Sunday, October 27, 2019

Cooking Lesson - Tacos

Kai seems to becoming more aware that we, his parents, are not going to live forever. Earlier this week he asked, "Who's going to take me places when you two are gone?"

That led to a conversation about learning how to drive. I am pretty sure that Kai can learn the mechanics of operating a car and learning how to drive, but there's a lot more to getting behind the wheel than just the knowing how to steer and stop. I explained to him that the toughest challenges in driving were anticipating what other people might do, and to be able to remain calm under a myriad of unfortunate circumstances.

Kai misinterpreted what I was talking about.

"I'll just pull over until they shut up."

It took me a second or two to realize that he was talking about the hypothetical kids he would have in the future.

Ha, interesting to know that he expects to get married and have a family of his own some day.

But I explained to him that the challenges of driving go well beyond annoying passengers. Until he can show that he can keep calm under stress, I don't think I want him behind the wheel.

And so driving lessons look to be a ways off for Kai, but there are other things we are doing to prepare him to be independent.

On this day, it was time for another cooking lesson. Today he would learn to make another of his favorite dishes, tacos.

He turned on the stove and heated up the skillet. Then it was time to brown the ground beef. My wife taught him how to crumble the meat while it is browning.

When the beef was browned, my wife showed Kai how to drain the fat. This meat was pretty lean so didn't have too much oil come out.

After that, it was time to put in the package of taco seasoning.

He then poured in water and stirred and cooked until the mixture thickened.

My wife showed Kai how she likes to dice onions.

And then it was his turn to finish cutting them.

He set everything on the table.

And finally got to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Tacos are fairly simple to make so good as an introductory meal for someone learning to cook. Not sure I'm ready to have Kai cooking on his own while we're not there, but we're working toward that.

And the nice thing is that Kai seemed to enjoy it, too.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Cooking Lesson - Curry Rice

For at least a few years now, I've been trying to push Kai to be more independent and to have him learn life skills.

He's been doing his own laundry for over a year now, and also regularly takes out the garbage and recycling.

For a few years now, I have him make Mom's coffee on weekends when he wakes up before she does. And sometimes I have him help me make breakfast on the weekend. For instance, yesterday morning I made crepes and had Kai cut up fruit and spread Nutella and the fruit on top.

He doesn't complain much anymore about helping out and usually does a good job.

I've been asking my wife to have Kai help out once in a while when she is preparing dinner, but she hadn't done that too often. However she will be leaving for Japan in a few weeks and wanted to teach me and Kai how to make curry rice, so last night she had him do most of the preparation.

The first step is to wash the rice. My wife is showing Kai how she likes to do that - by squeezing handfuls of rice and then rinsing them out.

Next, we have to put in the correct amount of water - 6 cups in this case. Our Japanese rice cooker has several different measurement guides depending on the type of rice you want to make, so you have to recognize the right one.

Then you have to hit the "Start" button. This seems obvious, but my wife likes to remind me how I hit the wrong button TWICE before and we didn't have rice ready for dinner. (I believe I had wrongly hit the "Stop" button as I'm usually the one to clean up and I must have pressed that button out of habit).

Next it was time to prepare the other materials. First, my wife showed Kai how to wash and peel potatoes.

And then to cut them up.

Same for carrots.

My wife is not the most patient at teaching Kai how to do things so she was getting a little irritated when it took longer for him to do things than it usually takes her to do it herself. She's usually not watching when I have him help me with breakfast or yardwork or other things so I wonder if she didn't realize that his "helping" actually means a lot more work for me.

The last thing to cut was onions. We were nervous that Kai was going to slice his fingertips as he kept ignoring my wife's instructions on how to hold the onion so you're not exposing the fingertips.

But he got through all the slicing and dicing without any blood shed.

Next it was time to prepare the Dutch Oven. First my wife showed Kai how much oil to put in the pot.

They put the onions in and began to cook those first. In the meantime, my wife instructed Kai to season the chunks of beef with salt and pepper.

Then they added the meat to the pot.

My wife had Kai stir the pot a little to make sure all sides of the meat were browned.

Then she had him add the carrots and potatoes.

Next was pouring in a full container of chicken broth.

While that was cooking (about 20 minutes), my wife taught Kai how to steam broccoli.

And then it was back to the pot to skim off the residue that came up to the top.

The rice was ready about then so my wife told Kai how she likes to stir up the cooked rice rather than letting it just sit.

The last step is to add the blocks of curry seasoning...

And to stir it all in.

As is often the case, when the food is ready I'm too excited to eat it and did not photograph the finished meal. But I can tell you that it turned out well and was very tasty.

I think one of the biggest worries of special needs parents is thinking of what will happen to their kids when they are gone. We still have a lot to worry about in that regard, but the more we can teach Kai life skills, the more reassured we will feel.

Knowing that Kai can make his beloved beef curry rice is one step toward that.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Visitor From Japan

A friend of my wife visited from Japan and stayed with us last weekend. This was Akyo's first time traveling outside of Japan.

She speaks very little English but had an app on her phone that translated Japanese to English and vice versa. We all were fascinated by the technology and it worked pretty well. It enabled Kai to speak with Akyo and he seemed to enjoy the tech-enabled conversation more than just a regular one. He talked with her a bit longer than the usual one or two sentences he normally says to others.

Though the translation wasn't always perfect.

The funniest time was when Akyo tried to tell Kai that she had seen many photographs of him. But as the word "Kai" translates to "seashells" in Japanese, what came out of the phone was "I have seen many photos of seashells." We all got a big laugh out of that.

My wife enjoyed taking her friend around downtown Chicago. They went to all of the popular Chicago sightseeing spots including Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, to the top of the John Hancock Center (now under a different name), as well as the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour.

Kai and I joined them to go see Blue Man Group. The three of us had seen the show a few years ago in Orlando, and we looked forward to seeing it again. It was the perfect show for foreign tourists who don't speak much English as no words are spoken and there is a lot of physical comedy.

After the show, we introduced Akyo to Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano's.

On Akyo's last night with us, we were all invited to Kai's aunt's place for Rosh Hashanah dinner. Although Kai doesn't particularly converse with anyone, he enjoys seeing all of his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

We don't get to see everyone altogether like this very often, and it was a fun evening.

Before she left, Akyo told my wife how well behaved Kai was. She works with special needs kids back in Japan so she has experience with challenging kids and Kai seemed very calm compared to other kids. At least he was on this weekend. :)

When we have company, I often wish Kai would make more of an effort to interact with them. It often seems like he just like to spend the whole time on his phone or iPad just engrossed in his own interests. And so it surprised me when a few days after Akyo left, Kai told me "I miss Akyo-san. I hope she comes back to see us."

So he does notice people! :)

Well, hopefully she will come back to see us, and they can chat some more.

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