Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Very Sweet Moment

Sometimes my son still surprises me.

Over the weekend, we had our weekly Skype session with Kai’s grandparents in Japan. Depending on his mood, Kai can be quite talkative with Jiji and Baba.

As his grandparents speak very little English, and Kai does not speak Japanese, this makes holding a conversation very difficult. But that doesn’t seem to matter to a boy who prefers to say his piece without having to listen and respond to anyone else.

In fact, when my wife tries to translate what Kai is saying so that his grandparents would understand, he often gets annoyed, saying, “Mom, stop talking. You’re interrupting me.”

Oftentimes, Kai starts chattering to his grandparents about whatever his passions of the moment are РPokémon, Trashies, some new app on the iPad Рand they often seem puzzled about what he is talking about though amused that he is so talkative and happy.

This time, though, Kai wanted to talk about something else.

His grandfather will be visiting us from Japan in a few weeks. He will join us as we go on a road trip to some national parks out west.

Kai’s grandmother, however, does not like to travel to the States and will not be coming along this time. Kai directed his conversation to her.

“Baba, you can come here because we will have Japan TV (through our cable tv provider).

“Then we will go on vacation. Some of the motels will have swimming pools. And we’ll see mountains and wild animals.

“So, Baba, you have to come!”

It was incredibly sweet to see him plead his case. It surprised me, in part because his grandmother has come to visit only once in the past six years so he hasn’t gotten as close to her as he has his other grandparents.

But it also surprised me because it exposed the love that he holds for others, and the pureness of his heart, which we don’t always see on a day-to-day basis.

We had to tell Kai that Baba won’t be making the trip this time – all of the plans are set. But perhaps she might think about coming the next time.

Kai seemed very disappointed. But he accepted it without anger.

I don’t know that Kai swayed Baba to ever think about coming here again.

But he sure melted my heart.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wanting All My Attention

For the past few days, the dachshund that took a liking to me the last time she stayed with us was back for a return visit. Mint’s affection for me was still strong.

When I got home from work the day she arrived for her return visit, she ran over immediately when she heard me enter the house. With her tail wagging profusely, and while barking very excitedly, she jumped all over me and tried to lick my face. Then she rolled over on her back so that I could give her lots of tummy rubs.

She followed me around everywhere I went, always looking up at me with love.

Her devotion brought on jealousy from the other dog staying with us. Taro normally only cared if my wife played with him, but with Mint attracting so much attention from me, Taro jumped on my lap as if to say, “hey, I want some, too.”

It was nice to get showered with affection from the time I walked in the door. Usually when I return home from work, my wife is busy with preparing dinner while Kai has his nose in his iPad.

But after the novelty of it wore off, it just felt a bit much. Can’t a guy go to the bathroom without a pooch whining from outside the door or, alternatively, staring while I’m ‘going’?

And the kisses on the mouth… let’s just say I much prefer my wife’s kisses.

Having a dog like that is kind of like having another attention-seeking child.

Speaking of which, my son still wants a lot of my attention. But these days he’s able to play a little bit more on his own than before. And not just when he’s on the iPad.

This weekend, he chose to play with the marble run that he got about three years ago. At that time, he mostly wanted me to put it together, and he’s scarcely done anything on his own with it since.

So, it was nice to see him build a few simple runs all on his own.

It’s been a challenge trying to get Kai to spend more time on his own without Mom or Dad always having to do things with him. He likes doing things with us. And as an only child, he doesn’t have siblings to play with. Plus, we rarely have other kids over. And besides, I want to make sure that he doesn’t spend too much time on electronic activities that aren’t educational.

So for now I feel that all the time I spend with Kai is necessary and important.

I don’t have a lot of energy to give to a dog that requires just as much attention.

It was nice having you here with us, Mint. But I’m glad it was only for a few days.

I’ve got a boy who needs my love and attention. And he doesn’t try to lick my face.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Making a Shiva Call

We made a shiva call last week.

For those not familiar, shiva is the Jewish mourning period. The ritual of “sitting shiva” is when family members gather in one home while visitors gather to comfort and pay respect.

Kai’s grandmother’s sister had lost her husband. I tried to explain to Kai that he must be very respectful, as the family is feeling sad for their loss.

I recalled how he got very antsy during the latter portion of the wedding we recently attended, and tried to prepare for that eventuality. I brought along his iPad, and a Nintendo DS which is a handheld electronic game player that we got him as a special reward for making Level 4 at school. I also was prepared to leave at a moment’s notice, and did not expect to stay long.

He seemed very excited to go. I think he generally enjoys new experiences, and besides, Bubbe would be there with another present for him. I was glad that he wanted to go, but hoped that he wouldn’t be too inappropriately happy.

I had coached him on what to say to the immediate family. But oftentimes we coach him and he doesn’t do what we would like.

On this occasion, however, when he got the chance to speak with his grandmother’s sister, he very clearly said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” It brought a smile to her face and she remarked how other (typical) kids weren’t able to express themselves that well.

After that he wanted to go outside where other kids were playing. There was a large trampoline in the backyard, and Kai enjoyed jumping on that.

When the other kids got off the trampoline, Kai did, too.

He asked for his Nintendo DS. He seemed content to play by himself so I took the opportunity to go inside the house and speak with some of the family.

When I came back outside, I saw that Kai was taking pictures of various people with his DS. I learned that the device allows you to create a Mii, which is a cartoonish representation of yourself (or others). Then, you merge the Mii with a photo to get a funny-looking picture of the person.

Kai was going around talking to people, and asking them questions so he could create their Mii.

“What color are your eyes?”

“What color is your hair?”

“What does your hair look like?”

“What’s your favorite color?”

Then he would snap their picture.

And then, he would have to ask their name so that he could save the image.

He was not shy at all. He started out with the few people he knew, but soon was doing this with anyone he could get to cooperate, both adults and kids.

He certainly was much more sociable than I was.

Before long, it was getting past his bedtime. We really should have gotten going. But he did not want to leave. He was having too much fun.

Finally, it was time for everyone to go. And so he gave his relatives one more hug and we were off.

As we were leaving, he expressed, “This was a great party!”

I half-tried to explain that this was not really a party, and hoped that no one else heard him say that.

But, really, I think that he did a great job in providing a respite from the sadness, and in doing so brought comfort to those who were grieving.

And isn't that what making a shiva call is really all about?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Babble’s Tribute to Autism Dads

Autism Wonderland has long been one of my favorites blogs. When its author, Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, writes about her experiences raising her son with autism, it is with such clarity that you feel every anxiety she has, suffer along through all of her challenges, and celebrate with her all of the triumphs.

As a big fan of her writing, I am especially honored to be included in her Father’s Day tribute to Autism Dads that she wrote for Babble. Check it out here: Let’s Hear It For The Autism Dads!

And for those of you here from Babble for the first time, thank you for visiting! Here are a few posts that may give you a little background on our family:

Recalling Our Wedding: The story and photos of day when my wife and I married, and the three of us became a family

Mainstream vs. Special School: Our heartbreak when my son couldn’t stay in our neighborhood school, and what resulted

That’s Impossible!: Sometimes, just when the challenges seem overwhelming, something happens to validate your efforts

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Level 4

He did it!

After coming so close a few months ago, Kai attained Level 4 at school this week.

My son’s public therapeutic school uses a level system. Students transfer to this school when they have behavioral challenges at their neighborhood school. When they first enter the therapeutic school, they are considered Level 1. As they pass progressively tougher standards of good behavior, they attain higher Levels. When they reach Level 5, they may start the process to transition back to their neighborhood school.

When Kai first started at the school in the middle of his kindergarten year, it was hard to imagine that he would make it to Level 2, let alone ever get to Level 4. We went through long periods where he had major incidents seemingly every day. If we had kept all of the shirts he bit and tore to shreds, we would have a dresser full of them.

But in the past year and a half, his incidents occurred less often and were less severe.

And so, in his last week of third grade, he was able to reach this notable milestone.

I still don’t see Kai returning to a mainstream environment anytime soon. He still requires a lot of support at school to help him keep from getting too angry or upset. His therapeutic school can provide that support; I doubt that his neighborhood school would be able to.

But we are very pleased to see the progress he is making.

Good job, Kai! We are very proud.

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