Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day 2017

It was a busy Father's Day.

In the morning, I helped Kai film a couple scenes for his latest video.

Kai decorated this t-shirt for me that he bought with his allowance money. My wife said he looked for the cheapest shirt he could find, ha! I'm sure he enjoyed decorating it, though.

In the afternoon, we drove up to Wisconsin for our annual strawberry picking excursion. Fortunately, it was not as hot as it had been for the previous few days, and a nice breeze kept us reasonably cool.

But it was still back-breaking work to pick the berries and the picking was not as good this year. The strawberries were small and a large crowd the previous day had picked over most of the crops. My wife had had enough by the time we filled two boxes. Kai enjoyed the picking and eating though, and I will enjoy eating our harvest in the next several days.

In the evening, we went to a dim sum restaurant. It was very crowded but my wife had made a reservation so we got seated pretty quickly while a crowd of people waited in the entry.

My favorites were several of the dumplings we tried.

Everything was very tasty, and the price was very reasonable.

It was a very nice Father's Day. But then, when you're a father, every day is kind of a special day.

Hope all of you dads out there had a nice day, too!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Kai Goes to Overnight Camp

A few weeks ago, our friends who have two boys with autism told us about an overnight camp for kids with special needs. They said that their boys attended last year and wanted to go again. As Kai has had many playdates with one of the boys, Timothy, it sounded like a potentially good opportunity for Kai so we asked him if he was interested in going. When he learned that Timothy would be there, he said he wanted to go.

Kai has been on overnight camps through his school the past two years. But those were for one night each whereas this would be for three nights. And unlike the camp through school, there would be no staff at this camp who were familiar with Kai and the nuances of his behavior.

So we were a little nervous as the days to the camp drew near. This camp was run by a Christian organization and we were especially concerned that Kai would be disrespectful or say something inappropriate during religious class or when the group was saying a prayer. We spoke to him repeatedly that he needed to show respect, and that it would be good for him to learn something new.

But telling him and having him actually do what we say are two different things. So, our anxiety did not dissipate.

On Tuesday, my wife dropped Kai off at the camp. Each camper was assigned a personal counselor, and Kai's was a high school student. My wife said that she was very nice, as were all the staff she met.

During Kai's last camp through school, he sent several texts throughout the day including one where he said he wanted to go home. But on this day, we did not get a text from him until just before his bedtime.

We were relieved that he thought that things were going okay.

The next day, we again did not hear from him until late in the evening. That was a good sign. This time his message was even more positive than the one he had sent the first night.

He had won third place in the talent show. Ahead of the camp, we were wracking our brains trying to think of what Kai could do at the talent show. Finally, my wife remembered that as a young boy he had memorized the periodic table. We asked Kai if he still remembered it, and whether he would want to recite it as his talent for the show. He said he did, and reviewed all the elements ahead of time to refresh his memory.

Meanwhile, back at home, my wife and I took the opportunity to have a date night. We went out for dinner at a South American restaurant in our area. My wife had a Brazilian skirt steak.

I had Churrascos, a dish that included skirt steak, chicken breast, and Brazilian sausage.

Camp ended today and we got the full report from Kai when he got home. He said the food was great, the pool was awesome, and he had a good time and wants to go again next year. Here he is holding a dvd of Shrek the Third which was his prize for the talent show.

Kai's camp counselor said that Kai got upset only once, when his team lost some activity, but that overall he did very well and enjoyed the camp very much.

So, we are very relieved and happy.

It was a very good camp experience for Kai.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Kai's Latest Interest... Sewing!

As you know by now, Kai loves plushies. He also loves to draw.

His latest interest sort of combines these two loves as he has started to create his own plushies.

He came up with the idea and I suggested that he ask Mom to teach him to sew. She showed him the basics and got him started.

But I was happy to see that he wanted to do most of it himself, not just to have Mom do it for him.

My wife watched him carefully, and stepped in where necessary to clean things up or show Kai how to sew a particular part.

But after a while, he seemed to get the hang of it and worked on it largely on his own.

Though he did want Mom's help when he was starting to work on the facial features.

He had been working on it off and on for a couple weeks, and just finished it up.

Not bad for a first effort, huh?

I like that he's learning a life skill while he's having fun.

Monday, June 5, 2017

One More Pokémon Dinner

We tried a couple more recipes out of the Pokémon cookbook that Kai found at our public library a few weeks ago - Pikachu and Poké Ball sushi.

My wife made sushi rice, then Kai helped fan it. Fanning the rice facilitates quick cooling, which gelatinizes the surface of the rice and gives a shiny finish to the rice.

After that, Kai and I drained a can of tuna and mixed it with sugar and soy sauce. Here you see Kai mixing it all together.

While we were doing that, my wife made scrambled rice.

We lined a bowl with plastic wrap, then put down a layer of the scrambled egg at the bottom. We followed with a layer of the tuna, followed by a layer of sushi rice. Kai spread everything out and patted it down. The rice was very sticky, but Kai didn't mind too much.

After that, I flipped the bowl onto the plate. So, the egg part was now visible on top. Kai placed slices of carrots that my wife had cut for Pikachu's mouth and cheeks. He then cut eyeballs from a sheet of seaweed.

And here's the finished product:

Now it was on to the Poké Balls.

We took pieces of smoked salmon and wrapped it around rolled up balls of sushi rice. As these balls are supposed to be half red and half white, the salmon should only cover half of the rice.

Kai cut from the sheets of seaweed to finish up the decoration of the Poké Balls

And here is Kai with the finished products:

My wife also made cold shabu shabu, a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat boiled in water which are eaten with dipping sauce.

It was a little hard to cut up Pikachu, but we were hungry so it had to be done. :)

It was a delicious meal all around.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Weekend in South Haven

We spent the holiday weekend visiting grandparents in South Haven.

Of course, Kai and I spent part of the time out looking for Pokémon. Here he is by North Beach with the lighthouse in the background.

Later, we went to the beach to go swimming.

Well, Kai wanted to go swimming. My wife and I wanted no part of going in the water. It has been an unseasonably cool spring so far and Lake Michigan has yet to warm up. The air temperature was also cool on this day, only in the upper 60s.

But that didn't stop Kai from going in.

He wanted to try out the snorkeling equipment we bought for our next vacation later this summer.

I was just happy that he didn't implore that I come in and join him in the water.

The next day, Bubbe took us to use the pool at her health club. The water was warmer and much more conducive to swimming.

And speaking of Bubbe, Kai is now taller than her...

The above photo was taken after she demonstrated to Kai how to use the paddle ball.

We always do fun activities in South Haven, but best part of going there is to visit with Bubbe and Papa. We had not seen them since Hanukkah and they were especially happy to see us, and Kai in particular, this time. Here we are getting ready to have the best hot dogs I've ever had (Kosher dogs from Chicago's Romanian Kosher Sausage Co.). Bubbe had red, white, and blue plates and decorations for both Memorial Day and to commemorate my wife recently becoming a U.S. citizen.

On Monday, we took a walk together to walk along the lakefront. Here we are just across from the South Haven lighthouse.

And here we are looking back toward shore. It was a very windy day and there was a man doing kiteboarding. It is hard to see, but in the picture below you can see the giant "kite" in the right top portion of the photo. The kite/sail is connected by rope to a man on a board in the water. With the wind blowing so strongly, he was really sailing across the water very rapidly.

After that, we walked down beside the river and found a spot where Kai could feed ducks.

The ducks here get fed regularly so many of them were not hungry, but Kai found one that eagerly gobbled up the pieces of bread he had.

On the way home from Michigan, we stopped in Chicago to celebrate my birthday with dinner at Chicago Kalbi, a yakiniku restaurant. Yakiniku means grilled meat in Japanese, and yakiniku restaurants are where you can barbecue your own meat right at the table. I believe this cuisine originated in Korea, and you can have a similar experience at Korean BBQ places.

We ordered the kalbi (marinated short ribs), beef tongue, and bulogogi (thinly sliced ribeye in marinade).

Kai said his favorite was the beef tongue, while I liked the ribeye the best.
In addition to the meat, we ordered vegetables to grill. They also brought out kimchi and other fermented Korean and Japanese vegetables which were delicious.

And after we got home, I got to blow out candles and we all enjoyed birthday cupcakes.

So it was a great weekend all around!

Monday, May 22, 2017

We Made a Pokémon Dinner

We made Pikachu and other Pokémon for dinner this evening.

But first...

We had a busy Sunday. The weather here in the Chicago area is still unseasonably cool, but thought it was time to do some spring planting of annuals. Here we are at the gravesite of Kai's biological father, my wife's late first husband.

As Kai is now a teenager, we're trying to prepare him to be more independent, and so we're having him do more things. On this day, we had him help plant the flowers both at the cemetery and back home.

Between all the planting of flowers, we made a quick trip to the mall where Kai could Walk around an play Pokémon Go.

Later in the day we made an activity out of making dinner together.

Kai had found a Pokémon cookbook at our library last week and we decided to make a Pokémon dinner together.

First we would make a Pikachu cake for dessert.

My wife had gathered all of the ingredients and Kai stirred some of it together for a later stage.

The base of the cake is castella, a Japanese sponge cake, that my wife got from a Japanese grocery store. I cut the castella into the shape of Pikachu's head.

My wife made whipped cream and spread it over the castella.

Kai then put a layer of cut strawberries on top of the whipped cream, then we put on another layer of castella over that. My wife spread more whipped cream over the top layer of the cake.

Kai crumbled up the extra parts of the cake that I had earlier cut away when I shaped Pikachu's head. We spread the crumbles over the whipped cream to give the cake the fuzzy yellow texture of Pikachu.

I had earlier trimmed off the brown top and bottom edges of the castella. We used those parts to cut out the eyes, tips of the ears, and Pikachu's mouth which Kai added on top.

Finally, he added strawberries to give Pikachu his red cheeks.

We were happy how it came out!

Next we made the main meal for our dinner. Omurice is a Japanese dish that is sort of a combination of fried rice and omelette.

My wife had cooked the rice and prepared the ingredients. Kai here is stirring together mixed vegetables, slices of weiner, rice, diced onions, and ketchup.

I whipped up eggs with milk, then microwaved it for a minute and put it in the middle of the rice. My wife had hard boiled quail eggs which Kai cut up and put on top of the scrambled egg as the Pokémon's eyes. In the following photo, Kai is cutting out sheets of seaweed to further decorate Psyduck's face.

We used mozzarella cheese for the bill, and here you see the finished product.

We had to make three omurice Pokémon as each one is for one individual. We were getting hungry so we did not stop to take many pictures. :) But here you see the final products. In addition to Psyduck, we made Pikachu and a Pokémon that looked like a sunflower (whose name I have forgotten).

It was a fun family activity. And everything tasted good, too. The Pikachu cake was particularly delicious.

Hope you had a nice weekend, too.

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