Sunday, December 3, 2017

An Early Hanukkah Celebration

Socializing with others remains a challenge for Kai. At school, we're told that he prefers to sit by himself at lunchtime and usually prefers not to interact with the other kids, even when the staff tries to facilitate. He has said that he wants to use those occasions as breaks for himself whereas interacting with others adds to his stress.

But with his family coming over this past Saturday evening for an early Hanukkah celebration, we encouraged Kai to talk with everyone and to play with his cousins. We did not want him to be alone on his iPad all evening.

We were happy to see that he not only made an attempt, but actually enjoyed playing with his cousins.

Here he is partaking in the annual dreidel game with his cousins. He enjoyed the game and came away the big winner.

After dinner, we got him to play some Wii Sports Resort games with his cousins. He was very involved even when it wasn't his turn to play. Watching them play, you likely wouldn't be able to easily tell that he usually has big challenges with socializing.

And then it was time to open presents. My favorite part was when he showed heartfelt thanks without his mom or me having to prompt him.

Here he is with his grandfather.

And with here with Bubbe, who along with Papa gave him a bunch of Mario and other plushes.

And so it was a good evening in many ways. It was nice for all of us to get together, and a good time was had by all. But it was especially nice that Kai fit right in.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Scenes from Our Thanksgiving Weekend

We made our annual trip out east to visit my sister and her family for Thanksgiving.

On the day we arrived, my sister had Kai help out in the kitchen, showing him how to make home-made ice cream.

After mixing the ingredients, Kai poured them into the ice cream maker.

My sister's dog Emi loves to see us, and it's become part of the tradition to take her on a walk down the nearby nature trail.

My sister always makes great meals for us. Here we are about to have satay and fried rice with kabayaki (eel).

Of course, we look forward to the Thanksgiving meal. My sister and brother-in-law grill the turkey over charcoal and it always comes out tender and moist. My oldest nephew Ian is in charge of the stuffing, which Kai had extra helpings of this year.

The day after Thanksgiving, we drove into Alexandria, just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

One highlight was seeing the Torpedo Factory.

The building used to house a torpedo factory, but is now home to about a hundred small art studios of all kinds.

After seeing the art studios, we walked along King Street, had lunch, window shopped, and had ice cream.

We then went to Arlington National Cemetery, the country's largest military cemetery which serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family.

We went to see the gravesite of former President John F. Kennedy which has an eternal flame.

Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee, is at the top of the cemetery and provides a great view of Washington D.C. with the Capitol Building and Washington Monument visible in the distance.

We went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where a sentinel stands guard 24 hours a day, ritualistically marching 21 steps back and forth in front of the tomb and pausing 21 seconds on each side. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed—the twenty-one gun salute.

At the top of the hour, we witnessed the changing of the guard ceremony.

It was also moving to see the symmetrical rows of tombstones throughout the cemetery.

On our drive back home from my sister's place, we stopped in the town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia and visited the bath house.

The town is fed by mineral springs and they have a bath house where they heat the spring water to 102 degrees. You can reserve a private bath for a half hour. It was very relaxing and my wife particularly enjoyed it as it is very reminiscent of a Japanese onsen.

George Washington used to visit the spring and they have preserved the bathtub he used to use.

And so we had a good holiday weekend. Hope yours was nice as well.

Friday, November 3, 2017

1,000 Jack-O'-Lanterns and Other Halloween News

This year's Halloween had some good and bad moments.

On the good side, Chicago Botanic Garden had a special Halloween event last weekend.

Using scalpels, knives, gouges, and power tools, artists had carved over 1,000 pumpkins including many very large ones that weighed more than 150 pounds.

There were many different themed jack o'lanterns.

I liked the spooky ones the best.

My wife had told Kai that he could wear his Halloween costume to the event. But when we got there, we saw that no one else was in costume so Kai got a little self-conscious. He refused to wear his mask, and when we took the following picture he said, "Mom, you can wear the mask!"

It was a fun evening as we enjoyed seeing all the different designs.

Kai took many pictures with his phone and had a great time.

He later made a video using all of the pictures he took. You'll get a much better idea of all the different themes such as musicians, Chicago sports, Halloween classics, Day of the Dead, and others.

Halloween itself wasn't a complete success, though.

The days of Kai wearing cute costumes has passed and he now prefers scary ones. This year his costume was of the grim reaper, and the mask was particularly frightful as you can make simulated blood flow through. My sister and brother-in-law were in town so they accompanied Kai as he went around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating. Kai went up to younger children and deliberately frightened them, even after my sister told him not to do it anymore. It was very disappointing to hear.

Later, my wife and I expressed our disapproval for his actions, Kai was very upset the whole evening. One of the challenges with him is that too often he doesn't accept help or listen to what others (staff at school, relatives) are telling him in the moment, and then later he feels frustration with himself for not being able to stop himself from doing something that he shouldn't have done. We remind him all the time that he needs to accept help before things go too far; not sure how to make him do that in the moment.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kai's Latest Creation

This is Kai's latest creation:

Kai first made the main parts of the character. This character wears a vest so here Kai is working on making the vest.

There are stripes on the vest so Kai is working on that part here. He cut out the white stripes, then pin them to the blue vest before later sewing them into place.

Kai works visually, pulling up a picture of the character he is making on his iPad.

In this next photo he getting ready to attach one arm to the body.

And here he is sewing it to the body.

He does his work while the dogs relax on the couch nearby.

And here he is sewing the hat to the top of the character.

And finally, here he is with the end result.

Another nice job, Kai.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Door County Camping Weekend

After a year off, we resumed our fall camping tradition, going back to one of our favorite spots, Door County in northern Wisconsin.

As we were setting up our tent, Kai spotted a frog...

Which he later caught. We convinced him to let it go.

The next day, Kai wanted to go to the nearby beach. The water was cold, so he was very tentative about wading in.

But it didn't take him too long to make the plunge and start swimming. You're not supposed to be able to swim in Lake Michigan in October, so this was bonus swim time.

After lunch, we went on a bike ride. Peninsula State Park has great trails through the woods. The one we went on wasn't too difficult, but it did have some hills which would have challenged Kai before. But we had graduated him to a bigger bicycle and it definitely made it easier for him.

At the end of the trail was a frozen custard stand which was a nice reward for a good ride.

Kai said he actually enjoyed riding his new bike, so maybe he will want to get out and go riding more often.

In the evening, we had Korean barbecue for dinner.

And then we made s'mores which Kai particularly enjoyed.

After dinner, we walked back to the beach to play some card games at the shelter. After our last game, my wife notice a bright light on the horizon and exclaimed, "What is that? Is that the moon?"

And when we walked to the shore to get a better look, we saw the biggest, brightest moon I've ever seen rising in the horizon.

It was a spectacular sight! Even Kai wanted to take a picture of it.

The next morning, we got up to use the bathroom just at sunrise. The sun came up behind the land, but we saw some nice color over the lake just to the side.

We got a good fire going to cook breakfast. Kai's favorite part of camping is the fire.

After taking down our tent, we found an apple orchard where we were able to pick our own.

We filled up two bags, one with Honey Crisp to eat, and the other with Cortland to make pies and apple sauce.

Fall is our favorite time to get outside, and this was the perfect fall weekend for a good camping trip. I think Kai enjoyed it, too, even with very restricted use of electronics.

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