What We Celebrate When We Celebrate Pi Day


My wife commented to me yesterday that she thinks we celebrate well. Not necessarily in the grand Christmas-anniversaries-and-birthdays sense—or at least not strictly in that sense, because we are pretty good at that. She was talking about the ways we mark smaller occasions: the first day of summer, say, or May the Fourth, or even a Friday evening after a difficult week.

We’ve not historically done too much for Pi Day, which comes every year on March 14 (3.14, yeah?), but this year was a big one, in terms of Pi Days, given that the month, date, year, and exact time for one second could be listed out as 3/14/15 9:26:53. Twice.

I secretly ordered my wife a T-shirt featuring a drawing of a cherry pie with the symbol for pi cut into the crust, and I gave it to her that morning.

For dinner, she baked a shepherd’s pie, followed by chocolate pie for dessert. We grown-ups had Irish cream whipped cream to put on our slices, and I invented a cocktail out of apple pie moonshine, bourbon/rye (I made one of each), and Izze sparkling apple juice.

Pi cocktail

I also talked a bit about circles and circumferences with the girls, so we did more than just blindly celebrate a day without honoring its roots. I believe that we should keep the Pi in Pi Day. As tasty as pie is, math is the reason for the season.


Green Week: The Luck of the Irish, Part 2

Green Week: The Luck of the Irish, Part 2

This is what the leprechauns thought of the trap the girls set. The food was mostly eaten, the teacup bathwater was sloshed around, bits of greenery were strewn about, and chocolate coins were tucked in various nooks around the room, along with a note that read, “5 gold coins for each girl and 2 for the boy.”

I have a lot of fun with this each year, which is weird, because I don’t like the Elf on the Shelf. At all. But this seems similar somehow.

What do you think? Are St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun traps cute and imaginative? Or taking yet another holiday too far?

Awkward Week: I Have a Dream

We just finished observing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, and by “observing,” I mean “making the girls clean up a bunch of water they poured onto the bathroom floor because they were playing ‘Cinderella’ and then sending them to bed with no stories.”

The build up to the day was better, though.

I was glad to see that my 6-year-old first-grader was learning about Dr. King in her class all last week, and she was very interested in the subject. She marked his actual birthday (Jan. 15) on our family calendar, brought home worksheets and coloring pages about him, and told us how he worked to fight against laws that were unfair.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “coloreds didn’t get fancy drinking fountains.”

We live in a very, very white town—like 85 percent white. Once, a couple of years ago, we decided to ride the city bus for a loop to show the girls our city. At the main hub, near the library, a passenger disembarked, prompting my firstborn to say, loudly, “Now the only people on the bus are us, the driver, and that different-colored-skin man!”

I try to use such situations/conversations to discuss the merits of diversity—as well as tact. There’s no ill intent behind her race-related talk, but I do frequently feel bad that I’m raising my kids in such a homogenous area that seeing a person several shades darker than us is headline news to a 4-year-old.

Also, this happens from time to time:

Me: What would you like to drink with dinner?

Secondborn: Gooja geeja goloja.

Me: I don’t know what that means.

Secondborn: Geeja jeeja.

Me: What is that? What are you saying?

Firstborn: She’s speaking Spanish.

Me: That’s not Spanish.

Firstborn: Gooka goloka.

Secondborn: Goka jolooka shashee.

Again, I try to use such moments as teaching opportunities, maybe dropping some actual practical Spanish—though I’m not a huge help there, since I studied French all throughout high school and college. Thanks for nothing, Dora and Diego. What was I putting up with all that shouting for?

On the flip side of all of this is an acceptance that makes me wonder where the previously mentioned questions come from. Some white friends of ours recently adopted a girl of a different race, and my daughters have never batted an eyelash. Same with a playdate at the beach this past weekend. A dad we met up with had an adopted son with a much, much, much darker skin tone, and my girls accepted the situation so seamlessly, it wasn’t even a situation to them.

It was like That’s your son? My dad has a son, too!

I wish I knew what triggers a comment in my girls—why they’ll point out skin color or someone speaking another language in one setting but not even notice it in another. And now I feel awkward writing about all this, like I’m making a deal out of something that’s only a deal because I’m making it into one.

What do you think?

Waiting Week: Freaky Friday


This has been a busy week!

Well, they’re all busy, aren’t they? I’ve never liked using “being busy” as an excuse for falling behind in something, but that doesn’t stop me from doing so.

Still, it has been a busy week.

At this point, I’m just waiting for the week to end, as we’ve got a marathon of holiday activities planned for the weekend, including attending a holiday parade, a craft fair, a ballet, and a live performance of Mary Poppins, for which we’re skipping a potluck.

So it’s going to be a busy weekend, too.

I beg your pardon for not going too introspective or “themey” with today’s post. As happened with my spider/Internet post from yesterday, today’s image and the text weren’t planned to marry together—but unlike yesterday’s post, I’m not having a last-minute realization of a connection, no matter how slim or subtle.

My doodle today came from a conversation I had with my firstborn, when she was about 4 years old. I walked in to hear her declare to me: “Mom’s evil.”

I froze.

“Oh,” I said. “Tell me more about that.”

“I’m evil, too,” she said.

I didn’t know quite how to respond to this one. While I fumbled for the best way to continue this conversation, she added: “So, we’re the stepsisters. You can be the prince.”

Aha. Cinderella. This shows why it’s generally a good idea to wait after a kid says something startling, as opposed to knee-jerk reacting with something crafted from an adult’s logical and often cynical/world-weary frame of mind.

On a side note, I’ve traditionally heard those stepsisters described as “ugly”—which may not be fair, but it is tradition—but I suppose “evil” applies, too.

My girls have showed an increased interest in classic fairy tales lately, which delights me. My 4-year-old specifically requested “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood” for bedtime stories last night, and I’m so glad. These stories are some of the foundational building blocks for, well, storytelling, which is a subject very near and dear to my heart.

I’m a professional journalist, pretty much because it’s one of the best way to frequently and regularly get stories out to the masses. It’s why I fell in love with this line from The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: “The story tellers, gathering attention into their tales, spoke in great rhythms, spoke in great words because the tales were great, and the listeners became great through them.”

I could just sigh at that line all day.

But I don’t have time for that. Sorry. In fact, I don’t really have time for this post any more!

What are some of your favorite stories? Or—to get meta on you—your favorite thoughts/words/quotes/ideas/stories about stories?

Thanks Week: Over the River and Through the Woods

Thanks Week: Over the River and Through the Woods

When we begin a five-hour drive to visit our families for the holidays at 5 a.m., the trip goes something like this:

Firstborn: *sleeping*
Secondborn: *sleeping*
Thirdborn: *sleeping*
Wife: I love you!
Me: I love you! And hey, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me is on! We should always do it like this.
Wife: We’re here!

When we begin a five-hour drive to visit our families for the holidays at 5 p.m., the trip goes something like this:

Secondborn: How much longer till we get there?
Wife: Um … about four hours.
Me: Let’s listen to a CD. I got one of dragon stories.
Thirdborn: *crying*
CD: “The Last of the Dragons,” by Edith Nes—
Thirdborn: *screaming*
CD: —she wore a—
Thirdborn: *shrieking*
CD: —told him—
Secondborn: I can’t hear! Stop it!
Me: *shutting off CD*
Firstborn: Turn it back on!
Me: Let’s wait until the crying stops.
Firstborn: Turn it back on!
Thirdborn: *crying*
Thirdborn: *crying*
Thirdborn: *quiet sniffles*
Me: *reaching for the play button*
Thirdborn: *screaming*
Firstborn (whining): My back hurts!
Wife: Stretch your arms up. Way, way up! That will help!
Firstborn: No.
Wife: It will help!
Firstborn: No.
Thirdborn: *crying*
Secondborn: *whimpering*
Me: What’s wrong?
Secondborn: *crying*
Wife: Are you going to throw up?
Me: What’s wrong?!
Secondborn: *sobbing”
Firstborn: My back!
Secondborn: *weeping*
Me: Fine. Don’t tell us.
Secondborn: My tummy!
Wife: Get your bag if you’re going to throw up.
(rustling noises)
Firstborn: I want the blue bag!
Wife: It doesn’t matter which bag you have.
Secondborn: She won’t give me my bag!
Wife: Give her the bag.
Firstborn: No.
Secondborn: My tummy!
Wife: It’s a throw-up bag. I gave her the blue one. Just hand it to her.
Thirdborn: *screaming*
Wife: Give her the bag! Now!
Me: Are you going to throw up? Is she going to throw up?
Secondborn: No!
Firstborn: *angrily huffing*
(more rustling)
Secondborn: How much longer till we get there?
Wife: Um … still about four hours.
Me: *crying*

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m thankful for safe travel, no matter how much screaming is involved.

Thanks Week: Happy Hanukkah

Thanks Week: Happy Hanukkah

I aim to post in the Shallows every day. I generally write in the evenings and set the post to automatically go live at 6:30 a.m. the next morning.

Some nights, however, I’m really tired, or I have other work to do, or I spend more time with my children or wife or all four. Daily updates take discipline—something I’m trying to develop—but I also want to be realistic when it comes to my time. I want “dad” to be the most important word in the title “dad blogger.”

That means I’m choosing to go easier on posting during the holidays. I didn’t have this one ready by my morning deadline. It’s not particularly weighty or funny. And tomorrow might be the same.

Also, a confession: As I drew this morning’s doodle, I decided to put a menorah-ish design on my T-shirt, though I own no such article of clothing. I’ve done that a few times, most notably in my gravatar image, which features me wearing a guitar shirt that has no analog in my closet. I’m not sure why. I do have a Big Fish shirt, though.

Despite my lack of a real menorah shirt, however, allow me to wish you a genuine happy Hanukkah. And a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow, too—just in case.

Fright Week: Happy Halloween!

Fright Week: Happy Halloween!

I chose to spend Halloween Eve carving pumpkins with my family as opposed to crafting a clever and thoughtful post on whatever subject came to mind.

My girls each got to design a face for their own pumpkin, and while my firstborn doodled a 6-year-old take on the classic circle eyes, triangle nose, and jagged smile, my 4-year-old scrawled an elaborate and practically uncarvable (uncarveable?) “spooky ghost,” which proved a challenge to my promise to finish the jack-o-lanterns while they slept—but a challenge I was up for.

So as I write this at 11 p.m., the pumpkins are carved, despite the little flimsy blade breaking off the handle partway through the first eyehole. I just used the mini-saw with my bare fingers, no handle needed.

Then I put some battery-powered candles in the girls’ creations and left them in their room. I hope that if they get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, they’ll be delighted, not terrified.

(Shallow Note, by the way: This creature is from a series of monsters I drew in 2002, back when I was still trying to draw hands. I have a variation on this guy, in which he has two legs and is wearing a Speedo.)