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A Midsummer Night’s Underwear

A Midsummer Night's Underwear

The first day of summer is one of my favorite holidays I never really celebrate. My win-the-lottery dream is to buy a huge acreage and install on it an outdoor theater on which I can stage an annual production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” once the sun goes down on the longest day of the year.

I still like to mark the day, even if I don’t have any particular revelry planned.

This year, my wife gave me underwear covered with bugs to recognize the importance of June 21. She gets me.

And now I have something to wear when I’m feeling a bit Puckish.

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Summer Week: Little Women

Summer Week: Little Women

Since before my firstborn could talk, I’ve read three bedtime stories a night. Actually, my wife has done a fair amount of that reading, and sometimes honored guests (grandparents, aunts and uncles, favored friends) get the privilege, and occasionally the kids’ behavior has been so horrid that they’re told to go straight to sleep, but when I say that I read my children three bedtime stories a night, and that I have for years, it’s basically the truth. I am the story reader of record in the family, and while my wife is also a bookish person, I’m more of what you would charitably describe as book obsessed. A bibliophile. I like what books look like on a shelf and stacked on tables, I feel a peace settle on me when I enter a library or bookshop, I can’t get enough of their smell, and—most of all—I love the words inside: how they read, how they sound, what they mean, why they mean what they mean, what we can learn from them, what they’re telling us, what they’re not telling us.

I read to my children just about every night because I know that children who are read to are more likely to become solid readers, to gain advanced language skills, to be wonderful people (right?). I read to my children because I work in an office all day and want to spend time close to them in the evening. I read to my children because I want them to associate time spent around books to time spent around me, in a safe, cozy, loving environment. I read to my children because books are important to me, and my children are important to me, and I want my children to recognize the importance of books, as well as their own importance.

I read to my children because there are so many stories I want to share with them.

I read to my children because I can’t not read to my children.

Though most of this reading has been picture books and short chapter books, we’ve recently made the jump to longer books. We started “Little Women” some time back, but recently took a break from that to blast through “The Phantom Tollbooth,” which proved to be a great choice. My girls would chant “Milo and Tock! Milo and Tock!” as they were getting ready for bed each night we spent exploring Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, and all points between.

We’re back to “Little Women” again, which the girls are enjoying, though in a different way. There are a lot of large and archaic words and terms, and my now-5-year-old secondborn asks a lot of clarifying questions, which is fine and understandable, but also breaks up the flow a bit. I don’t mind. Much. Still, I wonder how much they’re catching.

We recently read the chapter in which Amy maliciously burns up her sister Jo’s handwritten stories, and my girls were scandalized. Perhaps forgetting their own daily squabbles, they shook their heads, tight-lipped, at the sibling-vs.-sibling battle. But when Jo decides to ignore her petulant sister and refuses to forgive her, my daughters gasped out loud. Both of them. Even if other stuff is going over their heads, they recognized the seriousness of this broken relationship.

I’m looking forward to many more books to come. My firstborn is already reading “Little House in the Big Woods” on her own for a summer book challenge, so I’m thinking we might try “The Hobbit” next.

What were your favorite childhood reads?
and/or
What are you reading or looking forward to reading with your kids?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Skills of an Artist

Skills of an Artist

My 6-year-old has been introduced to Trogdor, the Burninator. (She drew this, not I.)

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Toy Week: The Names

Toy Week: The Names

My 6-year-old drew this picture of her toy sloth, Softie.

The girls’ naming process for their toys has evolved over the years. Just a short while ago, everything was Sheesho, Shoshi, Shashu—stuff like that. I couldn’t keep the names straight, but neither could they. A little bear would be Sheesha in the morning, then Shasho by the afternoon.

Now, they have Sugar Cube the penguin and Panda Bell
the panda bear. The names are pretty cute, though sometimes they still change.

The only toy that’s had the same name since it was christened is an anatomically correct baby boy doll the girls years ago decided to name Sacky. No clue why.

On that note, remember, remember, that it’s still Movember.

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Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

We’ve had a lot of fruit flies in our house this autumn, and a few weeks back, I wrote about my wife discovering the apparent source: a peach that had been overlooked for a week in my 6-year-old’s thought-to-have-been-empty snack bag.

We’ve nonetheless continued to battle the pests, and we’ve been swatting at regular houseflies, too, in numbers we’ve never previously seen. It’s not biblical plague proportions, but the bugs are certainly annoying. My 1-year-old son has started suddenly flinging one arm out like he’s snatching something out of the air—a move I thought was a random baby exercise until my wife pointed out: “Honey, he’s imitating you.” I do tend to grab angrily at passing insects.

A few days ago, my daughters were playing under our dining room table—a large, solid, wooden circle that’s at least 100, maybe 150 years old.

It’s got wooden wheels and a system for expanding, leaf by leaf by leaf by leaf, into a massive dining platform. There are nooks and crevices underneath to hide pegs and latches and all sorts of hand-carved and -forged details.

The girls were chatting and laughing and then went silent. Mostly silent. They started whispering and giggling in about an 80 percent attempt at being secretive / 20 percent attempt at catching my attention that they had a private joke.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

They erupted in guffaws.

“Girls? Girls … .”

I was sure they were up to no good, so I approached the table. One of them said, faux-guiltily, “We hid this.” A hand popped out from under the tablecloth, between two chairs, holding something oblong and black and—oh no.

“Is that a banana?”

More laughter. Harder laughter.

“How long has it been there?”

The reply was vague, which isn’t unexpected from kids who still occasionally mix up yesterday and tomorrow. I got the impression that the fruit had been there for more than several weeks. Months, maybe. My oldest daughter theorized that she had stuffed it there around when we first moved in—about three years ago. I know that’s impossible.

I took the thing—shriveled, hard, grotesque, like the body of some lost wanderer dredged up from a bog. A mummy.

“We don’t hide food,” I said, which was a false statement. We, as a family, hide food all the time. My son stores bread crusts, tortilla pieces, and cereal—pretty much anything on the grain tier of the food pyramid—between our futon and a recliner. Which puzzles me. We feed our kids well. We feed them often. But still I shove the vacuum attachment into the gap between the seats and listen as the diverse array of baked goods rattles up the hose and into the canister.

They can’t be storing away food for the leaner months. We don’t have leaner months.

My best guess is that it’s a game, with the food serving as just another toy. A perishable, fly-incubating toy. There were obvious signs that the hidden banana had been a popular spot, like a Make-Out Point for insects.

Some days, the dolls and blocks and games don’t cut it. That’s when the pots and pans come out. Or one girl slips her feet into my sandals and starts talking with as deep a voice as she can: “Hey, I’m Daddy.” Or, apparently, a lunch item is secreted away, like some disgusting parody of an Easter egg hunt.

I’m thankful for their ingenuity and imagination. But I prefer it when they choose to apply that creativity to stuff that doesn’t rot.

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