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 ag├Ęd 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