Monday, January 27, 2014

Taking Note of Note Taking

My plan to have Kai work on his comprehension skills through the short videos on the BrainPop app hit a snag when he stopped watching the movies. With him often losing points because he did not score well on the quizzes given after the movie, he decided that there were other apps he’d rather play with.

And so I restructured the incentive plan. He would only gain points for doing well on the tests given at the end of each video, but would not lose any if he did not do well. However, he would have to try; on weekends, he would not be able to use the iPad for anything else if he did not do the BrainPop first.

While that new plan got him to watch the video of the day, he still did not perform well on the quizzes. Too often he scored around 50%.

I thought it would help him if he took notes while he watched the movie.

I instructed him to write down the things that were most important. I tried to educate him that good note taking was not about writing every fact, but rather taking note of the most relevant items and writing only things that he would not know or remember otherwise.

Kai proceeded to pause the movie every five seconds and write down everything he heard.

The first time he took notes it took him about forty minutes for him to get through a four minute video.

On the positive side, he scored 100%. I think the act of writing everything down got him to pay attention much more than he had been.

Since then I’ve kept harping on him to not write everything down. As he watches the video, I try to coach him on what he should write and what he can let pass.

Usually he doesn’t do as I say.

Though this weekend he got through a video in about a half hour, so that is some progress.

I think one of the most frustrating aspects of being a parent for me is when my son doesn’t follow all of my great advice.

Do you have any suggestions? I’ll be taking notes.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Kai’s Laughter

My son’s laughter is definitely one of his most notable qualities.

From the time he was very young and his personality was just starting to peek through, it was evident that Kai was a very exuberant child. I recall that at his early IEP sessions, we started out the meetings by going around the table with everyone telling what qualities of Kai they particularly enjoyed. Almost everyone mentioned his smile, personality, or laughter.

Yesterday, he and I took advantage of some fresh snow to go sledding once again. And though the conditions were not as icy fast as the week before, we still had plenty of fast runs down the hill.

On one particular run, one of Kai’s snow boots fell off halfway down the hill. Kai thought it was the funniest thing. I was irritated that I had to go back to retrieve it, and told him to make sure he kept them on his feet from now on.

A few runs later, I told him that I would take a video. He said something about losing his shoe. I told him to not to lose it again. Little did I know that he was planning to deliberately kick off his shoes (snow boots) on this run.

You can see the video of it here. (Apologies that you will have to turn your head to the right to see it properly. I haven’t figured out how to shoot video from my Android phone.)

You can hear on the video that I was a little irked that he deliberately lost his shoes, while he thought it was the funniest thing in the world.

After we got home, he could not wait to see the video and then to show Mom.

He ended up watching the video several more times after this, laughing just as hysterically each time.

And you know what? By that time, he had me smiling, too.

Silly kid.

Sweet kid.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Not Being Able to Distinguish A Deliberate Act From an Accident

Kai is doing much better overall when it comes to his anger and aggression.

But it is still not perfect.

About a month ago, Kai visited and helped out at a food bank along with other kids from school. While there, another boy accidentally dropped a can of food on Kai’s foot.

Kai is still mad about it.

We keep telling him that it was an accident. From what the school told us, the boy did not deliberately do it. But Kai has difficulty distinguishing between the two. In his mind, all that matters is that he suffered pain and so that boy is his enemy.

One further complication is that this boy and Kai share a cab to school. We understand that shortly after the “can incident,” Kai raised a ruckus in the cab when this boy sat next to him. Since then, the school has instructed the taxi driver to seat them in separate rows. And all has been calm.

But earlier this week, a new driver came to pick up Kai. We found out later that she either had not been told or had forgot about the seating arrangement.

She went to the boy’s house after picking up Kai and she seated them in the same row. Kai ended up hitting the boy with his backpack and then had trouble calming down even after he arrived at school.

It is frustrating.

1. The other boy did not intend to drop the can.
2. It happened weeks ago. Why can’t he get over it by now?
3. The taxi is a wide van; it is not like they are sitting directly next to each other. There is a space between them.
4. Kai should not react so angrily regardless.

We spoke to Kai about this. The school had already made him apologize to the boy but we had him do so again. He also apologized to the driver for the trouble he caused.

But I don’t think we have seen the last of him getting angry over an unintentional action of another.

In fact, just yesterday, he had another major incident. We didn’t get the details from school, but from Kai said, it sounds like he over-reacted when another student may have accidentally damaged a project Kai was working on during break time.

So, we will need to continue to work on this.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sledding Failure is a Big Success

This past weekend, Kai and I got in one more time sledding before the warm weather melted all the snow. When we went, there was actually very little snow on the hill – because it had all turned to ice.

Conditions were very fast to say the least. And not only did we fly down the hill, we kept sliding well past the bottom of the hill where it flattened out.

We made several record-setting runs, and then it happened.

We crashed.

As Kai put it, it was an “absolute failure, waa, waa, waa, waa.”

And yet, our failure on the sled was a huge success.

In years past, a crash like this would have terrified Kai and caused him to never want to go sledding again. But this time, he laughed it off and could not wait to make another run.

And when we made it all the way down the hill without crashing, it capped off our most successful sledding outing yet.

Makes me almost wish for more snow so we can go again.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Saying the Darndest Things

Do any of you remember Art Linkletter?

When I was very young, I came home from school every afternoon to find my mother watching Linkletter’s talk show on television. Her favorite segment was when he interviewed young children, who would invariably make some intentionally humorous comment. Linkletter later wrote a book called Kids Say the Darndest Things, which stemmed from these segments.

I think that Linkletter would have gotten a kick out of some of the things Kai has said recently.

* * * * *

When we met with Kai’s teacher at school last month, she told us about how, at the beginning of the school year, Kai “fired” her at least once a day. She thought that they had each adjusted to each other as the firings had become much less frequent these days.

* * * * *

We use a Point Store at home to try to incentivize Kai for certain behaviors. He has a lot of input into the apps, games, or books that are “sold” in the store, while my wife and I set the price, the number of points he has to earn to win the prize.

On a recent occasion, I did not immediately tell him if we would include a certain prize in the Point Store, or how much we would price it at if we did include it. I was not familiar with the app and wanted to research it more before deciding. But as I had to go to work, I did not have time to do that at the moment.

I’ll do it later, I promised Kai.

He responded, “I’ll text you.”


I don’t need my nine-year old texting me! Certainly not about some app that he wants.

I told him that I would get to it when I got home. And that satisfied him.

This time, anyway.

* * * * *

We visited a few assisted living places the other day. At the first place, the woman we met with introduced herself to the three of us.

Kai immediately spoke up.

“We’re looking for a place for my dad’s dad to live. Why is this a good place?”

Ha, no pleasantries with this guy. Let’s get right to it.

After we had toured the facility and wrapped up our visit, the woman told Kai to be sure to be “just as tough on the person you meet with at the next place.”

* * * * *

The three of us were playing a Mario Party game on the Wii the other night. Kai was winning while my wife and I were battling to stay out of last place.

My wife was struggling with one of the mini games so Kai started giving her advice on when to press the buttons.

I grumbled that he didn’t have to help Mom.

“But I want to protect my mom!”

My wife thought that was incredibly sweet. I thought so, too. Though, I continued to grumble.

* * * * *

All this from a boy who, at one time, thought might never say more than two words.

Art Linkletter would have loved it!

Friday, January 10, 2014

More Zumba

The Zumba Wii game that Kai got for Christmas has been a great source of entertainment in our house – well, at least for me and Kai.

Kai is now very motivated to do Zumba several times a week. He thinks of it as fun, not as exercise.

A big reason why he loves it so much is because he loves music and dancing. But he is also motivated by anything that has scores and levels. And this Zumba game is perfect in that regard because it rates your performance after every dance. You work your way up to different levels while unlocking prizes along the way.

Of course, Kai would not like it nearly as much if he fared poorly on the ratings. But he is doing very well.

And that is where the entertainment factor comes in for me.

Kai outscores my wife on every single dance. Every. Single. Dance.

Usually it is not even close.

On one dance the other night, he got four stars, which, according to the program, made him a “Rocker,” while on the very same dance, my wife got zero stars. The program deemed her a “Beginner.”

This irritates my wife to no end. And of course the scoring makes no sense as my wife used to be an aerobics instructor and she has plenty of rhythm and good moves.

But I like to play it up.

I tell her that she just needs to practice more. After all, not everyone can be as good a dancer as Kai. And then Kai joins in.

“Don’t worry, Mom. You have to keep trying. Maybe you’ll be as good as me one day.”

Here’s a short clip of he and I doing one routine together.

Not bad, huh?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Honoring His “First Father”

It is a Jewish custom to light a special candle that burns for 24 hours, called a Yahrzeit candle, on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Yesterday marked the tenth year that my wife has been lighting one for her late husband, Kai’s biological father.

It wasn’t until the past few years that Kai even noticed that my wife did this. Having been in his own world much of the time before, he didn’t seem to notice things like that before.

But over the past couple of years, we have been filling Kai in more and more about his “first father” as he likes to say.

Yesterday, I understand that he prayed with Mom as she lit the candle. And when I got home from work he told me all about it.

When Kai was younger, I wasn’t sure he would be able to comprehend his somewhat complicated family background. That he does, and has such maturity and understanding of what yesterday meant to his mom is quite heartwarming.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Even More Frozen

I woke up this morning and our house was cooler than it usually is. Uh oh.

Sure enough, I discovered that our main furnace was not working.

I called the company that maintained our furnace in the past, and they said that the soonest they could come out was Thursday. Apparently, we were not the only ones with furnace issues.

Well, two more days without heat was not going to cut it. Kai did not mind, though. After all, the iPad still worked!

I called around some more, and found someone to come out today. Our heat is back on.

Even better, it looks like the worst of cold is over for now. Today the temperature got above zero to six degrees. Heat wave!

And best of all, it looks like schools will reopen tomorrow after an extended winter break. My wife is rejoicing at that news.

Hope you all were able to stay warm.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


We just got the call that my son’s school will be closed tomorrow. Not surprising as many other schools in the area had already announced early closures due to the impending severe deep freeze.

We in the Chicago area are used to cold winters, but the next two days may be the coldest days in Chicago history. The high tomorrow will be well below zero, while Tuesday it may warm and we may break zero.

I don't know if we are ready, but I think "our" dog is.

We also got more snow this weekend so we are buried. Here is a look out at our deck and backyard (taken from the comfort inside the house):

Since it was still balmy this morning, about 16 degrees, we went sledding one more time before being shut in for the next few days.

Kai enjoyed it, though the strong wind made it feel really cold already.

Keep warm, everyone!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Progress Noted on the Sledding Hill

When we go to waterparks, my son insists on wearing his swimming goggles because he is afraid of water being splashed on his face. His anxiety about it causes problems when some parks have policies that forbid the wearing of goggles on their waterslides.

I try to tell Kai that he can close his eyes and it’s no big deal if some water splashes on his face, but a big deal is exactly what it becomes.

No, we did not go to a waterpark this week. But, I thought of his waterpark anxiety the other day on the sledding hill of all places.

It was New Year’s Day, and with a foot of new snow, it was a perfect day to go sledding.

On our first run down, our sled cruised through the fresh powder. Kai and I got sprayed with snow from head to toe. We could barely see. Our faces were freezing.

I prepared for Kai’s eruption.

I tried to make light of the situation, laughing and exclaiming how much snow covered us.

For a second there, I wasn’t sure if Kai was going to lose it or not.

And then he smiled and said, “let’s do it again!”

We made about ten runs down the hill that day, getting sprayed each time. And he loved it!

In fact, he loved it so much he went back the next day with Mom while I was at work, and they did ten more runs.

It’s so nice to start off the new year with this nice little success.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

A few weeks ago, we all watched the live version of The Sound of Music. Kai enjoyed it and said he wanted to watch the original movie version as well. So, for New Year’s Eve, we had a special movie night: ribs, shrimp, and the Julie Andrews version of The Sound of Music.

Then we donned our party hats, had my wife's delicious sponge cake for dessert, and prepared to watch the ball drop on Times Square.

Happy New Year!

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