Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kai’s New Little Friend

I walked in the door when I got home from work yesterday evening. I immediately heard Kai talking to someone.

“I want to introduce you to my dad.”

And when I walked into the kitchen, this is what I saw.

Kai was with his new little friend, a tiny Chihuahua that is the latest dog to stay with us.

Kai has liked every dog that has come our way. But Haribo is the first one that he has held for extended periods of time. And the first one he has spoken to.

My wife reported that when Kai got home from school today, he and Haribo snuggled together on the couch.

And this evening, after dinner, Kai called my wife back to the kitchen.

“Mom, come here. Haribo is so cute.”

Haribo had burrowed herself under a blanket. She was cute under there.

And so was Kai when he joined her under the blanket a few moments later.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snippets from the Weekend

Back to a normal weekend after the piano recital and trip to Wisconsin Dells last weekend. There weren’t any big moments this weekend, but several little ones of note.

Kai has his special needs ice skating class on Saturday mornings. Children skate with a buddy who gives them a little instruction along with companionship. Kai’s buddy this year is a junior high student who is very friendly and nice to him.

As I watch them skate around the rink, I see Erica constantly talking to Kai. I rarely see him talking her.

I feel a bit sorry for Erica. I don’t know how much she understands about Kai’s special need and hopes that she is not taking his non-communicative behavior personally. I think she does understand that communication is one of his big challenges as she keeps plucking away each week, which I really appreciate.

After this week’s session, I asked Kai what she and Erica were talking about on the ice.

“I hate talking!” he huffed. And then he refused to say any more about it.


At home he will talk non-stop about Legos or Trashies or anything of interest to him, so it’s not that he hates talking. But a two-way communication, particularly with someone he is not as familiar with? That he hates.

We still have work to do.


Kai and I planned to watch the Daytona 500 together yesterday. I wasn’t sure what time the race would start so I turned on the television to see how far along they were with the pre-race show. I could tell that they still had a ways to go until the race would begin, so I suggested turning off the tv.

Kai piped up. “It’s okay, Dad. You just have to be patient.”

My boy lecturing me on patience; ha!

We ended up watching the entire race, which will please his PE teacher at school.

Watching the race together was nice, but since when have they had so many commercials for erectile dysfunction products on NASCAR? Kai takes note of many commercials these days, often asking questions like ‘what is that product?’. I debated whether to turn off the tv during these commercials, but decided that it would only call attention to them. I was relieved that on this afternoon, I did not have to answer “Dad, what is sexual activity?”


A similar experience occurred while we watched the Academy Awards. I used to enjoy watching the Oscars, back in the days when I used to see the movies that were nominated. But since becoming a family man, we have never sat down to watch the show together.

Yesterday, when Mom had one of the red carpet shows on, Kai was interested so we decided to watch. Though I think his initial interest was due to a misunderstanding. He kept saying something about Sesame Street. He often does not speak clearly so I had no idea why he was talking about Sesame Street. Finally my wife figured it out: Oscar from Sesame Street! We had to explain that this was a different Oscar.

I regretted letting Kai watch when Seth MacFarlane started to sing about “Boobs.” My son thought it was funny, though I couldn’t tell if he really understood what the song was about. My response, once again, was to squirm uncomfortably, ignore it, and hope that it ended soon.

I was a bit relieved when the host went on to his Sock Puppets bit, which was very funny and much more family friendly. Kai spent much of the rest of the evening asking me to replay it on his iPad. I tried to explain that it wasn’t a real commercial so it would not be on YouTube. He didn’t like that answer. But about a half hour later, I found that someone had already posted the opening monologue online and we watched the Sock Puppets once more.


And finally, the photo of the weekend. We had several inches of snow late last week so we were able to go sledding.

Kai still prefers to go on the very small hill in our neighborhood instead of the taller one.

We usually only see toddlers on this baby hill. But Kai gets very anxious at the thought of going down to the big hill. And while I tried to get him to go down that big hill a couple years ago, I’ve let him have his fun on the small hill since. But this time I told him that this was the last year for the small hill.

Starting next winter, he graduates to the big hill, like it or not. I want to see him grow up when it comes to conquering his anxieties. Though when it comes to learning about ED or boobs, not so much.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Blast of Anxiety

As a parent, how do you know how much you should push your child to go beyond their comfort zone? When do you know that you have gone too far?

Sometimes you learn the hard way.

This year, we did not have a big birthday party for Kai. Instead, we decided to go to Wisconsin Dells.

Wisconsin Dells bills itself as the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” and driving along the main strip, it seems a bit like a children’s version of Las Vegas with its many mini golf courses, amusement parks, and boat rides along with all the numerous waterparks. Being winter, most of these attractions were closed, but we stayed at one of the largest indoor waterparks.

With Kai’s recital on Saturday, we left home on Sunday morning and arrived at the waterpark early in the afternoon. The three-day weekend meant that we could still enjoy more than a full day and night there.

We have now gone to several waterparks with Kai and the experience is usually pretty similar. He starts out being very nervous and wants to do the lazy river first as it is not at all scary to him. After that, it takes a lot of cajoling to get him to go down a waterslide. If we are lucky, he will go down the slide, have fun, and want to do it over and over.

This time was not much different. We started with the lazy river, and then did three tube slides. I was a bit disappointed that he did not want to do more. Perhaps all the waiting in line for the slides dampened Kai’s enthusiasm. And he probably just really wanted to go to the indoor theme park that was in another part of the resort.

As this trip was his birthday present, I went along with his wishes. But I told him that we would come back to the waterpark the next morning to do the last tube slide that we had not yet tried.

The rest of the afternoon we played mini golf, rode go-karts, and played in the arcade. Not surprisingly, Kai later said that the mini golf was the favorite part of the weekend.

We brought dinner back to our room, then went to the resort’s bowling alley and bowled one game before calling it a night.

The next morning, we had time to go to the waterpark for about an hour before returning to our room to shower and check out.

My wife and I decided that we would get to the waterpark right as it opened. We wanted to try the one tube slide we had not yet done. Master Blaster is described as an uphill roller coaster waterslide. The lines for it the day before had been long, so we thought it would be smart to go there first to avoid the crowd.

When we entered the waterpark, my wife walked quickly toward the ride. Kai did not walk so fast.

He kept saying, “I’m scared!”

I held his hand and tried to reassure him that it was not scary. Although the concept of a water roller coaster sounds frightening, I really did not think that it would be scarier than the other slides we had done.

“I want to do a relaxing ride first.”

I explained how we would do this ride first and then we would do the lazy river.

As we finally got to the slide, Kai grew even more anxious. He climbed the stairs very slowly.

I told him that he would have fun and pulled him along.

As we neared the top, we caught up with Mom, who was waiting for us.

Kai said, “I feel sick.”

Kai often says that when he wants to get out of doing something.

I was getting a little irritated that he was resisting so much.

As I was about to tell him that he would be fine, it happened.

He threw up.

A lot.

In that moment, Master Blaster had taken on a whole different meaning as Kai blasted his vomit out all over the platform.

I notified a nearby employee about what my son did, and then we rushed Kai down the stairs and found the nearest bathroom.

He did not vomit any more. I cleaned him up. He said he felt fine.

He said he wanted to do a relaxing ride.

We told him that we could just sit for a while, but he really wanted to do the lazy river. This time, we listened to him.

As a parent, I find it difficult sometimes, to judge how hard to push your child.

In Kai’s case, he has anxiety about so many things. I want him to get over his anxieties, and one way to do that, I think, is by having him experience things he wouldn’t choose to do on his own. The theory being that if he could go beyond his comfort zone, perhaps he will eventually get less anxious about those things.

In hindsight, in this case, we should have done the “relaxing ride” first. Then maybe he would have reduced his anxiety just enough to try the new slide.

Live and learn, I know.

I'm sure I will push him to do more again, but hopefully I’ll remember the Master Blaster and back off before he literally blasts out his anxiety.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kai’s First Piano Recital

It is a testament to Kai’s overall progress that my wife and I decided to let him perform in a piano recital. But it speaks to how far he still needs to go that we were very nervous about how it would turn out.

Kai has been taking piano lessons for over four years now. When we first decided to sign him up for lessons, I think my wife was hoping that he would turn out to be a piano prodigy. At that point in Kai’s development, with his struggles in behavior and school, I think she was hoping to find something that he would be particularly good at.

Alas, Kai did not possess extraordinary talents at playing the piano. And in the subsequent months and years, there were several times when my wife wanted to stop the lessons as Kai too often resisted practicing, gave his instructor a difficult time, or just goofed around instead of playing nicely. I didn’t want to see him quit; not because I thought he could ever become a virtuoso, but because I hate to see him quit at anything.

With a little encouragement from me, but mostly from rebuilding her own resolve, my wife pressed forward each time with teaching Kai how to play the piano. The teacher came over once a week and patiently taught Kai how to play. But I have no doubt that my wife’s persistence and instruction during the week was just as much of the reason for Kai’s progress.

Two years ago, Kai’s teacher held a recital for his students. At that time, we did not want to take the risk of signing him up to perform. But we nervously attended with Kai so we all could see what it was like.

At that recital, we weren’t sure how long Kai would sit still so we talked to him about proper behavior, and then grabbed a seat near the back in case we needed to make a quick getaway.

Almost immediately as the first child started to play, Kai started to fuss.

“I can’t see!”

I tried to shush him but he persisted. When that child finished playing, we got up out of our seats and found an open area near the front, off to the side, where we could sit on the floor and clearly see the performer.

And there we sat where Kai politely, well, mostly, watched the performers. He had done okay watching. Perhaps one day he would play.

This year, his teacher asked if we would like Kai to perform in the recital. Hmm, could he handle the pressure? Would some little thing set him off and cause a public meltdown?

We decided to go for it.

He chose one of his favorite songs to play, Night of the Tarantella.

The practices in the past couple of weeks gave us more cause for concern. My wife was constantly pointing out the things he needed to do better.

“The first part is staccato; you have to play with more force.”

“Don’t play too fast.”

“Don’t forget to press the pedal.”

“Hold the last note for five seconds.”

Kai doesn’t take criticism well. He gets angry when anyone points out something he is doing incorrectly. And so, these practices have been stressful. And as a result, our stress about what would happen at the recital grew as well.

The day of the recital finally arrived.

This morning, Kai was grumpy at his ice skating class, complaining that his ankle was hurting. When he came home, he barely said much to his grandmother who telephoned. He later got upset when he thought he lost a piece to a new game he got for his birthday.

All the makings of a disaster were in place.

After lunch, we drove to the site of the recital and got there a few minutes early. Kai got a chance to try out the keys and pedals of the unfamiliar piano.

He would be the fourth performer. Kai sat nicely as he listened to the first three kids.

And then it was his turn…

He did well. Ha, he even held that last note!

My wife and I simultaneously breathed a huge sigh of relief and beamed big smiles.

Great job, Kai! We are very proud.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sweetheart of a Day

My son looks forward to all special occasions and Valentine’s Day is no exception.

For the past couple of days, he has worked here and there to make Valentines for his classmates and teachers.

In addition, he really wanted to get Sweethearts candies to give to each person as well.

As Kai is on a GFCF diet, and just a healthy diet in general, he does not eat much candy. He can’t have most chocolate candies as they have milk in them, and he does not really like sweet candy anyway.

But he does like Sweethearts candy on Valentine’s Day.

Sweethearts are those small heart-shaped candies with the little messages printed on them. Kai doesn’t really like the taste of them; in fact, he hardly eats them. He just likes reading the messages.

“Be mine.”

“Crazy 4U.”

“Soul mate.”

“Time 2 dance.”

Last year his mentors from school brought over a box of Sweethearts to use for a Valentine’s craft project. But, they had bought a Spanish version by mistake. Kai didn’t mind, though. He had just as much enjoyment reading the Spanish phrases.


“Te amo.”

“Mi amor.”

Mom had not yet gotten the Sweethearts so after his therapy yesterday afternoon, they went to the drugstore together to buy mini-boxes for each classmate. Kai came home and taped them to the back of each Valentine he had made, saving one for himself.

I don’t know what kind of celebration they will have at school today, but I can just hear Kai’s laugh as each student reads their Sweethearts messages.

“Tweet me.”


Longtime readers may recall why Valentine’s Day is not just a Hallmark holiday around here. For you newer readers, click here to read the column I wrote a year ago, and find out what happened nine years ago.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Birthday Celebration

Kai’s grandparents were in town so we had an early birthday celebration for him.

We were to meet them at the Lego store where Kai would get to pick out a set of his choice.

We are still working on teaching Kai to be more appreciative and less greedy. Before we left home, my wife and I spoke to Kai that he could have one set, and to not ask for any more. We reminded him that he had just gotten two Lego sets from our trip to Legoland last weekend, and he would likely be getting additional birthday presents as well.

At the store, he greeted his grandparents with hugs, and then set about the store. A Star Wars set caught his eye. That was the one he wanted, he said.

But then he saw something else, and he wanted that one, too. The Star Wars set he saw first was an expensive one. I didn’t want him asking his grandparents for more.

Kai wasn’t happy that he couldn’t have the Chima set, too. I wasn’t happy that he had already forgotten the talk we had with him.

Bubbe came over to talk to him.

She told him that if she bought everything now, she wouldn’t have anything to get him the next time she was in town. Kai pondered that for a second.

“When are you coming next?”

And that made me laugh, just a little.

I was even happier that Kai stopped making a fuss about wanting more. He finally was genuinely appreciative of the gift he received.

And when we got home, he started to work on his new set right away.

And later we had dinner together, with cake, of course.

After that, he got to open one more gift, this one a special one from his grandfather. Kai was able to guess what it was: tins! He had Mom bring the rest of his collection downstairs so he could see all of them at once.

And with that, we had a very nice birthday celebration.

My wife told Kai that she did not have grandparents, and that he is a very lucky boy to have so many grandparents.

And so he is. And not just because of presents he gets, but from all of the love they show him. That is priceless.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Element Face-Off

My son’s school sent home the following in his backpack the other day.

Kai had drawn it during break time.

Recently, Kai has had a renewed interest in the periodic table that he first learned two years ago. His current interest has been sparked by his recent accumulation of element flash cards when he does the online Thinkwell math program.

Kai enjoys the pictures on these flash cards, but I wondered whether he was learning any of the information on the back of the cards. Sure, he learned the symbols and atomic numbers for all of the elements from long ago, but did he know anything else about them.

On his last birthday, Kai received a Jeopardy-style quiz game from his grandmother. These days, he asks me to make up new questions based on the information from his flash cards. Then, with me playing the Alex Trebek role, he squares off against Mom.

Which element is named in honor of the German state of Hesse?

What acts as the positive half of many batteries?

Which alkali metal aids nerve function, allowing the brain to transmit information back to the muscles?

Which noble gas gives off a distinct reddish-orange glow?

Which element was named after the creator of the periodic table?

My wife is reluctant to play these games as she knows how it will go. Still, Kai really wanted her to play so he gave her a handicap – she could look at the flash cards to help answer the questions.

While that was generous of him, the outcome did not change. Kai won, 430 to 120.

We worry about Kai’s reading comprehension. But when it comes to learning facts on the back of flash cards, he seems to be doing okay.

The answers to the above questions, in order, are:
Hassium, Lithium, Potassium, Neon, Mendelevium

How did you do?

Extra points for every element you can identify on Kai's drawing, with bonus points for telling the reason behind each particular element picture.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Anxiety, Perspective, and Legoland

As I wrote last week, my son had a Safe Month at school in January. But he still had to be safe for one more day to earn a special incentive for staying safe 25 consecutive school days: a trip to our local area Legoland.

My wife and I held our breath all day Friday. And when Kai came home in the taxi, my wife went out to greet him. She opened the door of the cab and saw Kai crying profusely.

Oh no! He must not have made it. He wasn’t safe. And there went the Legoland reward.

Except that wasn’t why he was upset. He had been safe at school.

But he was mad that the driver had dropped off another boy first.

And such is the life with a boy who gets upset over the seemingly smallest things.

My wife explained to Kai that Jacob deserved a turn to get dropped off first. But she also understood that this new taxi driver changed things up without the staff at school being able to prepare Kai ahead of time. Sigh. My wife made a mental note to talk to Kai’s therapist this morning.

We hit another bump in the road early the next morning. Snow plows were clearing our street for the first time this season. Kai heard the noise, and woke us up. He was scared.

I explained that it was just the trucks plowing the snow and he had nothing to be scared of. But he was scared anyway and could not sleep.

We have been working with Kai to get him to stay in his bed and not wake us in the middle of the night. He had accumulated a number of points and was on the verge of earning a desired toy. I told him that he would have to wait (at least) one more night to get his reward.

I can already hear some of you quietly expressing that I should have given it to him anyway. But if I made an exception for snow plows, the next time it would be for garbage trucks or a honking horn or whatever. I wanted to hold the line. Kai was not happy about that.


It’s only one more night.


There is nothing to be scared of. Stay in bed.


Well, then we won’t be able to go to Legoland.


This went on for quite some time. But eventually I got him calmed down by the prospect of earning a Trashie for doing exercise.

And once he had his Trash Pack Fizz Bag, he was all smiles.

We made it to Legoland later that morning.

We saw the amazing Lego figures, like Darth Vader.

We sat in on a workshop where they taught us how to build T Rex.

We watched the 3D movie, which was my favorite part.

And my wife and Kai rode on this…

Although Kai was one of the oldest kids there, he was the only one I heard screaming during the ride, “TOO HIGH!” as he clutched my wife’s arm and tried to get her not to make the ride go up.

Later, he got to pick out one new Lego set for his Safe Month, and another as an early birthday present. And when we got home, he set to work on one right away.

He finished that in less than a day, and then started on the next one as the Super Bowl was about to start.

And though he barely watched any of the game, getting to work on his Lego while eating chips and salsa made for a grand time.

“I love the Super Bowl!” he told us at bedtime.

Ha, I loved that he had a really nice time this weekend.

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