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A snapshot of the status quo, June 2011

Started: 2011-06-26 16:46:51

Submitted: 2011-06-26 18:12:41

Visibility: World-readable

Last Sunday morning, Kiesa got up before me and went for a walk as part of her regularly-scheduled one weekend morning without Calvin. (I slept in until Calvin woke me up, which usually happens between 07:30 and 08:00. This is a significant improvement from his infancy, when I was lucky if he didn't wake up before 06:00.) Since it was Father's Day, she wrote "Happy Father's Day" in Duplos on the coffee table. Calvin picked up the Duplos and immediately started building. (He's had Duplos for a year and has had some success building with them, though early in his toddlerhood he lacked the motor control and strength to properly align the blocks, which often tended to frustrate him and require constant adult attention to implement his artistic vision. More recently he's been interested in the various Duplo vehicles and trailers in his collection and using those as the base for his constructions.) Something seemed to click early last week and suddenly Calvin started building much larger structures, usually based on a 2x8 block with a stack of 2x2 blocks on top. He called these "trains", as anything lined up together tends to be called a "train" in his vocabulary. (He's built trains of boxes and trains of dishes at the table.) Kiesa complained about the lack of suitable Duplo sets with a bunch of simple wheeled vehicle bases, of the sort that I vaguely remembered from my childhood. I did a quick eBay search and found the perfect set: 8 vehicle bases for $16, plus shipping. They arrived Thursday, we put them through the dishwasher on Friday, and on Saturday morning Calvin spotted them in the drying rack and wanted to play with them, so Kiesa gave them to him. He quickly connected all the vehicles together in one large train and started dragging it around the house, then started building on top. This morning he announced that one of his creations, comprising a number of levels of blocks on top of two or three individual bases, was a motorhome. (He learned that word when we went camping in early June and it quickly became one of his favorite words.)

Calvin continues to become more interesting, with a clearly-defined personality, and more like what I expected a kid to be like. (This doesn't keep him from having different ideas about how the household should be run from me, but I can't help but indulge him when it's past his bedtime and he hands me a book and says, "Daddy read this!") He's mastered direct objects and often manages four- or five-word sentences. (He hasn't yet figured out "to be", though he'll often manage to use articles.) Every day he seems to be saying something new, though his pronunciation often leaves much to be desired; he can say "daddy" but says "ma-ni" instead of "mommy". His words for "milk", "more", and "mommy" often collide, and he has the unhelpful habit of saying exactly the same thing over and over again when we don't understand him the first time. (At least he doesn't repeat it louder, as if volume were the problem.)

Twenty-seven months into my parenting experiment, I have just enough time on a weekly basis to indulge three habits, above and beyond my responsibilities at work and home: running, mountaineering, and Asia. Having beaten my personal record at the Bolder Boulder last month, I've scaled back my running program to aerobic maintenance, running roughly fifteen miles per week on three mornings a week. This leaves a bit more time for other cross-training/physical activity; last week I biked to work twice (including Bike to Work Day), and I try to keep my weekends free so I can go climb mountains on Saturdays. (From a certain point of view physical fitness could be a fundamental responsibility rather than an extracurricular activity but I intentionally run for sport to keep it somewhat interesting. I've also been losing weight from my thirty-miles-per-week Bolder Boulder training program; I'm down to 161 pounds with 14% body fat, which is fine for general health but still a bit much for serious amateur runners. (I'm targeting 7-8% body fat, or 150 pounds.) As a result my pants are threatening to not fit, and I'm not sure whether I ought to replace them just yet.)

(I wanted to point out that the three things I listed above really are the only (G-rated) extracurricular activities I have time for: I don't watch television, I canceled my Netflix subscription last year after keeping disks at home for months at a time, and I can't actually remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater. (I was going to cite Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes but apparently they were both 2009 releases. This means I may not have seen a movie in a theater since Avatar. The last movie I saw at home was 2010, back at the end of 2010.) I can barely manage to keep my own household IT in order, let alone field requests from others. I finally managed to contract out the mowing of my lawn once I decided I really didn't want to deal with my lawn this summer. There's a long list of things I could be interested in, and I can really only get to the top three things on my list when I'm done with the rest of my responsibilities.)

So far I've managed only one mountain-climbing expedition this season: last weekend I hiked up the snow-covered trail from Bear Lake to Flattop Mountain, then scrambled up the gentle slope of the Continental Divide to Hallett Peak. It was cold and windy and the highest I'd stood (on solid ground) in nine months. Along the Front Range the winter was a mild, sunny winter (which the forecasters blamed on El Nino) followed by a wet spring. Above 8000 feet the snowpack in Boulder County is pretty much average, but Boulder's rainy April and May meant lots of late-season snow for my immediate mountain backyard and generally threatened to screw up my plans for snow climbing. Elsewhere in the state the snowpack is as high as 300% average -- except for the watershed above Medrano Creek feeding the Great Sand Dunes, which was at something like 12% of normal. As far as snow is concerned, It's going to be a cold, wet summer, and I might get to use my ice axe far longer than I expected.

Hoar frost on the summit of Hallett Peak
Hoar frost on the summit of Hallett Peak

I've expanded my research horizons from India to Tibet, then eastward to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. (I can muster about an hour or two of reading each night after putting Calvin to bed before my own bedtime.) I know just enough about Chinese history to be dangerous. (Last weekend I saw a pickup with a Hump Pilots Association sticker on the back and barely resisted the urge to follow the truck and ask the driver if he had, in fact, flown over the Hump from Assam into China.) When a Chinese coworker dropped by my office last week she noticed my National Geographic map of China on my wall. I noted that both mainland China and Taiwan were colored in the same color and paraphrased from the Shanghai Communique: "All Chinese people, on both sides of the Strait of Taiwan, believe that there is only one China -- but the disagree as to which China that is." (Her parents were sent down to the country for reeducation during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution but managed to survive the experience apparently otherwise unscathed.) My new objective is to visit East Asia sometime in the next few years, as the opportunity presents itself or (more likely) with an opportunity I myself fabricate out of whole cloth.

I'd also like to take my new nuclear family and live abroad sometime during Calvin's childhood, possibly while he's in grade school (when we can presumably drag him off to some foreign locale without undue disruption to his formal education, under the assumption that I can find local grade schools in $ARBITRARY_FOREIGN_COUNTRY that resemble American grade schools), probably for a couple of years. (I've heard that taking children to live internationally could doom them to a career at the State Department, since they're imbued with a healthy respect for foreign cultures and international travel. There are worse fates.) I'm fascinated by East Asia, especially as a hotbed of electronic manufacture, but Kiesa's interested in western Europe. (Maybe we'll compromise and do both.) Given the time horizon involved (on the order of five years) I'm currently at the very early stages of trying to figure out what sort of groundwork I ought to put in place so that I can fabricate the appropriate opportunities when the time is right. A few weeks ago I asked my line manager whether this would be a possibility at my current employer. He made noncommittal noises and said he'd research and get back to me.

After two years of the Calvin Era, I think I can say that I've carefully pieced together a new life as a parent, albeit one closely circumscribed to a specific subset of my interests.