Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Break - We're in Florida!

It's spring break, and this year we have gone to Florida. Our first stop is to see Mama Dell and Papa Earl, who we are staying with for a couple days.

Today Mama Dell took us to the Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

There, we saw many colorful tropical birds.

And flamingos...

The other big attraction there are the reptiles. During the reptile encounter show, the zoologist asked Kai if he would watch over the orange box that she said contained a very dangerous animal. She is holding a snake, which Kai reached out to touch.

We found out that the box contained a baby alligator, and the zoologist thanked Kai for making sure that it didn't escape from the box.

After the show, he helped her carry the box back to the area where kids could hold the animals.

And as a reward, he got to be the first one to hold the baby alligator and a couple snakes:

Later in the afternoon, we went to the beach. Kai loved looking for shells, and there were tons to choose from washed ashore.

The day before we left home, it snowed. Now we are enjoying sunshine and good times.

Gotta love it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Son’s Reaction to Sex Ed

Kai brought home a letter from school a few weeks ago informing parents that they would be starting a health education class. Among the topics to be covered would be sex education.

Kai wrote all over the envelope the letter came in.

Among his comments are “The 5th grade apocalypse!” and “It’s my worst nightmare!” (Spelling errors have been corrected.)

His attitude toward the class has not changed over time.

Twice a week, he has had his health class. And every time he loudly complains about how awful it is.

The class started out with more benign topics such as hygiene. But recently they progressed toward more sensitive topics.

When they covered puberty, Kai said, “There’s pregnancies breaking out all over 5th grade!”

This week they finally got to learning about how babies are conceived. I asked Kai how it all happened.

He said, “You put your private parts together. It’s really gross!!!!!”

I gave my wife a glance but she wasn’t even paying attention as she was caught up in watching a video on the iPad.

Which was probably just as well as she had the perfect excuse for not being able to answer Kai’s follow-up question.

“Mom, how was it when you made me?”

I tried to get him to repeat the question so that my wife could address this very important question, but, alas, his mind wandered off to something else so that question went unanswered.

The last class on the topic is tomorrow.

I’ll be relieved.

Why can’t kids learn about these things from other kids like when I was a child?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Video: Kai's 2015 Piano Recital

We often wonder if we should continue with the piano lessons, but Kai performed nicely at his piano recital earlier this week.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Hope you enjoyed the once-in-a-century Pi Day: 3.14.15 9:26:53 AM

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shared Art Project with Grandfather

Kai loves to draw, and he loves apps that feature monsters or dragons. Recently, he has combined those interests.

He has tried to draw some of his favorite monsters. But when some of the monsters became too hard for him to draw on his own, he enlisted the help of another artist – his grandfather in Japan.

Kai took screen shots of the monsters and emailed them to Jiji. His grandfather then sketched them on paper and mailed them to Kai.

When Kai receives the sketches, he colors them in.

Here’s one of his recent ones:

And of course, he shares it with his grandfather via Skype.

Today, Jiji surprised Kai by telling him that he has been coloring the sketches as well, and showing his most recent creation:

Grandfather and grandson bonding over their shared love of art. Gotta love it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Fresh Start in a New Classroom

Kai attends a small, public therapeutic day school. For as long as he’s been attending, the school has had only one fifth-grade classroom with the same person teaching it, Miss S.

When Kai was in second grade, he went to Miss S’s class for math. Ever since then, he has been assuming that he would return to her class when he became a fifth grader himself.

This school year, the school had to open up a second fifth-grade classroom due to an unusually high number of students at that grade this year. Because this is a therapeutic school, the composition of students fluctuates as new kids get sent there while others return to their home school. This year there happened to be more fifth graders than they’ve ever had before.

Kai was placed in the “other” second grade classroom.

From the very beginning, he was not happy about it.

He complained about the teacher and other staff. He was unhappy that most of the kids he liked were not in his classroom.

I thought that this was a disappointment that he would just have to learn to deal with. In time, I figured, he would get used to the situation and everything would be fine.

His teacher certainly did everything she could to teach him. She was very dedicated and communicated well with us so that we felt a partnership.

Months passed, but Kai never did seem to get over his initial bad feelings. Every time he had a major incident, he lashed out about the staff, or moaned about how he had no friends and that no one liked him. We spoke to him constantly about how he had to accept responsibility for his own actions, that the staff wasn’t to blame, rather they were there to support and teach him. But no matter how much we said, he couldn’t seem to adjust his thinking.

As his incidents piled up, I was wondering if we would just write off the rest of the school year and hope to re-set when he went to middle school.

But with four months still left in his fifth grade year, it seemed too long of a time to just write off.

I wrote to the school principal and asked if she would consider moving Kai to the other fifth grade classroom. We had absolutely no issues with his teacher, but since Kai’s mindset seemed irrevocably negative, perhaps a new environment would give him a fresh start. Of course, I understood that there would be concerns about sending the wrong message that students could switch teachers whenever they wanted, so we would support her to make sure the right message was sent to Kai.

I was very happy when the principal and her staff gave the matter serious consideration. They came back with a plan – Kai could switch classrooms if he could write an essay explaining why he should move.

It wouldn’t be easy for Kai. Writing is his most hated subject.

But he was happy to have an opportunity to state his case.

Over the next day, he outlined his thoughts and then put his ideas down in a letter to the principal. I was pleased that he came up with the thoughts on his own. The crux of his position was that he would stay safer and be more focused on schoolwork because he would have his friends in the new classroom to help support him.

The principal agreed to the classroom switch. Kai was very happy. I think just knowing he would be moving helped him to have four really good days in his last week in his old classroom.

This was Kai’s first week in his new room. Even though the change was something he wanted, we were nervous about how things would go as Kai generally takes time to adjust to new things. In his new classroom, Kai would not only have to get used to a new teacher and new classmates, but different routines, different order of subjects, and other changes.

On his first day, this past Tuesday, he scored a 100% on his school point sheet. He followed that up with a 96% on Wednesday, another 100% on Thursday, and an 89% and Student of the Week honors on Friday.

We have no illusions that this change of classrooms has suddenly eliminated all the issues with anger and frustration. We know that there will be difficult times.

But I do think that a positive mindset makes all the difference. It is great to see that Kai has gotten off to a good start in his new classroom. Hopefully, he will maintain his new positive outlook and continue to stay safe and perform well.

Monday, February 9, 2015

School Assignment

Kai began working on a school assignment. Each student in his class picked an explorer to write about. Kai chose Hernando DeSoto.

The first part of the assignment was to write a timeline of key events in the explorer's life. Kai is still not much for writing, but with the help of Wikipedia, he did his research and created a basic timeline.

The next part of the assignment was to draw a map to show the places that the explorer went to and the direction of his voyage. This part Kai eagerly worked on, as he loves to draw.

The other parts of the assignment are to create a treasure chest, fill it with artifacts that the explorer may have found, and to write a one paragraph journal entry that the explorer may have written about his adventure. That last one will be the most challenging of all. I think we'll have him work on with his tutor.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snowy Super Bowl Sunday

We got our first blizzard of the season yesterday, which meant it was a happy day for Kai.

He was up early to work on his origami. He has been reading the Origami Yoda books, the funny yet authentic series by Tom Angleberger about a group of middle school kids, and what happens when the loser of the group creates an origami finger puppet of Yoda. In addition to the stories themselves, Kai likes that the books give instructions on creating your own origami Star Wars figures.

Here he is with Origami Yoda and Darth Paper:

And here with Han Foldo and the Fortune Wookie:

I like the books as they are at a reading level that is more appropriate and challenging for him.

After doing some math homework, we went outside.

This was the scene outside our house.

The picture was taken in the morning before the blizzard had officially started.

Of course, Kai wanted to go sledding, so we went out before the storm was supposed to get worse.

Later, he did more math, some step aerobics, and a lot of Pokemon.

And then it was time for the Super Bowl.

It is the one sporting event I have a reasonably good chance of being able to watch as we make our own little party out of it.

My wife prepared our Super Bowl platter which included Buffalo Wings, nachos with ground beef and wieners, peanuts, tortilla chips, and celery.

I enjoyed the game. Kai enjoyed getting to party. His favorite part, of course, was getting to dance to Katy Perry’s halftime entertainment.

Today, he is home from school due to the weather. I have a feeling my wife will be origami-ed and Pokemon-ed out by the time I get home from work.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hour of Code, and Other Weekend Activities

Kai finished up the school week with no further major incidents at school.

We had a busy weekend, having company on Friday evening and visiting Kai’s aunt and uncle on Saturday evening. We also had all of our usual weekend activities including the weekly trip to the library, his boxing class, fitness group, and movie night.

We also went sledding, though there was only a small sliver of snow left as most of it was melted. Still, it was enough to make several runs down the hill, though we had to wait our turn each time with such limited space to accommodate all of us with sleds.

I also had him do some step aerobics, using a step and tape that Mom recently got to work herself back into shape.

Yesterday, after doing his online math work, I showed him the Hour of Code website. Hour of Code teaches kids how to code through simple and very visual approaches. I got Kai hooked by showing him a tutorial that utilized the Angry Birds game. He eagerly went through all 20 steps, getting the bird to defeat the pig at each step, and in the process learned a lot of basics of computer programming. The steps were very easy for beginners as they can drag and drop blocks of code and do not require any typing of the code itself.

He went on to do another tutorial that put him through the steps to create a Flappy game.

Later, after his fitness group, he wanted to get back on the computer to build an iPhone app that resembled a Pokemon game. This one was a bit more challenging than the other tutorials as it required him to read instructions and then type in the proper code. But with my help, he was able to do it and remained eager to do more as his day ended.

Today he is off of school for the Martin Luther King holiday. It is also the day that he can finally get back on the iPad after his longest punishment of not using it for a week.

Before yesterday’s fitness group, he told me that he was going to ask the mom of one of his schoolmates what the iPad rules were at their house. He seemed to think that they weren’t so strict about iPad usage. I told him that if that boy destroyed his clothing, he would probably lose use of the iPad as well, but regardless, they can make whatever rules for their house and Mom and I would make the rules for our house. He still went ahead and asked the mom and later told me about the rules at their house - no use of the iPad until homework is completed.

Let’s see if he can keep his iPad privileges when he returns to school tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Update, Depression

After the awful day of anger and aggression on Monday, Kai has had two pretty good days. He had no major incidents at school, and has come to terms with losing his iPad privileges for a week.

At home he seems mostly jovial, using the time he would have been on the iPad to read more of the many books he received over the holidays.

Of course, we are always on edge that this good period won’t last long, and the anticipation of when the next dreaded email from school will come keeps us from enjoying the moment too much.

But aside from the worry over when Kai’s next aggressive incident will occur, a growing concern lately is that Kai may be depressed, or at least, have negative feelings that will result in depression.

Over the past several weeks, there has been more than one occasion where Kai has expressed that no one at school likes him, and/or that he wants to kill himself. It is a frightening thing to hear from your child.

At this point, I don’t think that there is an imminent danger that he will carry out his words. He tends to use extreme language to express his anger and frustration, and we don’t take each one literally.

But still, there is concern, obviously.

I wonder what is driving these feelings.

At home, we try to balance toughness with love. I push him to do things he doesn’t want to do, whether it is extra math or reading, or more exercise. And when he has incidents at school, we give him consequences at home, too. The goal is to build good habits and teach him right from wrong so that he will grow up to have a good life. And along with the toughness we try to let him know that he is loved, and spend a great deal of time with him doing the things he loves. Sometimes I feel like we’re not being tough enough; other times I worry that he doesn’t understand that he is loved.

When he talks about school, he doesn’t seem to have very many positive feelings about his classmates. He is definitely an atypical kid, even when compared to other atypical kids at his therapeutic school. I don’t’ think he considers any of his classmates as a friend.

One aspect of that is that he seems to misunderstand others’ actions. Last night he told how the class voted for their favorite recipe among all that each student submitted. It seems no one voted for his recipe of Mom’s chili. The winning recipe was some type of dessert dish. I can see why kids would favor chocolate over anything else, but to Kai that was just further evidence that “no one likes me.” So perhaps he just misunderstands others, but I also think his feelings are at least partially grounded in reality.

I don’t care if he has a lot of friends, but it obviously is bothering him that he doesn’t feel like he has any. And those feelings will likely be even harder for him as he goes to middle school next year.

What to do? What to do?

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