from our culture toward self-indulgence and materialism… or do we? Are we as spooked by the temptation to “charge it!” as we are of the plastic skeleton hanging in our neighbor’s tree? We’re not. And even if we were, those unholy and irreverent parts of our culture at Christmastime would not-and should not- keep us from celebrating the coming of our Savior. I think there’s a way to reject certain aspects of Halloween and embrace the redemptive aspects.

Objection: Halloween is evil, plain & simple.

When you’re considering whether you should treat or re-treat, consider Jesus, who stepped into our world. He wasn’t fearful or unnerved by the darkness of the time and place He entered history and He isn’t terrified or even alarmed by the darkness of my world, my heart.  He knows better than anyone how deep my darkness goes and despite all this, He comes right to me- unafraid, undaunted, unapprehensive. And that’s how I’ll approach Halloween.

Practicing Affirmation: Highlights & Discussion Questions

Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God

by: Sam Crabtree

Despite the fact that Crabtree can be a little black & white in his communication style at times and you may have to nuance some things, if you can get over some of those things, the content of this book is pure gold.

CS Lewis wrote, “The world rings with praise- lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game- praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars, I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.”

Rather than seeing encouragement and affirmation of others as stealing glory from God, Crabtree suggests that “we rob God of praise by not pointing out his reflection in the people he has knit together in his image.”

He also gives lists some benefits that come from affirmation:

1 Affirming others earns us the right standing from which to make suggestion. It gains us a hearing.
2 Affirmation lifts morale in the home, office & any where.
3 Affirmation energizes people. It not only lifts their spirits but motivates them to action.
4. Affirmation of others makes us easier to live with.
5. Striving to affirm others puts us in the practice of looking at them positively.
6. Affirmation constructively uses time that could have a been wasted complaining.
7. By commending Christlike qualities and celebrating them when we spot them, affirmation showcases the character of God, giving him honor for a being the kind of God he is.
8. Behaviors that are rewarded and celebrated are more likely to be repeated.
9. When we comment God’s image in people, God is glorified, and that why we were made—to glorify God.
Another highlight was thinking through how affirmation can heal broken relationships & the “importance of proportionality”- that corrections and affirmations are not weighed equally and there must be an over-abundance of affirmations, especially in relationships that weather the test of time… And that there’s a difference between affirmation and flattery: one is a free gift with no strings attached, whereas the other is empty and from a self-centered motive.
While I do not agree that every affirmation must be tied back to an attribute of God in the conversation, it pushed me to consider how I see God in people. Overall, I enjoyed the book and it’s been something that I hope shapes me as a mother, wife and friend.

Practicing Affirmation- Intro PDF

Practicing Affirmation- Chapter 1 PDF

Practicing Affirmation- Chapter 2 PDF

Practicing Affirmation- Chapter 3 PDF

Practicing Affirmation- Chapter 4 PDF

Practicing Affirmation- Chapter 5 PDF

Practicing Affirmation- Chapter 6 PDF

Practicing Affirmation- Chapter 7 PDF

Let me know if you were able to use the questions & what you thought!

What did you think of the book? Were you able to filter & get past some of the points that seemed a little rigid and benefit from the overall heart of the book?


Carried Away With Ballons Birthday Party

Have you just had a baby? Are you a tired mama? Are you looking for a super simple birthday party theme? Then, why not balloons? Yes, just balloons. Do you remember that every child LOVES balloons? Period. They love them, that’s all. What you’re imagining- yes. Lots of kids playing with just balloons. It’s the toy that never disappoints.

All you need are three things: invitations, cake and… BA-LOONS.

Can it get more simple than just balloons & cake? I’m not sure it can unless you just throw a cake party- which is also a kind of a good idea, now that I think about it.
My first food dye.
All I ever needed to bake my first fondant cake.
Fondant balloons.
My first cake!!!!
When you say you’re throwing a balloon party, there better be balloons, right?
Consider googling how to make a balloon arch, it’s actually not that difficult. We were pretty proud of ourselves!

So, get carried away, my friends. Because time flies when you’re turning one.

What’s your easy-I-just-had-a-baby-or-don’t-have-the-energy-to-put-much-time-into-this-party-but-still-want-it-to-be-special idea?

A Darling Neverland Party on a Dime

When Ginger asked for a Neverland party for her & Pearl’s last birthday, I thought “There is no way I can pull this off.” I’m looking at Pinterest and seeing parties I’d die for and it’s probably just me, but I can’t justify selling our TV’s, computers & cars for a party. Sooooooooooo…. yeah. But as we dreamed and brainstormed, we realized there was a lot we could do. And the girls were all eager to help paint, stain, bake, etc! It ended up being one of our favorite parties yet! Hope some of these ideas are helpful to anyone planning Peter Pan on a Budget!

First off, the INVITES. I’m pretty much all digital now. Partially to save on stamps, but moreso it’s just so much easier to do an invite on picmonkey or pages, do a little photo editing & text to my friends.

We went pretty old school with the invites with all the original classic Peter Pan characters.

Next off- GAMES! We did Walk the Plank, Hook Toss and Feed the Croc. I had old colored stain & paint, a game of bags (aka: corn hole), a piece of cardboard and some plywood… so it just cost me the board from Home Depot for the plank and the hooks & rings and some blue balloons (for pretend water) from amazon.

The hit of the party: Walk the Plank game. I used some very short child’s chairs to keep it low to the ground so the kids wouldn’t hurt themselves.
My husband was a champ as Captain hook. We also downloaded the soundtrack from Jake & the Neverland Pirates while they were playing, which was a big hit as well.
Kids LOVED the Hook Toss!
The Feed the Croc beanbag game was another great game for kids to jump in on. Especially since it cost me NOTHING! Same with the favors bags on the right.

Next, there were the DECORATIONS. Total I think these cost me $15. I did a Peter Pan clothesline, a Mighty Colossus photo booth, a birthday treasure map, a Neverland sign and some lanterns & treasure chests that I borrowed.

This took me 2 hours I think. It’s just paper from one of those large rolls and super easy if you’re looking for something to make a statement that’s cheap and you don’t mind the “homemade look.” I added some felt for each of their accessories.
This was my most expensive prop- a $13 piece of dry erase board that Ginger and I painted and my husband used his jigsaw to shave down the sides. I used some old fabric for the sail.
My mother in law had these lanterns, so how lucky was that?! I used an old white sheet for the map (died with tea leaves) and then turned it into a Happy Birthday Sign.
Ginger, Pearl & June all helped with these- they each stained them by hand with some colored stain I had and then I painted the words. The only problem with this was that we struggled to make the base sturdy.

We also did FAVOR BAGS & a few PHOTO PROPS:

These cost me $0 since I already had the brown paper bags & construction paper. I filled them with pixie sticks, gold coins, an eye patch and candy.
Photo props: free.

Lastly- and most importantly, the FOOD! We did a Peter Pan cake, pixie dust (pixie sticks), fish & chips (gold fish & potato chips), cannonballs (malted milk balls) and Pirate’s Booty (Pirate’s Booty!). I’m also into printing my own labels on cardstock because it’s another free thing you can do & I think it gives it that extra special touch.

The spread. I also borrowed treasure chests from a couple people & filled one with some gold beads.
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So obviously, I am new to cakes. And yes, it turned out to be like the leaning tower of Peter Pan! But I was super excited about it, especially given that it was my second time using fondant. But this was a huge highlight getting to try something new & fun!
Nothing like 30 kids on a sugar high.
Saw this on some pinterest site- how cute is that?!
Aldi’s also sells Pirate’s Booty from time to time, fyi.
Serving Ginger & Pearl their cake. And yes, that’s an actual dress I wear for realz- not just when I’m posing as Tiger Lily.
My birthday girls!!
Yo ho ho! What a fun parrrrrrrrty!

How do you save when you throw a party?

What IS the Disney Summer Mission?

I always kind of giggle sheepishly before answering peoples’ question about where we’re going this summer… “The Disney Summer Mission.” But in addition to our kids getting to meet princesses and Goofy and Donald Duck, the purpose of the Disney Summer Mission is something we can really get behind.

What is the Disney Summer Mission?

There is a year-round Cru staff team at Walt Disney World who aims to be a spiritual resource to the 12,000 college students who work at Disney every year. These students represent 500 campuses from 60+ countries all over the world. In the summers, we join what they’re doing by providing our summer mission leadership track for Christian students who want to grow in their faith while working at Magic Kingdom. We then equip these students (who are a part of the Disney College Program) to engage in spiritual conversations with their co-workers (cast members at the Parks) who are spiritually seeking and would like to explore the Bible & questions about Jesus, the existence of God and their purpose in life.

Partnership with Disney:

A friend of ours who is on Cru Staff worked in the Disney College Program when he was a student. He got excited about potentially providing some Biblical exposure to these 12,000 students from all over the world. He started what has been a 10 year recruiting partnership between Disney & Cru. Disney loves hiring Cru students because of their positive attitudes & good work ethic. Because of this, Disney goes way out of their way to be flexible with us, letting all our students live together on non-Disney property, giving them specific hours based around our project and letting them all work together at the same park. And true to Disney’s value of diversity- they allow our students’ ministry focus as developing friendships with their co-workers & engaging them in gospel conversations after hours.

Emily (left) joined the Disney Summer Mission last summer from  Hope College in Michigan. She is returning this summer as a student staff & I am planning to disciple her.

International Focus:

We have a diverse group of Cru students from campuses all over the United States that come to be a part of the Disney Summer Mission. Part of what draws them is the fact that they will get to work alongside other college kids from all over the world in the Disney College Program. Last summer, one Bible Study started specifically for just Chinese students. Year round, there are students involved from Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and many other countries.

Students come from all over the world to be a part of the Disney College Program. Over the last 10+ years, the staff team that is there year round has kept a map where students have marked their home countries. It’s amazing to see the global influence of Cru at WDW.

Where do we live? 

I think some people think we actually live in Cinderella’s castle in Magic Kingdom- I wish. Overall, Disney tends to want those participating in their college program to all live together in housing that they provide. However, because of the great relationship Cru has developed with Disney over the years, they make an exception for our project to live off of Disney property in condos/time shares about 15 minutes away from Disney World. This allows us to keep costs down, while being together where we can create a sense of community, just us. I’ll be honest- as a mom, all the mold in Florida kind of freaks me out. And sometimes you do have to be up for the occasional Florida cockroaches… but overall, it’s a nice place and there are great pools, which is awesome. I mean, I’m a homebody and as a mom of 4 littles, I just don’t love packing up my family for 6 weeks… But after traveling to Africa, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and other developing countries, I’m thankful for a nice, safe place to stay for the summer. And getting to take our kids to Disney World doesn’t hurt.

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Disney Cru Summer Mission 2015

What do the students do?

In the mornings, the students have project activities such as Bible Study, Weekly Meeting, Prayer, Discipleship, Evangelism and Men’s & Women’s Development times. In the afternoons and evenings, they work at the Magic Kingdom theme park where they’re connecting with fellow Cast Members and Guests from around the world. They work 40-45 hours a week (often times late at night, as the parks can stay open as late at 2am) in entry-level positions such as Quick Serve Food & Beverage or Merchandise.

On their days off, they might meet up with a friend/coworker from China or New Zealand. Or they might head over to a Disney park for a night of rollercoasters and fireworks.

Students on the job at Magic Kingdom.

What do we as Cru staff do?

We run the program for the students- so, leading the Bible Studies, Discipleship, Teaching at the Weekly Meeting, Men’s & Women’s Times, etc.. Last summer, Chris & I both discipled students, meaning we met with them weekly for their spiritual development. We also did quite a bit of teaching, which we enjoyed.  Chris taught an overview of God’s big story throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1:1, moving through the Scriptures until the book of Revelation- and how our lives fit into His Story.

Chris also did some teaching from the book of Mark on “God’s Grace Despite our Unbelief” and led the men’s times on Biblical & Authentic Manhood. I (Elizabeth) spoke at a women’s time on “Grace for the Real Self” based off of the book of Galatians and facilitated a learning activity to go along with it called “The Grid: Grace, Legalism & Total Excess.” I also served on a Moms, Marriage & Ministry panel and we both gave our Dating by Faith talk.

Elizabeth speaking at a women’s time and on a Moms, Marriage & Ministry panel, Both of us giving our Dating by Faith Talk (top middle) and Chris speaking on God’s Big Story: An overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

What are some Disney highlights/benefits from the summer?

In the past, we have been able to take our kids one time over the course of the summer to  Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom…  almost totally for free!  This was because of the buddy swipes that our Cru college kids are given. Since then, Disney has become more strict with those, so we may have way less free tickets this year. Regardless, we still hope & plan to take our kids to Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom (for a day in each park) over the course of the summer. Plus, there are many other fun free/ inexpensive things for families to do. Whether it’s the Chip n Dale Campfire Sing-a-Long at Fort Wilderness, watching an outdoor Disney Movie at one of the resorts (they don’t require you to stay there to come for a movie) or just walking around Downtown Disney… there are a lot of things we’ll get to do with the kids. Not to mention, it will just be fun for our kids to get to rub shoulders with all the college students that are there. We’re so excited to head back!!

What a huge gift for our family to get to “do Disney” while we’re there!

What other questions do you have about the Disney Summer Mission?

Any suggestions for other fun things we should do while we’re there???


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