Monthly Archives: August 2013

Kai’s Salmon Project

In June 2013, our homeschool group decided to go to the Hiram M Chittenden Locks.

At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard (Seattle)

This helped Kai become very interested in salmon. He wanted to learn all about salmon, particularly sockeye salmon. We returned to the locks several times over the next few months, watched several documentaries about salmon, and read a ton of books about salmon. Kai looked up pictures of salmon to print out and put on his bulletin board. He studied the life cycle of salmon and found out about a lot of the challenges that threaten salmon.

July 2013

Kai studied salmon in-depth. One of the questions that was harder for him to get an answer to was why salmon turned pink. He asked several people, tried to look up the answer, but most sources had no idea. However, his friend’s mother works for the locks and she was able to tell him that salmon turn pink because they eat lots of krill. She also gave him, her boys, and another homeschooler an extra special tour of the locks.

August 1, 2013

At the locks, he was able to look closely at pre-served salmon eggs and he looked at live salmon in the viewing rooms at the fish ladder.

At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard (Seattle)

Kai thinks, “It’s good that they can change to being in salt water and fresh water.”

He discovered that only the males get big humps and big hooked noses. That after salmon spawn, they die. They stop eating when they start migrating and use all their energy to reproduce.

July 2013

He decorated a bag for the library and a lot of what he did on the bag related to salmon: he drew rocks for them to lay their eggs in, several different stages of salmon (including eggs, fry, smolt, and adult salmon).

July 2013

Kai said his favorite part about learning about salmon was when he was at the locks with his friends and they learned about salmon and the locks together. When asked what he thought the neatest thing about salmon was, he said, “That they get big humps on their backs and hooked jaws.”

Kai studied salmon fairly in-depth from June through the beginning of August 2013.

I Don’t Know How Else To Say This

Last weekend was one of the weekends that was “not ours” – he was over at his mother’s house and Kai had spent Saturday night at his stepgrandparents’ house.

The call came on Sunday morning. It was Kai’s stepgrandmother.

“Kai is okay. E (Kai’s stepsister) is okay.”

Both Joe and I stared at the phone. I later found out that we’ve both had the same thought: there’s been in an accident. But the kids (Kai and his stepsister) will be okay. So everything will be fine… but something doesn’t sound right.

A second later, the voice says, “I don’t know how else to say this. R (Kai’s mother) is dead.”

And, with that, all of our lives changed.

The last week has been full of challenges. There was no prep for this: Kai’s mother had gastric bypass a year or two before he was born. And what happened was one of the possible complications. Several years later, totally unexpected.

After the call, we immediately jumped in the car and drove down to the hospital. Her room was full of friends and loved ones. They were able to remove the tubes (there weren’t many) before Kai came. The three of us (Kai’s stepfather, Kai’s dad, and I) told him together – his stepsister was there, as well. We told him what had happened (her small intestines folded and became stuck in a hole in her stomach and without blood going through them, they died off and there was nothing the doctors could do). Kai asked a lot of questions for clarification. For a kid of five, they were pretty detailed – like, “Why couldn’t they do a transplant?”

But he wasn’t sure and had to ask, “So… did Mama die?”

I cannot properly describe what it’s like to watch your kid crumple over with grief. We all cried. Kai cried and cried until he couldn’t cry any more and then he hung limply over his dad’s arm for several more minutes. We took him to look at her body – the room was full of her friends and some family. Kai didn’t want to go in but we pulled the curtains aside for him to see the body.

The past week has been a mix of paperwork, family he rarely sees, and interesting ways of working through grief. Tuesday, Kai was in his room, pretending to build a coffin and sing about how he was “Building a coffin for Mama, so she doesn’t have to get burned up,” – he knows she’s being cremated and was angry and devastated because he wanted her buried, wanted a stone marking where she was. But cremation was her request.

On Friday, my parents took Kai and I to Snoqualmie Falls with my nephew. We thought it would be good for him and Joe had gone back to work on Thursday. Kai and I bussed dKai, near an ad with his mother on itown to where my parents were going to pick us up. We ran into an ad with her on it, something she’d done months ago. He wanted a picture, but said he couldn’t smile. I told him that it would hurt for a long time, but eventually, when he looked at pictures of her, he could think of the good times they had together and smile.

Already, last week seems so long ago. The memorial is next weekend.

We went to homeschool park day this last week, where I normally try to send her a few pictures (I tried to send something every day but park days generally got extra). I found myself missing sending her pictures and texting her about what Kai was doing. Kai’s mother and I often didn’t agree, didn’t get along. But we were slowly moving towards some sort of understanding, had (mostly) gotten better at working together – for Kai. Kai recently lost his first tooth. He was here, not there. I was happy to see it and sent her all the pictures and texted her about it as much as I could but one of my first thoughts was, “I wish she didn’t have to miss out on this. I wish none of us did.” And now, there will be so many things she’ll miss.

Hug your loved ones. Tell them you care. You never know when they’ll be gone.

I’m still not sure what else to say or where life will take us from here.