Kindergarten Practice

There are roughly twenty-five days of summer left for A-bear. Once they’re gone, he’s going to Kindergarten. This is a big new experience for our little guy, and so I’ve been examining our options. The duel questions — how can encourage him to be excited in anticipation of this new experience (even though it sometimes seems overwhelming and scary) and how can I, in parallel, continue to carve out enough time for me to write, has been riding on either of my shoulders.

Aral_lunch

Practice Lunch

Today we woke up sorta late, but that’s okay because practice Kindergarten didn’t open until 10:00 AM. Our Island Library is librarian-ed by late risers apparently, and that’s not a bad thing because practice Kindergarten should allow for late summer mornings.

Aral_train

Fire Train

Right now he’s happily working on a rather complicated maze and deeply engrossed in the activity. Unlike the iPad I have to stop what I’m doing from time to time, but the interactions are all part of the process. It’s just going to slow things down for me a tad. The library is an optimal place to do this because the expectation is that he will moderate the volume of his voice. There are rules as well as social expectations here that he doesn’t necessarily encounter elsewhere, and learning to live (if not thrive) within these confines is going to be one of his chief challenges once school begins.

Via a convoluted path, I suppose, this all gets back to empathy. Teaching children the ability to imagine themselves in a situation, one in which they comprehend how other’s think and feel, is a HUGE challenge. It’s also a skill that they have to practice to perfect.

In a little bit, we’re going to head out to the adjacent park and eat lunch and play with the other kids. An obvious reward for working so hard this morning. I’m pretty excited to see what we can accomplish together in the time we have before school starts.

Picking out some books to read

Picking out some books to read

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Birthdays and Milestones

 

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A-Bear and T-Mama like chocolate

 

Yesterday we celebrated the birth of the best woman I’ve ever met. We went out on the town, as a family, and even though we didn’t get to visit SAM (Tess’ original desire) we enjoyed each other’s company and a rare adventure in the city.

Tess, thanks for being there for me, for your son. Thanks for pushing me in the right direction when I needed a shove. Thanks for being my first-best reader. Thanks for being my friend.

Epic Run Day

\Not everyone wakes up in the morning and says “Damn, I need some miles today,” but today that is exactly what I needed. After a yummy breakfast at Main Street Bagels I set my sites on climbing up the Grand Mesa. Conventional routes were out. Seriously, too much traffic and not enough space for the bulki. So instead we chose a seasonally closed route known as Land’s End.

It’s a mostly dirt scenic by-way that climbs up a west face of the big flat-topped mesa on the east end of the Grand Valley. If you’ve ever visited here, you can’t miss it.

The route traverses several biomes common to the Colorado Plateau as well as multiple geologic formations so unlike climbing up the Colorado National Monument (south) or the Bookcliffs (north) there is great variety as you make your merry way along the road. And, probably the best part of this ascent is that the road remains closed until June 1st (although there has been recent road maintenance work completed).

Near the top, while I was feeling very strong, I was also keenly aware of two things. First, that I was running critically low on water. The first two-thirds of the ascent there isn’t any, and while there is near the top still some snow and plenty of runoff, I neglected to bring water treatment. I had about six more switchbacks to reach the brow of the Mesa. Bummer.

Second, near the top shaded spots still have snow and there is lots of mud. The road surface was very soft in places and this was requiring me to really push the hell out of the bulki. So I saved the top for another day. It’s melting fast and drying quickly. Next time I’ll be better prepared.

I am particularly proud of one thing above all on this run, and it is not its length or elevation gain. When we left the parking area near the gate Aral was in a foul mood. He was trying everything and anything to get me to turn around. By the time we got to the first series of switchbacks (maybe two miles in) I had him cheering me onward. Nap time occurred on the way back down after ample time playing in the dirt.

So far I haven’t written a word, but plenty of kinks got worked out in 20 miles of running. I plan on knocking out a few tonight and then some more tomorrow. The little guy is out cold, which is what happens when you mix ample amounts of sunshine, fresh air, and play time into their diet. I’m tired, but not devastated. Honestly, I haven’t felt this fit since August of 2009. And this go around I’ve been spending a lot more time and effort trying to recover which is helping.

Children are Barbarians

If you’re not a  parent, you can skip this one. You probably won’t get it and you’ll likely sneer at me through your computer. After today, I don’t need any more sneers, so feel free to move along. If you’re a parent, the kind of person that gave birth or participated in the birth giving process, please stick around. Below you will find self-deprecating admissions that will probably amuse you just a very little.

Fisher Towers, Onion Creek on the right

Yesterday, I must have been high on fumes from cleaners or something, because I loaded up my truck, my son, and my dog and headed west toward Utah. My intent was to drive to the land of the Utards and play in their warm, dry sand and beneath their sheer cliffs. Aral sat in the back seemingly stoked and ready to play too. It was awesome!

As I drove along I-70 I kept imagining us further afield. Maybe after Fisher Towers we’d get a back country pass for Canyon Lands, jeep the White Rim. And man, I sure could use a soak. I could just tootle up to Idaho and soak my tootsies in a hot springs or two. Who knows after that, the Earth is big and round and just waiting.

We arrived, and I poked around for a bit before deciding I wanted to take a run up Onion Creek. Aral’s mood had soured in the nearly two hours of driving from Grand Junction and my stomach seemed to be keeping up with his mood (never eat at that Denny’s again). But eventually I got him into the Chariot and we took off, Pepper trotting along behind.

“Daddy, move those rocks. They don’t belong there.”

The run went okay, but Aral turned into a little dictator telling me how he wanted to cross each and every stream bed crossing. There were many, many crossings. By the time I climbed up the canyon, well above the creek bed, I had had enough. My stomach was turning over, I was sweating like a pig in training, and Aral wouldn’t shut up about all the things I was doing wrong. “Not so close to that side of the road Daddy!” and “I don’t like turns Daddy.” He needed a nap, I gritted my teeth and carried on.

Near the end of the run, mere paces from the truck, he zonked. I parked him in the shade and stretched for a good long while thanking my lucky stars he had gone to sleep.

The rest of the afternoon went well enough. Eventually, after much playing with trucks in the dirt, we set out and found a camp site. Again nearing his tiredness threshold he turned into a bit of a turd. I cooked dinner and we ate, then we took a walk around the campground and eventually he wanted to climb up into the roof top tent. I cleaned him up and let him climb the ladder, making sure he knew that he wasn’t coming down until the following morning. Then, maybe five minuets later while I finished cleaning up dishes from dinner, the whining started up in ernest. Teeth gritted, I finished the work at hand and then climbed up to calm my toddler supreme.

Bed time cometh

Two chapters of The Hobbit later he passed out. Full crash. I spent some time making sure everything was tidy and tried to take some night pictures and then joined him. The cleaner fumes completely spent, and zero words, I was wondering if I shouldn’t pack up and high tail it back to the apartment, but sleep seemed the better option.

This morning, we woke and Aral was in an excellent mood. I was in need of bandwidth so we drove down river to Moab and found a Cafe with free wifi. Soon enough we had breakfast, coffee, and network. I spent all my time sorting out little problems with moving and administrative issues surrounding writing. Aral made several trips to the potty. And we even got a FaceTime call in with Mommy. The morning was awesome. And again, the bottle of ammonia must have had the cap off, because I was seriously considering that backcountry pass.

The ranger station wasn’t open until 12:30 and Aral was already showing signs of tiredness. Eventually they let us in. I talked to the ranger behind the counter, she was making arrangements for our pass and had even commented that Aral was such a cute kid, when I turned around and found, much to my horror and shame, that my child was licking the glass-pane door of the office building. He left a slug-ish trail of goldfish enriched saliva all over the door from about hip height to the kick board.

I was mortified, embraced, and frantically trying to rub it off with the sleeve of my running sweater when the ranger I needed to talk to in order to get the permit came out from the back.

Let’s just say things went down hill from there. Not with the Parks Rangers, they were very understanding and even accommodating, but it was clear to me, that my excursions are necessarily going to be limited for a while. My son is a barbarian. Aral of the hill people, he roams the world campaigning for nap time and a predictable schedule. Despite all the other things I can offer him by making forays into the wide world, he very much *needs* consistency in his life. Without it he charges right across any boundary in sight.

Parenting is a learning process. I should know this stuff, he’s my second. Seriously, they’re different kids. Justin was never like this. Sure he needed a schedule, but it had a certain amount of flexibility. Or maybe I was just oblivious and happily pranced by his blunders holding onto my ignorance for deer life? Man I can’t even recall any more.

We’re back above GJ again, showered and clean. I still feel the shame. My son licked the door of the ranger station, but as soon as I can get him to bed I’m going to start drinking. Making civilization is a painful, painful process.

Tales from the DC Area: Who Dropped DC on Me?

Good grief! This morning Aral and I left the apartment with Tess and stopped for coffee and a pastry. Yep still working on my waistline (although I got up this morning and did 100 sit ups). Nothing so lovely as LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN, but, you know, serviceable coffee. Or at least there weren’t flavor crystals in it.

Not something you usually want to see parked outside the National Archives

We parted ways, Tess went to the office, and Aral and I walked to the Metro. We rode it north and across the Potomac back to the National Mall. We rode a bit further north this time and got off at the National Archives.

Outside the Naval Heritage Museum

We now know where to get a sage fix should it be needed

The Archives were not open so we walked around the area for a while, visited the Naval Heritage Museum and then started on several gardens and galleries.

Much later and after many steps we wondered back north again in dire need of sustenance. The Pavilion at the National Post Office seems to be closed or under construction or something (it looked sort of derelict actually), so we ended up searching for a place, any place. Aral wanted a “cheese burger” and so with some trepidation I entered the DC Hard Rock Cafe.

DC Hard Rock

The food was actually really good and I’ve had no appetite since we left. I thought of my older son Justin a lot looking around at the walls and listening to the music. The people were even cooler, our waitress seemed to like Aral and talked to him directly. You know, like a little person who just happens to be hanging out with his SAHD.

And that there was pretty much the whole day. More photos in the flickr. feed of course. We came back on the Metro and then crashed hardcore. My foot has been giving me little twinges since I woke up from that nap on the couch, but otherwise I’m none the worse for the wear and Aral is sitting next to Mommy on the couch watching Lunar Jim solve a mystery.

Tales from the DC Area: Day Two Report

FYI: We’re moving to the District of Columbia (or as reasonably near Tess’ new job as we can manage). This represents a huge change for all three of us. Tess has been working in the area for about the last month and Aral and I flew out this weekend to spend some time with Mommy and get introduced to our new digs.

Flying

Aral has never flown before. He has also never been introduced to the great variety of public transit systems we took to get here. Early Saturday morning, I plopped his butt, wrapped tight in a blanket, into his car seat in my truck and took off from Boulder, Colorado headed for DIA.

After getting him dressed in the back of the truck we toddled off to the bus stop to take the shuttle to the terminal. And that’s where the adventure began. From bus to escalator to subway (to the terminal) and then onboard a Boeing 757-200 it was a day long romp in the candy store for a kiddo that really digs big machines.

I have to say that TSA is very nice at DIA. The huge pin in my left foot didn’t seem to be a problem for them. On the flight out to DCA we were surrounded by folks from the area. Everyone was returning home and they were supper nice and helpful. The standard “how-could-you-bring-a-kid-aboard” scrutiny, which I’ve become somewhat desensitized, was not an issue. I actually felt pleasantly surprised when we landed and someone held the aisle for us to get off the plane. That dude deserved a kiss.

Food

DC is going to make me fat. Saturday evening, after Tess picked us up from the airport, we strolled around her apartment for a bit and then stopped in a nondescript Lebanese Restaurant. “OH MYYYYYYYYYY!” is about all I have to say about that experience.

The next morning Tess took us to a place called LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN where I got an omelette with smoked salmon and chives that melted in my mouth. It was also nice to eat a long table, juxtaposed with strangers, Continental style. I haven’t had that experience since I lived in Tokyo.

DC will a) likely turn me into even more of a food snob than I already am. The coffee at QUOTIDIEN was remarkably better than anything I’ve quaffed in recent memory that I know that bar has been lifted. Honestly, I’d rather go hungry for a long while searching for food that good than waste time in the pointless mastication of inferior goods. And b) necessarily make me a lot more concerned with earning my calories. I’m going to need to research good places to go running and return to that habit very quickly.

Traffic

This is a downside for certain. I’ve been working steadily on my overland vehicle. It is comfortable, stable, well-thought out, and completely pointless in the greater Metropolitan DC area. And you guys drive like mad men. This morning I watched someone in a Fiat 500 cut in front of a six ton Metro bus. Yeah, not a great idea Darwin!

As Aral and I begin to search for a place to stay long term I know I want a) easy access to the METRO (specifically the train system) and b) a much, much, much smaller car. Driving OOTEK around DC will almost certainly be more of a chore than a pleasure and I haven’t the slightest idea how I’m going to park it.

It is in cherry condition (even though it’s snow white) so if you’re looking for an amazing machine, capable of driving just about anywhere you might want to visit in the West let me know. I’ve got lots of time, but when we get back to Colorado I may try and sell it. <QQ />

Museums

Apollo-Soyuz Meet up (Hubble model in the corner)

Sunday we took the Yellow line from the underground city here in CRYSTAL CITY across the Potomac and to the NATIONAL MALL where we spent the morning at the NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM. When I was a kid, maybe 12 or 13, I went on a school trip to DC with some class mates from my middle school. This museum was the highlight of that trip and it did not disappoint this time around.

It is a truly impressive  display of Human ingenuity and drive. Getting on an airplane and flying 2,500 kilometers over half a continent takes on new meaning when you can see before you all the steps it took us to get to this point in our development. An amazing amount of effort. We’re a splendid species of apes.

I cannot wait to explore all the other locations around this place (as well as go back to the NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM). I have not been this impressed with what we’re capable of since I walked into my first major data center project. Personally, being in a place like this, gives me some hope. It makes me feel less like we’re diving headlong into a dystopian nightmare.

Back to KSR

This is better than Mighty Machines

Ever since I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Science in the Capital” trilogy my curiosity has been peaked. Previously, I could not have imagined myself living in anywhere along the East Coast. I was raised in a different culture, one that looked outside itself and outside its own humanity for value. I grew up loving vast, uninterrupted desert spaces and mountains that climbed up and up forever. The best neighbor was the one miles over the horizon and beauty came from things and places that had no human involvement.

Being here, a place that has been transformed fundamentally by long term human habitation, is a lot like being a fish not only out of water, but one that has bee transported to the surface of the Moon. I am, moment to moment, culturally challenged. Hell, for the first time in a very long while I am a minority.

So, while I haven’t the faintest clue how I’m going to fit into all this, I am stimulated by the newness of it all. That’s good, it means I’m still adaptable.

Word Choice or White Lie: The Daddy Thesaurus

Aral Napping in behind the Bike

Aral Napping behind the Bike

My three year old son is down for his required daily afternoon snooze. As much as he hates it, he needs it. And so much of my day is focused on transition him to this nap. Lots of play time in the morning. Then tapper the activity until about two o’clock in the afternoon when I get him to chose between his bed and mine.

As anyone who has spent lots of time with a growing toddler knows, they pick up on patterns very quickly. And Aral can be obstinate if you back him into a corner. Thus, I feel like I’m in constant need of a thesaurus. The Eskimos have one-hundred and twenty words for snow; stay at home Dad’s need about the same variety to replace the word nap.

Lately, I’ve been using the phrase “quiet time” as a signal for moving my toddler from the floor with trucks to the bed with blanket. Today was smooth like butt’ah, I played with him in his room for about 30 minutes, than he climbed into his bed for “quiet time” (where we played with a limited number of trucks quietly for a while), followed by an excuse to exit the room on my part. Blanket pulled up over his head he was asleep by the time I returned from making a cup of tea.

I feel just a tiny bit of guilt at my manipulations. Nap time is nap time after all. But when he gets his afternoon snooze he wakes up ready for the evening, and usually in a much better mood. Knowing this tempers my apprehension for breaking out the Daddy-thesaurus.

Also, I know that “quiet time” has a half-life. Soon, oh so very soon, it will necessarily be tossed to the side in favor of some other white lie — I mean synonym — which will help him slip into slumber when he most needs it.