Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Weekend in South Haven

We spent the holiday weekend visiting grandparents in South Haven.

Of course, Kai and I spent part of the time out looking for Pokémon. Here he is by North Beach with the lighthouse in the background.

Later, we went to the beach to go swimming.

Well, Kai wanted to go swimming. My wife and I wanted no part of going in the water. It has been an unseasonably cool spring so far and Lake Michigan has yet to warm up. The air temperature was also cool on this day, only in the upper 60s.

But that didn't stop Kai from going in.

He wanted to try out the snorkeling equipment we bought for our next vacation later this summer.

I was just happy that he didn't implore that I come in and join him in the water.

The next day, Bubbe took us to use the pool at her health club. The water was warmer and much more conducive to swimming.

And speaking of Bubbe, Kai is now taller than her...

The above photo was taken after she demonstrated to Kai how to use the paddle ball.

We always do fun activities in South Haven, but best part of going there is to visit with Bubbe and Papa. We had not seen them since Hanukkah and they were especially happy to see us, and Kai in particular, this time. Here we are getting ready to have the best hot dogs I've ever had (Kosher dogs from Chicago's Romanian Kosher Sausage Co.). Bubbe had red, white, and blue plates and decorations for both Memorial Day and to commemorate my wife recently becoming a U.S. citizen.

On Monday, we took a walk together to walk along the lakefront. Here we are just across from the South Haven lighthouse.

And here we are looking back toward shore. It was a very windy day and there was a man doing kiteboarding. It is hard to see, but in the picture below you can see the giant "kite" in the right top portion of the photo. The kite/sail is connected by rope to a man on a board in the water. With the wind blowing so strongly, he was really sailing across the water very rapidly.

After that, we walked down beside the river and found a spot where Kai could feed ducks.

The ducks here get fed regularly so many of them were not hungry, but Kai found one that eagerly gobbled up the pieces of bread he had.

On the way home from Michigan, we stopped in Chicago to celebrate my birthday with dinner at Chicago Kalbi, a yakiniku restaurant. Yakiniku means grilled meat in Japanese, and yakiniku restaurants are where you can barbecue your own meat right at the table. I believe this cuisine originated in Korea, and you can have a similar experience at Korean BBQ places.

We ordered the kalbi (marinated short ribs), beef tongue, and bulogogi (thinly sliced ribeye in marinade).

Kai said his favorite was the beef tongue, while I liked the ribeye the best.
In addition to the meat, we ordered vegetables to grill. They also brought out kimchi and other fermented Korean and Japanese vegetables which were delicious.

And after we got home, I got to blow out candles and we all enjoyed birthday cupcakes.

So it was a great weekend all around!

Monday, May 22, 2017

We Made a Pokémon Dinner

We made Pikachu and other Pokémon for dinner this evening.

But first...

We had a busy Sunday. The weather here in the Chicago area is still unseasonably cool, but thought it was time to do some spring planting of annuals. Here we are at the gravesite of Kai's biological father, my wife's late first husband.

As Kai is now a teenager, we're trying to prepare him to be more independent, and so we're having him do more things. On this day, we had him help plant the flowers both at the cemetery and back home.

Between all the planting of flowers, we made a quick trip to the mall where Kai could Walk around an play Pokémon Go.

Later in the day we made an activity out of making dinner together.

Kai had found a Pokémon cookbook at our library last week and we decided to make a Pokémon dinner together.

First we would make a Pikachu cake for dessert.

My wife had gathered all of the ingredients and Kai stirred some of it together for a later stage.

The base of the cake is castella, a Japanese sponge cake, that my wife got from a Japanese grocery store. I cut the castella into the shape of Pikachu's head.

My wife made whipped cream and spread it over the castella.

Kai then put a layer of cut strawberries on top of the whipped cream, then we put on another layer of castella over that. My wife spread more whipped cream over the top layer of the cake.

Kai crumbled up the extra parts of the cake that I had earlier cut away when I shaped Pikachu's head. We spread the crumbles over the whipped cream to give the cake the fuzzy yellow texture of Pikachu.

I had earlier trimmed off the brown top and bottom edges of the castella. We used those parts to cut out the eyes, tips of the ears, and Pikachu's mouth which Kai added on top.

Finally, he added strawberries to give Pikachu his red cheeks.

We were happy how it came out!

Next we made the main meal for our dinner. Omurice is a Japanese dish that is sort of a combination of fried rice and omelette.

My wife had cooked the rice and prepared the ingredients. Kai here is stirring together mixed vegetables, slices of weiner, rice, diced onions, and ketchup.

I whipped up eggs with milk, then microwaved it for a minute and put it in the middle of the rice. My wife had hard boiled quail eggs which Kai cut up and put on top of the scrambled egg as the Pokémon's eyes. In the following photo, Kai is cutting out sheets of seaweed to further decorate Psyduck's face.

We used mozzarella cheese for the bill, and here you see the finished product.

We had to make three omurice Pokémon as each one is for one individual. We were getting hungry so we did not stop to take many pictures. :) But here you see the final products. In addition to Psyduck, we made Pikachu and a Pokémon that looked like a sunflower (whose name I have forgotten).

It was a fun family activity. And everything tasted good, too. The Pikachu cake was particularly delicious.

Hope you had a nice weekend, too.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day

As Kai has been getting an allowance for nearly a year now, I wanted him to get something for Mom for Mother's Day using his own money. The goal was to get him to think of someone other than himself, and learn to be generous.

I brought up the idea a couple of weeks ago and he did not like it. "You're stressing me out!"

I explained to him all that Mom does for us and that he should show appreciation for it. I told him that the money he earns should not be just for getting plushies, but for getting something for someone else, like on Mother's Day.

He grumbled, but each time I brought it up he grumbled a little less. The day before Mother's Day, I told him that we would go to a store after our weekly trip to the library. I asked him if we preferred to go to Walgreen's or Target, and he picked Walgreen's. I suspect it was because he knew there would be very inexpensive items there.

So we went to Walgreen's and he scanned through the cosmetics aisle. Well, after he checked the toy aisle first, but he knew that he shouldn't give Mom a Pokemon or anything like that. Small victory.

He looked at all the different lipstick for sale and I could tell that he wanted to find the cheapest one. He finally asked where they carry the lip balm. We went over to a different aisle and I found a lip balm that was more colorful and interesting than Chapstick. If he was going to get something like that, maybe this would be a nice one. He liked that it was under $5.

I had him take it over to the cashier and pay for it himself with his allowance money. It was a good thing that there was no one in back of us in line as he took his time trying to find exact change.

On Mother's Day morning, he gave Mom his handmade card...

And the lip balm. I had told my wife that I had gotten Kai to buy something for her with his own money so she should be really enthusiastic to show him how much she appreciated him thinking of her.

Hopefully, over time and through many experiences like this, he will learn the pleasure of giving to others.

Later in the day we went for a nice walk with Simba. My wife is becoming a real dog whisperer and is getting dogs to walk very nicely with her without pulling or stopping to sniff.

In the afternoon, Kai and I worked on making a Mother's Day dessert. At the library, he found a Pokemon Cookbook. For our first try, we decided to make Pokeballs out of gelatin and plain yogurt.

Alas, the red side of the ball was supposed to be made with strawberry jam and we used jelly so it did not hold together in a ball shape like it was supposed to. Next time we will use jell-o.

For dinner, we went to a Japanese restaurant that we had never gone to before. Izakaya Sankyu is a bit different from most Japanese restaurants around here. Their menu is like an izakaya in Japan, where Japanese businessmen go after work to drink and eat small tapas-like dishes. This place had a large variety of small plates to choose from. We had beef tongue, takoyaki (ball-shaped, made with octopus), yakitori (grilled chicken), spicy chicken wings, fish, mushrooms, and several other things. We finished up with ochazuke (rice mixed with tea and other toppings).

They also had regular entrees and sushi like any other Japanese restaurant, but we stuck with the more traditional izakaya food. Everything was delicious, but the service was pretty bad. The place was packed for Mother's Day and they seemed overwhelmed. It took a long time for them to take our orders and to serve the food. They took several of our plates to the wrong table before my wife noticed the confusion at the other table and told them it was our order. We also had to get used to sitting on the floor (though they had regular tables with chairs as well). But overall, it was worthwhile going there.

So we had a nice Mother's Day. Hope you did, too!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Weekend Schedule

As with many kids with autism, Kai likes to stick to a schedule. These days he creates his own daily schedule. Weekends are particularly important for him to plan as wants to make the most of his free time.

You can see that all of the things that are important to him are on his schedule, among them watching videos, making his YouTube movies, and planning for future films that he will make.

Funny, I don't see reading or math or doing exercise on his schedule.

But we made sure that we did a few other things including getting outside on this sunny weekend and getting a good bike ride in. We even got him to agree to try a new path without a lot of protest.

We went a little farther than our usual route takes us as we covered about six and a half miles. We hadn't done much riding since last year, so our legs weren't in biking shape yet.

But got to see some new sights. Here we are in front of a park in our neighboring suburb of Glencoe. The spring blossoms were beautiful.

We enjoyed the ride - well, my wife and I did. Kai started to grumble toward the end of how tired he felt, but I think he enjoyed most of the ride.

And later he had enough time to complete all of the items on his schedule.

So it was a successful weekend for all. Hope yours was too.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mom is Now a U.S. Citizen!

My wife became a citizen of the United States today.

She had studied hard for her citizenship test and passed it a couple of months ago. Kai and I had helped her prepare a little bit by quizzing her, but mostly she did it on her own.

My wife said that she wanted to be a citizen of the same country as her husband and son.

A couple of weeks ago, at our parent-teacher conference at school, when his teacher asked Kai what he was most proud of, he said he was most proud of his mom becoming a U.S. citizen. The teacher had meant for Kai to talk about some personal achievement that he was proud of, but I liked his answer nonetheless.

The oath ceremony was to take place at noon in the Federal Building in downtown Chicago. I would already be downtown as I work only a couple of blocks away. I really wanted Kai to witness this as well.

My wife would pick up Kai at school and then drive to the train station where they would take the train into the city. We spoke to Kai last night that he would have to ready to go promptly. If he had any type of incident at school that caused him to be late, that would ruin Mom's big day. We also told him that he would have to be on his best behavior in the courtroom. If he didn't think he could do that, then he should decide to stay in school. He hesitated and thought long and hard, and then told us that he would like to go downtown to be there for Mom.

This morning I met them at the Federal Building and Kai was calm. Apparently all had gone well at school.

We had over an hour wait before the oath ceremony began. Kai sat nicely in the courtroom while we waited.

We found out that 105 new citizens would be taking their oath on this day from over 30 countries.

The judge finally emerged just past 1 pm. We were sitting in the back of the room but the judge said that children were welcome to come up front near her to witness the taking of the oath. I encouraged Kai to go up front and he did along with one other youth, and had a good view of the entire courtroom.

It was quite a moment when all 105 stood and the judge took them through the oath. No pictures are allowed in the courtroom until the judge grants permission, which she did at the end of the ceremony.

Here you see my wife receiving her citizenship certificate from an immigration official.

And we all posed for pictures with her.

We were touched that my wife's sister-in-law and her husband came for the ceremony.

Afterward we had lunch and walked around downtown to play some Pokemon Go before taking the train home. At dinner we asked Kai what was the best part of his day. He said besides catching Pokemon, it was seeing Mom become a U.S. citizen.

Indeed it was.

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