Friday, November 3, 2017

1,000 Jack-O'-Lanterns and Other Halloween News

This year's Halloween had some good and bad moments.

On the good side, Chicago Botanic Garden had a special Halloween event last weekend.

Using scalpels, knives, gouges, and power tools, artists had carved over 1,000 pumpkins including many very large ones that weighed more than 150 pounds.

There were many different themed jack o'lanterns.

I liked the spooky ones the best.

My wife had told Kai that he could wear his Halloween costume to the event. But when we got there, we saw that no one else was in costume so Kai got a little self-conscious. He refused to wear his mask, and when we took the following picture he said, "Mom, you can wear the mask!"

It was a fun evening as we enjoyed seeing all the different designs.

Kai took many pictures with his phone and had a great time.

He later made a video using all of the pictures he took. You'll get a much better idea of all the different themes such as musicians, Chicago sports, Halloween classics, Day of the Dead, and others.

Halloween itself wasn't a complete success, though.

The days of Kai wearing cute costumes has passed and he now prefers scary ones. This year his costume was of the grim reaper, and the mask was particularly frightful as you can make simulated blood flow through. My sister and brother-in-law were in town so they accompanied Kai as he went around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating. Kai went up to younger children and deliberately frightened them, even after my sister told him not to do it anymore. It was very disappointing to hear.

Later, my wife and I expressed our disapproval for his actions, Kai was very upset the whole evening. One of the challenges with him is that too often he doesn't accept help or listen to what others (staff at school, relatives) are telling him in the moment, and then later he feels frustration with himself for not being able to stop himself from doing something that he shouldn't have done. We remind him all the time that he needs to accept help before things go too far; not sure how to make him do that in the moment.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kai's Latest Creation

This is Kai's latest creation:

Kai first made the main parts of the character. This character wears a vest so here Kai is working on making the vest.

There are stripes on the vest so Kai is working on that part here. He cut out the white stripes, then pin them to the blue vest before later sewing them into place.

Kai works visually, pulling up a picture of the character he is making on his iPad.

In this next photo he getting ready to attach one arm to the body.

And here he is sewing it to the body.

He does his work while the dogs relax on the couch nearby.

And here he is sewing the hat to the top of the character.

And finally, here he is with the end result.

Another nice job, Kai.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Door County Camping Weekend

After a year off, we resumed our fall camping tradition, going back to one of our favorite spots, Door County in northern Wisconsin.

As we were setting up our tent, Kai spotted a frog...

Which he later caught. We convinced him to let it go.

The next day, Kai wanted to go to the nearby beach. The water was cold, so he was very tentative about wading in.

But it didn't take him too long to make the plunge and start swimming. You're not supposed to be able to swim in Lake Michigan in October, so this was bonus swim time.

After lunch, we went on a bike ride. Peninsula State Park has great trails through the woods. The one we went on wasn't too difficult, but it did have some hills which would have challenged Kai before. But we had graduated him to a bigger bicycle and it definitely made it easier for him.

At the end of the trail was a frozen custard stand which was a nice reward for a good ride.

Kai said he actually enjoyed riding his new bike, so maybe he will want to get out and go riding more often.

In the evening, we had Korean barbecue for dinner.

And then we made s'mores which Kai particularly enjoyed.

After dinner, we walked back to the beach to play some card games at the shelter. After our last game, my wife notice a bright light on the horizon and exclaimed, "What is that? Is that the moon?"

And when we walked to the shore to get a better look, we saw the biggest, brightest moon I've ever seen rising in the horizon.

It was a spectacular sight! Even Kai wanted to take a picture of it.

The next morning, we got up to use the bathroom just at sunrise. The sun came up behind the land, but we saw some nice color over the lake just to the side.

We got a good fire going to cook breakfast. Kai's favorite part of camping is the fire.

After taking down our tent, we found an apple orchard where we were able to pick our own.

We filled up two bags, one with Honey Crisp to eat, and the other with Cortland to make pies and apple sauce.

Fall is our favorite time to get outside, and this was the perfect fall weekend for a good camping trip. I think Kai enjoyed it, too, even with very restricted use of electronics.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Father-and-Son Outing: First Cubs Game

I am a huge baseball fan, and a Cubs fan in particular, but I have not gone to a Cubs game with Kai. Until now.

I rarely watch sports on tv anymore, but whenever I do, Kai shows no interest in watching games with me. He is just not a sports fan, and while I would have liked if he shared one of my strong interests, I have come to accept that we are just different, and that's okay.

But it's not just that he has little interest in baseball. Going to Wrigley Field is bit of a hassle having to come in from the suburbs and park a mile or two away. (It was much easier when I was single and lived in the city.) Tickets are hard to come by, not to mention being expensive. Would it be worth it when Kai's behavior could be unpredictable? I still recall when we went to spend an afternoon of watching horse racing at Arlington Park and had to leave after the first race because Kai had had enough.

But the Cubs have been playing well in the second half of this season, and there was a big series against the second place Milwaukee Brewers. The weather was unusually summer-like, and I found out that there were still tickets available for the games to be played in Milwaukee, which is less than an hour and a half from our house in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

We had dogs this weekend and my wife could not leave them for the afternoon, so I asked Kai if he wanted to go to the game with just me. We do most of our outings as a threesome, and Kai loves to have Mom present for everything, so I was a bit surprised when he said that he wanted to go.

So we drove up to Miller Park on a hot Sunday afternoon.

We got to our seats just as the game was starting. It was steaming hot and Kai told me he was distracted from paying attention to the game because it was too hot.

But we sat for a while and got less hot, and then got some big cold drinks and tacos to eat. Sorry, no pictures of the food as the tacos were tasty but very messy to eat.

Anyway, after that, Kai settled in nicely and enjoyed the game.

It was a low scoring game and the most excitement through six innings might have been the traditional sausage race, won this time by Chorizo.

But we had excitement in the 7th inning when Ben Zobrist of the Cubs hit a home run that put the Cubs ahead 3-0. Kai was thrilled!

During the 7th inning stretch, I had him respectfully remove his cap for the singing of God Bless America.

I don't know that Kai completely followed all the little nuances that baseball fans love about the game, but he had fun. He loved looking at the electronic scoreboard that showed fans dancing between innings, and cheered when the Cubs did something well. There is something about a live sporting event that is much more exciting than watching on television. And so, just like the baseball games we saw in Japan in Hiroshima and Yokohama, and the one at Fenway Park two summers ago, Kai had a great time.

When the final out was made, and the Cubs had won 5-0, Kai gave a big cheer and flashed two thumbs up as I took his picture.

That evening, at bedtime, I told him that I was very happy that he went to the game with me and that I had a lot of fun with him. Unprompted, he thanked me for taking him and said he had fun, too. More than Zobrist's home run, or Jose Quintana's shutout, that was the biggest highlight of my day.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Kai's therapeutic school has a mentor program whereby volunteer mentors take their student out into the community once a week.

For the past several months, Kai's mentor has been Paul, a young man who was working as an intern while finishing up college. The first time they got together, Paul showed Kai how to edit his videos in iMovie, something that Kai loved to learn, but most of the time they go out to do fun things. Paul has taken Kai out to play miniature golf, see movies, and play at arcades, among other things.

Recently we learned that Paul would be starting a full-time job and unable to continue as Kai's mentor. This week, they got together for one last outing, going to a Gameworks amusement arcade. Kai was really excited about going as he loves to play video games and win plush toys.

The morning of their outing, Kai told my wife that he really hoped that he would win a plushie, and if he did, he would name it Paul to remember Paul by.

It sounds like they had a very fun time.

Here's a photo of Kai with Paul, his mentor, and Paul, his new plushie.

We thank Paul (the man) very much for all the time he spent with Kai.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Making an Angry Bird

Kai's latest sewing project was to create an Angry Bird.

He got a little frustrated a time or two, but persevered and kept working on the project.

In addition to sewing all the facial features, this one was a little more complex as he had to add on the beak to the front and tail in back.

It all turned out pretty well.

Love this hobby!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Scenes from Our Weekend

We went to visit Kai's grandparents in Michigan this weekend.

We headed to the beach. The air temperature was only in the low 70s and the water temperature was much colder. In the past, Kai never let that stop him, but on this day even he did not want to go much more than ankle-high into the water.

I think all that swimming in the warm ocean waters of Hawaii softened him up. Ha!

We played a couple of games of rumikub with Papa and Bubbe.

The pancake breakfast sponsored by the local Rotary Club is one of our traditions. Kai had a little bit of pancake with his blueberry sauce.

After the big breakfast, we wanted to take a walk and went out on the pier to the lighthouse.

Later we went to a craft fair where we had shave ice that was very reminiscent of ones we had in Hawaii.

Of course we had to go back to the beach. It was a bit warmer than the day before, but water was just as cold. Still, Kai wanted to get in the water this time.

There was a pretty good surf, also a bit reminiscent of Hawaii. What wasn't like Hawaii was that I was numb from the cold within seconds of being in the water.

Before we left, we had Kai stand back to back with Bubbe. By this photo, it looks like he has grown a lot.

And so went our last summer weekend of the year. It was a good one!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hurricane Harbor Waterpark

Kai's special needs swimming instructor sometimes organizes outings to Six Flags amusement park and its waterpark, Hurricane Harbor. Earlier this year he had given Kai a season pass, but with summer winding down, they had not yet gone to the park. Not wanting the pass to go to waste, and knowing how much Kai enjoys waterparks, we made a family outing to Hurricane Harbor yesterday.

Kai had told us that he wanted to get there when it opened at 11am and stay until it closed at 6pm. It would be a long day, but if that is what he wanted, we were willing to give it a go. We got there shortly after the waterpark opened. It was not yet crowded.

The first ride we went on is the one in the background of the above photo. The rafts that you ride on are brought to the top of the ride by a conveyor. Unfortunately, either because of malfunction or because no one was there to properly load the rafts onto the conveyor, the rafts were very slow to come to the top of the ride. What looked to be a short wait turned into a longer one, probably close to a half hour. Kai got a little impatient, but, under the circumstances, nothing extreme.

Once we finally got to go down, we all enjoyed it, but we decided that we would not come back to this ride again.

We went on most of the rides that used tubes or rafts and Kai had a fun time. The crowd had built up by early afternoon so we had to wait at every ride, but nothing too overwhelming. Of course, Kai has become much more tolerant of waiting; when he was younger, this type of waiting would have been much more difficult.

By 4pm, he was satisfied that he had had enough and we decided to go on one last ride and called it a day.

It was a good way to wrap up the last summer weekend before he starts school on Wednesday.

As this will be his last year of middle school before he begins high school, it will be an important time and we want to see more progress.

But the time to worry about that will be coming soon. On this day we just enjoyed the fun time we had.

Monday, August 7, 2017


After the travel delays that eventually caused us to leave nearly 23 hours later than originally scheduled, we finally just made it home.

Kai handled the last portion of our wait at the airport fairly well, as his agitation with United diminished. And once on the plane, he was a happy camper.

Despite the difficult last day, I am sure we will look back on our Hawaii trip with many very fond memories. Kai mentioned more than once that he was sad about leaving Hawaii. He usually doesn't express such thoughts about vacations coming to an end even when he has had great times, so I think this one particularly stood out for him.

Beautiful new places, great experiences, fun times... it was a wonderful vacation!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 15: Maui Tropical Plantation, Stuck at the Airport!

The day of our departure had arrived. We had one last breakfast on our patio. We have been having fresh Hawaiian fruits every day, and on this day we cleaned up the remaining papaya, mango, pineapple, and lilikoi we had, as well as Hawaiian banana bread.

And then it was time to leave our condo. We had a few hours before having to go to the airport, and decided to spend our remaining time visiting the Maui Tropical Plantation.

We took the tram tour that took us through the grounds of the plantation, and showcased a variety of native Hawaiian plants, tropical fruits, and fields of row crops.

We could see the nearby valleys.

We saw a number of tropical fruits including banana.

Kai's favorite part was when we stopped and our guide showed us how to husk a coconut.

In the next photo Kai is holding a coconut where a new tree is already starting to sprout.

And here is a short coconut tree.

Afterward, we had lunch at the plantation. It was yet another occasion to eat outside in a beautiful setting.

My wife had kampachi (fish) while Kai and I had Hawaiian tacos (pork with a pineapple salsa).

We had our last taste of fresh Hawaiian pineapple - and by the way, there is no comparison in taste to the pineapples grown in Hawaii and the ones sold in the stores back home (that are not from Hawaii).

On our way to the airport, we saw Haleakala. During most of our week in Maui, the top of the volcano was shrouded in clouds but we had a good view on this last day.

We were sad to have to leave Hawaii, but not happy when, after getting in line to board, they announced that our flight was delayed due to mechanical problems.

As the wait grew longer, Kai started to get upset, remembering the horrible experience we had with United last fall. He kept badmouthing United while I tried to keep him calm by explaining that mechanical problems can happen with any airline.

United kept pushing back the departure time. When they announced that they were waiting for a part to arrive from Honolulu in two hours, and then it would take two hours to install it, we went to have dinner.

Kai was happy with his chicken wings.

Just as we were done with dinner, we got a text saying that the flight had been rescheduled to 11am the next day. We rushed to the gate to learn more.

It turned out that the time needed to get and replace the broken part took so long that the flight crew was no longer able to fly that night.

We got into line to get a voucher for a room for the night, and to learn more.

After awhile they announced that they had only 11 rooms available, and there were many more families than that ahead of us in line. I checked websites but the only rooms I could find were well over $500, plus we would have to take expensive cabs to get there. We decided to stay at the airport.

I waited in line for three hours to learn more. I had heard that the airport normally doesn't permit overnight visitors and we might get forced outside. Also, we had not been told of any compensation for our troubles, or even been given dining vouchers. Communications from the airline was nonexistent. I heard from other passengers that the crew that flew our plane into Maui had discovered the malfunction and radioed it in three hours before they landed, but the part was not ordered until our crew was doing their final checks while our boarding process was beginning. So, they could have gotten the part much sooner.

In the three hours I waited, the line barely moved. We received no further news. I don't fault United for the original mechanical problem, but how they dealt with it and the lack of communications and service provided to their customers was terrible.

My wife and son were anxious to just try to get some sleep so I finally decided to get out of line and we went to a quieter spot in the airport where we could lay down.

We got some sleep, but these airport chairs are not made for a good nights sleep. And at 5am, the loudspeaker announces the time every half hour so it was hard to sleep after that.

Well, at least that meant that we got to see one last (hopefully) Hawaiian sunrise.

As well as a clear view of Haleakala (through the dirty airport windows).

Kai was very angry last night, as he kept berating me for choosing United. (I did because they offer the only nonstop flight to Chicago from Maui). This morning, his anger seems to have diminished. He is currently looking up customer complaints for United on his phone, as well as funny videos mocking United's customer service.

It is still three hours until our scheduled flight time. We are hoping that there will be no further difficulties. As it is, we will not get to our house until well after midnight.

And no word on whether there will be any compensation. I am guessing that like last time, I will have to write a complaint letter, then will get a cursory form letter back with only a minimal credit toward a future flight.

Wish us luck on getting home!

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