Monday, December 31, 2018

A Look Back At Kai's First Semester of High School, and New Year's Mochi

This time of year is a great time to reflect back while also looking ahead.

2018 was a significant year for Kai as he graduated from middle school and began high school. After eight and a half years at a therapeutic school, his return to a regular school for high school has been mostly successful. He seems to be doing well in his classes - it looks like he will earn A's in English, reading, science, and history plus a B in algebra for his first semester. Though his classes are considered to be "fundamentals" and seem to be very basic. We worry that these classes won't offer him the opportunity to attend college, but that will be a discussion we need to have with his school.

Besides grades, though, our biggest concern going in was whether or not Kai would be able to handle the environment of a much larger school. In that regard, his transition has been relatively successful. His classes are all within a self-contained special ed program so he is getting a lot of support. While Kai is making gains in many areas, he still struggles when his environment becomes ambiguous and unpredictable. He especially struggles with socialization, preferring to exercise control over things and not wanting to have direct collaboration with peers. We were hoping that attending a regular school would expose him to more socialization opportunities but he has little desire to socialize with others, and while we encouraged him to join extracurricular clubs to expand his high school experiences, the few he tried haven't gone particularly well.

The best 'extra' experiences have been those we enjoyed together with him, such as at a couple of his school's football games.

Kai's cousins are part of the marching band and Kai enjoyed seeing them in the halftime performances.

Most kids go to the games with their friends, not their parents. Not sure if that is something that Kai will want to do in the coming few years.

I have a feeling that in terms of socialization, progress will be slower than we had hoped. But as Kai goes into his second semester of high school, let's see if can be more comfortable in ambiguous situations.

* * * * * *

A Japanese tradition is to make mochi for New Year's. As Santa brought us a mochi maker this Christmas, we made our mochi for the first time.

My wife used the mochi machine to cook the sweet rice and then knead and pound it. (In the old days, pounding the rice was a manual process and part of the ritual of making mochi.) My wife took the mochi out of the machine.

She then showed me and Kai how to shape the mochi into individual pieces.

And then it was our turn to try.

With our own machine, we can make mochi whenever we want to and don't have to make too much at one time.

We had some for lunch today and will have more tomorrow with our ozoni, the Japanese soup containing mochi rice cakes that is part of the Japanese New Year tradition.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Celebrating Mom's Birthday

We went to a teppanyaki restaurant last night to celebrate my wife's birthday. We have been to all of the teppanyaki restaurants in the area, but like Tsukasa of Tokyo the best.

Not only is the food good, but the chefs there are particularly skilled at entertaining you while preparing your meal. It is the one restaurant we can go to where Kai does not make a fuss about using his phone as the chefs are always doing something interesting.

One of the most difficult tricks that our chef performed was tossing a raw egg up in the air with his spatula, catching it with the spatula, and repeating many times before finally cracking the egg in half onto the griddle as it came down for the final time.

A staple at these types of restaurants is tossing small pieces of food, broccoli in this case, at the patrons to catch with their mouths.

Kai came close to catching it a couple of times, while my wife got hers on the first try!

Another favorite is lighting the stack of onions on fire...

And then turning it into a steam engine and having everyone go "Choo Choo" as the chef pushes it across the griddle.

Of course, no matter how entertaining a place is, it wouldn't be worthwhile if the food wasn't good. We all had steak combos - I had it with scallops, Kai had it with shrimp, and my wife had lobster. All of it was very tasty!

All in all, we really enjoyed it!

We came home to complete the evening with birthday cake.

And to give Mom her cards and presents. Kai loves to draw and made a card with many characters.

He also gave Mom a present that he bought with money he had saved from his allowance and from what he received as gifts. Giving gifts is not yet something that comes naturally to Kai so I had to prompt him to do so and help him select the present.

Last weekend, he and I went onto Amazon to shop for something he could give to Mom.

He started out by typing "gifts under $10." I suggested that he should think of something that Mom would like rather than to search based on how much he wanted to spend.

Next he searched for "dog gifts." That was a step in the right direction but the search resulted in items for dogs, not people, and I didn't think my wife needed any more of those.

I prompted Kai to think of other aspects of his mother.

"Well, she's always stressed out." Ah, now we're getting somewhere. I suggested he search "stress relief."

Eventually we came upon a selection of aromatherapy sleep masks which I thought my wife would like as she has been having difficulty sleeping. There was a nice one for around $18.

It was more than Kai wanted to spend.

He wanted to get the $9 one which wasn't as nice.

I reminded him of how much Mom does for him. I encouraged him to be generous. I spoke to him about how generous others in our family are to him and how much money he has saved up as a result.

Okay, I goaded him.

And eventually he agreed to buy the more expensive one.

Later in the day, he came to me and said, "Dad, I need to be more generous. I'll try to work on that."

When my wife opened the present, she loved the gift and expressed great joy.

I know Kai saw how happy he had made his mother. Hopefully that made him feel happy, too.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

First Week of High School

Kai finished up his first full week of high school, and I don't have too much to report.

And that is a good thing.

It has been nine years since Kai started kindergarten. Back then we were excited that he would be attending our neighborhood school, but also very anxious about how he would do there. It wasn't long before daily incident reports started to pile up, and he ended up transferring to a public therapeutic school a few months later where has been since.

Now he is back with typical kids, starting his freshman year at our community's high school.

I'm happy to say that it has been an uneventful week.

Every day we ask Kai how the day went, and he gives us a one word answer of "okay" or "good." When we probe, we are sometimes able to get him to talk about what he had for lunch (he likes buying school lunches) or a sentence or two on a couple of his classes.

But what we're most happy about is what he isn't saying.

He hasn't "fired" any of the staff yet. He isn't complaining about how annoying the other students are.

And for a kid who used to go to a middle school with far less than a hundred students and is now attending a high school with more than a couple thousand, that is something.

There's no question that as his first week wrapped up, he seemed much happier than he has been at school in the past few years.

Of course it is still early. He is in the honeymoon period of a new school. There has always been issues that come up, and we don't expect that to magically change now.

But it is nice that Kai got off to a good start.

It gives us hope regarding high school.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Cubs Game and Starting High School

We had one last summer outing this week as we went to our first Cubs game at Wrigley Field as a family.

It took a while to get over the jet lag after returning from Japan, but we were in good spirits on this afternoon. Kai's constant anxiety with getting sick has finally ended. He did get a very minor cold - certainly nothing worth all the stress he had - and it didn't stop him from enjoying the free time he had the past week and a half.

The first thing we did when we got home from Japan was to schedule appointments with a doctor and a therapist to discuss his anxiety. His medication was increased and there was a lot of discussion with him over all the stress he had (and caused). Not sure how much all of that had to do with his calming down versus just being home and back in his comfortable surroundings, but we're all feeling better now.

Kai and I went to a Cubs game last fall, but that was in Milwaukee when the Cubs played the Brewers. I wanted to take everyone to see a game at Wrigley, and had bought tickets way back in February.

In the days leading up to the ballgame, it looked like it might rain on game day, but we lucked out as there was no rain all day. It was actually a very nice day. At one point when the sun came out, Kai started to complain about it being too hot and said that it was like being back in Japan. We told him that this was nothing like Japan as the temperature was more than 20 degrees cooler.

The other thing that was very different than Japan is that the food selection at the ballpark was all non-healthy, traditional ballpark fare. We all had footlong Chicago hot dogs. I enjoyed it but my wife said later that she felt ill from eating it.

But the ball game was great. The Cubs scored a lot and won 8-4 over their rival Brewers. Kai was very happy!

He said it was the best baseball game he's ever been to. I don't know about that as we have been to several really entertaining games, but I was glad that he had fun, as did we all.

The other big event this week was that Kai started high school. He went for about on hour on Tuesday for Freshman Prep Day, getting his id photo taken, buying his gym shirt and shorts, and doing other administrative things. And then he had his first day of classes on Friday. Actually it was only a half day, and there wasn't much teaching or studying, but he was in the classroom.

So it was an easy day, and happily there were no incidences.

We have told Kai that this is a fresh start for him, and a great opportunity for him to make a good first impression so he should be friendly to other students and to staff. It frustrates me that he doesn't seem to understand.

But anyway, we're off! So far so good, but we'll keep our seatbelts fastened as turbulence can arise without notice. :)

Monday, August 6, 2018

2018 Japan Vacation, Day 16 - Finding Some Stress Relief on Our Last Day

On our last full day in Japan, we had a laid-back morning at my in-law's place.

And then it was time to say goodbye. It is always sad to see a vacation come to an end. I think that it will be hardest on my father-in-law who spent so much time with us.

We waited for the bus to take us to the airport.

Although we were in the shade and there was a nice little breeze, we were sweating just standing and waiting for the bus as the heat index was 111.

We stayed the night at the hotel at the airport so that we would have a more relaxed morning to catch our flight. The international terminal at Haneda Airport has a nice shopping section that is made to resemble old Tokyo, and we bought some last-minute souvenirs to take home.

But our last activity was to spend our last evening at Oedo Onsen Monogatari.

We spent about an hour in the hot and cold baths. Kai was still relentlessly anxious about getting sick, but somewhat less so after soaking in the water. It was relaxing for me and my wife, too.

They provided yukatas to dress in afterward.

We had many places to choose from for dinner. We chose a place that had yaki soba, and Kai and I had ours with steak.

Kai wanted to try the ninja game after dinner, throwing shuriken (hand blade) at the targets.

Of course we had to have dessert. My wife and Kai this offshoot of shave ice.

I had crepes with matcha and red beans which is very popular in Harajuku.

This taiko (Japanese drums) game is very popular, found in most arcades in Japan.

Kai still made incessant comments about getting sick, but perhaps a little less than before. Or, maybe I was just able to tolerate it after a relaxing bath.

So, it was a nice way to wrap up the vacation. Nothing left now but to fly home.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

2018 Japan Vacation, Day 15 - An Up and Down Day in Kamakura and Enoshima

For our last excursion on this trip to Japan, we traveled south to the small coastal city of Kamakura. It is sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan as Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments.

It took about two hours to get there from my in-law's place, counting the time to walk to the train station and switch trains in Tokyo.

It was another hot and humid day. While the air temperature was only 90, the head index was over 100. And unlike other days, we would be outside much of the day.

Kai started complaining almost immediately as we walked to the Hachimangu Shrine.

Before entering the shrine, you are to cleanse your hands with the water available in the trough.

My wife scolded Kai when he poured the water on his head as it is considered extremely rude to do so.

He smiled for the following picture, but was not in a good mood.

At Japanese shrines, you can pay 100 yen for an omikuji, a fortune-telling paper strip. To get your fortune, you shake a box until a bamboo stick with a number comes out which you then exchange for your fortune. Kai got the luckiest fortune (Chu-kichi) and my wife got the next luckiest.

My fortune? Meh.

On our walk back from the shrine toward the street where we would have lunch, we stopped to get shave ice for Kai.

It didn't stop him from complaining, though.

"How long do we have to walk?"

"Oh my god, this is so boring!"

"This is the worst day so far!"

We reached Komachi Street which is a narrow strip of shops and eateries.

We all were relieved to find an air-conditioned place to sit, have lunch, and relax for a while.

Kai had a beef dish.

The rest of us had a Kamakura specialty, shirasu-don, white rice topped with sardines. It was very good!

But eventually we had to head back outside.

To get to the next site, Daibutsu, the Great Buddha of Kamakura, we walked to the station to catch the electric railway, then after getting off at our stop, we had to walk another 15 minutes or so.

It seemed much longer.

"What are we going to see? Why did we have to come all this way to see a statue?"

"When are we going home?!?!"

We took the requisite photo with Daibutsu, but none of us were particularly happy to be there.

In Japanese, there is a phrase "shikataganai" that means "it cannot be helped" or "nothing can be done about it." It is a philosophical attitude to not overly worry about things that are out of your control.

Kai has not learned shikataganai as he worries about everything, and voices his concerns and complaints loudly.

Not only was he unhappy about the heat, but he continued to express his anxiety about getting sick, something that began two days earlier. Mom was feeling better, but he still worried that he would get sick next.

"Take my temperature."

"I want my throat spray!"

"I want to take my cold medicine."

All this despite having absolutely no symptoms of being sick at all.

We stopped for soft ice cream, but no one seemed that happy as it seemed obvious that Kai's complaints would resume as soon as we stepped outside again.

What did help his attitude was when we made an unplanned visit to the beach. We had to first find a place to buy Kai a swimsuit as we had not brought his along with us.

But he was very happy in the water and stayed in for a good hour.

Before leaving the beach, we enjoyed kakigori, Japanese shave ice topped with sweet red beans and condensed milk.

Our last destination for the day was Enoshima Island where we would go to the top of the Sea Candle for a great view of the surrounding area, and then have dinner on the island.

It was a bit of a walk to the island, and Kai resumed voicing his complaints. In the following photo, you can see the Sea Candle sticking up in the distance.

There were some stairs to climb once we reached the island.

But escalators and an elevator took us most of the way to the top of the Sea Candle observation deck.

It was a nice view of the city and beaches below. On a clear day, you're supposed to be able to see Mount Fuji, but it was hazy in the distance for us.

We had dinner at a restaurant on the top of the island with great views of the ocean.

We had spaghetti with clams and two kinds of pizza: one with Japanese mushrooms and one with uni (sea urchins). Everything was delicious and the ambiance was great.

We had nice desserts as well.

From our seats in the restaurant, we got to see the sunset next to the Candle tower.

All was going well.

But as we were leaving the restaurant, Kai's anxiety about getting sick picked up again.

He got demanding about getting his cold medicine immediately when I wanted to take another photo of the sunset. Waiting a few minutes for medicine shouldn't make a difference, especially when he's not really sick!

But this caused a conflict and made for an unpleasant walk to the train station.

On the train, he looked up anxiety disorder on his smartphone and told me that is what he has and that he can't help it.

It made me think about whether Kai always been this difficult to travel with or is he actually getting worse instead of better? Or, have memories of the difficult times on past vacations just faded as I tend to remember the good times more? After years of therapy and therapeutic school, shouldn't he be getting a bit better and not worse? Is there more that we can do to help him?

At times like these, I wonder why we go on these trips with Kai. He doesn't seem to enjoy them and he takes the fun out of it for the rest of us. Part of me is thinking I don't want to do this anymore.

But with Kai, as always, we have to take the bad with the good.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...