Sunday, July 23, 2017

We're in Hawaii!

To celebrate our tenth anniversary, we picked a special destination for our summer vacation - Hawaii!

It was a long flight - over 9 hours - made longer when our plane waited at the gate at O'Hare for folks who were connecting from a delayed flight. Then once on the ground in Hawaii, we had a long wait at the rental car agency and then hit bad traffic when a tunnel was closed and we had to u-turn to go around the long way.

But once we finally arrived at our destination, we were all happy. We are renting a cottage for our week on Oahu, trying this instead of staying at a hotel. Our cottage is away from the crowds of Waikiki, in a quiet residential neighborhood on the windward (east) side of the island. The best part is that it is only a very short walk to the beach, which Kai wanted to see right away.

Here we are on the path to the beach:


And here we are on Kailua beach:


It wasn't sunny, but the beauty still was evident and our cares drifted away.


We got in late so there was no time for a swim, but Kai got to wade in for a few minutes.


We wrapped up our long day with dinner. We first went to a seafood restaurant, but with the wait time of an hour and 45 minutes, we went to Japanese barbecue restaurant instead. The food was just okay, but we were starving and tired and just wanted to gobble down food and get to bed.


Looking forward to really settling in tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Kai's Latest Creation - Porygon Z

For Kai's latest project, he wanted to make a Pokémon, Porygon Z.

He pulled up a picture of the character on the iPad, and cut out pieces of blue and pink felt. He does not use a template.


This was his most challenging creation yet as there were different pieces that had to come together.


He did get frustrated at times when he was working on the most difficult parts.


But mostly he stuck with it.


He glued on the eyes but all the remaining parts were sewn. Mom helped just a little bit when Kai was trying to connect the head to the body, but otherwise he did it all himself including connecting the arms and beak to the body.


He was pleased with the results.

So was I!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

More Sewing!

Kai's interest in sewing and creating his own plush creations has continued.

A few weeks ago, we all stopped by a craft store so he could pick out the sheets of felt he wanted for his next project. He used his phone to look up a pictures of the characters he wanted to make in order to match the colors.


He paid for the material with his allowance money.

In the next photo, Kai is starting to work on the head of one of the characters. He opens a picture on his iPad in order to make sure his design matches.


For this character, he glued some of the facial features while sewing the main parts of the body.


The following photo shows one of his works in progress.


And the next photo shows Kai holding the two finished products. Note that these were a little more complicated than his first project (which is on the bed directly in front of him) as these latest ones have arms and legs which he had to attach to the main part of the body.


After he finished those two, he went on to make a pig-like Pokémon character called Swinub. On his earlier creations, he had Mom help with some of the starting and finishing points of the sewing, but he was able to make Swinub all by himself with no help.

Here he is showing Swinub to his grandparents in Japan during our weekly Skype conversation.


Kai is now working on his most challenging creation yet. I'll post on that when he finishes.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Taste of Chicago

We didn't have any dogs today so we thought we would go into the city and check out Taste of Chicago.

Chicago has many festivals throughout the summer, but Taste of Chicago is the granddaddy of them all. I used to go every year when I was single and lived in the city, but it has been many years since I last went. This would be the first time we would go with Kai.

It was hot and crowded, though not as crowded as when I used to attend years ago.


Although pizza is a big seller, we wanted to try more unusual offerings. Here we are trying Korean pork belly steamed buns.


And the following photos shows us with African jerk chicken.


Alas, on this hot day, Kai's favorite, and my wife's as well, was this watermelon bar.


But what Kai liked most of all was standing under a spray of water and cooling off.


Before we left, we stopped by Buckingham Fountain.


I had fond memories of the Taste from my younger days, but we all agreed that this was a one-time visit for us as a family. Oh well, you try different activities and some are more interesting than others. And considering that the other activity we were considering was going to the Cubs game and they ended up losing 14-3, well, I guess this wasn't so bad.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dog Walking

Kai wanted to earn some extra money so my wife offered to pay him for walking dogs this summer. But she is training her dogs to walk nicely, and he would have to walk with them the same as she does.

Most people walk their dogs on long leashes and let the dog go pretty much where ever they want to go. In that case, the dog decides when they want to walk, when they want to stop and sniff, and it ends up being the dog walking the person rather than the other way around. My wife is working to have her dogs walk next to her, not ahead of her. That way it is safer for everyone and the dog gets good exercise. (After a nice walk, she will then take the dog to a dog park or let them run in our backyard to have play time).

Here she is telling Kai what to do and how to hold the leash.


And here you see him with Volt, a 7-month old puppy. Kai is holding the leash short to keep Volt next to him, but he doesn't need to clutch the leash tightly. In fact, it is better to be relaxed and show the dog you have confidence.


Kai has a nice straight posture that reflects his confidence.


He's doing a nice job of walking with Volt. But either my wife or I will accompany him on all walks until he is older just in case something happens.


Still, it is nice to see him show initiative and take responsibility.

And Volt is the perfect dog to pair with him right now.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day 2017

It was a busy Father's Day.

In the morning, I helped Kai film a couple scenes for his latest video.

Kai decorated this t-shirt for me that he bought with his allowance money. My wife said he looked for the cheapest shirt he could find, ha! I'm sure he enjoyed decorating it, though.


In the afternoon, we drove up to Wisconsin for our annual strawberry picking excursion. Fortunately, it was not as hot as it had been for the previous few days, and a nice breeze kept us reasonably cool.


But it was still back-breaking work to pick the berries and the picking was not as good this year. The strawberries were small and a large crowd the previous day had picked over most of the crops. My wife had had enough by the time we filled two boxes. Kai enjoyed the picking and eating though, and I will enjoy eating our harvest in the next several days.


In the evening, we went to a dim sum restaurant. It was very crowded but my wife had made a reservation so we got seated pretty quickly while a crowd of people waited in the entry.

My favorites were several of the dumplings we tried.


Everything was very tasty, and the price was very reasonable.

It was a very nice Father's Day. But then, when you're a father, every day is kind of a special day.

Hope all of you dads out there had a nice day, too!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Kai Goes to Overnight Camp

A few weeks ago, our friends who have two boys with autism told us about an overnight camp for kids with special needs. They said that their boys attended last year and wanted to go again. As Kai has had many playdates with one of the boys, Timothy, it sounded like a potentially good opportunity for Kai so we asked him if he was interested in going. When he learned that Timothy would be there, he said he wanted to go.

Kai has been on overnight camps through his school the past two years. But those were for one night each whereas this would be for three nights. And unlike the camp through school, there would be no staff at this camp who were familiar with Kai and the nuances of his behavior.

So we were a little nervous as the days to the camp drew near. This camp was run by a Christian organization and we were especially concerned that Kai would be disrespectful or say something inappropriate during religious class or when the group was saying a prayer. We spoke to him repeatedly that he needed to show respect, and that it would be good for him to learn something new.

But telling him and having him actually do what we say are two different things. So, our anxiety did not dissipate.

On Tuesday, my wife dropped Kai off at the camp. Each camper was assigned a personal counselor, and Kai's was a high school student. My wife said that she was very nice, as were all the staff she met.

During Kai's last camp through school, he sent several texts throughout the day including one where he said he wanted to go home. But on this day, we did not get a text from him until just before his bedtime.


We were relieved that he thought that things were going okay.


The next day, we again did not hear from him until late in the evening. That was a good sign. This time his message was even more positive than the one he had sent the first night.


He had won third place in the talent show. Ahead of the camp, we were wracking our brains trying to think of what Kai could do at the talent show. Finally, my wife remembered that as a young boy he had memorized the periodic table. We asked Kai if he still remembered it, and whether he would want to recite it as his talent for the show. He said he did, and reviewed all the elements ahead of time to refresh his memory.

Meanwhile, back at home, my wife and I took the opportunity to have a date night. We went out for dinner at a South American restaurant in our area. My wife had a Brazilian skirt steak.


I had Churrascos, a dish that included skirt steak, chicken breast, and Brazilian sausage.


Camp ended today and we got the full report from Kai when he got home. He said the food was great, the pool was awesome, and he had a good time and wants to go again next year. Here he is holding a dvd of Shrek the Third which was his prize for the talent show.


Kai's camp counselor said that Kai got upset only once, when his team lost some activity, but that overall he did very well and enjoyed the camp very much.

So, we are very relieved and happy.

It was a very good camp experience for Kai.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Kai's Latest Interest... Sewing!

As you know by now, Kai loves plushies. He also loves to draw.

His latest interest sort of combines these two loves as he has started to create his own plushies.

He came up with the idea and I suggested that he ask Mom to teach him to sew. She showed him the basics and got him started.


But I was happy to see that he wanted to do most of it himself, not just to have Mom do it for him.


My wife watched him carefully, and stepped in where necessary to clean things up or show Kai how to sew a particular part.


But after a while, he seemed to get the hang of it and worked on it largely on his own.


Though he did want Mom's help when he was starting to work on the facial features.


He had been working on it off and on for a couple weeks, and just finished it up.


Not bad for a first effort, huh?

I like that he's learning a life skill while he's having fun.

Monday, June 5, 2017

One More Pokémon Dinner

We tried a couple more recipes out of the Pokémon cookbook that Kai found at our public library a few weeks ago - Pikachu and Poké Ball sushi.

My wife made sushi rice, then Kai helped fan it. Fanning the rice facilitates quick cooling, which gelatinizes the surface of the rice and gives a shiny finish to the rice.


After that, Kai and I drained a can of tuna and mixed it with sugar and soy sauce. Here you see Kai mixing it all together.


While we were doing that, my wife made scrambled rice.


We lined a bowl with plastic wrap, then put down a layer of the scrambled egg at the bottom. We followed with a layer of the tuna, followed by a layer of sushi rice. Kai spread everything out and patted it down. The rice was very sticky, but Kai didn't mind too much.


After that, I flipped the bowl onto the plate. So, the egg part was now visible on top. Kai placed slices of carrots that my wife had cut for Pikachu's mouth and cheeks. He then cut eyeballs from a sheet of seaweed.



And here's the finished product:


Now it was on to the Poké Balls.

We took pieces of smoked salmon and wrapped it around rolled up balls of sushi rice. As these balls are supposed to be half red and half white, the salmon should only cover half of the rice.


Kai cut from the sheets of seaweed to finish up the decoration of the Poké Balls


And here is Kai with the finished products:


My wife also made cold shabu shabu, a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat boiled in water which are eaten with dipping sauce.

It was a little hard to cut up Pikachu, but we were hungry so it had to be done. :)

It was a delicious meal all around.

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