Danger Mouse

January 17, 2009

Part 11: Will RG Be a Professional Explorer or Shopper?



After her nap, I reminded everyone that the Friendly Neighbors had saved eggs for us and for the mommies. We knew that the Friendly Neighbors were not at home because they had told us they were going to visit their grandchildren on the mainland. Grandma said, “They left the eggs for us on the back porch. Leave the money in a little pouch they have there.”


The mommies asked RG, “Do you want to go with Grandpa to get the mail and the eggs?” She expressed eagerness to collect eggs.

As it was late on a cloudy winter evening, it was dark outside. RG and I brought flashlights and dressed warmly. In the past, RG clung to Mommy’s hand and avoided holding hands with Grandpa. This time she said to me, “Hold my hand.” She didn’t seem to worry a bit whether Mommy was coming along. In her other hand she held the flashlight and confidently lit the way. Along with the flash light, RG carried a supermarket shopping bag for transporting the mail and the eggs.

I thought, RG may be an explorer or a professional shopper.

As we walked down the gravel road, we had a very adult conversation. She pointed to the little vacation home Joe and Melinda are building on lot #2. She talked about their dog Leah who likes to jump up and lick RG’s face. (We live on lot #3.)

I told RG about the little boy who attends kindergarten and whose parents own lot #4.

We passed the Friendly Neighbors house on lot #1. “Their lights are on,” said RG.

“They are supposed to be away visiting their grandchildren,” I said. “I don’t know why all their lights are on.”

We got the mail and the country newspaper and put it in the shopping bag. RG explained to me the stripes on the highway told the cars where to drive. As we walked back to our private road, we saw a car approaching. RG explained to me that the car was on the other side of the highway and that we were safe. I thought, RG may be a safety engineer or a highway designer.

As we approached the back steps, more lights came on. I explained to RG that the Friendly Neighbors have “motion sensor” lights that come on automatically. She listened with interest. As we approached the back door we could see lights on inside. I said, “Bang the metal knocker in case they are home.”

Even as RG clanged the knocker, we looked through the window and observed the Friendly Neighbors watching television. Mrs. Friendly Neighbor opened the door and greeted RG warmly. In our family we often adopt relatives. Although RG has no shortage of cool grandparents, she has adopted the Friendly Neighbors as additional grandparents and they have adopted her as an additional grandchild. It takes a village of grandparents to properly spoil a grandchild.

 I gave RG the money for the eggs. RG has discovered money and is now very interested in economics. She handed the money to Mrs. Friendly Neighbor and explained we had come to get some eggs for Grandma and for the mommies.

Mrs. Friendly Neighbor said, “I have three cartons of eggs. Tell me which ones you want.” She laid out the cartons of eggs and opened them for RG’s inspection. RG looked at them and instantly decided which two cartons she wanted. RG has no trouble making decisions. Someday, someone may propose to her. She will not dither or keep them hanging. Within five seconds, she will say, “Yes, I would love to marry you,” or she will say, “I am sorry, [John or Mary as the case may be, or possibly John and Mary, as RG is a child in a science fiction future], but I think we should just remain friends.”

Without fussing she let me carry the shopping bag, now pretty heavy. As we went down the steps, she counted the steps (architect at work again) and held my hand.

Part 12: How Do You Measure a Small Child’s IQ?



As RG took her nap, I asked Mommy about how one tests a four year old child’s IQ. She explained in some detail. I didn’t take notes, so I can’t repeat what she as extensively, but her explanation made a surprising amount of sense. She said the SVBC employs a psychologist who loves his work and carries it out with great sophistication. For example, he asks vocabulary questions. He asks a child to explain a word such as “bicycle” and to give an example of how a bicycle is used.


Mommy said this part of the test is flawed by culture bias. “For example, a child such as RG who has gone to a Montessori preschool is likely to say, ‘A bicycle helps the environment because it doesn’t use up gasoline or put out pollution.’ A child in the ghetto may live in an apartment and not give an answer like that because she doesn’t have access to a bicycle.”

As I have lived and taught in a ghetto and as I have a very cynical attitude, I commented, “A child in a ghetto may say, ‘A bicycle is something to steal.'” As RG was not present, the mommies and Grandma ignored my comment instead of chastising me. They are more PC than I am but they tolerate my bad attitude because cynical people such as me are part of the “diversity” they value, though cynicism tests tolerance to its limits.

Mommy explained that the psychologist asks analogy questions as well. He will a give a child a list of three words and ask which two words should go together and why.

He also shows a patterns of shapes and ask a child to point out which shapes go together. “That test is really intended for six year olds, so they don’t include the results in the scores for four and five year olds,” she said.

I listened in wonder. The psychologist had written detailed notes and provided the mommies with a copy. Mommy read the notes to me. The psychologist noted that RG had greeted him in a friendly manner and jumped into the testing with interest, enthusiasm and confidence. I wondered, is this a description of the cautious, introverted grandchild I know who did not like to leave Mommy until she has checked out a stranger and gotten to know them? I also thought, even though she is only four years old and very introverted, she has become an introvert who has learned to act like an extrovert when it’s convenient and useful. It took me about forty years to pick up on that trick.

In the earliest days of IQ testing, people had used crude words such as “imbecile.” “moron,” and “idiot” to describe people at the low end of the measurement scale. Generally, society now avoids using these words.

What about the other end of the scale. What is a genius?  

“Only approximately 1% of the people in the world have an IQ of 135 or over,” one web site on measuring intelligence tells me.

If you are in the 99th percentile of children tested at a school for very bright children, what are you?

At the end of the psychologist’s report, he indicated that RG ranks in the 99th percentile of the children he tests. On a numerical scale, he put RG’s IQ at 146. I thought, What part of the phrase “young genius” don’t I understand? However, I also thought, What part of the phrase, “doting grandparent” don’t I understand?

My cousin Joanna learned Chinese and became a millionaire in Taiwan. Taiwan named a library after her. I hope Taiwan has a few more million dollars lying around and a few more libraries to spare in case RG’s interests turn to Chinese.

My uncle George earned a Pulitzer Prize and a “Macarthur Genius Award.”

I hope the Pulitzer foundation isn’t running out of prizes and the Macarthur foundation is saving a few prizes in case RG’s interests turn to music or some other prize worthy activity.

Part 13: How Do You Test a Child’s Social Readiness?



I asked Mommy about Saturday’s testing. The SVBC wanted to observe RG in her interactions with other children. Mommy has participated in some of this testing, so she is familiar with it, but she was not allowed to watch most of RG’s activities on Saturday.


Mommy was a little cranky about the testing. (This may be one of the reasons they don’t let parents watch most of the testing.)

She said most of the other children were siblings of children already attending SVBC, so they are more familiar with the school and the other children.

The three kindergarten teachers were present. I will refer to them as K1, K2, and K3. Mommy does not like K1 and does not want RG to be in her class. She considers K2 OK, but she likes K3 the best. She noted with approval that RG seemed drawn to K3 as she participated in most of the activities.

Mommy indicated confidence that she would be able to make sure that RG would be placed with a teacher Mommy preferred. She indicated there were certain code words a teacher who was also a parent could say to the other teachers and the administration to see that her preferences were followed.

When the children participated with other children in activities, RG seemed mostly drawn to one particular boy. Whether this tells us anything about her future sexual preferences I have no idea.

The children were given some construction toys and invited to make things. Mommy sniffed that the toys were rather peculiar and not much like the toys RG prefers to play with.

RG’s best friend Mia lives across the street. I have met Mia. She is also a very bright little girl. She has good genetics: both her parents have doctorates in science. Mia seems a little rigid and obsessive-compulsive. Once I was playing with Mia and RG. They were chasing me around the mommies’ house and screaming with laughter. Suddenly, I turned and started to chase them. RG quickly turned and ran away, continuing to howl with glee and demonstrating considerable flexibility in her ability to  “turn on a dime.” Mia stopped, shook her finger at me sternly and said, “No! We are chasing you! Don’t start chasing us!” I thought, RG shows some potential for being very flexible and adaptable.

Mommy said, “Mia’s parents tend to follow our lead in a lot of areas. They also had Mia tested at the SVBC. We thought Mia is smarter than RG, but Mia only came in at the 97th percentile on most of the tests.” I thought, Oh, dear, how can a child who tests at the 97th percentile at a school for very bright children ever keep up?

Mommy also said, “Mia tends to do better at tasks that involve organizing objects. She tends to be rather anxious and putting things in order makes her feel more in control.”

I have met Mia’s parents briefly and they seem very nice. Mommy said, “Mia’s dad also tends to be very anxious.”

As public school is still considered an option for RG, Mommy compared the public school “Talented and Gifted” program to SVBC (which is essentially a “Talented and Gifted” private school). Mommy sniffed very hard at the public school program. The public school T&G program just accelerates what is available to a child, she said. The SVBC expands what is available to a child and provides the child with more choices, she told us.

Mommy said that many T&G children become academically specialized at a very early age. For example, they may decide to learn all that can be learned about dinosaurs or they may become musical prodigies. Mommy is a very bright person and a talented violinist. I don’t know if her early years followed this pattern.

Mommy noted that RG is interested in many subjects and activities but not focused on any one subject. (I would say this was also true of my daughter. When Random Daughter was a small child, we knew she was very bright. However, as a small child and as she grew older she maintained interests and curiosity about many subjects.) Mommy said such  eclectic interests is a little more unusual among the T&G children.

Even though RD decided to study biology by the time she was in high school, she has always been very interested in a wide variety of topics. In college she always took a lot of classes outside her major.

RG’s dad is also a very bright person. It is very hard to know exactly what he does for a living. He has some artistic talent and some of his work involves graphic design. However, he does a lot of consulting work involving nonprofit organizations in Chicago, and even has some links to Chicago politics, even a bit of a connection to the people around Obama, perhaps. Mommy said he has tried to explain to her what he does, but she always ends up a bit confused.

Perhaps this indicates what RG will do. She may be a person who does a bit of this and that, only brilliantly. My wife, who doesn’t think she is very smart, does a bit of this and that, quite brilliantly I think. My wife calls it puttering. Perhaps RG will be the first person to get a doctorate in puttering, maybe even a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize in puttering. For that matter, perhaps she will be the first kindergartener to receive a Macarthur prize before she reaches first grade.

Part 14: What Can You Glean from the Garden in the Middle of Winter?



After the big snowfall melted, my wife rushed to the garden and dug up potatoes, carrots, and beets from the ground. As she returned from the garden with two baskets in her arms, I saw a big grin on her face.


My wife considers a garden that produces food year round the apex of food gardening achievement. This is perhaps possible in the Pacific Northwest. I doubt it will work all that well in North Dakota.

At dinner, Grandma served roast chicken. (We have not reached the point of raising and slaughtering our own chickens yet, though I know that achievement waits in our future.) Grandma served broccoli because she knows that is a vegetable RG tolerates. She served mashed potatoes because RG likes potatoes properly smashed to show them who is boss. Grandma beamed about how well the potatoes survived hiding in the ground under the snow. My wife served raw carrot sticks from the garden. Everyone exclaimed about how much better the fresh raw carrots from the garden tasted than “store-boughten” carrots.

RG likes carrot sticks. Carrots are very nutritious vegetables. RG’s mommies tell her she should eat nutritious foods so she can get her vitamins. Next time the mommies bug RG about eating her vitamins she will brandish a raw carrot at them.

 My wife served pickled beets. My wife loves pickled beets.

As a child, my daughter hated beets and refused to eat them. As an adult, she continues to detest beets.

 However, my daughter is learning to demonstrate food flexibility, perhaps to set a good example for RG. At dinner, my daughter told us that she recently attended a pot luck dinner and tasted some beets fixed in a new way and rather liked them. Perhaps Mama was letting RG know that adults over the age of forty learn new tricks, so when children get over the age of four, they also should keep themselves open to new experiences.

Bravely Random Daughter took a bite of Grandma’s pickled beets. Bravely RG took a bite of Grandma’s pickled beets. Bravely, Random Daughter and Random Granddaughter told Grandma they still don’t like beets. Bravely, Grandma smiled at her daughter and granddaughter and said it was OK. Even Grandma can be flexible.

For desert Grandma served cream cheese pie. She had used Organic Valley cream cheese to make the pie. Organic Valley is a farmer’s cooperative that produces organically grown or raised food such as milk, cheese or meat and is considered very politically correct among people who admire wholesome food. (Also, my wife and I have invested money in the Organic Valley organization.)

However, that night Organic Valley had failed my wife. She lamented there was something strange with the Organic Valley cream cheese she had purchased that week. It’s texture and consistency were peculiar.

 My daughter admitted she is not a big fan of cheese cake or even cream cheese pie, in any case. RG expressed enthusiasm for cream cheese pie, but after a couple of bites, she lost her enthusiasm. Grandma had hidden away a brownie for this eventuality. RG ate the brownie with enthusiasm.

Although the dinner at that point had been a triumph, my wife is never satisfied with anything less than perfection in her hospitality. Her face displayed discontent that desert had not pleased everyone.

After dinner, we watched The Grinch. This was RG’s second viewing of this drama. RG had watched The Grinch for the first time the previous Christmas.. It had been the first television drama she had been allowed to watch. At the time, RG had been a little shocked. “The Grinch is bad!” she said. “I was watching tee-vee,” she told her mommy, acting a little frightened, rather like a pre-teen who had experienced her first kiss or had just had her first sip of wine.

The mommies had sheltered RG from television as a toddler because they think (as do my wife and I) that television acts like a drug on the minds of small children. As RG gets older, they want her to regard it as a kind of intoxicant that is fine when used in moderation.

I observed RG as she watched the movie. She seemed to enjoy the story with judicious appreciation. I thought, Someday, RG may be a movie critic or a film director.

Part 15: Comparing Recipes Scientifically



The next morning Grandma fixed French toast for breakfast. Grandma has fixed French toast the same way for over forty years. Mommy and Mama have a book called Best Recipes which features scientific comparisons of recipes for various popular dishes. The mommies are quite entranced with this objective approach to food preparation. My wife has this book also. She is a little more sceptical.


After the mommies had extolled the glories of the Best Recipes French toast, my wife prepared it in that fashion. (However, after the mommies had left, my wife muttered to me, “I still think my recipe is the best one.”)

Breakfast was proceeding in a splendid fashion when things suddenly went amiss. We had all been discussing our various favorite dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. RG, listening to the conversation with interest, suddenly interjected, “We like to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” (implying the important point was not to miss a meal). Everyone at the breakfast table regarded RG’s comment as fairly witty and laughed heartily. Suddenly, RG’s face crumpled. She said bitterly, “You are laughing at me.” She got up from the table and stalked away.

My wife and I were not sure exactly had offended Random Granddaughter.

However, even geniuses may produce dramatic works that flop and even geniuses may from time to time suffer stage fright and fears of rejection, especially if they are introverted geniuses.

Next: RG at the park on the beach.






One Response to “Danger Mouse”

  1. Wow. This is a post designed to satisfy your readers’ insatiable news-hunger, and I feel sure I speak for your audience in general when I say that we are grateful. I for one feel very informed, and that painful nag of curiosity has finally been assuaged.

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