2017 Year in Review

Winding down another eventful year, our first properly living back in the U.S. in some time (1999 for Kirstin!). There’s no denying 2017 had challenges, but we’ve had plenty of adventures and good times, and enter the new year sanguine about the opportunities in the coming year.

The boys left an idyllic situation in Mexico: accepted and beloved at their school; a wonderful nanny and circle of friends; and regular outings in and around Mexico on a weekly basis. They are hitting their groove now at their new school, but it’s taken time. After four years I frankly forgot how much we’re asking of them with each move, this devil’s bargain of rationalizing it’ll all be worth it in the long run.

My transition has been candidly tough as well. After feeling a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day by the end in Mexico, I spent my first months in DC feeling uneasy. Totally expected given a new job and new city, but for a hyper-type A like myself, no bueno. But much like the Monty Python peasant, I got better.

Amid all this, Kirstin has managed to be our rock, quietly enduring a rotating series of tantrums from her three boys while plugging away steadily at the transition.

With my usual wordy prologue out of the way, now to the updates. I currently work on “the Line,” which has the reputation of attracting folks who are smart, clever, and able to have fun with things. That’s very much been my experience. It’s also nirvana for grammar nerds; I’m decidedly average in catching errors among this group.

Of course I continue to have concerns. But I took this job to 1) read and get smarter on policy issues, 2) learn the bureaucracy that is “main state”, 3) travel, ideally to some places I’d otherwise never go, and 4) have an opportunity to influence, in whatever small way, our approach to foreign policy. And the job has thus far delivered in spades, even if the ratio isn’t what I’d envisioned. I’m writing part of this from Ottawa (after London, Kabul, and Khartoum trips). Whatever gripes I have, I try to remember how lucky I am to be in this position in the first place.

I want to give a special shout out to the back porch, our cubicled alcove of misfits with whom I’ve spent many hours giggling. They put up well with my usual stream of puns and non sequitors.

Kirstin, as noted, has generously focused on getting the family adjusted since we moved, a decided drop in stature from head of Chemistry at an elite international school. As she starts the new year though, she’ll be working as a volunteer “Insect Ambassador” at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, giving mini-lessons on the various creepies and crawlies. If you ever wondered who shows off the tarantulas and butterflies there, it’s overqualified souls whose life circumstances mean they have the time and inclination to educate capital visitors pro bono.

Ruben is almost 5’4″ and not quite 11 yet, and Kirstin and he can now share shoes. He is benefitting greatly from the well-structured youth sports programs in Falls Church: demonstrably more comfortable in soccer and basketball, and I can see a couple of years of this is going to do wonders for his coordination and confidence. He remains a map fanatic, and overjoyed to share whatever random sports or geography trivia he stumbles across. And, true to his word, Ruben has started guitar, after three years of piano, and sticking to it with his usual tenacity.

Ruben says: Moving was hard but exciting.I made many new friends. My close friend moved away. I am [well had in the future] having fun in Charleston South Carolina.

Rohan is crushing it academically and nevertheless struggling socially. It’s sad how we can reflect on childhood insecurities, laugh at how trivial they were, and yet do nothing to assuage the fears of the next generation. That said, he’s slowly making friends and getting comfortable at school. He’s continued in piano and willing to start martial arts in the new year to scratch his “constantly moving/abhors competitive sports” itch. He continues to read during any (minecraft) free moment, and to enjoy cooking, though primarily if meat or desserts are involved.

Rohan says: I LOVED this christmas. I opened one present on christmas eve and it was AWESOME.

I get to listen to lots of great podcasts on my commute and during runs. Including those with my favorite reads for posterity’s sake:

Version Control— really fun and engaging sci fi read.

99% Invisible– broadly on design, they cover a wide range of interesting stories. One highlight was Lance Wyman’s work on the Mexico City 1968 Olympics signboards.

Revisionist History– Malcolm Gladwell in spoken form. Most educational for me was on Churchill and WWII.

Standard Deviation— modern fiction, particularly resonant for parents with smart but unique kids. Not about math.

More Perfect– on notable supreme court cases, but in a decidedly palatable (radiolab) style way. Had no idea about the origins of the NRA and relatively recent shift on 2nd amendment politics.

—–
Our travel highlight this year was Machu Pichu, which deservedly got its own post.

Some other photos and highlights:

We finished this year with a mega-family reunion in Charleston, South Carolina, with both sides of the extended family enjoying the charm and (relative) winter warmth of the South. Our best wishes to you and yours for the coming year. Anand, Kirstin, Ruben, and Rohan.

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