Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mommiest Moments: July, 2008

Hello again! I have been collecting cute anecdotes all month. It has been a rich harvest, in part because Eric has been tracked out. In fact, I have been irrationally eager for the month to end so I could post some of these gems--so much so that I'm posting a day early.

I am so thoroughly enjoying this process that I begin to think of compiling a "classic quotes" anthology or "greatest hits" list. (Not to be confused with hit lists.)

I would only add that if you actually read this blog (as I know only a select few do), please, please post a comment! Even if it's only "lol." I beg...entreat...implore! The artist in me wants the selfish gratification of knowing that I have made someone--anyone--laugh.

We now return you to the regularly-scheduled broadcast:

"Why is there a sandwich in your shoe?"

--Daddy, interrogating a certain picky eater who has already begun imitate his mother's behavior as a child. (I recall ininventing some very clever strategies to avoid eating certain foods. No doubt this is karmic repayment for what I inflicted upon my own parents.)

Eric: [wailing] Mommy! Danny destroyed my creation before you admired it. When I ask you to admire a creation, you need to come right away! That's why I was trying to get your attention so desperately!
[trying to calm Eric down] Danny, you need to apologize to Eric.

Sorry, Eric. [goes to hug him]

And, Danny, your consequence is that you are not allowed in the play room for one hour. [checks her watch] That means you may not enter the play room until after scriptures and prayers.

[pedantically] Mommy, you mean scriptures and
prayer. Not scriptures and prayers. --I don't know where he gets the penchant for pedantic corrections from, of course.

It's a good thing I know sign language, or else I'd never be able to communicate when I turn into a dog.

Does this happen frequently?

Oh, yes. Also a cat, a bear, a lion, a tiger, and all manner of monsters...

"I am pretending to be Grandma. See? I crashed, and soon I will reboot!"

--Danny. A few weeks earlier, I had used the computer "crashing and rebooting" metaphor to explain an abstract medical issue.

"Oh, thank you. But if you help me, then it would be cheating. [Pause] I'll still let you have tastes and scraps."
--Mommy, explaining, variously, to boys, ghosts, amorphous blobs, and stuffed animals why she had to do her patriotic cake all by herself.

"Last night I turned the fan on and then after a while I turned the fan off. That's called giving the fan a break. And that's a metaphor I really did make up myself! And that's why I sleeped and woke up at a different time."


"Mommy, neither do I want a plano lesson or a swordfight because it is Sunday."
--Danny. "Plano" here is not misspelled, but rather, mispronounced.

Danny: This is my creation. Here is the State of North Carolina where all the good people live. And this is the state of Coloroodo where bad people who won't repent live. It is a prison.
Mommy: Danny, did you happen to have a lesson about what happens after we die in Primary yesterday?
[looking at his mom like she's crazy] No...

[While pushing Danny on the swing]
Danny: And I want a story about Bear and me and Daddy and Eric and Pi all going camping, and it's to the same campground we went before and there are toilets and we pack up our sleeping bags and the tent and food and the campstove and our flashlights...[prattles for a while] 
Mommy: Danny, it sounds like you already told the story, so I don't need to.
No, Mommy! I want YOU to tell the story. And I want it to be about me and Bear and Daddy and Eric and Pi and we all go camping and we pack up all the things we need, like a sleeping bag, and...[reiterates everything]

Well, Danny, I'll do my best. But it will be my story and I don't promise to do everything you suggested.

[cheerfully] Ok.

Once upon a time, Daddy announced, "We are all going to go camping"--

[interupts] Mommy, no! I said boys only!

Mommy: Daniel, I am the one telling this story! So Daddy said, "We are all going to go camping," but Mommy said, "Why don't you take the boys and I'll just stay here?"
Mommy, yes. That's right.

Mommy: [rolls her eyes] So Daddy and Eric and Danny and Bear and Pi packed up everything they'd need, and loaded it in the car--
Mommy! You forgot to say that they packed up their sleeping bags and the tent and...[enumerates, again, the entire list]. [I note that, at no time, did the kid mention water or Gatorade or other drinks. --ed.]

Danny! If you don't stop interrupting, I will not tell the story!

[contritely] Sorry.

Mommy: [finishes story with minimal editing from the peanut gallery]
[We'll just say it was not my best effort and leave it there.]

"Mommy, I never collected my bribe!"
-- Eric. I confess freely that I bribed the children to be good on the trip to Indiana. Twelve-hour or more drive. One adult (me), two boys. You would resort to bribery, too. Admit it. During the drives, Eric considered, "For my bribe, I would like..." with an assortment different direct objects pasted in.

[In a toy store, paying off the mafia lordling.]
Eric: I like this little tiger. It looks like Pi's baby. [pause] Is Pi married? Can he have a baby?

Mommy: Pi isn't married that I know of. Maybe his wife is being held captive in a zoo. Maybe he adopted this baby tiger from a nature preserve in Africa. Maybe he was married, and his wife was killed by hunters and now he's raising their kid as a single father. Maybe he's married and we just haven't found his wife yet, but when we do, I will purchase her freedom and reunite the family. [pause] Wait a minute, you have appropriated Pi as your own. So you decide his backstory!
Eric: I think his wife died and now he's looking for a new wife to help him raise his baby.
Mommy: [muttering suspiciously] I think this is just an excuse to try to buy two tigers instead of one, under the guise of family values.
--We ultimately purchased one Beany Babies tiger. Very cute.

Eric: What can I name the baby tiger?

Mommy: That's up to you.
Eric: I want suggestions.

Mommy: Well, Pi's name stands for Pythagorus and for the irrational number 3.14159. So it would make sense to name his baby something mathematical as well.
Eric: Yes.

Mommy: [laughing with inspiration] How about "Protractor"? That would be awesome!

Eric: Why?
Mommy: Because in my family when we were growing up, Uncle Larry began the tradition of measuring angles with a protractor so we could cut pumpkin pie into exactly equal pieces. That way everyone got a fair ration.

Eric: I want other options.

Mommy: [sighs] Fine. Well, if you want another Greek mathematician who was good with geometry, there was always Euclid. Or, if you want a pun on "pie," like apple pie, there's always "tart".
Eric: I like Euclid.

[Mommy pouts that her brilliant idea of protractor has been turned down, but accepts Eric's right to name his own stuffed animals.] [Murmer murmer Ingratitude mumble murmer]

--Note: We really did that. Geek power! But, in a family of rules lawyers, with an uneven number of children, it was a prudent way of avoiding protracted litigation.

[Inventing a story for Eric's pronunciation practice. The structure works because he's eager to find out what happens next. I despair of getting actual, permanent indents, so I am using this symbol (¶¶¶¶) to indicate a new paragraph.]

¶¶¶¶ ..."The tournament began.
¶¶¶¶ "The young fire-breathing dragon (who was red) couldn't reach the target at 10 yards. He was too young and just couldn't manage the distance. The organizers realized that next year, they should divide the competition into age categories.
¶¶¶¶ "The white ice-breather missed the target, but since he hit the water barrels, everyone was grateful. (It was a scorching hot day.)
¶¶¶¶ "The purple dragon's breath was invisible, but the volunteer standing in front of the designated target began screaming about alien purple penguins, so she passed. The judges awarded extra points for how vividly the poor human was hallucinating about the penguins flying through jello pudding.
¶¶¶¶ "The bright green acid-breather hit the target at 10 yards, but they couldn't tell how close he was to the bulls-eye because the entire thing disintegrated...
¶¶¶¶ "At 20 yards, The acid-breather missed the target.
¶¶¶¶ "The lightning-breathing dragon was the only one left. [building suspense] He took his stance, aimed, and...fired! (Actually, he "discharged across the electric field's charge differential" more than he "fired," but still.)
¶¶¶¶ "He hit the bull's-eye! (That's 60 feet! Very impressive!)
¶¶¶¶ "But then the judges realized that the lightning-breathing dragon had cheated! He had hidden a grounding rod behind the target which was "pulling" the lightning toward it! He was disqualified for using performance-enhancing technology.
¶¶¶¶ "The adolescent, electric-blue, lightning-breathing dragon blushed with embarrassment, which meant red mixed with his blue scales and made him look purple. He was so mortified, he blushed even more and got so hot that he turned almost white. Then he broke out in a nasty heat rash that ruined his complexion, after which his girlfriend dumped him. He was absolutely miserable.
¶¶¶¶ "(Thus we see that cheaters never prosper.)
¶¶¶¶ "So the green acid-breathing dragon won!..."

Danny: [Picks up Bear and plays with him briefly] Mommy, the baby bear is crying! He is hungry.

Mommy: I see. Well, feed him a bottle.

Danny: [Foisting the toy on his mother] No, I want you to do it.

Mommy: You're the one who woke the baby up. He's your responsibility.

Danny: But, Mommy, I am busy. I have Things To Do in my workshop.

"Mommy, maybe you should try camping one time so you get used to it. It really is not scary."
--Danny, giving me the type of encouraging lecture I normally give him.

Jon: [enters, glances at my desk, and raises an eyebrow] More unicorns. They're breeding! They are such hypocrites! And...wait. All these unicorns are girls.

"I am sorting out all the fantasy stuffed animals. Mommy, will you take a picture? And will you post it on your blog?"
--I try to be discreet about the blog. I don't want the kids "performing" to an unseen audience. But once they can read...

From left to right: New Eastern (yet unnamed) dragon; Season the Sea Serpent (obscured, sorry); Luthien (unicorn); unnamed plastic toy unicorn; The Frog Prince; unnamed plastic toy dragon; Pegasus; Reginald ("Reggie"), a flightless dragon; Gandalf the Wizard; Chantelle Chateau (unicorn); metal decorative eastern dragon; Eustace, a flighted dragon; Polgara, also a flighted dragon; and Eric.

"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates. Indeed we may say we follow the adimission of Paul..."

--Danny, trying to pass of the thirteenth article of faith.

"We believe in being honest to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates..."

--Danny, take II.

Eric, no! Mommy, I only want you to play exclusively with me. Please?


"Last night I had a dream that someone tried to kidnap Bear! I was visiting a synagogue and put Bear down for just a moment and some guy stole Bear, stuffed him in a padded envelope, and addressed it to his little sister. Apparently he wanted to send her a present. Anyway, as soon as I realized I was missing your Bear, I made the poor Rabbi tear the place apart. After two different passes--including digging through a closet full of old, smelly shoes--we finally noticed the envelope, opened it (probably illegally), and rescued Bear."

--Gail, to Danny. I have absolutely no idea why it was a synagogue. I have several Jewish friends -- one of whom is also an agnostic communist (I attended his Bar Mitzvah!) (Don't ask) -- and I swear I am not prejudiced! It might just as easily have been a cathedral. Or a MegaChurch. But, hopefully, not an LDS temple.

Mommy: Did you have any bad dreams last night?
Danny: No, but Bear did.

Mommy: Oh dear! I hope it wasn't about being kidnapped!

Danny: No, he was just walking down the sidewalk and then there was a big wolf who wanted to eat him and chased him but Bear ran away
really fast and so it wasn't actually a BAD dream just a SCARY one.
--(You had to see his hand gestures and hear his inflections to grasp how amazingly cute his rendition was. He's been doing this adorable formal hand-gesturing lately. E.g.: Open palm to the palm symmetrically to the right...clasping them together like an opera singer. It's awesome.)

Mommy: Eric, are you still upset about that incident?

Eric: No, it happened just long enough ago that I have forgotten it.
--It had been about an hour.

Mommy: [Gritting her teeth while playing the Sacrament hymn] Eric, go sit down.

Eric: [standing in full view of the congregation while placing his hymn book down on the top organ manual (keyboard), thus creating dissonance] But I am having trouble following along.
Mommy: [Still playing] Eric. Go. Sit. Down.
Eric: [Wailing] But I am lost! Show me where we are in this song!

--I wish to note that during Eric's distraction, I didn't make any mistakes. (That I recall.) But after he had finally gone back to sit down, it all caught up with me and I lost my concentration briefly. I should also note that I am a much, much better parent when I have my hands free!

Eric: But when you talk about further consequences, it makes me nervous.

Mommy: Good. It ought to. Because there will certainly be further consequences!

[Later that afternoon]
Eric: But what did I do to make me have to spend time in my room?

Mommy: [Gaping, awed by his audacity. And then glaring] You interrupted the Sacrament Hymn!...[Ennumerates the charges against him. At length.]

"Mommy, I was reverent during Sacrament Meeting, only my stomach was not."

"Mommy, do trees drop pollen on cars if they think they are trees that can't grow?"

--Danny. After many tries, I finally ascertained that he was asking if trees deliberately spread their pollen to specific places. And if the trees might possibly be confused into thinking that cars were dwarfed trees. And would they try to pollinate a tree (real or imagined) even if they knew the effort would never, ah, bear fruit. (Couldn't help myself.) At least, I think that's what he was asking.

[In Barnes and Noble]

Mommy: [Gasp of horror] 'They rideth'? ' "I sayeth" '? ' "Taketh them away" '? [Crescendoing shriek] ' "Thou will never passeth" '? Only third person present singular, you fool! I have seen many atrocities committed against Early Modern English grammar, but " 'Thou will never passeth!'" is the worst! [Muttering] I knew there was a reason I distrusted Sponge Bob. This only confirms my suspicions.
Danny: Mommy, will you please keep reading?

Mommy: This is insulting! Terrible research! Complete waste of time! I mean, for a lay person I would overlook it, but the editor ought to be hanged, and the author ought to be drawn and quartered...

Danny: Mommy, will you
please finish the story?
Mommy: Fine. But only so you have the resolution of knowing the ending. [Continues reading, punctuated with comments like "Idiotic conjugation," "Tyndale's translation crucified afresh," and "Modern Mommy as a medieval martyr..."]
[They finish the book.]

Mommy: [Restrains herself, with difficulty, from another lengthy rant.] [Briskly] The end! Hey, look at this book! An interactive chronology of Narnia! Charming!

Danny: [Holding the offensive Sponge Bob Square Pants 'book.'] Can we buy this and take it home?

Mommy: NO. It's devoid of literary merit, stupid characters, no plot, insipid dialogue...[She succumbs to the lengthy rant she had previously surpressed.]

Danny: [Interrupting] Will you read me this Berenstein Bears book?
Mommy: [Taking a deep breath] Fine.
[They compromise by reading several more books, subject to Mommy's veto.]

[Once upon a time, this post also included a quotation from one of Eric's first public school homework assignments. His first grade teacher said to write down something interesting about his home life. Eric wrote something like "In my house we pretend to have one hundred talking stuffed animals." Then he added a footnote. At the bottom of the page, he added, "We actually do have a hundred stuffed animals." There was another line where he ran out of space and added a footnote for the rest of the truncated sentence.

It took several hours to complete the thing, with me sitting on the couch saying "Focus. Focus. Eric, concentrate. What's next?" I did not do it for him, though, and although his handwriting was horrible and his ADD was worse, his spelling, grammar, and punctuation were flawless. Naturally.

Sadly, blogger's formatting is problematic, and at some point, I must have gone back into the text to edit something and accidentally erased Eric's quote. I'm not sure what else is missing and unrecoverable. This makes me leery of messing with old posts where I don't have adequate backup files. It also makes me consider, once again, trying wordpress.] --GHB

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Undocumented Documents

I have been working on my childrens' books inventory.

Over the last year or two, roughly 200 picture books, elementary chapter books, intermediate-level books, non-fiction reference books, and, especially, angsty adolescent novels have miraculously meandered into my home.

I reached my tipping point a few months ago when I bought a used Great Illustrated Classics version of David Copperfield on sale for 50 cents only to discover I already had three copies at home. Obviously it was time for a massive update.

(My thanks to Carolyn, who, two summers ago, helped me to do my last big inventory.)

So far, I have input over 100 books into my spreadsheet, and I have several bins of books still to process. After which I have two more bookcases still to cull for undocumented immigrants.

After this is over, I need to take a stuffed-animal census. It's been a long time since I've counted all the plush animals in the house, and longer since I've sorted them into categories: ownership (Mine, Eric's Danny's--even Jon has a few that I've given him); named vs. unnamed; tame vs. wild; etc.

My rule of thumb is that there should be a 4:1 ratio of childrens books to stuffed animals. Assuming I have 125-150 stuffed animals, I should have 500-600 volumes in the kids' library. (I am not counting the young adult section in this estimate: pre-k and elementary selections
(board books, picture books, simple chapter books, and Eric-appropriate non-fiction) go in the play room; angsty adolescent novels have their own bookcase downstairs. (They get moody and depressed and want their own space, naturally.))

At last count, I have 703 books registered. I expect the total census will show 750-800, of which approximately 500 will be "play room" material, and 200-300 will be shelved in the sequestered young-adult section. (Wish I could just perform statistical interpolations, like the U.S. Census wanted to do last time. The U.S. Supreme Court said "no." Ironically, that issue, too, involved a lot of undocumented aliens.)

The boys have been helping. I have paid them money to help sort, carry, read titles, and run errands for me.

They have also been helping by walking past a bin of books, impulsively grabbing one, wandering off, and putting it down elsewhere, thus ruining my sorting system.

Still, there are worse sins than liking books. Even if this shortcoming provides havens for the migratory immigrant book population.

Speaking of books and boys...

It seems like every year, Wake County asks me to fill out a form about Eric that includes questions like this:

1. Q: What languages are spoken in your home?
(My answer: English, some basic ASL, plus smatterings of French, German, and Lao(tian). Except ASL isn't "spoken," it's signed.)

2. Q: Is the primary language at home English?

3. Q: How often do you read to your child?

A. Almost never
B. Once a week
C. Two or three times a week
D. Three to five times a week
E. Every day
(A. Almost never. I used to read to him almost every day, but he has been reading independently for several years now. I offer to read to his little brother almost every day, but these offers are spurned in favor of imaginative, interactive play, so I make up stories instead.)

4. Q: How many books does your child have?

A. 0-1
B. 1-3
C. 3-5
D. 5-10
E. 10 or more
(My old answer: You are off by a factor of forty. My library contains approximately 400 age-appropriate childrens' books.)
(Next year's projected answer: You are off by a factor of fifty. My library contains approximately 500 age-appropriate childrens' books.)

Fortunately, "factor of fifty" and "five hundred" are still alliterative.

I still debate with myself: Is question #4 more sad, or more funny, or equally balanced? I'm voting for sad. If I were structuring the question, the scale would be different:

Q. How many books does your child have?

A. 0-10
B. 10-25
C. 25-50
D. 50-100
E. 100 or more

I doubt that there would be many families with more than 100 childrens' books. But please, I beg you, tell me that most families have more than 10?

I will likely have at least ten stragglers after I have "finished" my current survey. (Some, but not all, due to Eric's and Danny's efforts at resisting registration of their reading materials.)

Are there really a statistically significant number of households where there are no books at all? It would make me feel like a rich banqueter gorging herself before a crowd of beggars who desperately wish to catch the crumbs that fall from the table.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Fours of July

Happy Pioneer Day!

I love July. (Other than the heat.)

First, there's my birthday.

Followed quickly by America's birthday on the 4th.

Then there's the 14th. Bastille Day! That's when the French celebrate their independence.

And then there's the 24th, when the Mormons celebrate, in a sense, their independence. Brigham Young, looking down on the Salt Lake Valley, said, "This is the place."

It was, indeed, the place where most of the promise of "Come, Come ye Saints" was fulfilled.

("We'll find the place/that God for us prepared/far away/in the West. Where none shall come/to hurt or make afraid/with the Saints/we'll be blessed.")

Okay, so there were the "Mormon War" skirmishes with Johnston's army.

And then several decades of persecution because of polygamy.

Not to mention the barren desert, fear of Indian attacks, and lack of supplies. And malnutrition, exhausting labor, and insufficient health care.

Still, the fact remains that the LDS church got a foothold in Utah which stuck. The early Saints were never driven from their homes by mobs, as had happened in previous settlements.

(Instead, a poor woman who had voluntarily immigrated from England to Kirtland, and then been driven from homes in Kirtland, Jackson County, Far West, and Nauvoo by mobs--a woman who had then lived out of a covered wagon on the plains or a ramshackle shelter at Winter Quarters for almost two years--a woman who had finally settled in Salt Lake City, spent ten years creating a quasi-comfortable home, evacuated ten years later during the Mormon War, and returned, relieved, to find her house still standing--a woman who, after all this migratory suffering, had blissfully concluded that, finally, she might never need to move again--such a woman trembled in terror, not from threat of mobs, but from fear that Brigham Young would stand up in General Conference and announce from the pulpit, without warning, that he was calling her family to settle the remote colony of St. George.)

As I was saying: religious freedom (to follow Brigham Young), political independence (to ignore the de jure governor of Deseret Territory and follow the de facto ruler, Brigham Young), and security! (Except for the insecurity about being called to move and start all over in Yet Another Unsettled Area--by Brigham Young.)

I do not mean to pick on the prophet unduly. He was bossy, but he was not Warren Jeffs.

I honor the patriots who fought for American independence. I respect the citizens who demanded freedom in France. (I have such enormous respect for them, I cower under my desk while they pass, feeling unworthy to attract the attention of the mobocrats who might drag me off to the guillotine.) And I revere the pioneers!

So, join me in four cheers for the Fours of July!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Improbable Stories, Statistics, and Dreams

Today was a casual day. I played with Danny and Eric and told them stories. Eric also asked a question about the likelihood of something happening, which led to me explaining some simple concepts of probability, which led to me inventing a math story while pushing him on the swing.

Traditionally, I ask for a one-sentence prompt, and then invent a story. Eric's prompt was, "I want a story about Euclid winning a game 623 times in a row."

So I made up a story about Euclid going to the county fair and paying 50 cents to play a game wherein he tossed a penny. If it came up heads, he earned 1 cent and he could toss it again. If it came up heads again, he earned another cent, and could toss it again. I explained how the probability of him getting three heads in a row was 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2, which Eric correctly calculated as 1/8. He then calculated that the likelihood of getting four in a row was 1/16. And then 1/32. And then he did further powers in his head, stopping when he got to 1/4000 something. I will assume his math was correct; he was going to fast for me to catch up, and unlike certain males (i.e. Jon and Eric) in the family, I don't have powers of 2 memorized.

The problem with this game (other than ethical issues of gambling) was that you had to pay 50 cents per try.

Anyway, Euclid's dad, Pi, had warned him, "Do you realize that the likelihood of your getting heads 50 times in a row is (1/2)^50 ??? Do you know how improbable that is?? You're just throwing your money away!"

Since I was pushing Eric on the swing, I didn't have access to a calculator, so I didn't even attempt a hard figure. Unlike some members of the family (i.e., Jon and Eric), I am not good at doing math in my head.

You can imagine Pi's chagrin when Euclid got heads 50 consecutive times. And then 100. Pi began spluttering, "This is...almost mathematically impossible! Do you realize how extremely unlikely this is? You're learning the wrong lessons! About gambling! And about math!"

Euclid shrugged. "It's okay, Daddy," he said, "I'm just lucky."

Pi became apoplectic. "LUCK? There's no such thing as luck! There are only statistics and probabilities! You just happened to experience an astronomically improbable event!"

(Technically, I believe that each coin toss is it's own event, but why quibble? Even a brilliant mathematician can make the occasional mistake when he's close to stroke, heart failure, and catatonia.)

Eric liked the story and giggled whenever Pi began raving. By the time Euclid finally got tails (on his 624th try), Pi was being physically restrained by security.

I did end the story with Euclid trying to repeat the feat the next day during recess and failing, thus concluding that his "lucky streak" was over and swearing off life as a professional gambler.

Later, I calculated (1/2)^623 = 1/3.48 x 10 ^ 187 = 2.87 x 10 ^ (-188).

Imagine a decimal followed by 187 zeros and then 287:

There was a .000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 287
likelihood of Euclid's feat happening.

(C3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Han: Never tell me the odds.)

(By the way, that comes out to 2.69 x 10^(-4), or .000269, which is still orders of magnitude better than Euclid's chances, though their risk was also far worse. (No, I am NOT going to try to calculate the difference. Jon can do it if he wants.))

No wonder poor Pi was apoplectic.

This afternoon, I gave both boys a piano lesson. They both did very well. Eric is further along, but Danny was an absolute star today! I was amazed at how quickly my four-year-old was integrating rhythm, reading notes on the page, playing notes on the piano, using the correct fingers, and singing along!

Nothing teaches multi-tasking like playing the piano!

Well, except for playing the organ, where a mediocre organist keeps one eye on the conductor, one eye on the music, one eye on the manual keyboard, and one eye on the pedals. (A really good organist doesn't need to look at the pedals. I am not so skilled. A really good organist also practices, doesn't make glaring mistakes, and doesn't ever wince. Again, I am an amateur.)

The organist also alternates between several different rows of keys while dancing around playing the pedals that she'd like to see but can't because she's required to wear a skirt to church. And listens to the conductor sing, listens to the congregation sing, and waits for the time lag of sound to go out, bounce off the back wall, and then return. All of these things happen at slightly different points, of course, so she has to kind of "average" them together. (Or ignore everyone and just play by an internal metronome.)

(There's a reason why Sacrament Meeting hymns tend to slow down by the third verse.)

I'm sure there are other jobs that require more multi-tasking. Perhaps being a good commander in a battle. Being an ER physician. Being the conductor of an orchestra. And, of course, the ultimate: being a Mom.

Speaking of being a Mom, it is so much fun to teach my boys, I almost want to homeschool. Eric tracks back in next week. I'll miss him. :(

Last night I had a dream that the boys broke out with the bubonic plague. They had huge purple pustules at their lymph nodes, and I kept chasing them around the house desperately trying to smear St. Ives hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion on them. They resisted and kept running away from me, and I thought, "How can they have this much energy when they are, literally, dying of the plague???"

I know that I would have done better to alert the CDC and then acquire antibiotics, but my dreams don't make sense. They're just very vivid. I was astonished when I learned, in middle school, that most people do not dream in color.

This dream comes from reading a book Cheryl gave me: The Plague Tales. It was an interesting book and I enjoyed it, although I thought its plausibility rather disintegrated at the end. It also comes because Danny's excema has broken out again.

P. S. My thanks to Jon for double-checking my figures. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!...euh, je veux dire gâteau. Qu'ils mangent du gâteau.

Hier était le quatorzième Juillet!

La Bastille est tombée! (Encore.)
Vive la France! Vive la Révolution! Vive Madame la Guillotine!


"Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé.
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!
Aux armes, citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!"

Yes, fine, I'll translate.

The title is "Let them eat sweet, eggy, flaky pastry rolls, kind of like croissants, except shaped more like muffins!, I mean cake. Let them eat cake."
--(Widely attributed to Marie Antoinette although there is some doubt as to whether she actually said it, and if so, if she was the original author.)

Yesterday was July 14th!

The Bastille (Paris fortress) has fallen! Again! (I like to pretend to storm it every year.)

(In 2002, a much younger (and thinner) Gail prepares the first volley of stuffed animals for her assault on the Bastille. The fortified couch and cardboard boxes crumbled under the onslaught!)

Long live France! Long live the Revolution! Long live Madame Guillotine!


[The lyrics to the French National Anthem, la Marseillaise.]

Now, for purposes of clarity, I shall sift among the various possible translation options to bring you the best overall effect.


Arise, children of the fatherland!
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us, the bloodied banner
of tyranny is raised.
Do you hear in the countryside
the roar of ferocious soldiers?
They are coming into our arms
to slaughter our sons, our wives!
To arms, citizens!
Form your batallions!
March on! March on!
Let a tainted blood
water our fields.

More literal:

Come, children of the country,
The day of glory is here.
Against us the tyranny
has raised a bloody flag.
Do you hear in the countryside
the roar of ferocious soldiers?
They are coming right in among us
to slaughter our sons, our companions/wives/mistresses/women.
To arms, citizens!
Form your batallions!
Let's march! Let's march!
Let an impure blood
soak our furrows.

Out of curiosity, and because this process almost always yields humorous results, I also let Yahoo's Babel fish program take a stab at it. (Forgive me. Bastille day...Violent metaphors...Can't help myself.)

That marvelous translator produced the following:

"Let us go children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory arrived!
Against us of tyranny
L' bloody standard is raised.
Do you hear in our Mugir campaigns
these wild soldiers?
They come until in your arms.
To cut the throat of your sons, your partners!
With the weapons, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let us go, go!
Qu' an impure blood
Water our furrows!"

(I love Babel Fish!)

Now, for further effect, I am going to take that, and let Babel Fish translate it back into French again!

"Partons des enfants de la patrie,
le jour de la gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie L' ;
la norme sanglante est relevée.
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
de Mugir ces soldats sauvages ?
Ils viennent jusqu'à dans des vos bras.
Pour couper la gorge de vos fils, vos associés !
Avec les armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Partons, allez !
Qu' ; une eau impure
de sang nos sillons !"

Now, my best attempt at translating the above literally--(my attempt might be more laughable than an expert, accurate translation)--would go like this:
Let's leave the children of the country,
[Comment: We are leaving our children? This is shocking!]
the day of glory has arrived.
Against us of the L-tyranny
[Is this like the Castro Tyranny?]

the technical standard is re-raised.
[Okay. So I'm a member of an obscure tyranny trying to do away with technical standards. Obviously we management are squashing our engineers' repeated attempts to produce a quality product based on industry norms because we would rather make insane promises to the customers. Pointy-haired boss! It all makes sense now!]

Do you hear in the countryside of Bellows
the savage soldiers?
They are coming into your arms
to cut the throats of your sons, your associates!

[Great. Now I'm a member of the mafia, threatening local businesses.]
With weapons, citizens!
[Yes, I expect the mafioso "soldiers" are using weapons in their campaign of terror.]
Form your batallions!
Let's leave, go!

[ I have double-crossed both management and Mafia and am skipping town with my most loyal lieutenants? How did one round of translations suddenly turn me into such a bad guy?]

Let an impure water
of blood our furrows.
[This last part makes no sense. I can only conclude the Mafia caught me, are beating me senseless, and I am babbling...senselessly. No more than I deserve, apparently.]

Okay, if you haven't had enough, I will take the French I was just translating from and run it back through Babel Fish and back into English and see what nonsense emerges! (I wonder how close my translation came. I did it before running things back through an online translator.)

"Let us leave the children of the fatherland,
the day of glory arrived!
Against us of L' tyranny; ;
the bloody standard is raised.
You in our campaigns hear
of Mugir these wild soldiers?
They come jusqu' with in your arms.
To cut the throat of your sons, your associates!
With the weapons, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let us leave, go!
Qu' ; an impure water
of blood our furrows!"

I must say...I didn't do too badly! My translation was eerily close to Babel Fish. Now, either this means that I am exceptionally good...or it means that I'm as bad as Babel Fish. (Whose prowess has already, sadly, been demonstrated.)

Saying "You're just like him!" can be complimentary...or not. Depending.

Let's stick with cake. Speaking of "let them eat cake," I made a simple, but fun treat in honor of the day.

Alas, I forgot to bloody the blade. Maybe next year.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brief as Amicus Curiae

[Noting that some people might be overwhelmed by the long-form ten-page essay ("A Most Moral, Mighty, Magnificent Mouse") below, my friend Shylock the Squirrel, formerly a moneylender and now a respected attorney, filed a redacted version with the court.]

Reepicheep's Sanity: In Brief

In determining sanity, the major questions are these:

  1. Does he understand right and wrong?

  2. Does he suffer from mental impairment, like dementia, depression, etc? If so, to what degree?

  3. Can he predict the consequences of his actions?

  4. Does he have the capacity to understand and to commit himself to legal agreements?

  5. Is he a functioning adult in his society and/or environment?

  6. Does he exercise good judgment?

The defense lawyer's arguments address each of the above in detail. The scope of this brief concerns number 6: Does the defendant exercise good judgment? The burden of proof should lie with the prosecution. Still, I will point out a few points in his favor.

The prosecution claims, “Reepicheep acknowledges no reason to avoid danger in any instance.” And yet, how often do you see Reepicheep actually challenge someone to a duel? He hints about it, but actually does so only once: in the aftermath of the unfortunate tail-swinging incident.

For our valorous vermin, violence, swordplay, and recklessness are not always the solution.

Surrounded by invisible enemies (on the Dufflepud's island), he counsels against fighting, arguing that they would die defending the Queen, but they would still die—and so would she.

Encountering the Sea Serpent, he alone stays rational, shouting, “Don't fight—push!” When the men follow his advice they escape (but do not defeat) the serpent.

True, he seems foolhardy about the dragon. He begins, “With your Majesty's leave—“ but Caspian interrupts. “No, Reepicheep,” the King says very firmly, “you are not to attempt a single combat with it.” If he intended single combat, especially if he thought he could kill a dragon single-pawed, that would be questionable indeed. But he never finishes his sentence. More likely the mouse intended to request leading the group charge. There is no direct evidence to the contrary; I defy the prosecution to prove otherwise.

When they land on Ramandu's island, Reepicheep guesses that the banquet table contains poisoned food—and does not test that hypothesis. Like any sensible person, he errs on the side of caution.

True, he seeks glory and adventure. In “The Dark Island” chapter, he bullies the others into entering the foreboding Darkness. Yet he bullies them not physically, but by his superior moral strength. Eventually, Caspian agrees, knowing that Reepicheep is right.

Later, when the company are debating whether to sail east to the end of the world, the sailors begin mutinous mutterings. Reepicheep, without disparaging others' choices, states that he will continue the quest, alone, and by any means possible, until he either attains his goal or dies honorably.

“Hear, hear” says a sailor, adding “I'm not going to be outdone by a mouse.”

He is the gadly, the conscience, the custodian of the company's honor. In Christ, the merest mouse is mightier than men.

As Reepicheep prepares to sail, alone, over the world's edge, he removes his sword and flings it away, announcing, “I shall need it no more.” He goes boldly (but humbly) to his last adventure, confident that the tool he used to right wrongs in an imperfect world will be unnecessary in a perfect paradise.

To some, it may seem that Reepicheep always rushes into danger, but an astute scholar sees differently. He is free to take risks and seek glory. We may doubt his priorities, but his sanity is safe.

Reepicheep has his foibles and imperfections, but he checks them. His behavior is neither erratic nor uncontrolled. He is a functioning adult mouse: lucid, intelligent, moral, responsible, emotionally stable, legally competent, capable of reason, and possessing good judgment.

Based on this evidence, I find it highly unlikely that the Court would choose to sign commitment papers—unless the prosecution attempted bribery, which, like Reepicheep, they are too honorable to do. (And the Court is doubtless too honest to accept.)

A Most Moral, Mighty, Magnificent Mouse

[Here, at last, is my Reepicheep essay. It is not my best work, but I believe it is adequate. If you have read The Chronicles of Narnia, you will understand my arguments following. If not, I encourage you to read Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader post-haste.

If this post is too long for you, read the abridged version above. If this is too short for you, either you are crazy (and thus in no position to gauge the sanity of a talking mouse) or should quit your day job and become a professor of English or Law. If my reasoning does not convince you, either you are crazy (and thus in no position to argue with me about the sanity of a talking mouse), or you should write a systematic rebuttal. Go on. I dare you.]

Sanity Check

In The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis presents a swashbuckling, talking mouse. Speaking of this amazing, marvelous, minuscule (yet-magnificent) mammal, my sister Cheryl recently asserted that “Reepicheep is completely insane.” This libelous assertion has already been challenged on the field of honor. (And feel free to vote for which cake is better!) Now we will demonstrate the true nature of this noble beast using critical literary analysis. Reepicheep has very “human” foibles, but is lucid as well as lovable. Any psychiatrist—once she had overcome her anxieties about examining a talking mouse—would find him to be a functioning adult. (After which she would dose herself with anti-psychotic drugs to treat her own obvious hallucinations. Perhaps we should take pity on the poor doctor and prove his sanity using other methods. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword, as even Reepicheep might acknowledge.)

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “sane” as “mentally healthy” and sanity as “soundness of judgment or reason.” Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary further clarifies “sane” as “able to anticipate and appraise the effect of one's actions.” Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law adds, “ distinguish right from wrong.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines “insane” and “insanity” with terms like “persistent mental disorder or derangement,” “unsoundness of mind sufficient in the judgment of a civil court to render a person unfit to maintain a contractual or other legal relationship or to warrant commitment to a mental health facility,” and “a degree of mental malfunctioning sufficient to relieve the accused of legal responsibility for the act committed.”

It seems very difficult to prove any person is sane. Who doesn't do unreasonable or irrational things on occasion? The burden of “proving” he is insane—sufficient to convince a judge to throw him in a mental hospital, for instance—lies with the prosecution. I am the defense. (The judge will handle this case better than that poor psychiatrist, anyway. She is used to crazy commitment hearings.) But the preponderance of evidence makes me confident that I can demonstrate Reepicheep is a functioning adult mouse: lucid, emotionally stable, legally competent, moral, noble, intelligent, posessing good judgment, capable of reason, and responsible. Good computer programs perform a “sanity check.” Let us do the same.

Legally Lucid

As to “lucid,” we see Reepicheep neither hallucinate nor speak incoherently. I cannot prove a negative, but if the lawyer for the prosecution has evidence of this Mouse experiencing hallucinations, psychoses, dysphasia, dementia, or other mental impairments, let her advance her arguments. (I do note, pointedly, that in “The Dark Island” chapter, Reepicheep alone seems unaffected by the terror and hallucinations affecting everyone else aboard the Dawn Treader.)

Regarding the Mouse's mental health, we never see him morose, sulky, depressed, or suicidal. Manic, perhaps, but not suicidal. His willingness to challenge beings ten times his size to duels stems not from depression, but from pride. Neither does he suffer from mood swings. He might be manic, but he's always manic. He never mentions a love interest, but then, he never complains about the lack, either. (I respect his privacy—and discretion. No doubt a handsome, heroic, charismatic leader among mice lacks not for female companionship if he so desires.)

As to legal competence, Reepicheep is the Chief Mouse, and his followers love him. He was knighted by the hand of the reigning King Caspian, while three other kings (Aslan, Peter, and Edmund) looked on approvingly. He argues respectfully but forcefully with kings, and participates in Caspian's councils. Obviously he enjoys full recognition as an adult Narnian citizen, eligible to enter into official responsibilities and contractual obligations—and honorable combat.

Tail Trouble

Eustace is a brat. Early in the Dawn Treader, he impulsively grabs Reepicheep by the tail and swings him in circles. Our rugged rodent protests this treatment. Vehemently. Would you enjoy a caveman dragging you around by your hair? What if your hair were beautiful and glossy and your best feature? What if your hair had once been hacked off by hooligans, leaving you wretched and ragged, but had then been miraculously restored, in an instant, by God himself? Would you not find this caveman's behavior a violation of your human rights, a desecration of your dignity, a sacrilege against your crowning glory?

This is how Reepicheep feels about his tail. “Sir,” he tells Aslan, “I can eat and sleep and die for my King without one. But a tail is the honor and glory of a Mouse.” Under such provocation, our hero is entitled to defend himself—and does so. (Could you draw your sword while being swung upside-down by your tail? And then use it with surgical precision against your tormentor? Didn't think so.)

Reepicheep skewers Eustace's hand to secure his own release, and then seeks satisfaction. He chastens the brat with the flat of his sword and challenges him to a duel. He is angry, but his is a measured response. (He does not disembowel his attacker on the spot.)

When the issue comes before King Caspian, the monarch does not say “He's a little crazy—doesn't know what he's doing—needs a guardian's approval before issuing a legal challenge...” Rather, Caspian takes the idea seriously. He may have smiled to himself, predicting (accurately) that Eustace would back down, but he would have permitted a duel.

We should note, further, that we never see a legislative or judicial system in Narnia. The king has power to pass laws, enforce them, and settle disputes. The only “checks and balances” are Aslan and the consent of the governed. In our society, Reepicheep could have filed a civil suit. In Narnia, a civil trial was probably not in the legal paradigm. (Especially on a small ship away from civilization.) Most likely, his only options were to demand satisfaction in honorable combat, or to complain to the king.

It is Eustace who bursts in on the monarchs, whining, crying, and threatening lawsuits. Reepicheep apologizes to Their Majesties that the situation has interrupted their meal. He is a very independent mouse. Why whine to Caspian and wait for the king to order ten lashes, when Reepicheep is himself perfectly capable of administering a sound spanking? Especially since the injury was done to his own person, and the libertarian mouse values minimal governmental interference and personal responsibility?
That Caspian endorses a duel demonstrates that it was a legal option. Barbaric by our standards, perhaps—Reepicheep would have slaughtered the wimpy Eustace, of course—but perfectly logical within the mouse's frame of reference.

Predictive Powers

Regarding causality and consequences, Cheryl says, “He reminds me of those who step in front of semis saying, 'My god will save me.'" I respectfully disagree. He never claims that he would win a duel against a giant. Glaring at Wimbleweather, he says to Aslan:

“...if we did not guard our dignity, some (who weigh worth by inches) would allow themselves very unsuitable pleasantries at our expense. That is one...shall talk in my presence about Traps or Toasted Cheese or Candles: no, Sir—not the tallest fool in Narnia!”

He is vain. He is too concerned with honor. But if he errs, it is not from blind faith, or idiocy, or peer pressure, or disconnection from reality. He's not a frontal-lobe-challenged, testosterone-poisoned teenage boy. He is not idiotically impulsive. (He wouldn't try to skateboard down a cliff on a whim, just to see what happens. ) He is motivated by an internal code of honor, honesty, and adventure. Pride may be a deadly sin, but it is not inherently insane. Reepicheep decides to defend his principles at any cost, never settling for a cringing, servile existence devoid of self-respect! His priorities may be questionable, but not his predictive powers.

Is it insane when, in Ivanhoe, Rebecca embraces “death before dishonor” and threatens to leap to her death rather than accede to Guilbert's advances? Is it insane for Patrick Henry to cry “Give me liberty, or give me death!”? Was David deluded when he challenged Goliath? Was his king crazy to allow it?

A Most Moral Mouse

In addition to understanding consequences, he also has a strong moral sense of right and wrong. He is no tragic Greek hero with a fatal flaw. Rather, his foibles are tempered. He is prideful, but not destructive. Agressive, but not cruel. Comic, but not ridiculous. Argumentative, but not obsessive. Tempermental, but controlled. Easily angered, but forgiving.

After Eustace's sulky apology over the tail incident, he does not hold a grudge; his honor is satisfied by an apology, albeit an insincere one. He doesn't bully Eustace, or seek vengeance. He is not petty.

This benevolent beast demonstrates true charity. When Eustace is enchanted into a dragon, it is Reepicheep who most often visits and comforts him. No wonder the author so often calls him “valiant” and “noble”. He guards his pride fiercely, but also guards the water cask. It is a menial, thankless task performed for the greater good. And when there is a dispute about the water cask, everyone believes Reepicheep's account, because he is so honest.

He is certainly intelligent. He usually beats Lucy at chess. Note that he would die to protect her, but does not hesitate to slaughter her vicariously in a game. He doesn't pout when he loses. Nor does he gloat when he wins. Nor does he “throw” the game in a reverse-chauvinist attempt to “let the girl win.” He gives her the respect of playing his best game and assuming she will, as well. True, occasionally he gets distracted, imagining real combat, and his performance suffers. This just means our energetic mouse has some ADD. Maybe some ADHD. But so do many very smart ER physicians.

Reason, Judgment, and Discretion

The real question, then, is this: Does he exercise good judgment? Cheryl claims, “Reepicheep acknowledges no reason to avoid danger in any instance.” Such superlatives are dangerous. She claims the mouse is completely insane and never avoids danger. If I can find even one exception to this statement, the prosecution's entire proposition is false. Reepicheep is not addicted to his sword. He can solve problems without it; he is just selectively pragmatic. In fact, there are many cases in which Reepicheep avoids danger, demonstrating not cowardice but merely common sense. I shall win, then, not on a technicality of finding one weak exception, but rather by showing a pattern of behavior that is not nearly as reckless, ill-considered, or crazy as my esteemed opponent believes.

In the first place, how often do you see Reepicheep actually challenge someone to a duel? He threatens to issue challenges all the time, but the only time he actually follows through is in the aftermath of the unfortunate tail-swinging incident. Recognizing Wimbleweather's weak mental powers, Reepicheep issues stern reminders about respecting dignity, but does not pursue the issue. He refrains from challenging Eustace when they first meet out of respect for his Queen. “To the convenience of a lady,” he says, “Even a question of honor must give way—at least, for the moment...” Would d'Artagnan have postponed pursuing l'homme de Meung to assist a woman? Probably not.

When their small party lands on the Island of the Invisible Voices, unseen creatures cut the Narnians off from their ship and demand that Lucy perform a dangerous covert mission. The mouse acknowledges that their tactical position is hopeless.

“Her Majesty is in the right,” said Reepicheep. “If we had any assurance of saving her by battle, our duty would be very plain. It appears to me that we have none. And the service they ask of her is in no way contrary to her Majesty's honor, but a noble and heroical act. If the Queen's heart moves her to risk the magician, I will not speak against it.”

“Reep” is right. Further, he permits the other males in the group to save face. Since no one doubts the creature's courage, Caspian and the others can agree with him and suffer only minimal embarrassment. No one will rush to die in battle because he's too ashamed to “look” cowardly. His statement prevents further stupidity. He also demonstrates principled pragmatism, and shows that, even when faced with a military challenge, violence is not always the solution.

Our mettlesome mouse further demonstrates his tactical genius when the ship encounters the sea serpent. While Eustace hacks a sword to pieces and bowmens' arrows glance harmlessly against the creature's scales, Reepicheep alone keeps his head, shouting, “Don't fight! Push!” Inspired by his example, the men form lines, push the serpent off the ship, and then escape. Another example of the mouse solving a problem without a sword—and reasoning while others panicked.

True, he seems foolhardy about the dragon.

“We must all show great constancy,” Caspian was saying. “A dragon has just...lighted on the beach...between us and the ship....”

“With your Majesty's leave—” began Reepicheep.

“No, Reepicheep,” said the King very firmly, “you are not to attempt a single combat with it. And unless you promise to obey me in this matter I'll have you tied up. We must just keep close watch and, as soon as it is light, go down to the beach and give it battle. I will lead. King Edmund will be on my right and the Lord Drinian on my left....”

If Reepicheep did, indeed, intend single combat, it is a blow to my argument, especially if he believed he could win. But he never finished his sentence. Caspian assumes the worst and interrupts. A more likely explanation is that Reepicheep only intended to request, as he did in Prince Caspian, “All I ask is that the King will put me and my people in the front.” When the King outlines the plan for battle and assigns positions, Reepicheep accepts his orders—he is a very military-minded—and does not further distract his commander-in-chief.

I defy the prosecution to prove otherwise.

The Valiant Vermin is capable of discretion. When they land on Ramandu's island, Reepicheep guesses that the banquet table contains poisoned food—and does not test that hypothesis. Like any sensible person, he simply abstains. He errs on the side of caution.

Conscience: Neither Capricious nor Cautious

True, he seeks glory and adventure. In “The Dark Island” chapter, he bullies the others into entering the foreboding Darkness. Yet he bullies them not physically, but by his superior moral strength.

“We did not set sail to look for things useful but to seek honor and adventure. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honors.”

Several of the sailors said...”Honor be blowed,” but Caspian said:

“Oh, bother you, Reepicheep. I almost wish we'd left you at home. All right! If you put it that way, I suppose we shall have to go on.”

This may have been what caused my learned opponent to say , “he gloriously seeks danger under the guise of adventure and labels any who refuse to join him cowards.” And yet, consider. The Narnians did set sail for “impractical” reasons: quests, adventure, and exploration. Caspian backs down because he knows Reepicheep is right. He just needed a reminder. He also did not say, “You are all sissies!” but rather, that it would reflect poorly on “all our honors.” He grouped himself with the men and was not sanctimonious. (Well, not much.)

And, in fact, they do find something useful in the thick, dark mist. What would have happened to the quest—and Lord Rhoop—had they not followed the curious creature's counsel? They also realize, after leaving their dreaded dreams behind, that there had never been any real danger. (I shall begin a mass printing of "Reep is Right!" bumper stickers forthwith.)

Later, when the company are debating whether to sail east to the end of the world, the sailors begin mutinous mutterings. Reepicheep, without disparaging others' choices, says:

“My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I shall paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country...I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise...”

“Hear, hear” said a sailor....He added in a lower voice, “I'm not going to be outdone by a mouse.”

This is Reepicheep's function. He is the gadly, the conscience, the custodian of the company's honor. He is Atticus Finch, who, as Miss Maudie says in To Kill a Mockingbird was “born to do our unpleasant jobs for us....We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like Atticus to go for us." In Christ, the merest mouse is mightier than men.

It is true that the mouse seeks adventure and glory, but he is not irresponsible. He names a successor. His quest to go beyond the World's End has Aslan's tacit approval. It may sound crazy, but were Marco Polo and Magellan crazy? Reepicheep takes a radical risk, yes, but in accordance with prophecy. When Caspian wants to abdicate and join Reepicheep's final quest, the mouse lectures the monarch, “You are the King of Narnia. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person.” Our adventurous animal has no dependents, however, and is free risk—and gain—everything.

Mightier than the Sword

The best example of Reepicheep's independence from his sword occurs when he departs for Aslan's country. As he prepares to sail, alone, over the world's edge, he removes his sword and flings it away, announcing, “I shall need it no more.” He does not storm the gates of heaven demanding entrance. He goes boldly (but humbly) to his last adventure, confident that the tool he used to right wrongs in a flawed world will be unnecessary in a perfect paradise.

Closing Arguments

Reepicheep is a swashbuckling, sometimes swaggering, adventurer. He is passionate. A tad eccentric. He gets carried away at times. But he is no nuttier than d'Artagnan. (Hmm. Bad example.) Not as bad as the trigger-happy cast of Schlock Mercenary? (Ick. Even worse. Let's try this again.)

He is not a pirate. (Too dishonorable.) He is decidedly not Cyrano de Bergerac. (Too depressed.) He is not the valiant knight Ivanhoe. (Too staid.) Neither is he the Scarlet Pimpernel. (Too blind, distracted, and annoying.) Nor is he Wesley from The Princess Bride. (Too...something. Sarcastic? Satirical?) He is not quite Rudolf Rassendyll from The Prisoner of Zenda. (Too much subterfuge.) He is not even Robin Hood. (Too wild.) No, he is Reepicheep, the epitomal swashbuckling hero, the paragon of a paladin fighting for principle but not for fun.

He has a Napoleonic complex, over-compensating for his height. Perhaps his “perfect” big brother died in childhood, leaving Reepicheep to compare himself to an impossible ideal. But who among us do not have formative experiences which affect our characters?

Reepicheep has his foibles and imperfections, but he checks them. He is a risk-taking--but not reckless--rodent. His behavior is neither erratic nor uncontrolled. Even at his most idealistic, he is a functioning adult mouse: lucid, intelligent, moral, responsible, emotionally stable, legally competent, capable of reason, periodically pragmatic, and possessing good judgment.

Though reserving the right of rebuttal, the defense, smugly, rests.