Friday, November 9, 2012

Stepping up on the political soapbox

It's a dangerous place to be, I know, especially for Christians. The secular world tells us to separate our religious beliefs from politics, but those of us whose faith is firmly engrafted with every other part of our life, that's just impossible to do. It's true that the Bible does not give firm directives for our involvement in politics (other than to "render to Caesar what is Caesar's" and to "honor the king"--Nero, at the time), but our freedom of religion and what we know of our nation's strongly Christian heritage both allows and requires us to use our convictions when participating in the political process.

It is argued that the very reason the United States "rose to power" and became uniquely respected by other nations was because of the values system that our Founding Fathers poured into her foundation.There is an old adage (which is wrongly attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, but its origin is unknown) that says,
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers - and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce - and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution - and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great"
This quotation echoes of the respect held for America in other countries. True, many countries (or portions of those coutnries' populations) hold a deep-seeded resentment and hatred of America, but if you dig deeply you will discover that hatred is based in jealousy--they hate us because we have freedoms they will never have. Our leaders do not assume power by brute force and intimidation; our laws are not carried out tyrannically.


Go ahead, roll your eyes. Accuse me of watching too much FoxNews. Tell me I'm an alarmist, that I put too much stock in the scare-tactic news coverage that preys on the gloom-and-doom nature of hypersensitive conservatives. Go ahead. Have your field day. And then LISTEN.

Those who TRULY study the Constitution (not just the 1st Amendment) will realize that there is a balance of power issue that is coming under fire, right under our noses, and by and large, the American populace is letting it go because the idea of the Federal Government "taking care of things" sounds really good. We *like* the idea of making sure that our air, water, land, and food are all safe. So why shouldn't we let the government legislate laws to protect it? We all want everyone in the country to be fed healthy food. We don't want children to go hungry. We don't want people to be homeless. We don't want someone to be turned away from getting health care because they don't have the ability to pay for it. It all sounds SO good. So does the idea of keeping our military out of harm's way and not "being the world's policemen". We don't want to look like bullies. We want to be liked. We don't want anyone to think we are telling them how they can live. We want everyone to be happy, to have whatever they want to make their life easy.

Or do we? Do we really realize that this ideology will eventually threaten the rights our nation's founders fought so hardly to give us? Do we not realize that the more power we give the government, the less power the American people will have IN that government?

Of course not. Because our schools aren't teaching it anymore. Elementary schools have stopped teaching America's hard-fought history of freedom in favor of "social studies", where we all learn how important the idea of being "nice" is and that we have to accept everyone no matter what they do--we don't DARE try to impose a values system on people, that's limiting their personal freedom! What we have going on in the United States right now is frightening--there are two very different fundamental ideologies at work, and we are finding ourselves very UN-united. One side holds to our country's traditional Christian-based values systems and the principles on which our country was founded; the other insists that we will be "held back" by an adherence to these values, that we need to realize we live in a changing world (never mind the change is occurring BECAUSE of the movement within the US to "evolve") and that we must alter the way we look at freedoms so we don't offend anyone or presume to set any limits at all on anyone. This latter view is becoming increasingly hostile toward the Christian values that have been historically the basis of our morality. Now "morality" is such a vague and unpopular term that many social circles are attempting to remove any reference to right and wrong entirely. Our children are being taught as young as kindergarten that the only absolute "wrong" in this world is telling someone that there are moral absolutes.

When we look at our Constitution under the microscope of vague "tolerance", clear definitions disappear. "The greater good" will rise to the top, and the individual freedoms and liberties we have enjoyed will be blurred as the government assumes a level of power that is very difficult to remove.

Why are our fundamental ideologies important? Because our freedom depends on it. And so does our ability to practice our faith openly as our Founding Fathers intended.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Did I set my own bar too high??

The little cutie above turned 6 last month. Unlike every other child in our family, Dani's birthday is completely isolated from everyone else's. ALL of our other children have at least one sibling whose birthday falls within two weeks of their own, but Danica is out there all by her little lonesome in October. Her birthday usually falls right in the middle of crazy-season for us--right as we are getting prepared for the holidays, and finally back in full swing for school. For the two years prior to this, it was in the middle of MAJOR family events; Derrick and Kelsey were married in late October of 2010, Jon and Meagan were married in August of 2011 ... plus for the last two years, her dad has been away on business for her birthday. The poor kid has middle-child, left-out issues. I was determined this year to remedy that by somehow pulling off a NICE birthday party for her. Granted, the last *real* birthday party (one that was actually a party for KIDS, not adults) I did was for Kelsey's 10th birthday. Umm ... it's been a few years. So nevermind I was seriously out of practice, but we also had a family friend visiting for the weekend! It was crazy, but I wasn't going to cop out. Dani wanted a Rapunzel party, and I was gonna DO it. 

Pinterest to the rescue! I found all sorts of ideas for cakes, decorations, party games and favors. YAY! Problem was ... every single cake I found was either a huge carved, elaborate monstrosity of pastry and frosting (which I was seriously NOT going to do), or involved a tower constructed of stacked cupcakes. Also not going to happen. Bad things happen when I attempt anything cupcake-y. I decided I was going to have the base only, a mound of green frosting "grass", be cake. I'd be all artsy-craftsy and construct my own tower using a Pringles can. Sure! It'll work! But what did I do? I waited until the night before the party to even try figuring it out!!! What was I, NUTS?

I'll answer that one for you. YES, I was nuts. That tower, which, OF COURSE, had to at least come close to looking like the tower in the movie Tangled, was a bear. Weird angles, strange coloring, and some kooky ivy-looking thing climbing up it?? It didn't take me long to question my own judgment. I will admit, though, that it turned out really, really well! I didn't think it would when it was at this stage, though ... 
Yes, that's a Pringles can. The weird angle from the tower up to the ... uh, ... "house" (??) portion was an upturned plastic cup. Same cups I had used to make the jello "boats", which you'll see in a minute. There's another plastic cup on top, forming the base above the house (a frosting can, by the way) for the cone-shaped cereal-box-cardboard roof to hold onto. I used hot glue to hold everything together; I wasn't crazy enough to think I was going to sit around waiting for anything to dry, and I *knew* I was going to need some seriously strong glue! A little scrapbook paper, some paint, Sharpie-outlined "timbering", and green frosting ivy/grass later, plus a tiny little Rapunzel doll, some candy flowers and pink pearls, and here's what I ended up with: 
Not too bad, if I do say so myself!  
It's not super-fancy, and it certainly won't win any design contests, but it made a certain 6-year-old and her sisters giggle and squeal when they laid eyes on it! That's all I cared about. :)
Here's the spread we had set out in the dining room. The dip for the pretzels and veggies, plus the veggies themselves, were served in cast iron skillets. Oh, and yes, that cake "plate" was actually a cast iron griddle pan. The punch (which was a 64-oz. bottle of red grape juice combined with a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale ... YUMMY!!) was served in one of my stock pots! My older girls thought that was a hilarious touch. And of course, we had Dani's stuffed chameleon representing Pascal on the table guarding the food. :) 
This was one of the ideas I found on Pinterest that I absolutely had to re-create. Blue jell-o "water, with orange wedge "boats" and a little paper sail. The kiddos loved it!
Of course, since it was a Rapunzel party, we had to have a braid somewhere! What I decided was to have part of the guests' party favors be a headband with a braid attached (hot glue again), and prizes for the games would be little hair clips to attach to their braids. Dani's headband had a purple tiara hot-glued on as well. Hey, the birthday girl has to be something special! Kudos for this project go to my master braiders, Morgan and Jamie. This would never have gotten done if I had been the one to braid all that yarn. 
 Yep, we had to play "pin the frying pan on Flynn Rider". Had to. Wasn't even an option!
 This game, inspired by apple-loving horse Maxwell from the movie Tangled, was without a doubt one of the most hilarious games I have seen in a long time. The apples were tied to different lengths of yarn hanging from our clothesline. The object was to get a bite taken out of the apple without using your hands!!! 
 It proved to be VERY difficult for the girls to bite, they were laughing too hard!!
 Believe it or not, the one REQUIREMENT Danica had for her party was to have a pinata. Sorry, I was just too lazy to make one. Target had a good price ($15), so that's what we did. Thankfully at the end of October there is plenty of candy in bulk bags available in stores!
This was not an easy party theme, and it certainly required a lot more crafting than I was expecting, but eh ... it was worth it! 
Dani was one very happy six-year-old! 

The only problem? I have four other girls who are now expecting me to go all-out for THEIR parties!
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