Lessons With Instant Oatmeal

My husband bought instant oatmeal for the kid’s breakfast, the kind that you empty the packet into a bowl, add some water, and microwave it.  Presto! Easy, kinda-nutritious breakfast.  It’s an easy breakfast that I thought my kids could make themselves that’s not cold cereal.

My 8-year old son is usually the first one up and the first words out of his mouth are usually “Mom… what’s for breakfast?” Whereupon I list out his choices that he can have: there’s waffles in the freezer, you can have some toast and yogurt, I was going to make myself some eggs do you want me to make you one?  All of these he just shook his head, none of them would do for this connoisseur of breakfast foods.

“There’s that oatmeal that Dad bought the other day, why don’t you have that?”

He really liked that idea and went to the pantry, opened the door and pushed aside the Cheerios and tortilla chips to get the instant oatmeal.  He brought the packet to me as I was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying my morning tea.  “No, I’m not making this for you.  You can do it yourself” I told him, handing the packet back to him.

“Look,” I said, “Here are the directions, go ahead and read them.  What’s the first thing we have to do?”

My son is resistant to read aloud something that’s new.  He doesn’t know what some of the words are so he prefers not to do it at all.  My high school students do the same thing.  He whined a little (high school students also do this) about reading the directions of the packet but I wouldn’t let this learning opportunity pass him by.  Poor kid, his mother teaches high school math.

“What does it say?” I asked again after he was done with his pouting.  I brought the packet closer to him and pointed to each word in step number one as he read it aloud in a halting mumble.

“Empty packet into…” he said.

“Sound it out… ‘mi-cro-wave'” as I pointed to each syllable.

“Microwave safe bowl.  What does that even mean?”  He whined.  I may as well have asked him to solve a quadratic equation.

“That means you empty your packet into a bowl that’s safe to put into the microwave” I said as I shook the packet to show him what a packet was.  “So, go get a bowl.”

My son left the dining room and walked around to the kitchen to get a bowl.  He opened the cabinet where they were kept and looked up.  He couldn’t reach them.  “Will you get down a bowl for me?”

“No, you can do it yourself”  I replied from my chair at the kitchen table as I took a drink from my tea.

My son heaved another sigh and went to get a chair to stand on to reach the bowls.  He brought the chair back and stood on it to select a bowl for himself.  After making his selection of a bowl he brought it back to me and I walked him through the remaining two steps.

He read the last two steps to me and I helped him understand what 2/3 cup meant and what it means to microwave on high 1-2 minutes.  You always want to microwave it the smaller time because you can always add time if you need too.  He put the bowl in the microwave above the stove by using the chair to stand on and pressed the button to microwave it on high for one minute.  When the microwave dinged, I helped him take it down, and he stirred the oatmeal.

He carefully carried it to the dining room table where he stirred it again and ate it.  He enjoyed it so much that he made himself another packet, this time completely on his own.

Mission accomplished!  One more task that he can do by himself.  We’re raising kids to be independent adults around here!  Then, it was my daughter’s turn to make her own instant oatmeal.

My daughter is 10 years old and can read directions just fine.  She did everything that the instant oatmeal packet told her to do which was why she came to me practically in tears showing me her exploded bowl of oatmeal that she was holding between two pot holders.

“What happened?!” I asked her, peering at her mess of an oatmeal bowl.  “Did you follow the directions?”

“Yes!” She replied, voice quavering with emotion and holding back the tears.

“Did you microwave it for a minute?”  I pursued.

“Yes!” She responded, incredulous that the directions would betray her, and looking at her messy oatmeal in disbelief.  The directions have always worked for her before.  I’ve seen the same look on high-achieving freshmen who didn’t get the correct answer.

“I did it for a minute and then stirred it just like it said and it wasn’t done, so I microwaved it again for another minute” she insisted.

“Wasn’t done?  Logan microwaved it for a minute and his was done.”

“It wasn’t done, Mom!”  She exclaimed.

Then it hit me.  The oatmeal packet told her to put in 2/3 cup of water in the bowl and it came out too runny for her.

“Okay, we can fix this, don’t worry.  Put the bowl on the counter and we’ll pour it into a larger bowl and try this again.”  I said.

I explained to her that the packet asked for too much water for thick oatmeal and that next time she should pour only about a half-cup of water into her oatmeal bowl.  I had her open another packet and she poured it into the new bowl and had her stir it up with her spoon.

“Okay, now we just added another packet to this bowl so that means we should add more water.  Two-thirds is too much for you, right?”  My daughter nodded.  “So let’s just pour a little at a time until the mixture is as thick as you want it.”

Ah, ratios and proportions, I thought, almost as fun as the quadratic equation.

 

Zechariah Verses Abraham and Sarah

My daughter sees her brother enjoying a Drumstick ice cream cone sitting at the kitchen table and immediately asks for one.  She expects me to say yes and of course I will but sometimes I say no, just to see her reaction.  When she hears the negative “no” she makes a face, frowning and furrowing her brows, in a mock pout because she knows this game that I play and knows that she’ll get a Drumstick ice cream cone because it’s the fair thing to do.  It’s equal.

When I read about Abraham and Sarah’s reactions to being told they will have a child in their advanced years and compared it to Zechariah’s reaction to being told his elderly wife would have a child, I found it to be unequal and unfair.  Abraham and Sarah both laughed (Genisis 17:17, 18:12) to themselves in disbelief when they were told they were going to have a son in their advanced years.  Zechariah questioned the angel Gabriel who brought the news that he would have a son born to him in his later years (Luke 1:18).  What got me was that Abraham and Sarah did not have any consequences for their disbelief but Zechariah did.  Zechariah was not able to speak until John the Baptist was born.  This was an inconsistency, it wasn’t equal, it’s not fair to Zechariah that he was punished for his questioning and Abraham and Sarah weren’t.  How could God be unfair?

This is when I started thinking about equality verses equity.  As a teacher I know that if I did the same thing for all students, not everyone will necessarily achieve the goal.  Each student has different abilities and skill sets which is why equity can be a better idea of fairness.  Equity gives people what they need to be successful.  Equality and equity can be a confusing comparison to make, the words sound the same, and they say almost the same thing.  The graphic below is a good illustration of equality verses equity (Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire).

Image result for equality vs equity

Maybe Zechariah needed that rebuke to get him to believe he and his elderly wife will have a child together whereas Abraham and Sarah did not.  This is where faith comes in that God has their best interests at heart and that He is very purposeful in what He does.  Equity is personal and requires that someone recognize what an individual needs in order to be successful.  It’s amazing that God loves us so much that He doesn’t just think about equality but also equity.

 

 

Evening Desert Walks

In the evening, when the sun is not as intense in the hot desert summer sky, I take my dog for his walks.  I really should say “our” walks because I need them just as much as he does, sitting inside the house with cold air blowing on me all day gives me a case of cabin fever.  Once I see the living room clock point at 7pm I know it’s time to break free from my air-conditioned prison and go outside in the not-so-hot fresh air.

Our favorite place to walk is along the dirt road that begins a quarter a mile from my house.  Once we go past the small cabins along the dirt road it’s open desert and Bo gets to go off his leash.  Bo is a tailless but handsome German Shepherd we got from the Desert Hot Springs pound and his stumpy tail wags as he voices his impatience to go for a walk with his yips and barks, seeing me put on my sneakers and pressing the buttons of my Garmin GPS watch.  He’s jumping and turning circles when I finally get down his leash from its place by the door.

When we go outside Bo pulls at the leash, he knows where we are going, and he could probably take us to the dirt road himself.  We walk along the dirt road with its small vacation cabins  tucked in among cactus gardens and palo verde trees.  They’re empty most of the time, looked after in the owner’s absence by an old couple in a green jeep, their cocker spaniels leaning out of the windows as they circle the driveways of the cabins, leaving tire tracks to make it look like people frequent the cabins.

We finally walk by all the small cabins and came to what I call the Cross Roads, where the  dirt road makes a junction with other dirt roads and depending on what I feel like I could go down to a wash, through hilly terrain, or toward a main road where a church sits on the corner.  I opted for the church road as it’s not used often by dirt bikers and Bo hates dirt bikes.  A dirt bike came from behind us one time and I heard the distinctive whine of the motor too late over the blowing desert wind.  Bo saw it and gave chase to the dirt bike and when the dirt biker saw he had a big dog on his heals he kicked it up into high gear and gave Bo his dust.  It didn’t detour my dog from having a good chase after that dirt bike, finding his way back to me a half mile down the dirt road with his tongue hanging, a doggish grin on his face from the good chase.

It’s only a half mile from the Cross Roads to the Church, a mile round trip, and Bo spends the time searching out rabbits, lizards, and peeing on creosote bushes, trotting contentedly from one location to another.  He must run around twice as far as I do, maybe even three times as far.

An idea came to me and I took of my Garmin GPS watch and looped it through Bo’s collar.  It stayed at the top of his collar, right by his pointed ears, I pressed the start button to begin recording the trip and took off Bo’s leash.  Let’s find out just how far he runs.

Immediately Bo started making his rounds, peeing on a bush here, sniffing a branch there, standing at attention with his ears perked looking intently at a creosote bush where a lizard was hiding.  Meanwhile I continued to walk toward the church.  I reached the church and made the u-turn back toward the Cross Roads with Bo a few feet from me trotting off the path, tongue hanging.

He saw something in the distance toward the Cross Roads and took off after it and for a while I didn’t see him.  I kept walking and noticed that there was a slow moving green Jeep coming down the hill path approaching the Cross Roads.  Where was Bo?  The Jeep slowed down and paused for a moment out of sight behind a swell in the desert.  Uh-oh, I’ll bet Bo is saying hello, I hoped he wasn’t bothering those cocker spaniels.  I started to call Bo and after a few minutes he finally came into view.  I told him what a good boy he was and patted his head all the while continuing to walk to the Cross Roads.  I leashed him when we got there in the middle of the fresh tracks of the Jeep and that was when I saw that Bo was limping a little bit in his front right paw.

Later on, after performing home surgery to remove the cactus thorns lodged in Bo’s front right paw, I took a look at my Garmin watch to see how far Bo went.  There was a film over the watch and I used my finger nail to scratch it off.  What did that come from?  Oh, it’s Bo’s drool, yuck!  The watch settled to the bottom of his collar as he ran and he drooled all over it.  I took a scour pad from the kitchen sink and scrubbed it off then synced the watch with its app on the phone to see the results.

I know that it’s a mile round trip from the Cross Roads to the  church.  Bo went 1.5 miles during that walk.  So does that mean that Bo runs 1.5 times further than I do?  If I did 3 miles would he go 4.5 miles?  Surely more data is needed to make a sound conclusion.  I could also tell from the map on the app that Bo did in fact go and see the old couple in the Jeep.  But he turned around and trotted through the desert when I called.  What a good dog!

 

 

Bible.In.1.Year:The Three Mighty Men

The “begats” finally let up after chapter 9 and now the book of 1 Chronicles is giving a history of King David and Solomon.  The stories that I’ve read about in 1 Chronicles sound like they belong in an old book of legends like “The Adventures of Robin Hood” or “King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table” because there’s all sorts of battles that are recorded and deeds done by “mighty men.”  The best story is one about three mighty men who overheard King David say how much he longed to have a drink from the spring of water in Jerusalem but the Philistines held the city and it was impossible (1 Chronicles 11:15-19).  Not for these nameless three mighty men!  They came together and broke through the stronghold of the Philistines to get the spring water and returned, unscathed, to King David and offered the water to him.

King David didn’t say “Thank you” to these three mighty men and then took a drink, maybe offering the three men a taste for their trouble.  I would have done that.  No, King David showed why he was a king, he took the spring water and poured it out to the Lord.  What a striking way to acknowledge God.  David took what he wanted the most, a drink from a spring in Jerusalem, and sacrificed it to God.  What an example of humility and sacrifice to God.

When I get a gift that I’ve longed for, my first thought is how much I will enjoy it, how much I deserve it.  King David shows us an example of how to be unselfish and how to give freely.  It’s also interesting that the three mighty men are anonymous, their deeds certainly deserve to be recorded, breaking through the Philistine’s stronghold and bringing back water is a notable act.  But their names weren’t recorded in the account in 1 Chronicles.  Being nameless emphasizes their actions were to honor their king and not bring honor to themselves.  It’s another example of selflessness, honoring someone else above yourself.

 

Reading the Bible in a Year

I’ve been an avid Bible reader for a long time and I believe that it is the inspired word of God, useful for teaching and correcting (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  While I’ve read the New Testament many times over I can’t say that I’ve read the Bible in it’s entirety.  I think I’ve missed some Old Testament stuff and I know for sure that I haven’t read any of the “begats” the lineage found in chapters upon chapters of some books of the Bible.  Since I believe that the whole of Scripture is worth while I decided that I should try to read the whole Bible.

My husband for Christmas gave me this beautiful olive green Bible with my name engraved in the bottom right in gold script.  It’s an ESV Study Bible and is about 2-3 inches thick, chock full of notes, commentaries, full-color maps, and in the last few pages, a year-long reading plan.  This reading plan is different than the others I’ve seen because it gives four sections of reading for each day: the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, the Pentateuch and history of Israel, the Chronicles and Prophets, and the Gospels and Epistles.  The fact that there’s a sampling of four different types of books in the Bible appealed to my dynamic personality.  I like to change things up: my nail polish is changed weekly, I like different hand soaps at my sinks, and I enjoy wearing diverse kinds of earrings.  Plugging through the Bible a book at a time, is dreary to me, and I’ve tried it, never making it past Exodus.  By the time I’ve made it through Genesis I’m exhausted.  I’m hoping this new reading plan will help with that.

I know that I will likely not make it to reading the four sections every day and so I will give myself grace when (not if) I miss a day.  I bought a spiral notebook and wrote down, in advance, the week’s readings in a section, undated.  The reading plan in the Bible broke the readings into days and has everything laid out from January to December.  I’ve taken liberties with the plan as I’ve started it on July 1.  I figure the first of July is a reasonable alternative to the first of the year.  The year begins for me in August since I’m a high school teacher, what’s one more month back for the beginning of the school year?

I’ve made it through the first week and have already got a lot out of it.  The introduction to the Daily Bible Study Reading Plan in my ESV Study Bible says that I ought to “…Pray(ing) to the Father that the Spirit will take what all the Scriptures teach about Christ and apply it to your mind and heart and life.”  I have been doing that and I’ve found throughout this week for it to be the case.  I’ve read scriptures this week that my spirit found comfort in and reassurance.  “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3).

I did make it through the first seven chapter of Chronicles without my eyes glazing over too much.  This is one of the books with all the “begats” and lists all the descendants of many, many, people, most of them men.  I perked up whenever the Chronicler mentioned the sister of so-and-so, and I wonder why she was mentioned.  What special thing did she do?  In exasperation on the first day after reading 1 Chronicles 1, I looked in my ESV’s “Introduction to I Chronicles” to find out what the point was for these lists upon lists of descendants. I counted 23 names in a list of descendants one time and thought how impressive that is.  I don’t know 23 of my ancestors!  Why would this be in the Bible?  According to the ESV’s “Introduction of I Chronicles” the point of all those lists of ancestors is to remind the newly-returned exiled Jews that they are still people of God.  It was to remind them of where they came from as I’m sure they had trouble remembering, being in captivity for all those years.

I’m excited to continue this reading plan and see where the Holy Spirit takes me.  This year-long plan may take me a year and a half but I’ll get through it.  The key is to do my reading the same time everyday: in the morning before I start my day.

Here is a link to the ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan that I’m following.  It is meant to be cut into four bookmarks and each reading checked off of as you go and starts on January 1.  I’ve started only a week ago and chose to write down the day’s listing in an undated notebook so I can read the selection and not get confused about the dates or give myself grace when I miss a day.

Pavlov’s Dogs and Candy Dishes

I rewarded myself for finishing my essay by opening my autumn-themed candy dish at my desk.  I carefully lifted the lid to reveal the assortment of See’s hard candy inside. I took the hard candy out and carefully, very carefully, placed the lid back on the candy dish.  It made a slight clinking sound.

Both my children materialized from the other side of the house at the minute sound of the lid returning to the candy dish.  I’m going to have to share my candy. Like Pavlov’s dogs my kids salivate at the sound of the lid clinking against the dish and come running to my desk and say “Can I have some candy?”

It’s not that I mind sharing.  I have enough candy for all but it’s my candy, special stuff that I buy specifically for my candy dish.  Their extra candy is kept in the glass family candy dish near the DVD player and is filled with DumDums, Jolly Ranchers, and Now and Laters.  My children are not candy snobs and like any type of candy that happens to be in the dish. They turn into Pavlov’s dogs at the sound of the family candy dish’s lid being opened and closed too.  I despair of enjoying a piece of any kind of candy without having the pack of Pavlov’s dogs racing toward the clink of the candy dish lid being returned to its base.

My mom kept extra candy in a family candy dish only when she had extra candies left from the holidays.  Extra candy from the Christmas stockings and Easter baskets found its way into the candy dish. After I ate all my own candy I would get into the family candy dish, carefully open the lid, select the candy, and then carefully close the lid afterwards, just in case I wasn’t allowed to have any candy.  That dish always made a slight clang no matter how carefully I tried to return the lid. My sister remedied the problem when she “accidentally” broke the lid in half when she dropped it on the floor while dusting it. It made getting into the candy dish easier because there was no lid to quietly open and return and leftover candy from Christmas and Easter didn’t last long after that.

We had our own “accident” here in our household.  My son plugged in the cord for the DVD player with the candy dish nearby.  The cord tangled around the dish and pulled the dish right onto the floor where the lid smashed into a million pieces.  My son looked at me and I looked at him. It was an accident, I told him, it’s okay. You’re okay? You’re not cut by the glass?  I cleaned up the glass and put the lidless candy dish back to its place, far away from the tangled cords. If it was a planned “accident” it was well planned.  Now our family candy dish doesn’t have a lid on it which will make getting into it much easier.

Short of breaking the lid on my favorite candy dish, which I don’t want to do, I haven’t found a way to cure Pavlov’s dogs from that sound.  Then I got a marvelous idea from my Aunt on a recent family gathering. She said she kept her special candy in the freezer hidden inside an empty frozen vegetable bag.  Genius. Her kids, my cousins, never knew it was there because all they saw were frozen peas.

I had an empty coffee can and put my candy inside.  My candy-filled coffee can was placed in the freezer next to the can of decaf coffee, they’ll never know what’s really inside, I happily told myself.  When I wanted one of my special candies, I opened the freezer and took one from the camouflaged candy can. I unwrapped the candy, popped it into my mouth, and enjoyed having a special piece of my candy alone.  My solitude ended after a few moments when my son rushed into the kitchen, he must have heard the sound of my unwrapping the candy.

“What are you eating Mom?  Can I have some too?”

My camouflaged candy can worked, but my children are conditioned to the sound of candy wrappers too.  I have to wait until they are in bed or out of the house to enjoy a piece of candy alone. That’s too much to ask of myself because when I want a candy, I want one now, so I get one, and usually share some with my kids.

Yellow-Flower Weeds

The first thing that I noticed as I pulled into my driveway coming home from work were all the ankle-high weeds sprouting from my landscaped front yard. The weeds seemed to appear overnight, sprouting through the layered black lining and pushing through the decorative small rocks that make up the majority of the landscaping.  The weeds were a blemish to the perfectly textured terracotta-colored small rocks.

Seeing the front yard like this reminded me that I have weeding to do.  I added it to the list of things I had to do when I went inside the house: make dinner, supervise my kid’s homework, write my essay for my online class, and a bunch of other small tasks that I know will pop up.  I worked all day and I don’t want to do anything. Why should I have to be the one to pull the weeds? Because I’m the only one who’s bothered by them, that’s why. I parked the car, sighed, and went inside.

A little while later, changed out of my work clothes and into my weeding clothes, I began to pull up the easiest and tallest weeds to yank out of the ground.  They are bright green and have a single yellow flower perched above it’s spindly plumage. I’ve seen these types of weeds reach monstrous proportions but I never let them get that big in my yard.  I moved around the front yard focusing only on the yellow-flower weeds. My back soon started to ache and I sat down on the decorative rock which was uncomfortable on my rear-end. Why am I out here?  I already worked my 8 hours today and I still have to make dinner and have an essay to write. I looked up from my uncomfortable seat and surveyed the remaining weeds. There were so many of them, it will take me forever to weed through the whole front yard.  

I stood up and went over to my cactus garden to check the yellow-flower weed status.  I’ve received compliments about my cactus garden from strangers taking their evening walk past my house.  I am fastidious about keeping it free of weeds and there were only a few to pull. I glanced toward my barrel cactus and saw a yellow-flower weed rising above the golden spines, the lone yellow flower swaying in the breeze.

I walked to the barrel cactus, going slow to avoid the spines of the garden, intent on pulling out the offending weed.  I looked down at its base, fingers ready to grasp it like pinchers and pluck it from the earth but sharp golden spines thwart my attack.  The yellow-flower weed sprouted so close to the barrel cactus that I couldn’t get to the base of the weed as it was protected by very sharp golden spines.  The weed grew close to the green flesh of the cactus, twisting and intertwining itself through the spines like a vine. Its yellow flower sprouted just above the topmost spines of the golden-covered barrel.  

This yellow-flower weed clung to the safety of the golden barrel cactus like I am to cling to the old rugged cross.  The golden spines hugged the yellow-flower weed close to it and protected it. The golden barrel cactus was the yellow-weed’s salvation as it saved the weed from certain destruction by my hands.   I remembered the rock of my own salvation and my perspective changed. Weeding my front yard meant that I had a plot of land of my own, having a job meant I was able to provide my family’s material needs, and helping my kids with their homework meant that I had family near me.  

I stood up and looked down at the yellow-flower weed protected by the impenetrable golden spines.  There was no choice but to leave the yellow-flower weed where it was. I’ve heard it said that a weed is just an unwanted flower.  My children have picked yellow-flowered weeds and gave them to me with smiles on their faces, holding out a bouquet of very much wanted flowers.  What an amazing thing perspective is, I thought as I stretched my back, loosening the kinks that come with bending over to weed. I went inside to make dinner, satisfied that I had done enough weeding for the day and refreshed with a new perspective thanks to the rock of my salvation.