Monday, December 8, 2014

More Shredded Clothing

Kai has had a long history of ripping his shirts to shreds when he gets upset at school. He hasn't done that too much lately, though. But this past week he expanded his repertoire. This time he totally shredded his pants.


In case you can't tell from the picture, both pant legs are ripped from top to bottom, plus there's smaller tears in the waistband.

Frankly, I was impressed with his strength as these were rather thick sweat pants. And they were almost new, by the way. As with his shirts, Kai seems to rip only the clothing that is new and in good condition.

Our understanding is that he got upset when one of the classroom staff was going to read a story to the class. Originally the students were told that they could sit at their desks, but then they were instructed to sit in the back of the classroom. For some reason, this seemingly minor change in plans got Kai upset, and he could not control his anger.

Earlier in the week he got upset by a similar change in plans. That time the prompt was when the class had to unexpectedly eat their lunch in the common area instead of in the classroom when another student was having some issues in the classroom.

While Kai has made progress in many ways, his inability to control his anger remains a big issue, and one that will keep him from realizing his potential.

The one good thing was that he accepted the consequences much better this time. He had a good weekend, despite losing the use of the iPad for much of the time.

He spent some time playing with Legos, making his own creation - a Lego mini golf course.


In the past he has mostly just followed the instructions that come with the sets, so it is good to see him going beyond the sets and being creative.

So, we had some good to go with the bad. I guess that's par for the course.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend

We made our annual trek out east to visit my sister and her family.

For Kai, one of the things he most looks forward to is getting to play with his cousins’ Nerf guns.


He also bonded with his cousin over a Pokemon game on the Nintendo 3DS.


Kai has had his own 3DS for many months now but rarely plays with it. But after getting several tips from his cousin, he couldn’t wait to try it himself when he got home.

Of course, the Thanksgiving meal with everyone is always a highlight as well.


Everything was just as delicious as it looks.

This year, for the first time, we took a day trip into Washington D.C. to see the main sights.

We started at the Capitol building.


Kai enjoyed the visitor center where they had an exhibition that gave a brief history of the country.

From there, we walked over to the Air and Space Museum. Kai did not seem all that interested in the famous aircraft on display (including the Apollo 11 lunar lander, and The Spirit of St. Louis), but he loved looking at the more scientific displays that explained space exploration and planets.


I was feeling great about how well Kai was doing in a crowded museum.

After that we took a trolley tour that would take us around all of the sights. After doing so well at the museum, he had a harder time during what I thought would be the easier part of the day. He obsessed over how many stops the trolley would make and how much time the whole tour was.

He was in a bad mood when we got off the trolley to see the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, though we did manage to get him to pose for a decent picture.


By the time we got to the White House, he was more content knowing that the tour was almost over.


But I don’t think he was really happy until we got back to my sister’s house and he could use the iPad with his beloved uncle napping next to him.


Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving as well.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Pre Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

We didn't think it was a good idea to take my dad on our annual Thanksgiving trip this year so we did the next best thing; we had him over to the house yesterday and Skyped with my sister and her family.


My wife prepared a turkey dinner for only the second time in her life.


It looked nice, and I thought the turkey was moist and tasty, but we both agreed that the dinner didn't compare to what my sister and her crew prepare. Still, I know my dad enjoyed it.


At one point my father needed to use the bathroom. I was about to tell him where it was and was surprised that he actually remembered this time. Kai was surprised, too.

"That's the first time you remembered something at our house, Ojiichan!"

We need to remind Kai about using discretion before saying things. Fortunately my dad is hard of hearing.

Today, Kai's school has its annual Thanksgiving lunch. Last year he raised a big ruckus, apparently when he was served a dish that he didn't want.

This year we tried to prep him that it was wonderful that his school does this, and what was the point of the holiday anyway?

"To be thankful."

Yes. So enjoy the meal and don't get angry.

As I served him the green bean casserole last night, he said, "It's not polite to say something is yucky; you should just eat it, right?"

Okay, so maybe he is learning, a little bit, anyway.

Wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 17, 2014

First Sledding of the Season

It is not even Thanksgiving yet but it feels like winter is already well under way. I think it will be a long one.

Kai doesn't seem to mind. We had a little snow on the ground yesterday morning and he was eager to go sledding.


The sled went fine down the hill, but there wasn't enough snow for it didn't build up much speed so it quickly came to a stop once we reached the bottom of the hill. Still, not bad for the first sledding of the season. And we even were able to make snowballs.

* * * * * *

As we were driving back, Kai said, "You know, Dad, Christmas will be here soon."

Yeah.

"I've been pretty good this year, right?"

Hmmm, so-so, I'd say.

"Daaaad!"

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day… and the Followup

Actually, it wasn’t one day. There have been more than a few in the past several weeks.

And they weren’t bad days. Bad doesn’t begin to describe them.

The circumstances were all different, but all the same in some ways.

It usually begins when Kai does something at school he should not do. Oftentimes it is because he is disappointed about something. Sometimes there’s another trigger. One time he was disappointed that he wasn’t picked to lead a vocabulary race; another time he was upset when his seat in the cab was just a bit wet. Then there was a time when he missed part of a Bill Nye video because he was out of the classroom calming down from an earlier incident.

Regardless of the trigger, these past several weeks, Kai has had huge, angry reactions where he says and does things that could get him thrown in jail if he were a bit older.

And when his teacher or a staff member speak to him about it, it usually just gets worse. He does not seem to be able to understand that he is responsible for the consequences he suffers. When he loses privileges, misses out on preferred activities, and suffers consequences, Kai blames the staff for what happened and does not accept responsibility for his actions that started everything.

We have seen some of this at home as well.

One time after a particularly bad incident at school, we increased the amount of time in which he would not get to use the iPad. He got angry, and as happens at school, he did not accept responsibility for his actions. He lashed out at me and my wife.

“YOU ARE THE WORST PARENTS!’

We tried to stay calm, and stress to him the importance that he not say or do the things he has been doing. As he gets older, this type of behavior will result in more than missing part of a video or losing iPad time; it could ruin his whole life. I don’t know that he understood.


“I’M GOING TO FIND ANOTHER FAMILY TO LIVE WITH!”

I think he will find a hard time finding a family who will take a child who doesn’t listen to his parents or teachers.

On one particular occasion, he stayed angry for quite some time, and we sent him away from the dinner table to his room. He promptly tore apart one of his Lego sets.

Eventually he does calm down. And then he finally apologizes for his actions.

But I wonder if he really understands what we tell him.

The day after he tore apart the Lego set in his room, he tore apart another student’s Lego creation in school.

It was extremely disheartening as it was the very next day after we had spoken to him about how he would ruin his life if he continued on this path.

When Kai has bad days like this where he loses control, at bedtime he usually chooses to read stories about a character who needs help to calm down. There’s Angry Octopus, which tells of an octopus who learns relaxation techniques from a sea child. And, The Red Beast where a boy with Asperger’s learns to tame the beast within himself.

These days, though, he sometimes chooses Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the story of a boy who has a series of bad events happen over the course of a day. I think Kai relates to the boy in the story, and he sees himself as a victim of all these things that happened to him.


* * * * * *

It has now been a couple weeks since we have had a major incident at school. This past week Kai had his first Safe Week at school in some time. He even earned 100% on his Point Sheet twice during the week, and was awarded Student of the Week.

Did he finally learn his lesson? Was it just an outlier of a week? Was he motivated because he had a chance to earn a new app for a good week? Was it the slight tweak we made to his medication?

Lots of questions but no answers yet. Let’s see how this week goes.

For now, we’re just happy that it wasn’t another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween

It was a very cold Halloween, even snowing off and on for much of the day. The gray and cold portended the rough day to come.

Many kids with autism struggle when their routines are disrupted and that is certainly true with Kai. On Friday, kids got to wear their Halloween costumes to school and the class schedule was modified to accommodate a parade and other special events.

When my wife got to school for the parade, she did not see Kai in the school's weekly community meeting. It was a sure sign that there had been trouble. Kai's school therapist told her that he had had two incidents that day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The latter one was especially severe and he was still calming down afterward.

But when it was time for the parade, he had pulled himself together enough to march with the rest of the students and collect his treats.

After school, he made two rounds of trick or treating around different parts of the neighborhood.


Kai's costume this year was a Storm Trooper from the Star Wars films. He didn't want to wear his mask as it was uncomfortable and he couldn't see well with it on.

When I got home from work shortly before the 7PM cutoff, he wanted to go out with me one more time. He didn't want to go to get more candy; he doesn't eat most of it anyway. And as it was still cold and snowy it wasn't a pleasant evening weatherwise.

But he wanted to uphold the tradition of going trick or treating with Dad. So, I grabbed the dog, a lantern, and we made one last short round.

And that was very sweet.





Monday, October 27, 2014

Costumes & Parties, Anger & Smiles

Kai and I arrived at his boxing class on Saturday and saw several other kids in their Halloween costumes.

Uh oh, did I overlook an email about that?

It turned out that we were left off the email list, but Kai didn’t care about the reason. He was just upset that most of the other kids were in their costumes and he wasn’t.

I tried to calm him down, telling him that it was not a big deal, and that it would be too hot for him to do all the exercises and sparring in his costume anyway.

I should have known by now that everything is a big deal to Kai, and that there was no calming him down.

He ranted about what a terrible place this was, and he “fired” the instructor. He said he wanted to go home, but stayed when I told him we could leave but then he would forfeit his iPad privileges for the day.

He grudgingly went through his exercises. But it wasn’t until he went in the ring that he finally released his anger.

As he sparred with the instructor, he attacked with full force. Normally Kai is a bit tentative in the ring, too often pawing at his instructor rather than throwing punches.

But not this time.

He whaled on the instructor.

And when his time was up, the teacher praised him for a good session.

A bit of a smile crossed Kai’s face.

And he seemed content as he sat and watched the other kids get their turn in the ring.

Ha! The boxing turned out to be a good release of his anger, in this case anyway.

* * * * *

On Sunday, I took Kai to a classmate’s birthday party at one of those places with giant inflatables where kids can bounce, slide, and play.

In years past, he would want me to join him on the bouncy slides. But this time he seemed very content to play by himself or with his classmates. He seemed to be interacting relatively well with them so I mostly stayed off to the side with the other parents.

The one time I interrupted his play was to ask him if he had tried the biggest slide. He hadn’t, he said, but he would go over and give it a try.

To get to the top of the slide, kids have to climb a tower that had big rubbery bands stretched across at different levels.


As I watched Kai climb, I recalled that he had tried this once before and had given up that time because it was too difficult for him. He was struggling this time as well. The bands are not taut, making it difficult to maintain balance. I could see that you need strength to pull yourself up to the next level, while Kai kept falling back to the previous level.


I expected him to give up again and tell me that it was too difficult for him. But as he kept trying, I encouraged him and tried to give him tips. Finally, he made it all the way to the top.


He did it!

And when he came down on the slide, he was very happy and proud of his accomplishment.


Kai enjoyed the rest of the party, which was a big success, much to the relief of the birthday boy’s mom. All the kids had fun and there were no incidents.

As we were set to leave, we stopped by to wish Kai’s classmate a happy birthday one more time. The young man stuck out his hand to shake mine, and told me that I was a handsome man. I thanked him for the compliment, telling him that it had been a long time since anyone said that about me.

And so Kai wasn’t the only one leaving the place with a big smile on his face. We had both had a good time.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Mom’s Birthday Weekend

It was a big weekend as my wife celebrated a round number birthday.

Kai’s grandparents treated us to lunch on Saturday. My wife picked her favorite Japanese restaurant. Kai had his usual – shrimp and octopus sushi, along with edamame.


My wife and I each had the bento box.


You can see there were a great variety of dishes including karaage (fried chicken), tempura, cod, sashimi (raw fish), daikon (Japanese radish), pickled cucumber, rice, and miso soup.


It was all very delicious. Kai even limited his iPad time (somewhat) at the restaurant without making a fuss.

It was quite a treat for us. Though Kai’s grandparents would give us an even bigger treat the next evening.

* * * * *

Before we get to that, on Saturday night we went to the Highwood Pumpkin Festival. In past years, the festival had a goal to break the world record for most lit jack-o-lanterns at one time. This year the event benefitted the Autism Society of Illinois and they had a goal to light 52,000 jack-o-lanterns, one for each of the 52,000 individuals with autism in Illinois.

We have been going to this festival for several years now and Kai was very excited as we go there this time. He said he wanted to both carve and light pumpkins.

We saw a number of people at carving tables, but had a hard time finding a table with extra carving knives. We also could not find anyone handing out candles to use to light the pumpkins.

Kai got very irritated.

The speed with which his excitement turned to anger was a bit surprising. I thought he had learned to be more patient but that was not evident on this evening.

I grabbed a pumpkin to carve and then my wife and I desperately searched around for a carving knife. That pumpkin was getting heavy as we walked around the festival grounds. Kai got angrier and angrier.

Finally, we found a knife.

I started to carve but Kai said that he wanted to do it.


I was afraid that he might cut himself as he kept stabbing at the pumpkin and responded with anger when I tried to advise him. But I considered it a win when he was able to finish his task without bloodshed.

Next, we wanted to find a candle to help light the pumpkins. It took almost as long as finding that knife but my wife finally found a candle.

We each took turns trying to light the pumpkins.


Finally, Kai was happy again.


We walked around to see all the lit jack-o-lanterns one more time before leaving.


“We had a lot of fun at this festival, didn’t we, Dad?”

The way he said that made it sound like he wanted confirmation.

Yes, we did Kai.

Though next year we will bring our own lighter, and perhaps a carving knife, too.

* * * * *

The next afternoon, Kai’s grandparents picked up Kai from his group exercise class and then watched him for several hours so that my wife and I could have a rare evening out alone.

We saw a movie and then had a scrumptious dinner at a French bistro. My wife had gotten recommendations from friends. From the outside, it looked like a nondescript place in a suburban strip mall. But the inside was charming and the food was exquisite.

We were happy to find out that everyone had a nice time at home as well.

And we celebrated my wife’s birthday with cake and a few presents.


Happy birthday to my beautiful wife!




Monday, October 13, 2014

Return to Didier Farms

We have been going to our local pumpkin farm most years since Kai was 4 years old. Last year we heard that the local government was going to take over the land to build a reservoir, but they are still in business so they must have held the government off for now.

We went back there on Saturday for our latest visit.


First up on Kai’s agenda is the giant slide. It has become a father-and-son tradition for us.


He wanted to go on it several times.



Next was the hayride through the corn field.


And for the first time this year, Kai wanted to go into the corn maze.


I had never done one either, and was impressed that you really can’t tell the right way to go when you are inside the maze.

There are numerous corny signs.



Kai enjoyed leading the way.


It seemed like we always chose the wrong path that led to a dead end. But at least we didn’t keep going in circles.


Though after a while, it seemed like we might never get out. Then another boy came running by to tell his family that he had discovered the way out. And so we followed him to the exit.

Next Kai wanted to ride on the mini dragon roller coaster.


This ride is for kids much younger than Kai. But I suppose it is progress of sorts that he wanted to ride it after all these years. Maybe next year he will want to try a real roller coaster at our local amusement park.

We couldn’t leave without getting a pumpkin and taking our annual photo by the measuring stick.

And though it doesn’t always seem like it, I guess these photos prove that our little boy really is growing up.




Monday, September 29, 2014

Full Weekend at Door County

We returned to Door County in Wisconsin for our annual fall camping trip.

It’s always exciting to get there to put the tent up. Kai wanted to play with the campfire.


He was especially looking forward to making s’mores.


And they turned out great!


The next morning we went to Eagle Tower. If you squint, you may be able to see Kai and my wife about a third of the way up the 75-foot structure.


My knees told me that the tower was taller this year, though Kai had no trouble hiking to the top. Here’s the view from the top. Please pay attention to the little island that you can get a glimpse of on the right side of the photo. That is Horseshoe Island (more on that later).


Next, Kai wanted to go to the beach. My wife volunteered that I would go in the water with Kai. ☺


The water was really cold. I mean, it was REALLY COLD. Even Kai thought it was cold, and he is a penguin when it comes to going into cold water. Nonetheless, he still wanted to walk all the way out to the boundaries of the swimming area.


Next, we wanted to try kayaking.

After our experience kayaking the Skokie Lagoons, we felt like taking on the challenge of kayaking in a bigger body of water. The man who rented kayaks told us of a few places we could go to. He said that it would take 20 to 30 minutes to kayak to Horseshoe Island. As we only wanted to go out for an hour, we thought that was perfect.

We rented a kayak large enough for the three of us, though Kai only sat with his back to Mom and did not paddle.

Here you see us with our destination in the background. This picture was taken when we had already paddled out nearly halfway. We still had a long distance to go.


We learned that kayaking in a large body of water like Lake Michigan (or technically, Green Bay) is much more difficult than kayaking in the small, calm waters of the lagoon back home.

Even though it was a calm day, there seemed to be just enough wind and/or current that it was challenging to stay on course toward our target. (Or perhaps, my wife and I were just not in sync and kept steering off course). Anyway, we would keep going too far to one side, then over-adjusted to the other. We were zig-zagging instead of going straight.

The choppy waves from passing motor boats did not help either, and were a bit scary as the thought of capsizing in that cold water was not attractive.

The final issue was more mental. In a small space like the lagoon, you can see every tree go by so you can tell that you are making progress. But in this big open space, we passed few landmarks and the island appeared to be far away no matter how hard we paddled. It felt like we were making no progress at all.

With nary a break, with our arms aching, we finally approached the island. But we had taken so much time to get there that we turned around without the planned rest on the island. We wanted to get back in our allotted time as the man told us that if we were late, they would send someone out after us.

The trip back was probably even harder than going out. But we made it! It was an accomplishment. And it may have satiated our desire to kayak for a while.

After a break for lunch, we got our bicycles out to ride on one on of the beautiful trails in the State Park. We had tried this last year but Kai tumbled off his bike in the first few minutes and we did not ride for long. We were hopeful of going further this time.

Kai did much better this year.


As incentive to keep going, we set our destination as the frozen custard stand just outside the Park entrance, about four and a half miles from our campsite. It was about the same distance as the loop we usually ride back home.

Kai generally rode well, though he often rode too slowly to make it up the hills.

But we achieved our goal and enjoyed some big sundaes.


Riding back was a bit more challenging. Kai was tired and I had to keep encouraging him to pedal faster.

“Keep going!”

“Pedal faster!”

He did not like my encouragement.

“STOP SWEARING, DAD!”

Oh, brother. I could just imagine what passing bicyclists must have been thinking if they heard Kai yelling that to me.

But we made it back to our campsite. The 9-mile round trip was probably the longest we had ever biked together.

And once we relaxed in the tent and played games, Kai was back to his happy self again.


We capped our day off by going into town to experience our first fish boil.

A Door County tradition, the fish boil involves a huge cauldron of salt water being brought to a boil.


Potatoes and onions are first put into the pot, and later fresh water whitefish steaks are added. At just the right moment, the boil master tosses kerosene into the fire beneath the pot, setting off a huge blaze that causes the water to boil over, dramatically carrying off the fish oil that had collected on top.



The fish, potatoes, and onions are pulled out and carried to the kitchen, where they are served with a generous drizzling of butter.

The fish was really tasty, though the service at the restaurant left a lot to be desired.


Kai is not one for regular fish (he likes shellfish) so he had the ribs, which he said was really good as well.


As you might imagine, we were very tired and slept pretty well in the tent that night.

The next day, we took a ferry over to Washington Island.


The boat ride took half an hour. And then we explored the large island.

One of the highlights was a neat-looking church. Before you get to the church itself, you walk on the “Prayer Path” through the woods.


Along the path are numerous Bible scriptures.


And then we arrived at the wooden church.


It was beautiful outside and in.



We also went to a farm museum. Here Kai is feeding a goat.


We had a long drive ahead, so we couldn’t stay on the island too long. We grabbed a take-out lunch to eat in the car while on the ferry.

Back on the mainland, we drove home, stopping only to buy some cherry pie to have later.

It was a fun weekend. We had done a lot. Frankly, I didn’t expect to be able to do all those things. We wouldn’t have been able to in years past.

And so it was a great weekend in many ways.

And best of all it portends more good times ahead.

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