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.
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