Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

As I promised, I want to counter the last blog post and the negativity with a story around what was absolutely a wonderful summer.

At the beginning of the summer, Cherise and I debated on whether the girls should go to camp or not. Neither one seem particularly interested in doing it, but we didn’t want them to just sit around all summer. While Robyn had plans to appear in a summer play (Willy Wonka), continue piano lessons, and eventually find a week-long veterinary camp at the local Animal Rescue Foundation, Iris didn’t have such aspirations. Now, I have to admit that many of my summers were spent some white unguided and those are some of my favorite memories growing up. Still, having a little direction is always valuable and I do remember some of those summers where my brother would give me some tasks of inspiration to keep me somewhat productive. And then it came to me.

Camp Khaund.

What is Camp Khaund, you ask? Well, I assembled seven challenges that I offered up to Iris. As the school year came to a close, we discussed them over walks with the dog, and settled on what was a reasonable expectation of how many would be done and how well.

CODING CHALLENGE: Begin learning a new programming language, specifically Swift, Apple’s new language for iOS.

ARCHITECTURE CHALLENGE: Design her dream house, complete with all the different rooms, architectural designs, and clever approaches to come in their problems.

SCIENCE CHALLENGE: Select a part of the body and do a report, learning as much as possible about it.

CURRENT EVENTS CHALLENGE: Every couple of weeks, write a small family newspaper which covers interesting events going on in the world.

MUSIC CHALLENGE: Even though Iris stopped playing the piano several years ago, I challenged her to learn this song using YouTube. I made a Spotify playlist, gave it to her to listen to a few times, and then let her select her favorite song.

READING CHALLENGE: Our book club, where one of us chooses the book and the other person chooses the restaurant that we eat at to discuss it. One hook: the restaurant has to start with a B, so that it’s “Books and ‘B…'”.

ATHLETIC CHALLENGE: Iris and I have always done our personal 5Ks, so we made a goal to do a bunch of them over the summer. We wanted to accumulate about 30 miles of road work and run in the Walnut Run in September for the 3rd year in a row and set a personal best..

CULINARY CHALLENGE: The surprise 8th challenge came when we were running and joked about the fact that we would run 3.14 miles, which of course is pi. Iris thought pie would be a nice reward for running pi. I said “maybe you should just bake a pie and let me eat it”. I was kinda kidding, but we your child responds to baking you a pie with enthusiasm, you don’t say no. Thus was born the next challenge where Iris would have to bake an apple pie by herself.

So, how well did it work?

It truly was lot of fun watching her go after some of these. While some challenges went much better than others, she made a pretty strong effort on every one and I watched with true pride as she turned a potentially lazy summer into one with personal purpose and creativity.

Challenges Accomplished

  • READING: “Hunger Games” at ‘Bucks (Starbucks). Jimmy Carter’s autobiography at Buffet. “Jurassic Park” at BBQ. Awesome conversations for each, including sharing some inside stories around the inspiration of Hunger Games (the author’s juxtaposition of the Vietnam War and reality shows), the impact of Carter’s years, and the subtext around Jurassic Park (the morality of cloning). It’s stuff like this that I imagined when I dreamed of having kids.
  • MUSIC: Iris chose U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” and practiced it when I wasn’t around in order to surprise me. The bigger surprise is how passionate she sang along with the piano playing, and even when it was just the music playing on our Amazon Echo or in the car. Iris is supposed to be the shy one, but she clearly has a performer in her and it was so much fun to duet with her. Neither one of us is quite ready for America’s Got Talent, but as I tried to tell her of my days playing a lot of pickup basketball as a wanna-be power forward in a 5’11” body, if you love doing it, who cares what the world thinks.
  • CULINARY: Wow, that was good. She really took the bull by the horns on this and had such a fun time. We selected the ingredients, assembled everything herself, and managed the oven work. Her only assistance was a ride to the grocery store and a copy of her grandmother’s recipe for (Apple!) pie.
  • ARCHITECTURE: Chez Iris includes a VR room (complete with padding in case you bump into the wall), reading spaces, a systems to send the food from the third floor kitchen to the second floor dining room. As much as the ideas were great, the tremendous detail and effort she put into this project kinda floored me. There must’ve been 15-20 sheets of papers, with drawn out schematics, images, and other depictions of this house. Throughout the design, she’d show me certain pieces, but hide other “surprises” that would be part of the unveiling. It was definitely quite a show.
  • SCIENCE: She decided on the brain and went to town. Seven pages and a 15 minute presentation that I’m still pushing her to share with her Uncle, the doctor. She blew through terms, commented on structural anomalies, and pronounced some insane words a hell of a lot better than I did. She gave me the presentation over iced tea at the local Starbucks and I was watching the woman at the table next to us out of the corner of my eye, her mouth agape with this 11-year old explaining the different between the nature of gray matter and white matter (I’m sure she was impressed with Iris, but she probably thought I was a typical “Tiger Dad” Asian parent–I felt like saying “She did this–I just wanted stick figures!”).

Challenges Mostly Accomplished

  • CURRENT EVENTS: Iris starting KSNN (Khaund Sisters News Network) and included Robyn to write articles as well, on everything from the Healthcare Bill to Robert Mueller’s investigation of the White House. Robyn didn’t particularly care for it, so Iris proceeded to write another one without her (in the newly titled INN–Iris News Network) and focused on things like the Donald Trump Jr investigation. I was definitely both excited and impressed with her diligence, including when she said to me afterwards during one of our walks, “Daddy, I was reading in the Economist that…” I don’t exactly know what she said afterwards. I was just mesmerized by those seven words…Still, while she liked reading about the stuff, journalism probably isn’t in her future as she grew bored of “covering” the events.
  • CODING: Iris starting using the Apple “Playground” app to ramp up on Swift, but while she understood the syntax and could clearly do the work, it just doesn’t excite her the way these things excite Robyn (who took Javascript lessons from me until I started falling behind and went on to just teach herself). Still, I think she learned enough to be ready to do Fall Workshops for Inventors University, though the lessons won’t be as immersive as her Python course.
  • ATHLETIC: We ran a lot, but the weather was tougher than we expected with lots of 100+ degree days and we tried to avoid that as it really cut down her stamina. Plus, no Walnut Run this year, so we couldn’t even follow through on that. Still, though we didn’t quite get all the way to our overall goal, we got up to 3.5 miles and I believe we can do a 10K next year. Iris is a competitive person, but doesn’t seem to take to team sports. I’m hoping that running can be her outlet first and foremost, but also perhaps a future competitive sport. Who knows?

As I said in the last post, I’ve refrained from blog posts a bit because the girls are getting older and I’m trying to be respectful of their privacy. But whether it’s because Iris truly blew me away this summer or that I wanted to mark the progress, or simply because I feel like I bonded with her in a new and meaningful way that I never want to forget, I feel like capturing these 10 weeks was something I had to do. I promised Iris that if she nailed the challenges, I would take her on a Daddy-Daughter trip to anywhere in the Continental US that she wanted to go. She definitely did enough to earn the trip and she’s already decided where she wants to go–Disneyland! Um, just kidding. That’s not the Iris Way. No, we’re going to Washington DC to visit all the government buildings, walk the mall, see some museums, and hang out. We’ll be sure to walk by the White House, where Iris will surely tell her favorite crack about Trump (“My dog is smarter than my President. Better hair too!”). We’ll probably go around her birth in October, sparing her from her father’s desire to take her to Camden Yards (for the Orioles) or the Verizon Center (for Georgetown Basketball). And all the while, I’ll keep thinking how grateful I am to have a daughter that actually embraced these goofy challenges that her dad gave her and hope she’ll continue to attack the challenges of life with the same enthusiasm and energy.

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