Friday, May 18, 2018

Success Assembly

Kai's school has a Success Assembly a few times each year. Invariably, he has had some of his worst days on these occasions.

Kai never receives an award - his behavior at school is not worthy of recognition. But rather than be understanding that he is responsible, he gets very angry with the school staff and at the students who are awarded. Many times he becomes disruptive during the Assembly and has to be escorted out.

The latest Assembly was scheduled for Thursday of this week, and from Monday Kai was already upset. At our family therapy session with our private social worker, Kai was seething about how terrible the day would be and how undeserving some of the winners are. Our therapist noted that Kai was feeling very jealous.

We all spoke about how he should go into the assembly ready for disappointment. He cannot control the results. He cannot change the results. He just needs to accept them.

At home, we had him talk out some strategies for coping that day, and then had him write them down on a sheet of paper. One thing he said and wrote was "cover my mouth with (imaginary) duct tape."

I suggested was that he should pretend that my wife was at school with him... I asked him how would he act if that were the case. He said that he would behave as a gentleman. I thought that it might be good to have a physical reminder of Mom that he could take to school with him. And so my wife and I found a photo of Kai and Mom that we cut out and attached to the list of coping strategies that Kai had written.

We reviewed the coping strategies with Kai every evening this week. And he took them to school yesterday along with the photo of he and his mother.

But would that be enough?

We were really nervous that this would be another terrible day.

And so it was with some anxiety that we opened the email from school yesterday afternoon.

It said that Kai "did a great job during the assembly and was able to sit through the entire time." He even seemed to be a good sport as he "was extremely proud of our class for having the highest number of award recipients!"


We were very happy to read that, but probably feeling relieved than anything else. Especially so when we read that an administrator from Kai's future high school had been in attendance as well.

And so, though Kai did not win any awards, this Success Assembly was a true success for Kai. And looking forward toward high school, gives us hope that maybe Kai will be ready for his new environment in the fall.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mother's Day - 2018

We've been slowing giving Kai more chores at home and trying to teach him independence skills, so Mother's Day was a good occasion to try teaching him how to make pancakes for breakfast.

He did fine with stirring the pancake mix and water together.

But had a little trouble with the flipping part.

Still, we had a couple of good pancakes for Mom (while I ate the ones that didn't come out as good) and it was a small step toward building a repertoire of meals he can make on his own.

My wife said that what she really wanted for Mother's Day this year was to have the inside of her car cleaned. So, I taught Kai how to wipe down the dash and other parts of the interior, vacuum the floors, and wash the floor mats.

Late in the afternoon, we went back to King Spa, where we went a couple of months ago when our hot water heater went out. At that time, both Kai and my wife enjoyed it very much and my wife said she wanted to return for Mother's Day.

The last time we came, my wife did not have a massage as we did not know how long Kai would tolerate the place. But after seeing how long he wanted to stay in the bath area last time, my wife decided that she could enjoy a 90-minute body scrub and massage this time.

So while she was doing that, Kai and I went to the men's side and soaked alternatively in the really hot tub and the cold one. The cold one feels way too cold at first, but after a good hot soak it is very refreshing. And conversely, cooling off enables you to return to the hot side for a few minutes before it becomes too hot and you need to cool again.

We stayed in the bath area for over an hour, and then put on clothes to come out to the coed area where there are several dry hot rooms where you can lay down and relax. Kai didn't particularly want to stay in those too long so I had him wait in the lounge where he could use his iPhone while I tried a few more rooms.

And then Mom came out and we met up to have dinner at the Korean restaurant on the premise. My wife said that she really enjoyed the scrub/massage and she seemed really relaxed.

We ordered fried dumplings and Korean vegetarian "pancake" for appetizers.

For the main dishes, my wife had Soon Tofu, a Korean soup made with kimchi. Kai had kalbi beef. And I had grilled eel.

Everything was delicious!

It was a lot of food for us, but we saved room for dessert. We shared a strawberry shaved milk ice.

The shaved ice was different than the kind we had in Hawaii last summer; the ice was so soft that you weren't sure it was really ice. It tasted really yummy!

And so this Mother's Day had some things for Mom and some learnings for Kai. All in all a good day.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

High School Decision

Kai has been attending a public therapeutic school since the middle of his kindergarten year... that is about eight and a half years.

For the last several months, as the end of his middle school days drew nearer, we have been stressing out about where Kai will attend high school.

There is no doubt that Kai has come a long way at his therapeutic school, but it has also been hard to see other kids come and go, returning to their home school while Kai hasn't made enough progress to be considered for a transition. In the last few years, Kai's attitude about school, and himself, has gotten increasingly negative. He hated school, and thought less of himself. He seemed to give up on thinking that he could be anything more than a problem child.

It made us wonder if a change in scenery and a fresh start at a new school would do him good. With the transition to high school coming in the fall, the timing seemed right for a change to a regular school, albeit by spending the majority of time in a special ed classroom.

But it wasn't a decision that we could make on our own; our community's high school would have to agree to accept Kai.

And so we had a series of meetings and emails to discuss the matter. The high school expressed concern about being able to support Kai. But we were heartened that all parties involved, including the special ed representatives of our local high school as well as the staff from Kai's current school were able to be open-minded and were sincerely interested in determining what would be best for Kai.

There was talk about splitting time between the regular school and therapeutic school, or perhaps waiting to transition to the regular high school for another year, but in the end we were very pleased that the decision was made for Kai to attend our local high school full time beginning in the fall.

After eight and a half years, it is a big milestone for us and we are very pleased. My wife was in tears after the last meeting with the school officials where the decision was officially made.

Of course, we were also happy nine years ago when Kai started kindergarten at our neighborhood school. The following photo is from his first day of kindergarten.

That ended up being an extremely stressful time as we got reports from school every day about the difficulties that Kai had before the decision eventually was made to send him to the therapeutic school he's been at ever since.

This time we're going in fully aware that the transition won't be easy. Our community's high school is very large and the hallways are crowded and bustling. We don't know for sure what will happen when he goes there.

But we also think that he is much further along in being able to cope with the challenges he will face. He doesn't have nearly as many meltdowns as before, and he is much more reflective and self-aware than he used to be. And so we do think that he has a realistic chance to succeed, and that this change is just what he needs.

In four months, when Kai starts high school, our stress will start up again. But that is for another day. Today we mark a big milestone with a sigh of relief and joy in our hearts.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Belated Anniversary Celebration at Izakaya Sankyu

It was our anniversary a little over a week ago, but with everyone not feeling well, we decided to hold off on going out to dinner to celebrate until today.

We went to one of our favorite Japanese restaurants, Izakaya Sankyu, where we first went last year for Mother's Day.

The fun part of going to an izakaya is ordering a variety of food. Kai loves gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) so we had to order that. We also ordered fried oysters, mushrooms, yakitori (skewered chicken), karaage (Japanese fried chicken), chicken wings, kalbi beef, and tako yaki (ball-shape snack made with batter and filled with octopus), among others.

We could tell that Kai was feeling better as his appetite returned. We had to fight him off for the gyoza, mushrooms, oysters, and beef, especially.

We filled up, but had a little room left for dessert: green tea ice cream with kinako mochi.

Everything was yummy!

Hard to believe that we have been a family for 11 years now... my how time flies!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Kai's Latest Creation: Lickilicky

We ended our spring break trip last weekend with Kai starting to get sick again. Since then he got a lot worse as he was coughing a lot and feeling miserable throughout the week. He missed school every day so, including spring break, it has been three weeks since he has been in class.

While sick, he did not go swimming, of course, and did not feel like making his YouTube videos, but did do a lot of sewing and worked on his latest creation.

This character is a Pokémon called Lickilicky.

One distinguishing feature of Lickilicky is a long tongue.

Kai finished up Lickilicky today. I think his creations get better and better.

Kai is coughing less and talking more this weekend so hopefully we will finally be back in school on Monday.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

2018 Spring Vacation - Last Few Hours in D.C.

We started out our trip with Kai just getting over being sick. My wife then was sick throughout most of the vacation. And now, on our last day, we're coming full circle as Kai is back to coughing a lot just as my wife is starting to feel a little better.

We had the morning in D.C. to see something before having to head to the airport in the afternoon. Kai wanted to go back to the Museum of Natural History to take in some of the things we did not have time for yesterday. The Smithsonian museums do not have an entry fee so it is conducive for short visits and taking in a little at a time. If we had had to pay to get in, we may not have gone so late in the day yesterday when we knew we had only a couple of hours, nor this morning when we had even less time.

The section of the museum we went to first was a place where they had drawers of collections that visitors can see and touch. It included everything from fossils to preserved animals; from pressed plants to minerals, and more.

There were over 200 drawers in all.

Kai opened and looked through every single one.

By the time he was done, we had only a little time to see a few other things.

Before we left, Kai wanted to show Mom the Hope Diamond. As yesterday, there was a big crowd gathered around the display case.

And then it was time to go to the airport where we had lunch.

Our return flight was very uneventful and we made it home safely.

The ends of vacations are always a mix of emotions. But this time we're especially tired and happy to be home, and looking forward to sleeping in our own bed.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

2018 Spring Vacation - Washington D.C. / Cherry Blossoms

We had arrived in Washington D.C. the day before and had a full day to see the sights. The main thing on our agenda was to see was the cherry blossoms in bloom.

For centuries, Japanese have held picnics and parties every spring to view the sakura in a custom called hanami. And so my wife was very interested to see the cherry blossoms here from the trees that were a gift to the U.S. from her native country.

After having encountered mostly cooler than normal temperatures all week, and seeing barely any sunshine, we were grateful that we finally had great sunny weather for this day. We started our day by walking over to the Wharf and taking what was billed as a "Cherry Blossom Cruise."

A forty-minute boat ride, I knew that it was not a "cruise" but I was disappointed that it did not go anywhere near where the majority of cherry trees are located. For anyone else planning a trip to D.C. to view the sakura, I would recommend avoiding this "cruise." If you want to go on a boat, rent one of the paddle boats on the Tidal Basin instead and you'll have much better views.

While we didn't see many cherry blossoms on the boat ride, it was interesting to see the new developments in the area.

After we got off the boat, we strolled past the fish market. The live crabs on sale were fun to see as they were very lively.

We then walked over to see the Jefferson Memorial.

I may be biased as I am a big fan of Jefferson, but I think this is one of the best monuments in D.C.

The basin area near the Jefferson Memorial has the most cherry trees. We were about a week early for peak bloom, but we still saw some nice sights.

On the National Mall, the Blossom Kite Festival was going on. It was fun to see so many different kites against the backdrop of the monuments.

After a late lunch, Kai and I went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Kai wanted to see the Hope Diamond, but was a bit disappointed that it wasn't too sparkly. But as someone who loves rocks and minerals, he really enjoyed the vast collection of many different minerals here.

We also saw the sections on dinosaurs, mummies, and bones. We both thought this bird skeleton was funny.

For dinner, we walked over to Chinatown for dinner again, this time to find a Japanese restaurant. We have enjoyed walking around D.C. It is reminiscent of New York City, but much cleaner and less gritty.

The first Japanese restaurant we went to had a two-hour wait but we found another one that seated us in 10 minutes. My wife had nabeyaki udon.

I had sushi, while Kai had octopus sushi and calamari.

And for dessert, we returned to the place where Kai got bubble tea the night before. This time I ordered one, too, and the lady who made them gave us the extras.

Our vacation is coming to an end. We fly home tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, March 30, 2018

2018 Spring Vacation - Baltimore and D.C.

On our last morning in Baltimore, Kai and I went to the Maryland Science Center.

They had a lot of hands-on exhibits which Kai enjoyed.

The place was crowded with small children, but we managed to have a nice time. I still have vivid memories of going to children's museums when Kai was very young, and leaving after only a few minutes because he could not tolerate all the noise and chaos. So it was nice to see him having fun here.

One of Kai's favorite things was this ball run.

He also got a kick out of this human made with fruits and vegetables.

Kai loved the exhibits where he could spin or move objects to cause something to happen.

My wife is still not feeling well so she rested at our hotel in the morning, then joined us for lunch. We drove over to the Fells Point neighborhood. It started to rain heavily so we chose this pizza place that was near where we were able to park the car.

After lunch, we left Baltimore and drove to Washington D.C. where we will spend the rest of our vacation.

On this afternoon, we had time for one activity so we went to the International Spy Museum. To our surprise, there was a line out the door with a crowd of people waiting to get in.

It was interesting to see the hidden cameras and other spy equipment. They also had an ongoing activity where you assume the identity of a spy and then see how well you can execute your mission.

Kai did pretty well while my wife and I failed as spies.

Much of the latter part of the museum was taken up with a series of exhibits on James Bond movies. I didn't particularly like that but Kai seemed interested in certain aspects.

After the Spy Museum, we walked over to Chinatown and had dinner.

My wife says she can't taste any of her food so she just wants to have soup. I can taste the food, but this meal was not particularly worth tasting... a bit of a disappointment.

After dinner, we went to another place to get bubble tea for Kai which he really enjoyed.

It was nice to walk around that part of the city. After all the other places we had been to on this vacation, this is the first place that had a big-city vibe to it.

We will have a full day tomorrow to see more of the city.

2018 Spring Vacation - Baltimore

My wife is still not feeling well so just Kai and I went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

We were able to see the Inner Harbor as we walked over there.

This aquarium is one of the better ones we have been to with large rays, turtles, sharks, and a wide variety of fish and other wildlife. It was crowded, but Kai seemed to enjoy it.

One of his favorite parts was being able to touch these jellyfish.

Later, he liked looking at several tanks of different types of jellyfish.

At the top of the aquarium is a tropical rainforest exhibit that has a sloth and monkey among other animals.

We were at the aquarium for about 3 hours, and then Mom joined us for lunch.

Later in the afternoon, my wife returned to the hotel while Kai and I explored a couple of the historic ships in the harbor. The first is this submarine.

And then we went on the USS Constellation, the last sail-only warship designed and built by the United States Navy, and was used during the Civil War.

I think Kai enjoyed exploring the ship and going down the different levels.

Up top, you can see that this was a rare sunny day and the warmest day of our vacation.

After using the swimming pool, we went out for dinner to have the steamed crabs that I had been looking forward to. My wife was still not feeling well, but she came along and was able to eat.

The restaurant we chose, L.P. Steamers, is very casual and they serve the crabs right on the brown paper on the table. The waitress showed us how to open up the crab to get to the meat.

It was messy, but Kai enjoyed tearing into the crab. He also loved the hush puppies (fried cornmeal). We also had crab soup, oysters, clams, and scallops. Based on Kai's enthusiasm in eating, I'd say that it was his favorite meal of the trip.

Afterward, back at the hotel, we had the "Radioactive Soda" we bought at the novelty soda store back in Richmond, along with the wedding ring cookie that was in our gift basket that the bride's mother gave us.

So, while my wife continues to be ill, it was a pretty good day for Kai otherwise.

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