Wednesday, October 28, 2015

He Did It!

Kai returned from his very first overnight camp this afternoon.

My wife spoke with Kai's school therapist and she reported that Kai was "a good trooper" and that he tried all of the activities. Not everything went perfectly, but apparently things went well enough that he had a good time overall.

Kai hates to answer questions and to talk about school-related matters, so my wife waited until I got home from work before we peppered him with questions. That way he would have to talk about it only the one time.

I asked him if he was glad he went, and he said yes.

He described trying all of the activities. He said he was scared of the zip line (even though we had done it in New Hampshire over our summer vacation). He said it took him about 15 minutes before he could jump off and zip down.

He said the high ropes course was even scarier but he did it.

And he tried the climbing wall for the first time. He said he only got a third of the way up, but I was happy that he tried it.

He said the food was good though the spaghetti was not as good as Mom's.

He said he showered in the evening and my wife confirmed that his washcloth was actually wet.

He got one of the top bunks, and said he was able to sleep well.

Apparently he did not get especially homesick, and he seemed to be okay spending a day and night away from Mom.

So, we are both relieved and happy that he was able to do this. I'm sure he had a lot of support from the school staff, but it still was a nice little step toward independence.

Well done, Kai!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Preparing for Kai's First Overnight Camp

We learned that my son's middle school offers a special away-from-home experience for their students. The kids travel up to southern Wisconsin along with the school staff for a two-day, one-night adventure at a YMCA camp. Activities include ropes courses, climbing walls, and zip lining. It was described to us as a highlight of the school year, one that students remember and talk about for months.

Although it is not mandatory that all kids attend, it sounded to us like it would be a fantastic experience for Kai, and we wanted him to take part.

But we knew he would have a lot of anxiety about it.

For one thing, it would be Kai's first overnight away from family.

And so we tried to proactively take some steps to help that it goes as smoothly as possible.

First, we told him without hesitation that he was going to go the camp. We didn't want to waffle and have him think that he could lobby us to keep him home.

Second, we regularly talked to him about what a fun experience it would be. We reminded him that he had already tried zip lining this summer. We pointed out that he would get to stay up until 10PM at camp, an hour later than at home. And we mentioned that if he did not go, he would have to listen to other kids talk about the experience and would regret missing out.

Finally, we asked Kai's school social worker if she had suggestions on how we can reduce his anxiety. She said that she could arrange a tour of the camp so Kai could see it and visualize the experience before he had to go with the group from school.

And so, on Columbus Day, my wife drove Kai up to the camp and they were given a personal tour.

First stop was the dining hall where everyone would have their meals.

Next, they walked around the grounds. The hub of all outdoor activities would be at the "Mount MacLean Skyway."

Here there would be a series of ropes courses where the kids would have to maneuver around tires, ropes, and planks to get from one side to the other.

In addition, on one end of the structure is a climbing wall.

And on the other is the zip line.

Of course, the kids will be wearing safety harnesses and helmets so they will be safe, something that we constantly reminded Kai as he gets anxious about everything.

After that, they walked over to the cabins, set in the picturesque woods, which will be their sleeping quarters.

Kai liked the bunkbeds inside and declared that he wanted one of the top bunks.

The visit to the camp seemed to help lessen Kai's anxiety. But we still worry about how it will go.

Tomorrow is the big day. Kai will go to school in the morning, and then they will all depart for camp. I'm not expecting that all will go perfectly smoothly, but here's hoping that Kai will take part in most activities and come back happy that he went.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Old and New Traditions

We repeated a couple of Kai's favorite fall activities and added a new one this weekend.

Our public library always invites in guys from a local model railroad club to set up the Halloween Railroad. This is always one of the library's most popular events, and Kai still looks forward to seeing it. And I do, too.

* * * * *

This weekend we attended our first Chicago Blackhawks game. For those of you who are not hockey fans, the Blackhawks have become somewhat of a dynasty as they have won three out of the last six Stanley Cup championships. During their last championship run last spring, my wife became a big Blackhawk fan and watched every game with me, and even watched a couple by herself when I had to work late. So, when I suggested that maybe we could all go see a hockey game sometime, she enthusiastically replied, "Blackhawks! Yes!"

This would be Kai's first professional sports event that he would see in Chicago following three baseball games he has gone to (the one in Hiroshima, Japan last year, one in Milwaukee with his elementary school, and the one we went to at Fenway Park in Boston two months ago).

Here we are shortly after we had settled into our seats. (You can see my hand holding half of a giant Italian Sandwich).

The experience of a live sporting event is far different than watching a typical game on tv. At a Blackhawks game, the excitement builds even before the game begins. The playing of the national anthem has become a famous, boisterous tradition as fans cheer throughout and the noise level in the arena keeps rising until the anthem has ended.

Kai, however, stayed quiet during this portion and just kept his hand over his heart and took it all in.

The game itself was good. The Blackhawks mostly dominated the action but just could not score as the game remained scoreless throughout regulation. I was wondering if Kai would get bored, but he seemed to stay engaged the entire time. He always joined in when fans chanted, "Let's go Hawks!"

During breaks in the action, very loud music is blared. It was a bit too loud for my taste as it made it difficult to converse, but it didn't bother Kai and he enjoyed bopping to the music.

It was great to see him enjoy the whole experience.

The game went into overtime, and this was the first time I had seen the new three-on-three overtime rule in action. The Blackhawks scored very quickly, only 17 seconds into the extra period, to win the game.

Afterward, it took nearly an hour to get out of the parking lot so we didn't get home until nearly midnight. Between that and the cost of the tickets, I don't think this will be something we do very often. But as Kai enjoyed it so much, perhaps this is the start of a new tradition to take in a live sporting event in town every now and then.

* * * * *

This was the last full weekend that canoe rentals would be offered at Skokie Lagoons and Kai wanted to go one last time this year. It was a perfect fall day and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon outdoors. My wife's back was aching so we put Kai up front and he and I did all of the paddling this time.

So, all in all, it was a very nice weekend. Hope yours was nice as well.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Continuing Our Fall Pumpkin Tradition

Yesterday we made our annual fall visit to our local pumpkin farm.

Most of the other visitors were families with much younger children; we had wondered if Kai would want to go again, but he tends to like to repeat fun experiences from the past.

Kai wanted to do all of our usual activities, starting with the giant slide.

His big smile indicates that he still enjoys going down the slide, even if it does not seem so "giant" as he has gotten bigger.

Next was the hay ride...

and then the corn maze...

Of course, we had to take our annual photo by the measuring stick..

We picked out a couple of pumpkins and washed them.

Kai wanted to carve them when we got home. We got him a book of stencils and he picked out a couple for our pumpkins.

He carved one pumpkin while I worked on the other.

I was amazed at how patient he was. He meticulously carved away. It was a rare sight to see him this focused on anything non-electronic.

It took about an hour, but we finished our jack o lanterns.

It was nice to share the carving experience with him instead of having to do it all myself.

Nice job, Kai.

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