Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Level 2, and then another 18 months to get to Level 3 where he is now. We have had a number of rocky moments since then. This summer it looked like Kai would top out at Level 3, as he had incidents nearly every day. But this school year has gone remarkably well so far. In September, he had only one incident. In early October, Kai’s social worker told him that if he did not have a major incident for the rest of the month, he would reach Level 4 on Halloween. Kai had one incident a couple of weeks ago that pushed that date a few weeks out. But he was still on track to make Level 4 relatively soon. We told him that when he made Level 4, we would have a big celebration. He has been wanting to go to Legoland for a while now, and chose that as his reward for the major achievement. It felt good that he was so confident that he could do it, as he was counting the days until we would go to Legoland. And then yesterday happened. His teacher had been giving out Pokémon cards to the students as a positive reinforcement. Yesterday, one student earned the privilege of opening up a new pack of cards. Kai got very upset that he was not the one to do so. He disrupted the class and had to take a timeout. When his classmates walked past him to go to lunch, Kai tried to go after the boy who opened the pack of cards. The classroom staff intervened. And when they were escorting him out of the classroom, Kai bit one of the teachers. In that moment, he had lost his chance at attaining Level 4 for several more weeks. Of course I was not happy to hear that my son had bit one of this teachers. I feel bad for the teachers who work so hard and are so patient with all of the kids, but who have to endure this as part of their jobs. But my heart also went out to Kai a little bit. For whatever reason, he did not control his emotions. He acted out his anger. It was a very poor choice on his part, but I’ve come to realize that self-control is a lot more difficult for him than it is for most kids. He had been doing so well in school. He had improved his behavior so much. He was motivated to earn his reward. And now he was very discouraged. My wife told me on the phone that he was very down. He cried a lot and then wanted to just stay in bed all afternoon. When I got home from work, he was dawdling in the bathtub. When he finally came out, he ran to his bedroom and buried himself in his bedspread. He did not want to come down for dinner. I talked to him about the poor choice he made, but tried to be more encouraging than disparaging. He said that he did not want to go to school tomorrow. He did not want to go trick or treating. I told him that tomorrow is a new day, and that the bad day today doesn’t mean he has to have a bad one tomorrow. But he has to make that choice. Eventually he came down for dinner, more because of Mom’s sukiyaki than because of anything I said. And later, at bedtime, my wife and I both tried to encourage Kai to continue to do as well as he has most of the past few months. It will be a challenge to keep his spirits up. While positive reinforcement is very motivating to Kai, when a reward seems out of reach to him, he often gives up. I don’t want him to give up now. Today there will be a Halloween parade at school and then the students will be dismissed after only a half day. My wife is taking Kai and my dad to a favorite hamburger restaurant for lunch. And then it will be time for tricks-or-treat. I hope to get home from work in time for a second round of tricks-or-treat. Hopefully I will see a happy kid when I get home from work today.
Monday, October 29, 2012
After last weekend, when Kai had not cooperated with his piano teacher and we ended up cancelling our scheduled trip to the pumpkin farm, my son had been behaving pretty well all week. I was fairly confident that Kai would listen to his instructor this week and we would get to the farm. But, you never know. Ahead of the time when his teacher would arrive, I reminded Kai to listen to Vlad and do as he instructs. As is often the case, Kai did not respond to me, but I knew he heard what I told him. And after Vlad arrived and started teaching, I let out a small sigh of relief when Kai mostly did what he was supposed to. Vlad taught him a new song while my dad, who I had picked up the day before to stay with us for the week, watched attentively:
It is a little harder to tell from just looking at the picture the growth he has made in other ways.
But if we knew then the type of boy Kai would become in four years, I’m pretty sure we would have been overjoyed.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
The school nurse sent home a note saying that Kai had failed a vision exam. She suggested that we have him checked by an eye doctor. The doctor confirmed that Kai needed eyeglasses, and he got his set this week. As change is often hard for Kai, and he sometimes complains about being uncomfortable, so we wondered how he would do with wearing glasses. It turned out that there have not been any problems at all. In fact, he loves wearing his glasses. We originally thought he could take them to school and put them on only when he felt he needed them, but he said he wanted to wear them all the time. Here he is as he and I are playing Wii:
Friday, October 26, 2012
After our amazing experience at the pumpkin festival the night before, we had planned to continue our Halloween-themed weekend with a visit to a nearby pumpkin farm on Sunday afternoon. It was a bright, sunny, and warm day. We could not have asked for a nicer day for our outing. But before we were to go, we had some things to do on Sunday morning. After breakfast, I went to the gym for a workout. When I returned, Kai’s piano teacher had already arrived for his weekly lesson. Kai was giving him a hard time. Vlad is the most patient man I have ever met. He always encourages Kai and never raises his voice at him, no matter how uncooperative Kai is. My wife was trying to get Kai to listen to Vlad and do as he instructed. Kai kept moaning that he was too tired and did not want to play the piano. I told Kai that he perhaps he was too tired to go to the pumpkin farm, too, then. I thought that this threat would be motivating enough for Kai to finally cooperate. He had been looking forward to our annual visit to the pumpkin farm for weeks. I went to take a shower. And when I came out, I was disappointed to find that Kai’s behavior had not improved. Vlad had just left. And my wife had told Kai that our fun afternoon would be cancelled. Kai was not happy. At first he was mad. We told him it was his own action that caused this to happen. Then, he tried to bargain. He would play the piano now and then we could still go. Too late, we said. We told him that if he behaved well all week and then played piano nicely with his teacher next Sunday, there was still one more chance to go before Halloween. But if it was a rainy day next week, we would not go. Well, he was mad enough that he could not go on that day, but the thought that he might not go at all made him really upset. He alternatively ranted, pleaded, and whined. We did not give in. My wife got tired of hearing this and left the room. I went away for a little while as well. When I returned, Kai kept persisting. I spoke to him calmly that he has to make good choices, and he does not always get a second chance. After a long time, he finally calmed down. He came over to give me a hug. We played some games. We read. And in the afternoon we drove over to a nearby forest preserve for a walk in the woods.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Last Saturday evening, we went to the pumpkin festival of our neighboring community of Highwood. The highlight of the festival was their attempt at trying to break the record for most lit jack-o-lanterns at one time. Their goal was to carve and light 32,000. This was the third time they have gone for the record, and the third time we have attended. The first year, Kai enjoyed seeing so many carved pumpkins, but the crowd and hubbub quickly overwhelmed him and we did not stay long. Last year, we stayed longer, but still did not see more than a portion of all the pumpkins. This year the festival and crowd seemed larger than ever. I tried to find a place to park several blocks away, but found that I had to drive away even further before I found a spot. Once we were on the festival grounds, we were packed shoulder to shoulder in a huge crowd. I tried to slowly weave our way through the crowd to find a more open spot. Kai clutched onto me with one hand, and to my wife with the other. But he was not upset. We made our way back to a portion of the festival we had never been to before. We found out that the town had set up high scaffolds holding many rows of pumpkins that lined the downtown streets for a few blocks. We also saw that there were too many pumpkins to fit on the shelves, so there many placed on the ground at the base of the scaffolds. Though we arrived after the time the jack-o-lanterns were to be lit, none were. But as we walked around, we heard the announcement for the lighting to begin. Festival staff lit candles and climbed the scaffolds to light the pumpkins that were on display up high. Other staff handed out small candles for everyone to place inside the carved pumpkins, and longer candles for anyone who wanted to help light them.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Today is my wife’s birthday. My son had had lobster for the first time earlier in the year, on Mother’s Day. This boy, who once was such a picky eater, surprised me when he was willing to try it then. And once he did, he loved it. I told him that lobster is very expensive and we would have it only on special occasions. And so, from a few weeks ago, Kai has been reminding me that Mom’s birthday is coming up and that maybe we should get lobster. I was planning that we would celebrate her birthday this weekend, but Kai really wanted to have lobster and did not want to wait another week. So, we ended up celebrating Mom’s birthday last weekend. While my wife was busy tutoring and then going to the beauty shop, Kai and I spent much of the day working on the birthday celebration. First, we went to place where kids could paint pottery. Kai loves going there. The first time I went there with him, he had me write down the names and corresponding numbers of each of the nearly hundred colors they had. This time he did not obsess over the colors/numbers, and went right to work on coloring a bowl. After that we went to a local seafood market. I had plan on getting lobster tails, but Kai asked the attendant if they had whole lobsters. I was not planning on getting whole lobsters – we don’t even have pots big enough to steam them. And they are more expensive than tails. But Kai really had his heart set on them, and it was a special occasion, so I relented. We had to make one more stop, to get a gluten-free cake mix, frosting, and candles. And then we went back home to work on the next steps. Kai cracked the eggs and I mixed everything together for the cake mix. And then while it was baking, Kai checked every 5 minutes to see if the lobsters were defrosting. Playing with whole lobsters was definitely more fun than just getting tails. When the cake was done and cooled off, I put on the frosting and Kai decorated it. It didn’t look as slick as a store-bought cake, but I think the sincerity really showed.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Rain washed out our outdoor activities this weekend. So we had to audible. On Saturday, we picked up a couple pumpkins to carve into jack o’lanterns. Last year, when we were on our camping trip, we saw the intricately carved pumpkins of several other campers. From talking with them, we learned that you could buy templates with fancy designs, as well as special tools to help carve them. We tried a couple of the more simple designs last year, but Kai wanted to move on to “level 2” designs this year. And so the early start on carving a couple pumpkins. If we left if up to him, we would be carving about ten pumpkins. But, two seems enough to me. Of course, with more than two weeks yet to go until Halloween, we may be carving a few more yet. Kai was excited to work on the first pumpkin. After I cut open the bottom of the pumpkin, he dug his hand in to take out the seeds and all the innards. Some kids may not like touching all that slimy stuff, but I think its Kai’s favorite part of the whole process.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
After our busy Saturday, we stayed close to home on Sunday. Though it wasn’t all that much less busy of a day.
Monday, October 8, 2012
Saturday morning I drove Kai to his first ice skating class of the season. When we got out of the car, I noticed that one of the tires was a bit low. Kai did very well in his class. His skating really improved last year and he picked right up where he left off. But more than that, I was glad to see that he was very happy to be back on the ice and skated with enthusiasm. When class was over, it was time for our weekly trip to the library. But on the way, I wanted to stop at a gas station and fill the one tire with air. The first two stations I went to did not have a working air pump. And when I finally found one that did, the tire was very low. I filled it with as much air as I could, and then decided to see if I could make it to a tire shop without having to change the tire. Kai was not happy with the sudden change in plans. He really wanted to go to the library. But his reaction was so much milder than we have seen in the past under similar circumstances. I tried to call my wife to meet us at the shop and to pick us up. I did not want to wait there for long, fearing Kai would explode with impatience. Unfortunately, my cell phone wasn’t working right, and I could not make that call until we had already arrived at the tire shop. We would have to wait there for a while. Kai enjoyed looking at all the tires on display, particularly taking in the numbers that rated performance for each on things like traction and comfort, as well as the expected mileage. He was in remarkably good spirits. By the time my wife got there, we knew that our tire had a nail in it and would need to be replaced. And, in fact, all four tires were worn and ought to be replaced anyway. My wife’s car was also due for the tires to be changed. With Kai being so well behaved, we decided to have them take a look at her car as well, and ended up deciding to go ahead and replace them on the spot. The shop worked quickly. But we still waited nearly an hour all together. And Kai never made a fuss. Once one car was ready to go, we drove up to Wisconsin. The library would have to wait until the next day as Kai was looking forward to trying a new miniature golf course that he and my wife had seen on his last doctor’s visit. But first, it was time for lunch at the Brat Stop, where the specialty is brats, of course. Kai enjoyed his, and then waited nicely while my wife and I finished eating. This is still a work in process, but we definitely don’t feel quite as rushed over meals as we used to. And then it was on to the mini golf course. It was a chilly day, and we were very glad we had gone camping last weekend instead of this. The course was a wild west theme. There was a canyon.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
After our pleasant hike-turned-debacle Saturday morning, we returned to our campsite to rest and recover. We enjoyed a late lunch – hamburgers cooked over our campfire.
Monday, October 1, 2012
We went on our annual fall camping trip this weekend. My wife and Kai picked me up after work on Friday and we drove about two hours southwest of the city. We had been to the area the past two autumns, and it is our favorite place to go camping. This was the first time that we arrived after dark. It was a bit of a challenge getting the tent up in the dark with only our lanterns to light up the area, but we were able to get everything set up, start our campfire, cook dinner, and roast marshmallows. Starved Rock State Park. It is beautiful there, but we have covered most of the trails there so we wanted to try a new spot. So, we drove over to nearby Mathiessen State Park, which is only a few miles away from Starved Rock. Many people in the Chicago area are familiar with Starved Rock, and it is a very popular weekend destination. In fact, the worst part of going there are the crowds on the roads, in the parking lot, and on the trails. By contrast, there was hardly anyone at Mathiessen as we started hiking that Saturday morning. We enjoyed our walk through the serene woods. taking the fun out of our hikes. This time he actually seemed to enjoy the hike as much as we did. More hiking? And, the rest of our camping trip