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.

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