Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Random Family Pictures

We were fortunate to be able to have three of our adult children together for Thanksgiving, as well as our three youngest. We were missing two. And of course the child we are hoping to adopt is months away from coming home (if the state is even willing to work with us). Here are some of the more candid photos.
Thanksgiving Turkey? Or just Adam photo bombing?

The real turkey. There were actually two--one roasted and one fried. This is the fried one. It was amazing.

Adam, Tara, Kayla, Jasmine, Kaleb

Kaleb, Kayla, Jasmine

I used different filters on this. Not sure which I like best. What about you?

Holidays are exhausting.
River is happy to announce that her little sister, Winter Robin, is due April 11. They will be about 16 mos apart.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Lessons from Disney Princesses part 2

 Here is part 2 of my three part article about Disney Princesses.
I have listed some resources in this article that would make good stocking stuffers for your own princesses.

Remember, the italicized part is what I wrote in my original post here 

Part One is here 

Jasmine is a strong, confident princess who doesn't want anyone to tell her what to do, including her father. She longs for her independence. She meets Aladdin, who is disguised as a prince, and goes on a ride on a magic carpet--and of course falls in love with Aladdin. After a lot of plotting, and battles between good and evil, Aladdin realizes he can't keep pretending to be who he's not. With the help of a Genie, he gets things worked out and is allowed to marry Princess Jasmine even though he's not royalty. There's a lot of deceit and lying going on in this movie, but of course it all works out in the end.

Jasmine was determined to live life the way she wanted rather than letting others make decisions for her. Her values and freedom were worth more to her than money or position. That's not to say it's okay to disobey parents or those in authority, but neither should parents be making decisions about a child's adult life for them. God reveals his plan for a person to that person, not the parents, teacher, pastor or other person. God leads each person in different and unique ways.

Living the lesson: Never be afraid to run head first into your future. Don't let the desire for money, prestige or position be your guide. Embrace life and live intentionally. Having money or fame doesn't guarantee success or we wouldn't have movie stars and sports heroes committing suicide. Live with no regrets.

Key verse:  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Resources for today's girls
A Girl's Guide to Making Really Good Choices by Elizabeth George
The Christian Girl's Guide to Being Your Best by Katrina Cassel

Pocahontas is an adventurer and nature lover who talks to the spirits. She is noble and wise beyond her years. The daughter of a Native American Chief, she meets John Smith in the wilderness and they fall in love. But it's not meant to be. John takes the blame for killing someone he didn't kill in order to protect young Thomas. He's going to be executed, but is saved at the last minute. Just as it looks like everything will turn out okay, he is shot while protecting the chief and John returns to England for medical treatment. And of course the movie wouldn't be the same without the raccoon.

No, the movie is not historically accurate. But that's not what little girls care about. They care about the princesses, and Pocahontas was one brave princess. She saved her tribe and made peace between her tribe and the settlers. It's not easy to go against tradition, superstition and prejudice, especially when there's a powerful father involved. But she stood up for herself and for others.

Living the lesson: Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn't mean it's right.  Just because the majority of people believe something doesn't mean it's right. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and others even when it's hard. Different groups of people may have to work hard to understand each other. But learning respect for others is an important lesson, and sometimes it takes courage to follow through. Be open to new things, ideas and people.

Key verses for Pocahontas:  When people’s lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them. Proverbs 16:7
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Resources for today's girls
Just for Me! My Family by Katrina Cassel
The One Year Devos for Animal Lovers by Dandi Mackall (remember all the wildlife friends Pocahontas had!)

Mulan is different from the other Chinese girls of her time. Although beautiful, she's clumsy and outspoken. She's also brave and loyal. Disguising herself as a boy, she takes her father's place in the army, with an (very small, humorous) ancestral dragon to help her. When Mulan is injured, her true gender is discovered, and she's kicked out of the army. Still, she ends up being the hero in the end, saving China and winning the love of her former commander.

Mulan changed herself for guy, but in her case, the guy was her father. She took on a male identity in order to take her father's place. She didn't change herself for Shang, but he was attracted to her anyway. Always honorable, Mulan saved the day and won the guy.

Living the lesson: Be yourself so people will like you for who you are, not who you pretend to be. You were created to fulfill a certain purpose, so if you try to be someone else, you'll miss the perfect plan God has for you.

Key verse: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Resources for today's girls:
Everyone Tells Me to Be Myself, But I Don't Know Who I Am by Nancy Rue

The Christian Girl's Guide to Me: The Quiz Book by Katrina Cassel

And for all the princesses in your life:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lessons from Disney Princesses part 1

With the Disney World Marathon coming up January 8th, I thought this might be a good time to reshare these posts which first appeared on my Cassel Crew blog. I also share some books for girls that are great resources for moms, Sunday school teachers, teachers, small group leaders and so on. Consider adding them to your Christmas shopping list for gifts with value.

If your family is like ours, you've lived through the princess craze from Aurora to Cinderella to Belle to the newest sisterly dynamic duo—Elsa and Anna. You've watched the movies, heard the songs and dressed your daughters in miniature gowns and tiaras.

What kind of role models are these princesses to girls today? Or do girls even give any thought to them. After all, Snow White and Aurora are far removed from our lifestyles today.

A while back I posted about the Disney princesses. Basically I gave my version of their stories. I've included that in this post too. That part is in italics. I'm going to attempt to add to it but giving my thoughts on what girls learn from these princesses—and really, a lot of that depends on the parents.

Hopefully you watch the movies with your children and they serve as a springboard for important discussions on values, goals, motives, relationships and so on. If children watch movies, who knows how they may interpret the values, if at all.

So here goes….
(remember, the italicized part is what I wrote in my original post here ) 

Snow White is the original Disney princess, born with skin as white as snow, hair as black as Ebony and lips as red as a rose. She hides from her wicked stepmother in the home of the Seven Dwarfs, happily keeping house for them until she is tricked into eating a poisonous apple. She is naive, but kind, happy and a willing worker. And of course it only takes a kiss from a prince to revive her once she's been poisoned.

Snow White seems to be not much more than a carefree young lady in a flawless body who needs someone to take care of her. So for her, living with the dwarfs works out. She improves their lives, they give her a home. And really, if you can find that many men who are gainfully employed and go to work each day, go for it.

Okay, maybe not. But it's hard to take more away from Snow White than don't answer the door when you're home alone, don't accept food from a stranger and do your work cheerfully. Oh, and watch out for mean girls who are jealous of you. I don't think that's changed a lot even from Bible times. Think of Hannah and wife #2, Sarah and Hagar, or Leah and Rachel.

She may not have more than that to say to us today, but remember, she's from the 1930's and life was way different then.

Living the lesson: Look for friends who aren't threatened by your talents, looks or possessions. True friends won't play the comparison game or be jealous. So you won't have to go hide in the woods to avoid them.

Key verses for Snow White: Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1:17-18

Resources for today's girls
God's Girls series by Karen Whiting
For Girl's Only Devotions by Karen Larsen

Cinderella was perhaps the most popular of the princesses for a long time. I think Elsa may have passed her : ) Cinderella's widowed father remarries, and Cinderella gains a step mother and two lazy step sisters. When her father dies, she is mistreated by her step mother and sisters, yet she remains kind and gentle, doing the work without complaining and with only the mice and other animals for friends. Her fairy godmother helps her attend the ball where the prince fails in love with her after only a dance. Not knowing her identity, a kingdom-wide search for the owner of a lost glass slipper reunites them.

You can look at it as Cinderella is doing what is required by her step mother without giving up hope even when treated as a slave, or you can look at it as Cinderella passively accepts her lot in life and lets everyone walk all over her without complaining. Either way, she meets the prince who will take her away from it all and they live happily ever after. The problem with that is, his desire for her seems to be because of her beauty. I mean, how much did they really learn about each other during the dance? And what exactly is entailed in happily-ever-after? Sooner or later her beauty faded and body parts sagged. Hopefully they found more to base their marriage on before this happened.

Not many of us would teach our girls to stay in an abusive situation like Cinderella was in with her step mother, but CPS probably didn't exist back then. And few of us would want our daughters to marry someone based solely on their looks or what was learned during a dance. They need to wait for a guy who values them for their intelligence, creativity and so on.

Living the lesson: Make friends with guys. Get to know their interests, desires and heart. Do they share your values? Respect and even ask for your opinions? Encourage you to be yourself? If not, they aren't worth being friends with, much less developing a romantic relationship with.

Key verses for Cinderella: Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Proverbs 31:30

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

Resources for today's girls
The One Year Devotions for Girls Starring Women of the Bible by Katrina Cassel
The Christian Girl's Guide to Style by Sherry Kyle

Aurora, a little naive and a hopeless romantic, is sheltered most her life. When evil Maleficent pronounces a curse on her while she's an infant, she is hidden away to be raised by three good fairies. She falls into a death-like sleep and can be awakened only by true love's kiss. Of course if you've seen the recently released "Maleficent" with Angelina Jolie, you know that isn't the true story at all .

Aurora is another princess who, unable to care for herself, is just waiting for the man who can take care of her. Flawlessly beautiful, she seems to do little more than pick berries and sing. You know there are issues when the color of her ball gown is a major plot point of the movie.

In her favor, she had been cursed so she was hidden away and that didn't lead to a lot of opportunities for her to improve herself.

Wanting to find the perfect man to spend your life with is good. And if a girl can find an attractive man with good manners to sweep her off her feet, great. But he really needs to have more going for him than his pedigree. And honestly, Aurora could have worked on some hobbies, done some reading and bettered herself while she was waiting.

Living the lesson: Sometimes there are waiting periods in life. When you have a school vacation with no plans or you're waiting for something bigger like your first date or job, use the time to improve yourself. Learn skills like how to change a tire or rewire a light switch (you don't want to have to depend on a prince, they don't do manual labor). Try something new like racquetball or stained glass art. Learn to cook. Run in a 5k or half marathon. Do things to make yourself more interesting, and you won't settle for the first prince who comes along.

Key verse for Aurora: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Resources for today's girls
 The Christian Girl's Guide to Being Your Best by Katrina Cassel

A Girl After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George

Ariel is the daughter of King Triton and the youngest of seven sisters. Not content with being a mermaid, she trades her voice for the chance to be human. Of course everything goes wrong with this plan, but in the end, King Triton, realizing that Ariel loves Eric, changes her into a human and agrees she can marry Eric. Ariel is quite different than the first three princesses who seem to just go along with the plan. Ariel is independent and willing to take risks to get her dream, but she also has obedience issues.

On the one hand, Ariel wants to experience new things and explore a different culture.
She's curious, and she's determined. Good for her for those things. But overall she fails as a role model because she makes a deal with a stranger, and she changes everything about herself for a guy. What's up with that? She gives up her family and her identity as a mermaid for a guy she really doesn't even know. She may have had some desire to live in the human world before he came along, but without him she may have found another way to satisfy her curiosity other than giving up her family and identity.

Living the lesson: Embrace who God created you to be. He gave you the exact talent, abilities and personalities to do what you're meant to do. Don't trade it for something or someone else. Celebrate your uniqueness. And if someone wants you to be something you're not, move on.

Key verse for Ariel: You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! Psalm 139: 13,14,17

Resources for today's girls
Everyone Tells Me to Be Myself, But I Don't Know Who I Am by Nancy Rue

The Christian Girl's Guide to Me: The Quiz Book by Katrina Cassel

Belle is one of my favorites because she is true to who she is. She doesn't go with the flow, but embraces her love of books and turns down Gaston who the rest of the girls swoon over due to his good looks. When Belle's father is held in a castle by the beast, she sacrifices her own freedom for his. Although at first she's turned off by the beast's looks, she soon learns to look beyond appearances. She declares her love for him while he is still in beast form, not realizing he's a prince under a spell/curse.

Belle knew the lesson Ariel missed. Be yourself. Belle was adventurous, smart and a reader. She turned down Gaston, despite his muscles and the fact that the other females thought he was a great prize. She knew he was a pig. She didn't settle for something that wasn't right for her.

Living the lesson: Don't worry if you seem "different." Don't change who you are or deny your real interests, likes and dislikes just to fit in. Find friends who either share your interests or who will accept them without trying to make you feel inferior.

Key verse for Belle: There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Resources for today's girls

The Christian Girl's Guide to Being Your Best by Katrina Cassel
A Girl's Guide to Best Friends and Mean Girls by Dannah Gresh
See here

And for all the princesses in your life:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fun Friday: Easy Rolo Treats

We were looking for something to make using what we already had, and we ended up doing a variation of the idea on the back of the Rolo's bag. It listed pretzels, Rolos and pecans. We didn't have pecans, but we had crushed walnuts.

So this is what we did:
Place pretzels on a cookie sheet. We used the square butter snap pretzels.
Put one Rolo on top of each pretzel.
Bake at 350F for 3-4 minutes.
Remove from oven and push nuts down on top of soft Rolo.

Answer to last week's fun Friday brain teaser:
1. They are pronounced differently depending on whether they are capitalized or not.

2. They are both common and proper nouns.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fun Friday: Three Words

Here's a short one this week: What do these words have in common: polish, job, herb?

No one guessed at last week's quiz. At least grade yourself and leave a comment as to how you did.
 1. The happiest place on earth. Disney
 2. I'm loving it. McDonalds
 3. Life's messy, clean it up. Bissell
 4. Ideas for life. Panasonic
 5. Leave the driving to us. Greyhound
 6. For everything else there's ____________. Mastercard
 7. Betcha can't eat just one. Lays
 8.____ gives you wings. Red Bull (There's a lawsuit over this I guess)
 9. Believe in yoursmellf. Old Spice
10. What's the worst that could happen? Dr. Pepper

11. The taste of a new generation. Pepsi
12. Just do it. Nike
13. A passion for the road. Mazda
14. Eat fresh. Subway
15. We know money. AIG
16. All in or nothing. Adidas
17. Behold the power of cheese. American Diary Association and Dairy Council
18. Get your own box. Cheez It
19. Open happiness. Coke
20. Does she or doesn't she? Clairol

21. Play. Laugh. Grow. Fisher-Price
22. The best a man can get. Gillette
23. Don't dream it. Drive it. Jaguar
24. Let your fingers do the walking.Yellow Pages
25. When you care enough to send the very best. Hallmark

I made this quiz up from slogans I found online. In reality I only knew about nine of them because so many have changed--Coke, Dr Pepper (What's the worst that could happen???) How many did you know?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Quick Tips: Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month, and today Michelle Lazurek, author of Daddy, Am I Beautiful, shares about reading picture books with your child.

November is Picture book month.  Emilie Buchwald said, 

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." Here are 

some ways to increase your reading time with your kids, while 

enjoying quality time with them as well:

·        Set a Timer- Carve thirty minutes out of your schedule a night to read to your kids. It could be a couple of picture books or a longer book, whatever you feel your child can handle.
·        Evoke the senses- in this media saturated age, Kids love things they interact with. Let your child turn the pages and feel the texture of the paper. Let them imagine what else is going on as they look at the pictures. Make up voices for each character, or let your child make up the voices. Throughout the day, use that characters voice so they can reflect on their time with you as a positive experience. 

·        Write a story- Get a piece of paper and create your own story with your child. Make up the characters, story, etc. The sillier the better! It can be a sequel to the books you have read together, or a completely new story. This helps develop critical thinking skills and promotes creativity. 

You can connect with Michelle on her author page.
You can order Michelle's book, Daddy, Am I Beautiful? HERE

Don't miss these other Quick Tips:

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fun Friday: Whose Slogan is It?

Slogans come and go over the year. The ones we grew up may have been replaced by slogans meant to capture the younger generation's interest. How many of these can you name? Leave your guesses in the comments section:

 1. The happiest place on earth.
 2. I'm loving it.
 3. Life's messy, clean it up.
 4. Ideas for life.
 5. Leave the driving to us.
 6. For everything else there's ____________.
 7. Betcha can't eat just one.
 8.____ gives you wings.
 9. Believe in yoursmellf.
10. What's the worst that could happen?

11. The taste of a new generation.
12. Just do it.
13. A passion for the road.
14. Eat fresh.
15. We know money.
16. All in or nothing.
17. Behold the power of cheese.
18. Get your own box.
19. Open happiness.
20. Does she or doesn't she?

21. Play. Laugh. Grow.
22. The best a man can get.
23. Don't dream it. Drive it.
24. Let your fingers do the walking.
25. When you care enough to send the very best.

Some of these are easy. They've been around a long time. We know brands. Sometimes people have brands. Some of my author friends have brands or slogans--Seatbelt Suspense, Queen of Christian Fiction/Life Changing Fiction, Expect the Unexpected.

What slogan best describes you?

Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right. Proverbs 20:11

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Quick Tips: Forgiveness Day

Today's quick tips come from Elizabeth Ludwig, author of Where Hope Dwells.

Order HERE

Today Elizabeth shares tips on forgiveness.

National Forgiveness Day was October 29. Who knew? This is a good reminder that we all need to practice forgiveness, but should this be reserved for one day…or should it be a way of life? Here’s how we can all benefit from the healing power of forgiveness  not just one day a year, but every day:
·        Pray for the person who hurt you. Though it may be difficult at first, there is something remarkable and healing about lifting a person in prayer who may not even care that you have been hurt.
·        Communicate your feelings to the person who hurt you. Believe it or not, though we might think the person who hurt us should know what they have done, many times it simply does not cross their mind that there has been an offense, especially if it was unintentional.
·        Extend grace. This sounds easy, but oftentimes it’s the most difficult to put into practice. Grace isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. Our initial response often tends toward vengeance or retaliation, but we can change this with a simple study of the habits of the One who practiced it best. Do a Bible search on the word grace and keep those scriptures constantly before you. And remember, with grace comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness…healing.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit  her website, facebook page, or blog. 

You can order Elizabeth's books HERE.