Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pioneer Day: Two Addenda

(I would have guessed 'addendi' for the plural, but then I never studied Latin.)

I forgot to mention a few things in honor of pioneer day.

First, I found this flyer, pinned to the bulletin board of another ward, very disturbing:

"Ward Social! Come celebrate Pioneer's Day on Saturday, July 25, 2009, at the home of Brother Jones, 111 Martin's Cove."

(A student of LDS history will understand why any pioneer party in Martin's Cove would seem more maudlin than merry.)

This reminded me of another story from 2002. I was an advisor to the young women of the Raleigh 4th ward at the time. I have changed the names of both seventeen-year-old girls.

[The movie Handcart was about to hit theaters, and Milly and Shanna were discussing it and the novel (historical fiction) upon which the movie was based.]

Milly: The book was sooo good! Do you want to borrow it?
Shanna: I don't know. How does it end?
Sister Berry: [quipping] Everybody dies.
Milly: [Shocked] Sister Berry!! How could you? You just ruined the ending!
Sister Berry: [laughing] I haven't even read it!
Milly: [baffled] Then how did you know how it ends?

Jon frequently asks me "What is [insert famous story] about?" and my standard reply is "Everybody dies." Of course, in the case of Hamlet, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a host of other tragedies, it also happens to be true...

I still haven't read the book, but my prediction is that, in fact, almost everybody dies, leaving one or two characters to straggle bedraggedly into the Salt Lake Valley, suffer some amputated toes, then go on to marry and produce nine stalwart children.

Yes, of course I respect the sacrifices of the pioneers, even when the suffering resulted from preventable human errors. But with every human experience, there's always some humor mixed with tragedy.

What I can't decide is whether the girls' ignorance of church history is more tragic or humorous.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reepicheep Revisited

Last year, my sister Cheryl accused one of my favorite literary characters of all time, Reepicheep, of insanity.

Naturally I responded by challenging her to a duel. It is, after all, what my idol Reep himself would have done.

As the challenged party, she chose the venue and medium: a cake contest.

Cheryl's cake won. She garnered votes from Greg, Carolyn, Ronald, and Kim, and presumably, her children, who outnumber mine 2:1. It seems like more people also voted for hers, but I'm not finding a record of that on my blog.

My poor effort won votes only from Jon, Mark, and Carolyn's roommate.

Congratulations, Cheryl, on your victory in the popular vote.

On the point of Reepicheep's sanity, however, I believe I carried the day.

Carolyn, after reading my essay in his defense, amended her earlier comment "I side with Cheryl on Reapicheep being insane," saying, "I must admit, this in brief section does indeed make a strong case that while Reepicheep is indeed daring, he is not --actually-- foolhardy."

Ronald, too, voted for Cheryl's cake, but stated, "I also maintain that Reepicheep is NOT insane, he is merely DELIBERATLY FOOLHARDY." Granted, this directly contradicts Carrie's comment, but why quibble?

Mom complimented my essay but refrained from taking sides. (She also complimented both cakes. Very politic.)

The most telling quote, though, comes from the original accuser herself.

"I have read both the long and short versions of your essay/brief,and I enjoyed it very much. You certainly make the case that Reep has legal capacity and is not considered impaired by mental illness under the law. However, the world is full of people with capacity who are still crazy."
--Cheryl, 7/22/2008 [emphasis added]

Given that no one bothered to submit a counter-brief, -essay, or -document of any kind, I assume I have won both the legal battle and the grudging respect of all Reep's nay-sayers.

Cheryl is correct when she says there are lots of legally competent loonies out there. Personally, I prefer the term "nuts" to describe such people. (Like the guy who argues that the apostle Neil A. Maxwell 1) used to work for the CIA, 2) learned mind-control techniques there, and 3) used those skills (like alliteration!!!) in writing his conference talks to 4) brainwash the LDS rank and file.) Of course, derivations of "nutty" tend to offend Reepicheep's friend Pattertwig, but we can't have everything.

Although the controversy surrounding Reepicheep's mental state has calmed down, the cake contest continues. For scheduling reasons, this year Cheryl and I competed, not on Independence Day, but twenty days later, on Pioneer Day.

This year's cakes appear below. Make comments, cast votes--and may the best Mouse win!

Gail's Cake: Texas, 1846: Mormon Battalion

Here is my Texas 1846: Mormon Battalion cake.

"The yellow rose of Texas..."

The dark line in the NW corner shows the trail the Mormon Battalion took across what was then part of Texas. The cake proper with yellow border shows the current boundaries. The cake is decorated like the Republic of Texas / State of Texas flag, with the exception of a yellow star with yellow roses instead of a white star. (I admit to cheating on the roses; I bought some pre-made and then colored them yellow.)

This was my first attempt at making my own frosting and then using a pastry bag to decorate. Over all, it turned out pretty well for my first attempt. The later blue (like in the expanded Texas border) looked firm enough at first, but then kind of...schlumped. Ah well. It was good experience and I learned a lot.

It is interesting that Cheryl and I both, independently, thought of doing maps. I'd had an idea of doing soldiers and covered wagons, but gave that up. The scale was all wrong.

"...and the Lonestar of yellow roses."

Several comments from last year's competition indicated that people preferred Cheryl's cake based on sheer size. I decided to solve this deficiency by making a Texas-sized cake in honor of my new state.

The cake pan I used is a double-mix pan. It was a very large, very deep cake, and the family gratefully snacked upon it for several days. Volume! Mass! Quantity!

It's true Cheryl's has a prettier background. But you can't eat marble any better than you can eat a cookie sheet.

So, who wins? Shall we do this again next year? Will anyone else join in? What say the auguries?

Cheryl's Cake

"Come, Come Ye Saints..."

Cheryl's charming cake depicts a map of major Mormon sites, trails, and landmarks from the mid-nineteenth century.

She says: "You may have to look at them blown up very large to get the detail (the tiny place names). The blue squiggles are major rivers. The white dots are a wagon train (once again, you may have to look at them blown up)."

"East is east, and west is West..."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mommiest Moments: July, 2009

“Whereas these toys are suffering from neglect and malnutrition, and

“Whereas this upsets the stuffed animals, who fear similar treatment, and

“Whereas it's a really good idea to placate the stuffed animals lest they begin biting fingers off or changing the locks, and

“Whereas the nascent Stuffed Animal State has issued a resolution censuring our violations of the natural rights of their wood and plastic cousins, and...

“Whereas we wish to inculcate the virtue of responsibility that our children may succor us in our agèd infirmities,

We therefore declare that:

  1. All toys herein shall be impounded from July 4th through July 11th, 2009

  2. If children do not obey assignments promptly, their toys, books, or other property may be

      a. impounded

      b. placed in foster care, or

      c. in the greatest extremity, donated to Goodwill ...”

--Extracts from the Declaration of Impoundment, issued July 4th, 2009

“All adult stuffed animals may vote. Parents may vote for their children, but only on issues that affect the children.”

--Article I, Section I of the Stuffed Animal Constitution. Eric scribed. In typical political fashion, it took over an hour to get that far, after a debate which ranged from a history of suffrage to, somehow, the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“Mommy, that was not an engineered solution.”

--Danny chiding me because my roof of cardboard box lids collapsed. I claim inferior building materials as the culprit. Grandpa Homer, no doubt, would blame the architect.

“He was very sneaky and he sabotaged it!”


Percy's Chocolate Crunch: Four Different Interpretations.
FHE Activity and treat, all in one!

[After watching the new Star Trek movie]

Gail: That was a kinder, gentler Sarek.

Jon: Yeah, and he's more boring when he's not fighting with Spock. Though I always thought he was such a hypocrite. He married a human but then wanted an all-Vulcan son.

Gail: Of course! That's what makes it so realistic.

Jon: But hypocrisy is illogical.

Gail: Yet so universal. When Sarek was a young, rebellious man, he married a human. Then, years later, he turned into a howling hypocrite, because that is what fathers, of any species, do.

--I mean, how many generations have human fathers been saying “I'll never let my daughter date the kind of boy I used to be”?

“I just sang first tenor in a barbershop quartet! Which is really odd, given that I'm a lyric soprano.”

--Gail. It was fun. :)

“So I guess law school also counts like college. [Pause] But if parents only wanted their kid to go to boarding school and went into debt...” [shakes his head sadly with a strongly-implied “tsk, tsk”]

--Danny. We were discussing acceptable debt vs. unnecessary debt. I have no idea where the boarding school thing came from, other than some months ago I expressed an opinion that parents shouldn't outsource the hard work of raising teens.

---He granted the “law school” exemption for his Aunt Ten with a grand air, like a prince announcing “You have Our permission to sit in Our presence.”

Pirates: Give us all your gold!

Mommy: Eek! Mercy! [Hands over several UpWords tiles]

[Several minutes later, Mommy overhears a whispered mast meeting.]

Pirate 1: It's time for us to repent now.

Pirate 2: Okay. That means we should give back the gold we stole.

Pirate 1: And I think we should give her back extra to show we are sorry.

Pirate 2: And also to show that we love her.

--I think they're the sweetest pirates who e'er extorted brownies. (Danny was Pirate 1 and Eric was Pirate 2.)

"Arrrgh!" -- Captain Bread Hook

“Danny was adorable tonight. He didn't earn a bedtime story, so he snuck into the library and grabbed The Cat in the Hat...then he snuck furtively hoping no one would notice. Big tip-toe steps, guilty look, hunched back, overstated shifty eyes...I can't really describe it, but it was hilarious. I was so thrilled that he has finally gotten into the spirit of reading, I didn't stop him.

--I think that makes me a bad parent but a good Mommy.

Nurse: Does he know his alphabet well enough for an eye exam?

Mommy: Heh, heh. Oh, yes. Yesterday he read the entire The Cat in the Hat Comes Back out loud to me.

“This book is about boats, so sail it over to that pile...

this book is about horses, so ride it over to that pile...”

“Gack! I have three copies of Old Yeller? And I'm missing On the Banks of Plum Creek! And the third Great Brain book. This is awful!”

--Cataloging my books. I miss the Raleigh booksale already. Half-priced books is excellent in its way, but paying $2.50 for a book is still five times more expensive than I'd pay in Raleigh.

“Mommy, will you read me this book?”

--Danny. After several years of resisting, he has finally caught the spirit of a good picture book and a snuggle! He still doesn't count it as playing, though.

Another finished library section.

[Eric and Danny were playing “Stargate”. Danny kept trying to get through the iris and Eric kept closing it until he could verify the IDC.]

Danny: Friendly! FRIENDLY!!!

Eric: Okay, you can come in.


Danny: Wicked! WICKED!

Eric: No, go away! I am blocking you!

[Several iterations of this go by]

Mommy: You know, it is possible to be both friendly and wicked.

Eric and Danny: [gape] It is?

--I cited Lucifer in the Garden of Eden as an example. Always back up your doctrinal assertions. Learned that from my own mom.

Eric: Look at my tooth! [Giggles]

--How reassuring that he's still a normal boy who loves to do disgusting things with his loose teeth.

[Danny laid out an obstacle course using Jenga blocks.]

Jon: Is that a logarhythmic pattern?

Danny: No.

Jon: Because, you see, they start really close together, but then each one is a little bit further apart. The distance between them keeps growing.

Danny: Oh! I did not know that name.

Mommy: But even though you didn't know its name, your brain was still thinking very mathematically. But that doesn't surprise me; you have such excellent math and spatial skills.

--Couldn't find the camera, sorry.

Left: The original spiral. Right: The spiral with added connections. I was a good mommy and let the boys help, even when their artistic vision clashed with my own.

“I ambushed you!”

--Danny, committing (and getting away with) highway robbery

“Everyone thinks I'm an unmentionable word. This is a new perspective for me, but oddly gratifying. Personally I think I should be nominated for sainthood. Five weeks of chronic air conditioning problems in 105-degree Texas summer, and I didn't scream or swear even once.”

–At one point, I did refuse to allow a goon on my property, convinced he was either so vindictively clever he'd find a new way to ruin my AC unit, or so grossly incompetent he'd succeed in electrocuting himself.

“I was working at my computer, when I heard a muffled 'Eric! Let me out!!!!' I turned around and saw Eric pulling a large suitcase behind him...and realized that Danny must be inside. I yelled at Eric to let Danny out but was ignored. (Danny, by this time, was starting to cry.) So I intercepted the suitcase and unzipped it, only to find Danny inside, strapped down...and on his head.

“I rescued him and starting giving both boys a Lecture, which was confused partly because I got it out of order, and partly because I broke down laughing partway through..."

--Carolyn was appalled that I laughed. In fairness, I would point out that 1) I intervened immediately, 2) I resisted the impulse to run for a camera before I rescued Danny, 3) I did discipline both boys, take away the suitcase, and forbid them to enter the storage room for the rest of the day, and 4) Danny did initially cooperate with this game. He allowed himself to be strapped in...he was just surprised to find himself upside-down.

(I mean, you stop to imagine Danny in the fetal position, trundling along on his head. Jon laughed, too, when I told him about it. Is this a parent/non-parent thing? Comments?)

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Multi-Media Event!

I'm experimenting with some new formats, namely slideshows and audio clips.

I've posted them as videos since blogger more easily supports that format.

The slideshow video is of Eric navigating a really complicated hopscotch course he made.

"Veterinary Missionary" is an audio of Danny re-staging his famous talent show act at home.

"Jolly Old St. Nicholas" is Eric passing off the last song in the Bastian Primer.

Sorry there aren't more pretty moving pictures, but I hope you enjoy such media as I can provide.

We'll see how well this works.


July 6, 2009

July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mommiest Moments: June, 2009

Chaunticleer the Chicken: The eggs are just metaphorical.

Andy the Llama: “Green” is the important word here. It means we should eat grass.

Rabbits: Or lots of vegetables. Add in some green pepper and green beans...make an omelet!

Wolves: That's stupid! Meat is the only real diet!

Bears: Ham and eggs sound great to us! But they end up in the water, which means we should eat fish, too.

Alexander the Great Killer Whale: Hear, hear! As long as you swallow some lichen at the same time to get the “green” you need.

Gregory the Goat: I think green eggs and ham are important, but let's not forget the other foods that appear in the book, like boxes and car tires, and—

Tecumsah the Skunk: And “Green” means “environmentally friendly.” Let's prepare our meals with minimal pollution...

Orville the Pig: This is an apostate work! Heresy! Ignore it!

Tecumsah the Skunk: Well, I certainly believe that there are some mistranslations involved...I mean, green ham?

Gregory the Goat: Maybe it's supposed to be moldy.

Polgara the Dragon: I know! Use that ketchup made from green tomatoes! (Maybe mixed with some Vulcan blood...)

Christopher Robin: But what about the egg issue? I think that's just a suggestion. But if you do use eggs, they should be from chickens..

Chaunticleer: It's a parable, I tell you! An allegory!

Mallory the Mallard Duck: As long as you don't use duck eggs...the pictures seem quite clear about using chicken eggs.

Chaunticleer: Have you ever seen green chicken eggs? You can't possibly interpret the illustrations that way. They were added in later. You fools!

[The argument quickly descends into personal attacks, then into a massive mêlée, with factional fur and feathers flying amid cries of “Anathema” and“Apostate!”]

--Eventually a prophet arrived and restored order.

---I was teaching a new-member lesson about the apostasy and restoration. I took Green Eggs and Ham in Latin, a Latin dictionary, two Latin textbooks, and asked the kids to translate. When they couldn't, I let the stuffed animals take a crack at it...

----Many thanks to Carolyn, who brainstormed a bunch of the best lines.

“We almost had a Roanoke crisis in the storage room. The stuffed animal colonists forgot to bring seeds, metal tools, medicine, reference books...”

--This all started when Danny asked, “But why didn't the pilgrims just go to the grocery store?”

“Rejoice! For Bear is innocent! We had a mock trial for homeschool today, the Honorable Justice Mommy presiding. Technically the case should have been thrown out for several reasons, including lack of evidence and jural errors (like coaching both counsels from the bench). Plus I should have recused myself because of a conflict of interest. (Bear was accused of stealing my book.) But don't tell the kids, because then they'd file a motion to declare a mistrial and then I'd have to go through it all again...”

--I particularly enjoyed making them call me “Your Honor.” :)

“Well, as a mammal, I'd like to see Ozzie the Lion win. But as a smaller person of prey, I rather favor Newton the Newt. Except, although he's a brilliant scientist, he's rather disconnected from people. I suspect he's Aspie. Maybe I could convince Jacques to run...bears don't usually eat mice, right?”

–A. Nonny Mouse, discussing presidential candidates in the aftermath of The Velveteen Revolution.

--They haven't even finished drafting their constitution, and already they have election fever! They are more American than they admit....Still, the children are learning a lot.

“But Mommy! Nannerl loves being tortured! ...Except on Sundays.”

--Danny, protesting, after I told him to stop swinging banging her head into walls and tying her tail around doorknobs.

Mommy: If you slew a dragon and got the whole hoard, would you buy me a twenty-room castle?

Eric: No. [Resumes reading]

Mommy: [sighs] Oh well.

--He was reading the Dragon Slayers Academy series, where the premise is “send your kid here, and in ten years he'll repay your investment...after a modest fee skimmed off for our school...” He later relented and said that if he earned a lot of money a different way, he might build a castle and let me live there. I shall wait twenty years until he is the next Bill Gates and remind him. He even said that he would let me help to design the thing!

“Oooh. Let's drop Grandma's sewing machine and surger over the edge...”

--I told the kids a bedtime story where they and their cousins made a huge imaginary mess at Grandma Homer's house. Except then they had to clean up their huge imaginary mess, but they had trouble remembering what was in it, since they couldn't see it. Though it hurt to step on...

---No real sewing machines were damaged during this story. Just in case Grandma was worried.

“When will it be out of impounsion?”

--Danny. And to think, only a few months ago, he would ask, “But when will it be outpounded?”

“No thank you, I fell in the cue.”

--Eric, randomly.

"Eric, you're not to do that!"

"I'll not wait, I'll just do it right now."

--Danny has been experimenting with slightly archaic constructions this last month or so. Very cute.

Danny: I am going to make Daddy a surprise lunch! [He takes a tortilla shell, squeezes two tablespoons of ranch dressing onto it, adds mayonaise, margarin, mustard, strawberry jam, and maple sugar, then rolls the entire thing up.] I am calling this a “sugar cavayna.”

Mommy: That's so sweet of you! Unfortunately, Daddy will be gone most of the day running errands or working in the clerk's office. I'm afraid he won't be home until after you're asleep.

Danny: Then he can eat it when he gets home. Mommy, will you tell him about it?

Mommy: Sure, honey. [mischievous glint in her eye] Or you could wait until tomorrow morning and give it to him then. That way you could see his reaction yourself.

Danny: [graciously] No, but Daddy will miss lunch and dinner and he will be very hungry when he gets home and so I will let him eat it then.

Mommy: That is very thoughtful of you.

Danny: [Nods seriously]

[Many hours later, I showed Jon his surprise dinner.]

Jon: [gaping] Whose son is he, again?

Gail: [blushing] Um. Mine...

--Crazy creations, weird conconctions, melodrama, over-sensitivity, insane imagination...anxiety...humor...sheer, raw cuteness... Is there any doubt? Other than his strong civil engineering streak, which he might have gotten more from his Grandpa Homer...

"But you said to stack them in the storage room..."

The Dancing Tent tiptoes ominously...
...and giggles.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mommiest Moments: May, 2009

[For some reason, I just wasn't in the mood to record quotes and publish for six weeks or so. Probably house-closing-related stress. I'm afraid May's quotes are a bit skimpy. June should be much more full, though, and July should be back to normal. Thanks for your patience. And please, please comment!]

Wanted: Moat Monster

I taught a member discussion about prophets and dispensations, built around Ezekiel 3:17 and the "watchman" on a tower. Gandalf is a kind of prophet, right? The children (mine plus two others) certainly enjoyed destroying the castle in which lazy residents shouted "Shut up, you senile old man!" instead of rushing to defend the wall when the prophet shouted his warning. The two visitors held back when I told them to smash the lego castle, but Eric and Danny didn't hesitate.

Visitor: Wow! Are these all alphabetized?

Gail: [blushing] No, I am reduced to shelving by height. I'm so ashamed...

--It did look really cool to have an entire wall of books. Still, I can't wait to categorize, catalogue, and then collate my collection.

Gail: ...but they've been confined in boxes for six months! They are very, very cranky. I can't keep them there, but I can't let them out, either. No doubt they've become radicalized and violent, like prisoners at Guantanamo. Or Sirius Black, who wanted to commit the crime for which he was falsely imprisoned.

Jon: Rip open the boxes and run?

Gail: Maybe if I've strewn cans of tuna fish in advance. It might slow them down long enough for me to escape. And after they've devoured the food, they might be calm enough to negotiate a truce...and they'd hesitate to attack the children. Would it be reasonable to expose the kids to that risk, hoping the cuteness factor protects them?

I don't have to out-run the animals... I only have to out-run the tinned tuna fish.

--We had a family home evening where we carried out the plan above. Recognizing political reality, though, I didn't try to prevent their immediate declaration of an autonomous, self-governing region, complete with provisional government. Their goal is to become an independent republic. (It was the only way to prevent a bloody revolution.) The stuffed animals have taken over the guest room closet. And as long as they don't commit any major human rights abuses, and they accept visitors with passports, they can do whatever they want. I'm taking their nascent nation more seriously than Russel Means' Republic of Lakota. (His is a cool publicity stunt, but my animals actually formed a supermajority concensus.)

“Do you know how to drink out of a straw? You make your lips in an O and then kind of attach the moisture in your mouth to the moisture in your cup and then pull it all in together.”


Mommy: ...but when the Witch of Doom realized the orexes had tried to trick her with synthetic, emergency substitute dragon's liver, she began issuing nasty curses (toenails falling out, seven years of halitosis), and magically flinging different-sized cast-iron black cauldrons at their heads whilst they fled for the woods. They managed to grab the teleportation charm as they ran, but we don't know yet if it works.

Eric: How could it not work?

Mommy: Perhaps she waited to activate it until she'd tested the dragon's liver. Or maybe it was built with a poison pill or a dead man's switch. Or maybe she had cheated them preemptively.

--Turned out it had a built-in curse, which she would have lifted had they met their end of the deal. The curse meant they arrived several miles away from the target. Since the target was a domed city on the moon, the orexes almost asphixiated. Serves them right. 'The wages of sin is death...'

“Is it possible for a kid to be Aspie even if his parents aren't Aspie, just an aunt or uncle?”

--Danny. We'd recently been studying genetics with red and black checkers for dominant traits.

Encyclopedia Salesman: So you homeschool? [To Danny] What are you studying today?

Danny: Actually, we are not having a lesson, we are just unpacking the stuffed animals."

Gail: Ahem. We are having a political science lesson in disguise. We are decanting the stuffed animals and buying them off with their own homeland so as to prevent a violent revolution. This will lead, later on, to a discussion about principles of democracy and government as they hold elections for their leaders."

Encyclopedia Salesman: [Gapes, jaw dropped] That's...that's AWESOME!

Mommy: [smiles smugly]


Salesman: [Flips to the periodic table] Now let's say I ask you to find...Tungsten.

Mommy: [scans the left side for two seconds] There. [She points to the W.]

Salesman: Uh...right! Um, most people can't do that, which is why it's so nice that this page lists them vertically by atomic mass...


[Salesman tries to close the deal.]

Mommy: See, I like your product. But I've been spoiled by the Raleigh book sale, wherein I can get reference books for $2. Here, let me show you... [leads him into the library] …So, I'm sorry, but no. [Mental cackle.]

--Note: It was an excellent five-volume reference set for children. Five levels, elementary through AP high school, each book having sections on math, grammar, science, history, and so forth. But I don't currently own a couch, or a car....Plus, though he was intelligent and personable, he annoyed me by taking the book away from me every time I really started to study a section.

--All right, I admit the shelves didn't look this way then. But the books were all there, just not as prettily organized. The childrens shelves have looked this nice for several weeks now.

“The stuffed animals who were colonizing the storage room forgot to bring seeds, metal tools, stored food, medicine, and reference materials...”

--They almost turned into Roanoke. But they (and my children) were much more careful about packing the ship on the second attempt. This lesson came about because Danny asked “But why didn't the pilgrims just buy food from the grocery store?”

[During a bedtime story about Eric starting a dragon farm]

Eric: But if I only find one nest of eggs, that means the eggs are brother and sister which means they shouldn't have babies because their genes are too similar.

Mommy: Fine. You find two nests of dragons eggs.

Eric: But then their babies would be first cousins which would still be too similar...

“I think they were surprised to hear about the whiny side of prophets. Enoch: 'Everybody hates me! And I'm still a kid!' (He was in his seventies.) Moses: 'I'm slow of speech! They'll all make fun of me!' Moroni: 'I'm a general, not a writer! The gentiles won't take this book seriously.' Except for Saint Paul, who 'gloried in tribulation.' But he was nuts.”

--I was substitute-teaching a Sunday School class of thirteen-year-olds. (Ether 12:27 – Have humility and God will turn your weakness into strength.)

“Murmer MURMER grumble humph. It was such a lovely nasty letter. A work of art. Jon read it. He said it singed his eyebrows. I told him this was a reminder to him of why he never, ever wanted to file for divorce. He said there were other reasons he didn't ever want to file for divorce, but, yes, this was also a vivid reminder.”

--Gail, grumbling about not sending the original letter she'd composed to the people at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, who were refusing to make reasonable accomodations due to a bad appraisal. (The very flawed appraisal came in $25,000 too low, which ended up being a terrible thing for us because it affected our financing options.)

“Guess we're left with me dancing around a fire, sacrificing a chicken, and invoking the spirit of a dead lawyer. ;-) ”

--Mark, in answer to my pleas for prayers on my behalf. (See above.) This is after he'd ruled out the Wailing Wall and the Orlando Temple. It looked like the whole house deal was about to fall through with devastating consequences.

Gail: [whispering into the phone] Um...I forget the quadratic

Carolyn: [giggles, then rattles it off from memory. Show off.]

--I was at the church, without access to my library or the internet, entertaining Eric while waiting for Jon to get out of a meeting. I had intended it more as an order-of-operations exercise, where he simplified it down from multiple parenthesis, exponents, and denominators down to a single equation. Never should have set it equal to zero. What was I thinking?

[During Family Home Evening]

Mommy: And tonight the activity will be--

Danny: Mommy, wait! I think we should have a lesson first!

Mommy: Okay...would you like to teach it?

Danny: [Cheerfully] Okay! [pause] What could it be about?

Mommy: How about families?

Danny: Actually, I think it should be about something like the Children of Israel.

Mommy: Oookaaaay....

Danny: And for this lesson, I will need stuffed animals. I will hurry up to the playroom and grab some. [he scampers off]

Eric: I don't want Danny to teach a lesson! I will not listen!

Mommy: If you don't listen, you won't get a family home evening treat. Be polite.

Eric: [throws a mild apoplectic fit on the floor. Not screaming--more flopping like an asphixiating fish with occasional grunts. This is common enough that Mommy ignores it.]

Danny: [returns with an armful of bears. And Nannerl] Bear is Joshua. [Poses Bear against a wall. Bear looks--I swear--like a guitar player.] And these [assembles others] are the children of Israel. And I need a divider to show that they need to get into the promised land. [Grabs a calculator and puts it on the floor] And...[looks around] Ah! Ricki's wall will be the wall! Because it is a wall! And when it falls down, it will roll over like this! [demonstrates][He proceeds to act out the rest of the story (sadly without narration; it was mostly pantomime) about bears crossing into the promised land, taking a quick look around, and running for their lives. After which they stayed in the desert for forty years.]

Danny: And now it is an intermission so you can stretch your legs or use the bathroom! [He carefully arranges the bears so they are all lying down.]

Daddy: I thought this was supposed to be a short lesson. Why do we need an intermission?

Mommy: [humoring Daniel, stretches for two seconds] Okay, I'm ready.

Danny: [briskly] Okay! [Holding all six animals in a cumbersome armful, he circles them around the wall a few times. Mommy snaps pictures. Danny shoves the “wall” and sends it rolling. After it comes down, the animals all cross into the promised land.] The end!

Eric: [immediately stands up and goes into the office]

Danny: [performs the requisite post-mortem on the lesson, explaining how he only included the stuff that Bob the tomato said was real.]

Mommy: Eric, come back.

Eric: [returning] I thought the lesson was over.

Mommy: Just because the children of Israel made it to the promised land doesn't mean the lesson was over. Danny still needed to explain the significance of what he taught.

Daddy: Besides, the question isn't whether the lesson is over. You're not supposed to leave the room until FHE is over. No FHE treat for you tonight.

Eric: But! [protests]

--Eric had made some other rude interruptions. And I had to make jon close his laptop twice. I don't know why Eric and Jon weren't all that enthusiastic. Personally, I thought the lesson was absolutely charming. And Danny really reminded me of me. Again. For, like, the tenth time this month.

----Carolyn, to whom I told this story via instant messaging, kept laughing and saying “I love Danny!”

"And them walls come a-tumblin' down..."

Right: Eric and Danny imprison Bear in The Tower. Danny particularly wanted this picture posted.

Monday, May 18, 2009

House Pictures

Some few of you have asked about The House.

Some pictures I lack, but such as I have, I will give.

I still don't have a good image of the Three-Baby Closet, though I keep waxing rhapsodical about it. In fact, my closets inspire not only rhapsodies, but also odes!

The entryway. Just imagine it
without the pictures on the walls.

Right: The living room.

One of the listing photos. The sellers took the couch, table, and painting, but left the entertainment center and curtains. Someday we'll have a snuggle-enabling couch again...after we've closed on the house...

I say this cheerfully. I'm so delighted to have the house, I don't mind waiting to buy a couch, a new car, the King's Castle lego set, new bookcases, a new dishwasher, water softener, and a host of other non-emergency items.

I bet I passed the "one cookie now or two cookies later" test as a kid!

The kitchen. Look at the height of those cabinets! (Says the girl who is 5'2".) Glad I'm no longer a freshman in college, when I looked first at my apartment's kitchen, and then at my 5'1" Chinese roommate and said, "One of us needs to get a tall boyfriend."

The laundry room/pantry. I can stand in one spot and rinse, stain treat, load the washer, and iron. (Of course, I never actually do iron, but Lillian Gilbreth would still have been proud. She rarely used her kitchen, either.) The pantry shelves are also marvelous for canned goods, and there are hooks for cake pans over the door...

Storage room. Most of the toiletries
I got free or almost free at CVS!

Library closet. Two tiers of shelves.
Bliss...Other than the 60-odd boxes
of books still waiting for attention.

Upstairs now to the master bedroom. Imagine the furniture gone but the decorations staying. I love the blue carpet. It fits into my "Napoleonic Wars-era merchant ship" decorating idea.

Guest bedroom, present day.
No longer doubled as a play room!
Visit with impunity!

Guest bathroom.
I love the decorations, which stayed.

Align Center
Play room. Two closets. Two!

Eric explores the backyard for the first time and discovers a natural balance beam. (He is obsessed with balance beams. A few weeks ago we went to dinner at the Bishop's house, and Eric started walking precariously around the edge of the pool...)

Enough room for boys to run real "climbing" trees, but some potential "tree house" ones.

I have been cranky about the lender lately. We had an appraisal dispute that made things icky. I am trying to count my blessings by reminding myself that, even if the bank is annoying, at least we're getting the house. And it's working! I feel so blessed, I almost feel guilty.

Did I mention the new house has twice--twice!!!--the square footage of the old one?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mommiest Moments: April, 2009

Pillow Jousting.

Yes, Eric. You may imbibe with impunity.
--Mommy. I was getting tired of hearing “Is this my cup? The one with my name on it? Does this have any one else's germs on it...? Am I the only one with 'Eric' written on his cup?” (We were at a party.)

“...So the wicked monsters started to sabotage Eric's lego castle on the moon. Of course, they weren't well-educated wicked monsters, because it didn't occur to them that Eric was wearing a space suit and they weren't...”
--Mommy, at bedtime.

“...So the giant sand serpent, who was thankfully less aggressive than his cousins on Arakis, agreed to be the 'moat' monster for Eric's lunar castle, provided Eric kept his construction and repairs as a-rhythmic as possible...”
--Yet Another Incomparable Mommy Bedtime Story

Eric: Are the giant sand worms of Dune real?
Mommy: No, they're science fiction.
Eric: I mean, is that a real book?
Mommy: Oh. Yes.

“I have The Headache.”
--Gail. This was not a centuries-old euphemism; rather, it reflected my having stared at the ASL interpreters during General Conference for too long. Jon was very sweet and massaged my scalp.

“Mommy, I am very mad at you for putting me in my room. And your consequence is that for the rest of the day, I will not help you unpack boxes, no matter what!”
--Danny. This reminded me of the book No Hugs Till Saturday.
[Editorial note: He had thrown a whomping-willow-worthy tantrum. The punishment had been thoroughly justified.]

Mommy: Danny, do I want to be with my Danny-boy forever?
Danny: [nods]
Mommy: But do I want to live forever with a Danny-boy who throws temper tantrums?
Danny: [pause] Oh!
--Let us devoutly hope this was an “aha” moment which will lead to decreased misbehavior. A Mama can delude herself, right? For delusion leadeth to hope, and hope leadeth to patience, and patience leadeth to...further long-suffering.

Tech Support Lady: I see you have phone, security, and do you watch TV?
Gail: We don't watch much TV.
Tech Support Lady: Right, but I mean, like, do you have satellite or direct TV...?
Gail: We only have broadcast. We really don't watch much TV.
Tech Support Lady: Oh! Wow. [pause] But you know, that's good for the family. Oh, but I'm not supposed to say that...Can I interest you in cable service...?

[April 9th]
“Marian would have turned one today. One-year-olds are so cute....Maybe next year it will be easier. Next year I'll say, “She would have been two today. Two-year-olds are so hard.”

Danny: We need to make a bed for Bear.
Mommy: Oh? Did he have a growth spurt? Does he not fit in your bed anymore?
Danny: [smiling] No.
Mommy: Or is he getting too old...?
Danny: Yes. And he is big enough that he wants a bed that looks like mine.
Mommy: He wants a bunk bed? But there's only one of him.
Danny: No, I mean he doesn't need a railing.
Mommy: Oh! I see. He doesn't want a crib because he's not a baby.
Danny: Yes.
Mommy: Well, let's see if we can find a shoe box...
Eric: Why?
Mommy: We're making a bed for Bear because he doesn't want to sleep with Danny anymore.
Danny: No, Mommy, he doesn't need to sleep with me anymore.

Bear's new loft bed.

Gail: [Describing the above incident to Jon] Do you realize Danny has been leaving Bear home more and more often? Or leaving him in the car but forgetting to bring him inside? I take this as one more sign that he is outgrowing Bear. And it's kind of sad. I mean, it's appropriate and I wouldn't want him hauling around a security blanket when he's seven, but...he's growing up! [Wistful sniffle]
Jon: I think he and Bear are simply diverging in their interests. Danny is starting to think about girls and cars...

“...and these two black holes are fighting and trying to eat each other and they are generating enough energy to power two planets...”

“...and this is the iris. My super-stargate and it has two different systems of symbols and you select five of each and can go to my City I created...”

Danny: ...and I am opening the valve of this black hole because I am going to feed it.
Mommy: What does it eat?
Danny: Other tangrams like it's made out of.
--A cannibalistic black hole!!! But then, if you think about it, they generally are.

[Playing black box]
Mommy: [frustrated] I can't discern any kind of pattern. I give up!
Eric: The black box is outputting numbers at random.
Mommy: That's not fair, since you can't write that as an equation.
Eric: Yes I can. It's y = rand x.
Mommy: [mutters darkly, and then calls Jon] Oh dearest...did you teach our son...?
--I got even when I did a fibonnaci sequence. All too quickly, though, Eric realized he should input five zeros in a row. When he got different outputs each time, he caught on. Hmph.

[Playing black box again]
Mommy: y=x?
Eric: Nope.
--Turned out it was y=x in hexidecimal. Naturally.

Eric: What's an “orderly retreat?”
Mommy: Something far preferable to a rout.
--I ended up teaching an entire home school lesson about military tactics, using the castle and Papo figurines to stage a mock battle.

“But why can you no longer snuggle when you are 35?”
--Eric, wailing. Turns out he'd had a bad dream. I reassured him, of course, and then distracted him by sharing my recurring nightmare of realizing, abruptly, that I haven't been to a math class in two months and the final is looming...

Eric: [Explaining a creation out of tangrams] Babble. Babble, babble, babble...babble BABBLE babble, babble...Wait. Am I getting too complicated?
--I have passed a rule saying that if it's too complicated for me to understand, he has to write down the instructions/directions/explanation. This has effectively curbed the majority of his pontificating.

“I know about grown-ups because sometimes I throw a temper tantrum and then I get consequences and when I get more consequences I learn more about grown-ups!”
--Danny. We were role-reversing. I pretended to be the kid and threw a tantrum and then challenged him to do something about it. He handled it well. He hauled me—with Eric's help—into his room, and locked the door. After a few minutes, he came back in, hugged me, and said, “We still love you, but you're not allowed to throw tantrums.”

“We call this act 'The Veterinary Missionary.'”
--Mommy, announcing Danny at the ward talent show. He stood at the microphone and sang “Meow, meeeeow meow meow...” to the tune of “Called to Serve.” I wanted him to sing it an octave high (he could), because it's so impressive to hear him hit C''. He declined, but it was still adorable. And funny. He was a natural ham. Every week, he does something new that reminds me of me.

Mommy: ...but when the Lamanites invaded, King Noah told his priests to run away, abandoning their responsibilities, their country, and even their families.
Danny: Mommy! That was not an orderly retreat!

“The Holy Ghost is a big, mean bully!”
--Gail, getting to know the Bishop of the Leander Ward. I was answering the question, “Did you serve a mission...?” I said it again when he asked if I could play the piano. I had hoped to dodge that issue, but he told me he felt prompted to ask. Hmph.

Gail: Maybe I shouldn't have said that. It might adversely affect my chances of getting a teaching calling.
Jon: I think you're fine. He looked like he was trying not to laugh.

“Would you like to read Bear's biography?”
--Danny, offering it to almost any adult in sight. I am very flattered that he likes the book so much.

[This all started when Jon printed out an encoded Foxtrot cartoon for Eric to work on. It was a simple substitution algorithm, but you had to solve a math problem to decode each letter. A few of the unused letters (like Q and Z) involved radians or integration. Naturally, Eric wanted to solve for all the letters before deciphering the message. This meant that Jon tutored Eric in some new mathematical concepts.]

Mommy: [Rolling her eyes] You know it's traditional to teach sine, cosine, and tangent, starting in Geometry, using right triangles, right?
Jon: Yes, but I want to show Eric where it all comes from. [Proceeds to draw the trigonometric explanation of the unit circle.]
--I would have started with soh-cah-toa. But now I'm tempted to buy the t-shirt.

[One hour later]
Mommy: [skeptically] ...You realize it's traditional to teach differentiation before integration, right?
Jon: [serenely] Yes, but Eric asked about integration and I'm answering his question. Differentials just haven't come up yet.
Mommy: Well, you're a good math teacher. And you obviously get results. So you can do it however you like. But isn't integration beyond even Eric?
Jon: I'm just going to show him how to increment the exponent and divide by it.
Gail: [rolls her eyes sarcastically]
Jon: [engrossed in math and blissfully unaware of his wife's facial expressions, he proceeds to work the problem with Eric staring raptly.]
Mommy: [gapes in astonishment. Then hyperventilates. Then discreetly takes pictures] My baby...he's growing up so fast...I think I'm going to cry!
--Eric looked at me briefly in puzzlement. He got a look of “Mom is weird,” shrugged, and went back to his calculus problem.
--Also, my sarcastic eye roll was of the “Oh, is that all” variety. I got over being a Doubting Thomas long ago.

--My approach was more psychological. I looked at the comic and then at the spacing of the blanks and said, "Knowing Jason's character, I bet it says 'Paige Fox is bad at math.'" And so it proved. :)

“Wait! You taught Eric trigonometry and calculus in one day?”
--An exaggeration, I know. Eric can't solve the problems independently. He was fascinated with the concepts, though.

Pioneer Bear in Covered Wagon