Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School Anxiety

“…For us, though, in addition to all that, “back to school” brings on a mix of feelings that are all rolled up into one huge ball of emotion.”

This week’s column in the Patch takes a look at all the anxiety surrounding the start of school. Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Pleasant Piano Lesson

My son’s piano teacher came over the other day and Kai played nicely. That is a first.

When Kai’s teacher arrives for the lesson each week, the usual routine has been that Kai runs away to hide in the family room. Then, he acts silly and has to be dragged over to the piano. And when he does start playing, it is only a matter of time before he protests that he does not want to play any more.

So it was quite a surprise this week when Kai walked over to the piano on his own when his teacher came. It was shocking when he played nicely, without protest, a song that he had trouble with just the day before when practicing with Mom. And I almost fell out of my seat when it came time to learn a new song, and Kai paid attention to the teacher and then played the song well.

I really don’t know what caused the huge change. He has now been on a new medication for several weeks, one that the doctor said may take about that long to start working. So, we will be monitoring all of Kai’s activities closely to see if we notice other changes.

I hope this will not be a one-time phenomenon. But, I don’t want to get my hopes too high just yet.

We shall see.

Monday, August 29, 2011

End of Summer, Time Flies

This was the last weekend of the year that the swimming pool in our neighborhood was open. Our son wanted to go there before it closed, so we went for two last visits over the weekend.

For the first time, Kai went over to the really deep part of the pool. This t-shaped pool is tailored for families, with the bulk of the area no deeper than four feet. However, a section at the base of the “T” goes down to ten feet.

Until now, Kai had been too afraid to go past the 5-foot mark. But, on these last visits, he went underneath the rope and ventured over to the deep end.

At first, he clung to the side as he moved along the edge until he came to the 10-foot mark. Later, he swam across using his kickboard. And then, he swam a short distance without the kickboard.

He is now a much better swimmer than I am. Frankly, I don’t like going over to the deep end. But, Kai has conquered his fears of the water and is now unbelievably comfortable.

With the pool closing, it is a sure sign that summer is almost over. In some ways, it feels like summer just began, and so this is a reminder of how time flies.

But I don’t need the changing of the seasons to tell me that. I can see that just by observing how much my son has changed.

And so, as we Midwesterners appreciate summer because it doesn’t last very long, I will also appreciate my son’s childhood, as that too, shall pass quickly.

Friday, August 26, 2011

“I Am Nice”

Kai’s first homework assignment from school was to complete the sentences on the “All About Me” box that each student received.

When I made him do the assignment, he got angry because he wanted to play Pokémon instead. So, for the “Three Words That Describe Me” he wrote “Angry, mean, and mad.” My wife did not think that was appropriate so she later made him do it over. By then, he had calmed down and chose “Nice, joy, and happy” as his three words.

My favorite, though was what he put for “A little-known fact about me is:” He filled in “I am nice.”

Hah. But, I knew that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First Day of School – Followup

It was an uneventful first day of school. And that is a good thing.

There were no phone calls to tell us about a major incident. There were no emails to explain something bad that happened.

And, when Kai came home from school, we opened his backpack to find a rather nondescript point sheet. It wasn’t one of his better days. But it was far from his worse, too. Most importantly, the “Was he safe?” row was filled with “Y” which means he was safe all day.

For now, we would be thrilled with a month full of days like this.

One day down. Now, on to the next.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Day of School

It’s that time already: today is the first day of school.

My son will now be a second grader. It is not as momentous as when he entered kindergarten. But the start of a school year is always a milestone to note. If nothing else, it marks the passage of time.

Change in routine is always hard for our son. Even the subtle difference between Kai’s summer school schedule and his regular school year schedule was tough to adapt to. Now, being off from school completely for about a month, it will be an even bigger adjustment for him.

With Kai having attended summer school, his break really wasn’t all that long. Still, after being on vacation for much of the past few weeks, and now having settled into a relatively light schedule at home since we’ve been back from our trip, it feels like it has been a long time since he was in school. And that is going to make going back to school a challenge for him.

For the past couple of days, he has been saying that he doesn’t want to go to school. He says that he is sick and needs to go to the doctor’s instead.

Following the pretty terrible session of summer school where he seemingly had incidents every day, and our vacation where we faced many challenges, this does not make us confident that all will go well as he returns to school.

So, we will be anxious to see how it goes on this first day.

Regardless of how it goes the first day, we hope that once he settles back into the routine of the regular school year, he will get back on track.

I’m strapping on my imaginary helmet and seatbelt. I think it will be a bumpy ride.

Okay, I’m ready. Here we go…

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A High Mountain, An Emotional Low

We experienced many highs and lows on our vacation, with perhaps our lowest low coming at a high point, at least in terms of elevation.

This week’s Patch column looks at our experience hiking the trail to the top of Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Click here to read all about it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

NC Trip – Playing Pool

When our one-week stay in the Outer Banks ended, rather than rush straight home, we decided to see a few interesting places along the way. Toward this, we drove all the way across the state of North Carolina to the Smoky Mountains.

We rented a cabin on the Tennessee side of the Smokies, and enjoyed a beautiful view right from the front porch. Our son did not care about that. He was happy because our cabin had a pool table.

Colored balls with numbers from one to fifteen? How wonderful!

Coincidentally, for the long car ride, we had just given him “Donald in Mathmagic Land”, the Academy Award-nominated short film that teaches math in a fun way. The film includes a billiards scene to explain angles.

So, Kai was excited about having a real pool table to play with. He loved setting up the balls and rolling the cue ball with his hands to knock in the other balls. Though I am not an expert by any means, I tried to explain the strategy and how the balls would go depending on the angle they were hit.

We all had fun, as Kai used his hands to play, while my wife and I used the cue sticks.

At the Outer Banks, one of Kai’s favorite activities was playing miniature golf. It wasn’t because he enjoyed the game per se, but because of the numbered holes from one to eighteen.

Miniature golf and pool – yeah, I know we could have done that if we just stayed home. But vacations are not just about seeing new places, but about having fun, too. So we tried to find ways to let Kai have fun. And you know something? When he was having fun, we were, too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

NC Trip – Wright Brothers Memorial

I could not fathom visiting the Outer Banks without seeing the Wright Brothers Memorial. After all, it is the place where history was made.

And so, on our last full day in North Carolina, we visited the site where the Wright Brothers flew the first power-driven aircraft to successfully make a controlled, sustained flight.

Kai had learned about the Wright Brothers from a Peanuts video. But I don’t think he was all that interested in seeing the actual place. Still, he sat through a 20-minute film about the first flight.

But once we started walking around the grounds, he started complaining.

We didn’t take more than a few steps toward the monument at the top of the hill when he started saying that he was tired. We scrapped plans to see it.

Instead, we proceeded to walk directly to the numbered stone markers that show how far each of the brothers’ four flights traveled. We thought that with Kai’s love of numbers, he would surely enjoy seeing them.

But, no.

He insisted that he wanted to leave. I, stubbornly, insisted that he at least see the markers.

We finally got him to walk to each marker. He wasn’t happy. But he saw it. Whether he got anything out of seeing them is an open question.

It certainly would have been a lot more pleasant just to let him stay at our rental house and play Mario with his cousins (who visited the Memorial earlier). And maybe I’m trying to treat him like any other child when he really isn’t.

It is something that I will ponder before we take our next vacation.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NC Trip – Sand Dunes

On our first full day in North Carolina, we visited Jockey’s Ridge State Park where they have the highest sand dune in the Outer Banks. It looks like a desert in many spots, and you would have thought that we had left Kai in the middle of a desert for all of the screaming that he did.

He actually had fun there at first. He enjoyed seeing his cousins race up one of the dunes, and then wanted to join in the next race with them and me. But after awhile, the heat and climbing got to him and he had had enough.

And when he reaches his limit, there is no getting him to calm down and persevere. He starts whining that he wants to go home, and soon it turns into screams.

He wanted us to pick him up and carry him. We did not, as he weighs nearly 60 pounds now and was fully capable of walking. We did offer him water and plenty of time to rest, but that did not soothe him. Instead, he got angrier, saying mean words and attempting to spit at us and hit us.

We hadn’t gone all that far into the dunes, but that walk back to the car seemed like forever.

Day 1, and it was a preview of what we would experience periodically throughout the rest of our vacation.

Over time, I have a feeling that the bad memories will fade and we will remember the beauty of the dunes and our laughter after the races.

But I don’t want to totally forget the bad moments either. It is part of our reality right now. And maybe one day we will look back and recall how Kai used to be when he could not tolerate many things, and hopefully marvel over how much he has changed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NC Trip – Diving for Shells

During our stay at the Outer Banks, Kai’s favorite activity was looking for shells in the Albemarie Sound. The Sound was convenient, just down the stairs from the back of the house we had rented for the week. And Kai loved the calm waters where he could easily swim. So, he went diving every day, while I was left holding the bag (to collect the shells).

The shells are not really something you’d want to collect, most being broken and none being very pretty anyway. But, since Kai made such an effort to collect them, I wanted to save them. Now, as we are making our way home, they are stinking up the back of our car. And I love it because it reminds me of when my son was most happy on this trip.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Vacation Grinch

We have been on vacation for almost two weeks now, taking a road trip out to North Carolina. There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way.

We are now on our way back, making a few stops along the way. I’ll be writing all about our adventures in the blog soon, but in the meantime, please check out this week’s Patch column to read about the first part of our trip.

Click here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Favorite Photos – PlayDoh

Today’s favorite photo is from when Kai was three years old. He was obsessed with letters back then. Even when he did PlayDoh, he never shaped them into animals or other figures. All he wanted to make was letters and words.

S-O-S Best of the Best, Edition 9: Therapy and Special Needs Kids

This month’s S-O-S Best of the Best (BoB) takes a look at the therapy experiences that parents of children with special needs have had.

My own post on the topic is about the wonderful ABA therapist who guided us through the early days of our son’s diagnosis, and helped him make such great progress.

Click here to read about others’ experiences.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Favorite Photos – Exercising in New Mexico

On our last day in New Mexico this spring, the three of us walked the scenic trail from hotel down to the Rio Grande River for one last time. Along the way, there are exercise stations, each one numbered, and that served as motivation for Kai to keep walking. He was able to do a little bit of some of the exercises, but this one he just enjoyed running along the bars from one end to the other. I just love the playful expression on his face.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Favorite Photos – Riding the Steep Train

Today’s photo is one that was taken during the summer of 2009 when visited Dubuque, Iowa and rode on the Fenelon Place Elevator, described as the world's shortest and steepest scenic railway.

This photo isn’t a favorite just because of the picture per se – though Kai looks great, me not so much – but, because of what happened immediately before.

We were waiting for our turn to ride on the railcar when a man joined us in line and spoke to Kai. He asked Kai if it was okay if he rode with us. Kai didn’t speak nearly as much back then, and he only occasionally answered questions. So, I was surprised when, after a pause to think about the man’s question, he replied, “Okay. But, I want to sit next to Daddy.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Our New Living Room Furniture

We finally got some furniture for our living room. Well, to be more correct, we got something that is now in our living room. Read all about it in this week’s column in the Patch.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Favorite Photos – First Girlfriend

In preschool, Kai had a crush on a girl in his class. He was not good at communicating back then, particularly with other kids. She mostly ignored him but I understand that he kept swooning over her all year. At the end-of-school-year party, the girl finally gave him some attention. She pushed Kai around the yard in this car. It was the highlight of the whole year for him. I think his smile says it all.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Favorite Photos – Watermelon

There isn’t a great story behind this picture. I just love the simple happiness of watermelon on a hot summer day.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Favorite Photos – Laughing Hysterically Over a Pirate Game

I will be featuring some of my favorite photos of Kai over the next couple of weeks.

Today’s picture is from the summer of 2007, when Kai was three years old. His grandfather had just come for a visit from Japan and brought Kai a gift of a pirate game. The game involves players taking turns sticking small swords into a barrel until the pirate pops out. Between the funny sounds and the surprise of the pirate popping out of the barrel, Kai thought it was the funniest thing and he laughed jubilantly as he kept playing the game over and over.

There’s nothing like seeing your child have so much fun to bring joy to yourself, too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pennies for Peace

This week’s column in the Patch takes a look at how we used Kai’s interest in collecting pennies to stop him from snorting. Regular readers of the blog know that his interest in pennies has already waned and he is now on to Pokémon, but I can’t keep up with the rapid changes in Kai’s activities in the Patch. Anyway, click here for the article.

Apologies to those who checked here yesterday for a post. The column did not run yesterday as scheduled, perhaps because my article on the autism forum was still on the front page of the Patch. To get timely updates to know when I have posted a new entry, please “Like” Hanabi Boy on Facebook over on the right side here, or click to follow the blog (further down in the sidebar of this blog). Thanks!

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Pokémon

When last we left the topic of Pokémon, my son had expressed that he might want to switch to collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards instead. But, since we had already gotten a bunch of Pokémon cards, I put my foot down that we were going to stick with them. And Kai turned out to be happy with that.

In fact, he was Pokémon crazy all weekend. He found the Pokémon website that gave an animated explanation of the rules of the card game, and we played a modified version of it many times.

The actual rules are quite involved, so we simplified it quite a bit. Over time, if he maintains his interest, I will try to introduce more of the complicated rules, that is, if I can learn them myself.

I have mixed feelings of Kai’s latest obsession. Pokémon is not as academically productive as learning the periodic table, or at least not as productive as how I think knowing the periodic table will be once he gets to that topic in school in six or seven years.

But, in terms of having the interests of a “normal” kid, Pokémon may be as close as Kai gets. And maybe having a common interest with other boys will help him to socialize with them.

Oh well, perhaps I shouldn’t worry about all that. Right now, maybe all that matters is that my son has found a new source of entertainment, and that he is having fun with it.

By the way, with the motivation to collect the cards, Kai’s snorting has all but completely stopped. And with that, I think we can stop using the Pokémon cards as incentive.

Instead, we will now use the cards to try to reign in an even more difficult behavior: Kai waking me up every night. Let’s see how powerful this Pokémon really is.

Creative Solutions Highlight Autism Forum

I put on my reporter’s hat and covered a local autism forum for the Patch. What I found most interesting were the various solutions that individuals came up with on their own to help family members with autism or other developmental disability. Read all about it here.

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