Mom got a message in her inbox this week that Jonathan's blog was considered a "Blogger Legacy" account and Blogger is twilighting all these types of accounts as of the end of May. She asked me to go and save it since she didn't want to lose the posts or pictures even though the blog hasn't been updated in six years.
I haven't been on Blogger for quite a while; and actually, it's been so long since I updated Jonathan's site that I didn't have the foggiest idea what the password was. I retrieved everything, though, and moved the blog to my name while applying a new template so the blog can live on.
There's something sad about a blog that hasn't been updated in six years, though. I started thinking of all the updates we should've done, like the day Jonathan got his glasses for the first time, or the day he took his first steps at the age of three. Not to mention talking about moving to a new house or the first time he said, "Mom!" It's hard to believe the last time I wrote an update on that site, Jonathan was crawling and almost two years from walking. Thing is, I began it when he was born and we didn't know how long he would be in the hospital or how he was going to do when we got him home. He wasn't just our newest baby: he was our newest baby with a whole train of question marks in tow and all our friends and family were concerned about what was going on with him. It was hard to keep everyone updated and the blog was the easiest way to keep in touch. Once he'd been home for years and was growing just fine, having whole website entries devoted to him seemed unnecessary and time-consuming. So I stopped.
One of the things about keeping a blog is that it's hard to see what's going to be important to you in the future at the time that you're sitting there trying to figure out to write. I often sit down and think, "What can I write about that's not going to be boring?" When you're keeping a blog about a little boy who takes years to learn what many kids learn in weeks or months, updating frequently is a slow and boring process at the time; but today as I was looking at that six year blank in the archives, I realized I should've stuck to it anyway.
Mom Turner has what amounts to a dedicated hobby of documenting everything that happens in the lives of her family through photographs and short story paragraphs. When you go down in their basement, you're confronted with rows and rows of photo albums that have been numbered and organized and packed onto shelves lining the walls: rows of documentation of things that would otherwise be forgotten. It's an awe-inspiring sight even to a determined minimalist like me who goes through her possessions and tosses a good chunk of them regularly because I don't like keeping Collections of Stuff in order. It's awe-inspiring because it's a record, a careful collection of moments otherwise too small to remember. A well-kept blog is something very similar (though I admit this one is seriously short on photographs!).
Which brings me to why I'm updating today. Because sometimes I procrastinate posting here. Because reviving Jonathan's blog and applying a new template to it reminded me that I do have a live site and it's worth keeping that way. Six years down the road I'll be happy I did. Because one moment I can remember today is that I brought Jonathan's website out of retirement after putting it off for six years. Now that's procrastination.
Pineapples Don't Have Sleeves
There's a tempest in a teapot going on in New York over a standardized test that was given to 8th graders recently. Apparently, it's a test that's in use around the country with similar results: the students (usually about 13 or 14, I guess - though an unintended side effect of being homeschooled is that a little difficult for me to translate grades to ages off-hand) are totally baffled by this story.
I'm going to write out the story because I think it'll add to the point. It's an adaptation of a Daniel Pinkwater children's story included his his novel "Borgel". In the test, the directions are to read this story and then answer questions 6 - 11.
The Hare and the Pineapple
In olden times, the animals of the forest could speak English just like you and me. One day, a pineapple challenged a hare to a race. (I forgot to mention, fruits and vegetables were able to speak too).
A hare is like a rabbit, only skinnier and faster. This particular hare was known to be the fastest animal in the forest.
"You, a pineapple, have the nerve to challenge me, a hare, to a race?" the hare asked the pineapple. "This must be some sort of joke."
"No," said the pineapple. "I want to race you. Twenty-six miles, and may the best animal win."
"You aren't even an animal!" the hare said. "You're a tropical fruit!"
"Well, you know what I mean," the pineapple said.
The animals of the forest thought it was very strange that a tropical fruit should want to race a very fast animal.
"The pineapple has some trick up its sleeve," a moose said.
"Pineapples don't have sleeves," an owl said.
"Well, you know what I mean," the moose said. "If a pineapple challenges a hare to a race, it must be that the pineapple knows some secret trick that will allow it to win."
"The pineapple probably expects us to root for the hare and then look like fools when it loses," said a crow. "Then the pineapple will win the race because the hare is overconfident and takes a nap, or gets lost, or something."
The animals agreed that this made sense. There was no reason a pineapple should challenge a hare unless it had a clever plan of some sort. So the animals, wanting to back a winner, all cheered for the pineapple.
When the race began, the hare sprinted forward and was out of sight in less than a minute. The pineapple just sat there, never moving an inch.
The animals crowded around, watching to see how the pineapple was going to cleverly beat the hare. Two hours later, when the hare crossed the finish line, the pineapple was still sitting still, and hadn't moved an inch.
The animals ate the pineapple.
MORAL: Pineapples don't have sleeves.
6.) Beginning with paragraph 4, in what order are the events in the story told?
A Switching back and forth between places
B In the order in which events happen
C Switching back and forth between the past and the present
D In the order in which the hare tells the events to another animal
7.) The animals ate the pineapple most likely because they were
8.) Which animal spoke the wisest words?
A The hare
B The moose
C The crow
D The owl
9.) Before the race, how did the animals feel toward the pineapple?
10.) What would have happened if the animals had decided to cheer for the hare?
A The pineapple would have won the race.
B They would have been mad at the hare for winning.
C The hare would have just sat there and not moved.
D They would have been happy to have cheered for a winner.
11.) When the moose said that the pineapple has some trick up its sleeve, he means that the pineapple
A is wearing a disguise
B wants to show the animals a trick
C has a plan to fool the animals
D is going to pull something out of its sleeve
Now, according to the New York Times, the overwhelming reaction of students to this test was one of bafflement. Students were apparently raising their hands saying things like, "This story doesn't make sense!" Some were made nervous by the "jokiness" of the story and started overthinking the test questions.
Here's a quote from the article (which can be read HERE)
One of the disputed questions asked, essentially, which was the wisest animal. Some students said that none of the animals seemed very bright, but that a likely answer was the owl, because it was the one that uttered the moral.
Others worried that the owl was a distraction, because owls are supposed to be wise, so it would be the wrong answer.
The other tough question was why the animals ate the pineapple. Students were torn between two of the four choices: they were annoyed or they were hungry; either one seemed to work.
It took a class of gifted students to decide firmly that the owl was the wisest and that the animals ate the pineapple because they were annoyed. And then the school district decided the answers to this particular set of questions wouldn't be included in the test results because so many people complained about how silly the test was. Many people who are against standardized testing have jumped on board, saying the story was so nonsensical that it can't accurately measure how intelligent the 13 and 14 year olds really are because it's too hard to figure out.
Don't get me wrong: I don't think current teach-to-the-test methods being employed in public schools are doing kids much of a favor in regards to their actual education; but personally, I find the fact the kids couldn't figure this story out a little disturbing. I tried my sister Katherine on it and she aced the answers. Katherine is 11. Apparently she's a genius.
You know what I think? The irony in this whole situation is that the students, when confronted with this nonsense little parody on the tortoise and the hare did exactly what the animals in the story did. They worried that the test had something up its sleeve and over-thought the answers to the point where they got all confused. And in the end, they've essentially eaten the pineapple by getting rid of any questions having to do with the story because they were too "silly" and hard to figure out.
Pineapples don't have sleeves. And neither did this test.
How's Married Life?
As Lauren said, it's only a matter of time before Benjamin takes the reins of the blog and "takes a hand in the story telling." So here I am.
Today is an example of what life is like these days - not perfect, but absolutely wonderful. One question I get is "How's married life?" and I don't always know what to say. Usually "wonderful" or "very good". And that's all true. But today I reflected upon a single moment and I knew that if someone told me married life would be like this I wouldn't believe them. That single moment was just about an hour ago. I might as well summarize what led to that moment:
I woke up this morning with my wife by my side. Mornings usually involve waking up to the alarm clock (it's usually my duty to get up and turn it off) and promptly get back in bed. I know that sounds extremely lazy, but that's why we set the alarm clock about 45 minutes earlier than required. Then the REAL alarm clock begins when Lauren says "wakeupwakeupwakupwakup" which effectively gets me going. We get up and I got the coffee brewing. Lauren made a parfait of Greek yogurt, real maple syrup, granola, blueberries and strawberries which puts McDonald's parfait to shame. Grandma Lila came and joined us for her usual cereal and banana (which she really enjoys). Then Lauren read to me while I took a shower, then we switched places and I read while she showered. We are reading a book about raising Godly children which a family friend has written, and it has opened some very great conversation between Lauren and I. We got dressed, I checked my email and Lauren made the bed. We opened the windows and felt the warm breeze and figured it was a good day for a walk. So we walked around the neighborhood (about 1 mile) and we got back just in time for Mom to come by from next door. Grandma had a doctors appointment today to check on her leg. So Mom and Lauren went with Grandma to the doctors and I went off to work. I am extremely blessed to have a job which does not require a large number of hours to sustain our household. This allows me more time to be with Lauren and Grandma Lila. So when the end of the work day arrived, I came home and Lauren was cooking Mexican food. Yes, Mexican food! We are approaching that moment of bliss.
We all sat down, gave thanks to God, and chowed down on tacos. Hand fried taco shells too. I made Grandma's soft taco and I loaded up my tacos. It was really yummy. After dinner, Grandma started playing Chopin's Nocturne and I helped Lauren with the dishes and when we were done I sat down. During the walk earlier today I had hurt my foot, so Lauren borrowed some of Grandma's foot cream and started rubbing my foot. And it was in THAT moment I thought "If I were to have told myself ten years ago that I would be sitting here, full of Mexican food, listening to Grandma Lila playing Chopin, getting my feet rubbed - I wouldn't have believed it". But there I was.
So when people ask me "How's Married Life?" I should tell them "better than I ever could have possibly imagined."
And if you noticed that this blog was primarily about food, I suppose the saying is true: The way to a man's heart in through his stomach. Especially Mexican food!
Courtesy of Passover Week, Ben and I have been spending quite a while discussing what is leaven and what exactly God had in mind by telling his people in strict no-nonsense terms not to have leaven in their homes during this week. It has been Ben's belief for several years that leaven - and leavened bread - is something God uses to indicate sin in peoples' lives, a sort of visual aid for people to understand what sin in our lives is actually like. Ben has included any kind of food that's puffed up in his definition of "leavened", which has led us to a spirited discussion over whether or not yeast, baking soda, and baking powder are all the same things and what God was trying to get his people to do in the first place.
Ultimately, this has lead to some very interesting discoveries - about God's thought process and the history of yeast, among other things.
Yeast is actually a bacteria, something that floats around in the air and - oddly enough - is naturally found lodged in the Human digestive tract. It's a living organism and the only way to capture and coerce it into making your lump of dough rise is feed it properly so it will stay alive, eat and grow. Anyone who bakes bread will tell you a small amount of yeast is all it takes to make even five or six loaves of bread rise if the yeast is strong and well-treated.
So it's everywhere, it's easy to attract and grow, and a little of it can leaven a lot of dough. A little sin mixed into a life can make the whole life imperfect, and sin might as well be floating in the air because it's pretty easy to come by. A little nourishing is all it takes to grow a nice big batch. And when it's done it's work, the person is all puffed up with themselves just like bread dough full of well-fed yeast.
God wanted his people to focus on getting every little bit of yeast out of their homes and diets for a whole week, and the only real way to do this is give everything a good scouring and then eat flat pancakes. It's a perfect physical prop for teaching us about getting the sin out of our lives and how impossible it is to actually do completely. Though to God, calling it just a "physical prop" might be undercutting the seriousness of it because he said, "Any of you eating yeast during the Feast of Unleavened Bread is going to be cut off from my people."
Yikes. He was not fooling around. While the consequences of eating yeast were slightly less severe than someone making the Sabbath a common day (the penalty for that was death), it was still pretty rough. God did NOT want his people missing the opportunity to learn something about him and about themselves.
Which brings us to the history of yeast and how it's used. In the process of the discussion about God's thought process, we discovered a fascinating piece of history. While the ancient Egyptians didn't invent the idea of leavening bread, they were the first to actually isolate yeast and introduce it into their dough as a separate agent (rather than relying on the old method of saving a bit of dough from the last batch to add to the newest one). The Greeks learned about yeast from the Egyptians and from Greece the process of isolating and using yeast in bread spread throughout Europe, where it was used as the only leavening agent available until the 1700s when sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) was discovered - a 3,000-year uncontested monopoly! The Egyptians more or less came up with a process that is still used today to make one of the world's most common foods: a loaf of bread.
The use of yeast and making of yeast bread pretty much as we know it today was probably something the Egyptians of Moses' time were rather proud of. It was a great societal invention probably symbolic in those days of scientific advancement, luxury, and the Egyptian way of life. When God told his people to clean the leaven from their homes, he said, "Get rid of the Egyptian pride and joy."
So why didn't God just tell his people to quit eating yeast altogether? Because he didn't. In fact, on the Feast of Pentacost - the day that commemorates the giving of the Covenant at Sinai and for Christians, the giving of the New Covenant after Jesus' Resurrection - he specifically commanded his people to bake leavened bread in their homes and bring it to offer to the Lord with a sacrifice (Lev 23:17). Ultimately, the bread was eaten by the priests...after it had been lifted up as an offering before the Lord. So on the day the Holy Spirit came down on the believers in Jerusalem, a whole lot of leavened bread was being lifted up before God in celebration of the enacting of the old Covenant at Sinai.
This actually has a perfectly logical reasoning to it. God commanded that all thanksgiving peace offerings be accompanied by unleavened bread. A peace offering that was being made to restore a friendly relationship between God and the sacrificer, however was made with leavened bread (Lev 7:13). So if you were making an offering to God saying, "I want to be in friendship with you again", you lifted up leavened bread before God. As if you were lifting up your sins to him and giving them up. So God was consistent in maintaining the pattern of his old Covenant while establishing the New Covenant.
The point still is that God did not command his people to stop eating yeast altogether. He deliberately made it a point to have them reintroduce yeast into their homes at least by fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
I think this is because God is always concerned with setting things apart, making them holy - which simply means making them uncommon. I just realized that I wrote a few paragraphs earlier that yeast bread has become one of the world's most common food products. That doesn't make it bad; but it's certainly common.
If the Israelite people had simply stopped using yeast, unleavened bread would never be set apart or different for them and they wouldn't have given it much thought or considered what it meant to have leaven and then remove it.
I also think God doesn't consider yeast an abomination the same way he does other things, so while he found it a useful visual aid to teach a much deeper truth (how sin infects our hearts), he didn't say, "Don't touch that abominable stuff!" like he did with other foods. Jesus even compared the Kingdom of Heaven to yeast that a woman works into flour so that it all rises (Matt 13:21).
Leavened bread is common. Unleavened bread is uncommon. Having yeast everywhere around your home is common - it's almost impossible to get rid of, considering it exists even on the skin of grapes. Cleaning it out is uncommon. Isolating yeast might be the biggest Egyptian contribution to modern society; considering God has used the idea of "coming out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" as a reminder for what it means to come out of the world and into his Kingdom, having him command his people to clean the yeast out of their houses makes perfect sense. He didn't want his people to be without yeast completely, but he certainly wanted them to pay attention to what it means to be common and have sin inside you; and then to become uncommon and have the sin removed.
And that's why it's still worthwhile to celebrate the enacting of the New Covenant by remembering God's use of leavened and unleavened bread to show us how he thinks.
A Tiny Contender
Yesterday we planted the first piece of landscaping we've added to our new yard.
It's not much to look at right now: a little tiny stick with a few roots at one end. Roots which are now buried in soil so all you can see is the stick. If it weren't for a small piece of paper labeling the stick, no one would have any incentive to drop it in the ground at all, let alone take the care I took of it. It would probably wind up at the curb with all the other winter tree debris we've cleaned out of the yard in the past weeks. It's not even close to the biggest branch we've got.
But that piece of paper is really important. It names the tree and tells us where it comes from, and that makes all the difference between it and the bundled-up rogue saplings waiting for the garbage truck.
The label says "Peach Tree, Dwarf 'Contender'".
Where you come from and what you are is important.
In this case, the tree was specially chosen as a gift with our yard in mind. It's a dwarf tree, meaning it'll never get much bigger than 8 or 10 feet tall - it'll fit in a nice neat corner without hitting the overhead power lines. It's especially cold hardy and resists frosts well, an important attribute for a fruit tree in a Michigan climate. It bears a lot of fruit for a little tree, medium-to-large sized freestone peaches with golden un-streaked flesh (Red Havens, another favorite, have red streaks in the flesh of the peaches - these apparently do not). Freestone peaches are great because it's easy to can or bake with them while the non-freestone variety are really only good for eating fresh - and what would be the good of having a whole fruit tree you can't make pies from or preserve the fruit for later in the winter?
How do I know all these things about this featureless chopped-off stick I buried in the ground yesterday?
It's simple: the stick has a name and the name means something. It's a heritage, a prediction...a prophecy of sorts. It allows me to know all these things about what this apparently dead and useless little stick could become if cared for properly, because this little stick will take on all the attributes of the parent tree it came from. Literally came from, because it's a grafted tree. A small piece of a mature tree was cut off and spliced into the root system of a hardier tree so the result would be an exact replica of the parent, with no deviations that sometimes come from reproducing a plant by it's seeds. It's a clone of the mature tree it came from.
This is why I've always found gardening such a fascinating thing to do. The parallels between plants and people are numerous, obvious, and amazing. Take our little sapling, for example. It's like a newborn baby. All newborn babies look very much the same. It's pretty hard to tell what features and characteristics they're going to display as adults; and if you didn't know what an adult Human looks like or is capable of, you probably would be pretty shocked by the potential wrapped up in the wrinkled, weak, red little body that is your average newborn. When I see a newborn, I have the same weakness anyone else does for this small helpless person; but what I see in them is not so much the value they have right this moment (because to be honest, they really don't have a lot of value as newborns) but the potential of what they are going to become. This tiny baby girl is someone's grandmother. That miniature baby boy is a really only a few years away from being a wise man who will care for an entire family. When you're raising and training a baby, you're doing so because you have an eye on the kind of tree they are and the kind of fruit you fully intend to harvest as soon as he or she is mature enough.
Our peach tree won't even start bearing fruit for another five years, but I'll be caring for it very particularly even when it doesn't show a single peach year after year: because I know someday, given enough time and water and fertilizer and judicious pruning, it will. Because it's a peach tree and that's what peach trees do.
A child is the same way. You raise them with great care even when they only show hints of the men or women they're going to become, because you know that even though this little one-year-old can barely walk, someday they'll be strong enough to be supporting you. That's what people do.
So that's why we're excited about our not-very-exciting stick marooned out in the corner of the back yard: because someday we expect to be harvesting peaches from it, no matter how unlikely that may seem at the moment. And that will be pretty special.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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