Sunday, September 23, 2012

Missing Out

Now that I am working downtown and am out of the house all day, I am missing out on the things that happen at home while I am at work.

This week, my wife started taking care of a 7-week old puppy during the day. Riley arrives at our house shortly after I leave in the morning, and is gone before I get home. She only comes during the week, so I have yet to meet her.

My wife adores the pup, and Kai looks forward to her arrival every morning as well.

I know that most dads are used to being away from home all day. For me, it is still an adjustment.

In many ways, it will be a good thing that my son develop independence and a bit of separation from his parents, and that we have separate portions of our lives as well.

The puppy will probably be fully grown before I ever meet her. I don’t mind that.

I just don’t want to become one of those dads that miss out on all the important events in his child’s life because he was working all the time.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Bump in the Road

My son’s string of safe days at school ended earlier this week.

Kai’s therapeutic school uses various types of positive reinforcement to try to encourage good behavior by their students. In one program, the teacher awards a star when she sees a student doing something that she wants to recognize. When the student fills his sheet with stars, he can turn it in for a small prize.

On Tuesday, Kai’s teacher started a new policy regarding the stars. Students were no longer permitted to ask for a star; the teacher would only reward one if the student did not ask.

I can certainly understand why she would do this. At home, Kai sometimes incessantly asks for something, and will not stop even after we let him know that we heard him and made it clear that it is not open for any further discussion. My guess is that he was just as persistently annoying at school, and probably was the primary reason for the new policy.

Kai was not happy about the change.

We heard that he got very angry. He displayed unsafe behavior, deliberately peeing on the bathroom floor, among other things.

When I got home from work that evening, he got angry when I asked him about what happened at school.

Part of his anger was over the new policy, but I think that some was due to his frustration over again failing to achieve the “Safe Month” award at school.

“It’s too hard!” he kept saying, referring to his ability to stay safe for an entire month.

I tried to encourage him that he had stayed safe all month until this day. He could achieve the award next month if he could put aside his anger.

Kai was not optimistic, and his concern not turned to the booster pack of Pokémon cards I had promised him if he had stayed safe at school all month.

“Make it easier!”

I don’t want to get in the habit of changing the criteria for a reward every time he does not achieve it.

But, in this case, he had had a great month up to now and I didn’t want to discourage him from trying to get back on track.

I told him that I would give him a mulligan for this one incident. If he stayed safe the rest of the month, I would give him the Pokémon cards. But he had to accept the new policy. I did not want him to complain about not being able to ask for stars. And, he could not say inappropriately mean things about his teacher anymore.

The next day, he had a great day at school. I was relieved to see that his anger did not carry over. And then he had two more great days after that.

In the past, something like this would linger on for days or weeks. This time it was just a bump in the road.

Progress. Yes, progress.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Dogs

We had two dogs this weekend.

Mancha is a three-legged marvel. She gets around better than most dogs with four legs.

Georgie is friendly, gentle, and perhaps the best companion for Kai yet. Bigger than any other dog we have had so far, she doesn’t seem to mind when Kai wants to hug her.

They accompanied us to the art fair and soccer game, and hung out with us no matter what we were doing.

Beautiful weather, nice dogs, and good times. You can’t ask for a better weekend.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Better Week

Now that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I got over my illness and was able to go to work every day this week. I started to settle into my new job, and all of us are settling into the new routine.

The best thing, and perhaps the biggest surprise, is that Kai has been doing amazingly well. He has adjusted to everything without a hitch.

We thought the changes at home would be tough for him to get used to, especially as he is also beginning a new school year with some changes in his classroom staff and schedule. But he has had a great disposition every day, rarely getting frustrated. And that has translated to school as well. He is off to a great start this school year, and it is especially wonderful that he has been safe every day. We haven’t had to throw out a shirt yet. ☺

The other night was Family Night at school. We got to see Kai’s third grade classroom, and meet the staff. Here, he is showing the robot the kids made from recycled materials they brought to school.

Kai’s school has a Point Store where students can 'spend' the points they earn for good behavior on small toys or treats. Kai suggested that we open a Point Store at home, too.

We thought that was a good idea, so we opened our store in conjunction with the start of the school year. Kai and I jointly determined how he could earn points, and the ‘prices’ of the items for sale.

We decided that he can earn points for having a safe day at school, earning a specified score on his school Point Sheet, and for not knocking on our bedroom door in the middle of the night.

I don’t know if the Point Store contributed to his good few weeks of school, but I do know that the incentive to earn points strongly motivated him to not wake us up at night. I think we may have finally broken his habit of having to have me sleep in the extra bed in his room.

With his good performance, Kai quickly earned enough points to ‘buy’ his first reward, a Basher book on Rocks and Minerals.

Who knew that rocks and minerals would lead to a good night’s sleep?

A happy boy, a rested dad, and a good week all around; gotta love it!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The First Few Days

Well, that didn’t go as I wanted.

On the evening after my first day on the new job, I felt exhausted. At that point, I was doing some wishful thinking that I just needed to get used to that long walk from the office to the train station. But later, when I started to feel chills, I realized that I was coming down with something.

I loaded up with vitamin C and medicines.

The next morning, I went back to work. There was no way I could call in sick on the second day on the job.

The meds, along with adrenaline, gave me strength. I felt okay all morning.

But, by afternoon I found it hard to concentrate. And after 5 PM, I just wanted to get home.

I was still sick the next morning. I had a fever in addition to other symptoms. I really hated to do it, but I decided it was best to stay home, rest up, and hope to recover in time for the intensive training that begins tomorrow.

So, yes, I am now that person who called in sick on his third day on the job.

My wife was not exactly sympathetic.

“You’ll probably get fired,” she said.

I believe that the increased stress she’s been under the past few days caused her to get her words mixed up. What she meant to say was, “sorry you’re feeling so badly. I’m sure things will work out.”

The bright spot in all this is that Kai has done remarkably well with the big change.

He had a very good week of school. He had a safe week. And he was a mostly jovial mood at home.

He just came home from another session at the pool with the diving board. This time, even from this morning, he talked about how he could not wait to go off the board.

I’ll tradeoff a little discomfort for seeing my son do so well.

Though, I’d rather we all were fine.

Let’s see what the next few days bring.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Big Change

A few weeks ago, I came downstairs wearing a suit and tie. Kai smiled and asked why I was all dressed up.

We explained to him that I was going downtown for a job interview.

He said he wanted to take a picture with me, and then he and my wife wished me luck.

They must have sent some good fortune my way. I did well in my interviews and received an offer.

This morning, I start my new job.

For as long as I have been a father, I have been working from home. It has allowed me to spend more time with my son than most fathers are able to. And for a boy like Kai who needed so much special attention, it worked out well that I was able to do that.

Way back when Kai was getting ABA at home, I was there to meet his therapists and to see them in action. I learned a lot during that time. And once he started school, I was there when he came home from every day, and spent a lot of time with him.

But all that changes today.

I will be commuting by train every day. I will be out the door shortly after Kai wakes up in the morning and won’t get home until dinnertime at the earliest.

Going back to working in an office and commuting will be a big change for me. But I am confident that I will adjust and get comfortable.

The bigger adjustment will be for the rest of the family.

Kai is a boy who does not handle change very well.

When we told him that once I start my new job, I will not be home when he gets home from school, he asked how long that will be for. When we told him that it would be like that from now on, he said, “That’s no good!”

But in the days since, he seems to have accepted the idea. Last night, he told my wife, “Mom, it’s going to be a hard life without Dad.”

Hey, I’m not dying!

I have a feeling that the biggest adjustment may be with my wife.

I won’t be there to help her get Kai to take all his medicines and be ready to leave for school in the morning. I won’t be there to spend time with him in the afternoon when she is trying to prepare dinner. I won’t be there to tag in when things get stressful.

At one time, it would have been much harder for me to leave them alone. It is a testament to Kai’s progress, and to my wife’s growth as a special needs parent that I feel confident that they will be okay without me around as much.

I will miss not being there to see Kai when he gets home. I will miss not hearing him talk about what is on his fantastic mind. I will miss not getting to check in once in awhile to witness his progress in his swim lessons, or to hear from his speech therapist about the latest conversation they had.

The hardest adjustment for me will not be the commute or getting to know my new co-workers, it will be having to get used to not having as much involvement in my son’s daily life.

You know, come to think of it, maybe this transition will be toughest on me after all.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Last of the Dog Days of Summer

Kix is finishing up his third stay with us today and it looks like we won’t have another dog for awhile. With the passing of Labor Day, summer travel season is over and there aren’t many people looking for dog sitters.

Kai has enjoyed all of the dogs we have had.

Well, maybe not so much the one that peed on his bed.

Though he actually likes it when a dog does something he or she is not supposed to do.

The first time a dog did their business inside the house, Kai shouted with glee. “Give her a timeout, Mom!” He was delighted that someone other than him would be punished.

He was slightly let down when Mom said that timeouts don’t work on dogs.

But the next time something like that happened, he again was laughing and jumping for joy while my wife and I rushed to clean up the mess.

Even aside from his silly pleasure over the poop and pee accidents, Kai was very happy to have the dogs in our house.

And he was disappointed to learn that we probably won’t have another one for at least a few weeks.

“That’s too long! I want to get another dog.”

No, we are not going to rush out to buy a dog.

But it is nice that our son now wants one so much. It is a complete turnaround from a few years ago.

Any time my son overcomes a fear, and develops an attachment toward another living thing, is a good time in my book.

So who knows, perhaps one day, the dog days will be with us all year round.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Picking Raspberries

We have a lot of free time on this Labor Day weekend, so we drove over the border to Wisconsin yesterday.

We took our latest dog with us. Kix is actually staying with us for the third time, and he is very comfortable with all of us. On the ride up in the car, he seemed to enjoy sitting on my wife’s lap.

At one point, though, he started making a howling-type sound. We weren’t sure if he was feeling anxious or was singing to the song on the radio. Kai said that it was Dog Idol.

Our destination was the farm where always go for pick-your-own strawberries earlier in the summer. This was our first trip there for pick-your-own raspberries.

I must say, raspberries are a lot easier on the back than strawberries. As they grow on bushes, you do not have to bend over as much to pick them. Another bonus is that the peak of the strawberry season around here is mid to late June, and it is almost always hot and humid in the wide-open fields. But on this first day of September, the temperature was just right for picking berries.

Kai usually likes picking fruits, but sometimes something will agitate him and it cuts short our time. On this occasion, he was in a great mood the entire time, and we all enjoyed it.

Afterward, we drove over to the shores of Lake Michigan and found a great spot for a picnic lunch.

Other than Kai getting a bit angry when we drove into an area with heavy traffic on our way back, it was a nice little day trip.

Hope you are having a nice weekend, too.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Tin Boy

Our town had an art fair last weekend. We asked Kai if he wanted to go.

“Do they have tins?” he asked.

Umm, no.

Kai still had his grandfather’s hobby on his mind even though we were home.

Mom remembered that there was a large flea market about a half hour away, and there was a chance that a couple of the vendors might sell some tins, so we decided to go there instead.

There were rows of vendors, selling every type of junk you can imagine.

It started to cloud up as soon as we got there so we hustled to see as much as we could before it started to rain.

We found one vendor who was selling two tin containers amidst his table of assorted other stuff.

Kai wanted both.

I asked the vendor how much he wanted for each tin.

“$5,” he said.

I ideally would have wanted to look around more. But the threat of rain seemed imminent and it didn’t look like there were many others selling tins.

We ended up agreeing on $8 for two. (I have a feeling that Papa would tell us that we overpaid, as I don’t think that these were old or unusual tins).

The man started to hand me the tins. I told him that they were for Kai.

“They’re for him?” he asked incredulously as he pointed at Kai.

I must have the only kid that ever wanted to buy a tin from this guy.

He joked that he would have charged more for me, but since they were for the boy, he gave me a good price.

Shortly after that, it started to rain lightly. It didn’t matter that we were barely getting wet, Kai has a fear of rain and he wanted to leave immediately.

As outings go, it was short and sweet. Which is not so bad for us.

And now we have another tin in our house to show Papa the next time he visits.

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