Monday, December 27, 2010

Not far from the Tree

My wife and I were discussing a sick tree in our yard.  We had just met with the arborist, whose crusty demeanor inspired confidence.  He said he could save the tree, but that the tree behind it looked problematic.  I mentioned to my wife that I had read that trees are really mean to each other.  They attack one another’s root system and even deploy chemical warfare.

“Maybe that’s why the tree across the street fell on the fence,” GoofGirl observed (remembering a dramatic summer storm),  “The tree knew the fence was made of wood and was mad about it.”

I laughed and said, “Where did you come up with that? I have to put that on Father Goof!”

“If you must,” she sighed.

A bit later I had to use the restroom, I told my daughter and wife, “I have to go poopy in the potty, but I can do it by myself!”  I think this is hilarious.  Unsurprisingly all the other Goofs are tired of it and just ignore me.

This time, GoofGirl responded slyly, “Maybe I should put that on Daughter Goof.”

Then we went outside to play.  GoofGirl invented this great little game in which she sat on the backyard swing, I stood in front of her and she kicked me in the toches (Yiddish for butt) and I flew forward.  This was a bit hard on me and I told her so.  I let her do this about four times, which is four times more often then I would have allowed anyone else in the world.

She got off the swing and said, “This will help.”  Then she built a wall out of our backyard trashcans.

“How will this help me?”

“You’ll see,” she said enigmatically.

“I think your plan is to kick me into the trashcans and see how they go flying.”

She grinned.

“I have a better idea,” and I went inside and grabbed a basketball.  I stood in front of the swing so that she could kick it.    Every time she connected she got a point.  She decided we were playing the invisible children in the yard next door, who were very good, so I had to move fast so that she could wrack up higher and higher scores.

This game was also hard on me, but less so.  We played for about 80 minutes, which is about 77 minutes longer then I would have played this game with anyone else in the world.

Then, tired of torturing me, she turned her energies on her absent brother.  She constructed a series of “traps” (just piles of grass covering imaginary holes) in the backyard.

“How do you know your brother will fall for your traps,” I asked.

“He will,” then she collected his footballs (American and international), and the aforementioned basketball and placed them by her trap.

We then learned that her brother wouldn’t be returning until later.  GoofGirl was disappointed that her traps might not be used.  I said that was too bad but that we had to pickup the backyard before it was dark.  Then as I went to collect her brother’s sports equipment I hurled myself to the ground, throwing the balls into the air and cried, “I’m trapped! I’m trapped!  Who put a hole a there?” as footballs (American and international) and a basketball rained painfully down on me.

GoofGirl came and freed me from her trap and promised me there wasn’t another one.

We played this game for each trap, all six of them.  Which is exactly six more times then I would have played it with anyone else in the world.

Friday, December 24, 2010

GoofGirl and Grandma's Breakfast Banter

Yesterday morning GoofGirl called her abuela to tell her about her day.

"It was pajama day at school and we had a special breakfast at school," she explained to her grandmother, "First I drew with the syrup. Then I ate a banana, pancakes, juice, and a muffin."

"You ate a lot, are you going to blow up?" abuela asked.

"No, I just go to the bathroom a lot," GoofGirl explained.

Abuela laughed, reinforcing the bond across generations.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, December 06, 2010

Goofy Math

I am constantly urging the little Goofs to work hard in math. “Be like mommy, and be good at math. You’ll be able to get good jobs. Don’t be like daddy, the world already has enough writers.”

Believe it or not, I think they listen. I guess don't be like daddy is pretty good inspiration. Unfortunately beyond inspiration, I'm not much help.


One morning when I went into GoofGirl’s room to wake her up for school. She was lying under the covers talking. I bent close to hear. She was quietly saying, “703, 704…”

I asked her what she was doing and she explained, “I want to see how high I can count.”

“OK, but get up and get dressed soon.”

A few minutes later I was in my room getting dressed. She came in and asked, “Daddy what is after 808?”


“What's after 809?”


“What's after 810?”

“811. Are you starting to get the idea?”

“No, this makes no sense. I quit!” she answered.


My son and I were discussing negative numbers. I explained how multiplying two negatives makes a positive but adding two negatives is still negative.

“If you multiply and negative and a positive you get what?” he asked.

“You get a negative.”

“OK, so if you add a negative and a positive you get a negative?” he asked hopefully.

“Well that depends on the specific numbers…”

I tried to have him visualize hot air balloons changing their altitude by adding and dumping sandbags (it helped me get it when I was his age.) But it didn’t help him. I tried to help him imagine adding a negative is really a subtraction so subtracting a negative is really an addition. This failed to clarify matters.

“Dad, you are making it worse. This doesn’t make sense. I’m going to have a freak out!”

“Buddy, it’s ok, negative numbers are the bizarro world of math. Up is down, right is wrong, and they eat Brussels sprouts for dessert.”

“Yeah, that helps alot. Is mommy home yet?”


My son has started doing word problems for his math homework. My daughter wasn’t getting any homework in kindergarten. She was jealous, so she has started making up her own word problems.

“Daddy, pretend you have seven coupons,” she said.

“Coupons for what?”

“It doesn’t matter, it’s a math problem.”

“It matters to me,” I said, “What if they are for something I don’t want?”

“OK, they are for coffee, you like coffee,” she said, exasperated.

I do like coffee. Oh boy, seven coffees! Yea! YEA!” I yelled and started jumping around the room.

“They are decaf. Sit down,” she said firmly.

I sat down.

“So we have seven coupons and we take away two…”

“Why are you taking away my coupons?” I cried, “I sat down when you told me to.”

“Daddy. It is a math problem. We are just pretending to have coupons.”

“There are no coupons. How do you take them away if they aren’t there?” I asked, my voice quavering.

“Use your imagination! Forget it, I’ll ask mommy. She can do word problems without so much crying.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Goofy Hanukah

“Dad, you know why most of the kids in my class like Hanukah?”


“They just like the presents. But not me, I’m in it for the latkes!” my son said proudly.

“You know why I like Hanukah?” I replied.

“I know, I know, the Maccabees used asymmetric warfare…” my son groaned.

“How do you know about that?”

“You kept talking about it last year. Asymmetric warfare, using classic insurgent tactics and the terrain to defeat a conventionally stronger enemy. Blah, blah… The year before that you kept talking about olive oil and the rise of Mediterranean societies.”

“No, this year I am into Hanukah for something even bigger, better, and more exciting!”

“You got the rapid-fire Nerf gun?” he asked hopefully.

“No, and anyway it is for me, not you! Anyway, Hanukah is about the fundamental conflict between Greek civilization and Jewish civilization. It is a tension that underpins Western civilization. Think about this, in synagogue inscribed on the Ark are the words ‘Know before whom you stand.” While the inscription at the oracle of Delphi instructed people to ‘Know thyself.””

“Dad, do you have to make everything so boring?”

“Think of Moses vs. Aristotle!”

“So Moses hits Aristotle with his staff, then Aristotle rears up on his hind legs ...”

“For the last time, Aristotle wasn’t a centaur. He was a philosopher who gave long lectures while pacing around the Lyceum in Athen.”

“He walked and talked a lot, no wonder you like him so much.”

“Anyway, they didn’t live at the same time. It is about their ideas…”

“Dad, you are making it boring again.”

“Be quiet and light the candles. I am going to open up my new Nerf Gun and find out if you were really listening when I was talking about asymmetric warfare!”