Archive for the ‘Family’ category

Dogs, responsibility, and aging

June 20, 2017

Usually parents buy children a pet, and it becomes the parents’ pet. In our case, our dog has become our son’s dog – or rather, our son has become our dog’s boy.

When my son was young, our yellow lab was a very patient companion. She let him pull her tail without whining and try to ride her like a pony without growling. She would gently nose his cheek when he fell asleep on the couch.

Now that my son is 10 years old, he takes more responsibility for our dog. He gets her water, feeds her, and helps take her on walks. He is learning to take responsibility for someone else.

But a funny thing happened. Whenever our dog wants something – food, water, a walk – she doesn’t come to us anymore. Instead, she goes to our boy (her boy?) and noses him when he is trying to read, play games, or do homework. She barks a warning-bark and then pay-attention bark. Our dog, once so patient with our son, has become more demanding.

As I age, I hope that I show more restraint and understanding when my son is caught up with his own life, and I look for a measure of his attention. It’s always hard when we need to keep up with changes in our relationships – when our children need us less and when we need them more.

This post did not turn out the way I expected it to. I started off writing about responsibility and the changing relationship between our dog and our son, and it has turned ended with a glimpse of the future, when a care-giver may become a dependent.

Did you have a childhood pet? If yes, who really took care of your pet? And why do the words “caregiver” and “caretaker” mean the same thing – someone who takes care of another?

Celebrate the teachers in your life

May 9, 2017

Did you know that in Hawaii public schools, there are over 10,941 teachers, 170 librarians, and 602 counselors? (Hawaii 2015 Superintendent’s Annual Report, 2014-2015 School Year)

Did you know that on average, teachers work more than 52 hours a week, including 30 hours of instruction and 22 hours on tasks like preparing lessons and grading papers? (National Center for Education Statistics 2011-12 School and Staffing Survey)

Teachers give us so much, and their job is much harder than we realize. They prepare lesson plans that engage and inspire students. They find a balance between correcting mistakes and encouraging excellence. They stay after school for homework clubs and mentoring. They show up at school events in the evenings and on weekends. They make the classroom a safe place to learn, challenge assumptions, and build character.

Today is National Teacher Day, part of a week-long event celebrating the teachers in our lives. You can say “Thank You” by joining the 2017 #ThankATeacher campaign and sharing stories and photos of special teachers.

My son is completing the fifth grade this year, and I want to take a moment to thank my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Foster. She was energetic and fun and it was the year I started to see teachers as real people, outside of school. She set up a classroom economy with jobs, a bank, and even checkbooks. She gave us daily writing assignments to practice our writing skills and encourage creative writing. To this day, I remember the first verses of “Do your ears hang low?” and “I Can’t Do That Sum” that we had to recite.

If you need some inspiration, the National PTA offers a free Teacher Toolkit to personally thank teachers for making a positive impact on your life and children’s lives.

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews in school, here are 7 ways that How Can Families Effectively Partner With and Support Teachers, courtesy of the National Education Association:

  • Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher and keep in touch with him/her often
  • Ask the right questions
  • Set goals with your child and his/her teacher and foster the achievement of those goals
  • Review your child’s data to ensure he/she is on track
  • Look in your child’s backpack every day
  • Frequently view the parent portal (or whichever tool your child’s school uses)
  • Actively participate at school when possible

Which teachers had the biggest impact on your life? How will you thank a teacher today?

Exciting! Electrifying! days for readers

May 2, 2017

Exciting! Electrifying! Calling all Star Wars fans, book and music lovers, and comic book readers! Be prepared for an amazing week.

First, there’s… May the Fourth, aka Star Wars Day, a day to celebrate all things Star Wars. Dress up as your favorite Star Wars character. Stay up for a Star Wars movie marathon. Read your favorite Star Wars book (my 10-year old son’s recommendation: “Lost Stars” by Claudia Gray). Indulge in Vader taters, Wookie cookies, and Yoda soda. Practice your lightsaber moves.

Followed by… Free Comic Book Day. From the nostalgic (Archie and Underdog) to the futuristic (Avatar and Dr. Who), for kids (SpongeBob) and kids of all ages, there’s a comic book for everyone! On Saturday, May 6, stop by a Hawaii public library and get a free comic book. Show your HSPLS library card at a Hawaii public library in Aiea, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai, Hilo, Kahului, Kailua, Kailua-Kona (students, dress for the Cosplay competition!), Kapolei, Kihei, Lahaina, Lanai, Liliha, Makawao, Manoa, McCully-Moiliili, Mililani, Princeville, Salt Lake-Moanalua, Waikiki-Kapahulu, Waimanalo, Wahiawa, Waimea (Thelma Parker Memorial), and Waipahu. Check with specific libraries for special activities.

Wrapping up with… the Hawaii Book and Music Festival, May 6-7 in Honolulu. Immerse yourself in book readings, author signings, panel discussions, storytelling, music, hula, food demonstrations, and more. Trade your gently-used books at the Book Swap. Bring folding chairs or mats to sit on the lawn and soak up the entertainment. Let kids work off their energy in the Keiki Zone. A fun idea would be to have a round-robin storytelling, with a group of people pitching in to create an unexpected, one-of-a-kind story!

What books, comic books, or graphic novels are you reading? Which historical, futuristic, or fictional world do you wish you could live in?

Lessons from the carnival

April 4, 2017

Looking back at the carnivals I went to as a kid, my strongest memories are of jail, the swing ride, and cows. I remember the bamboo jail where people got “locked up” and had to wait for a friend or family member to “bail” them out of jail. I remember the swing ride because I was afraid of it, until my best friend finally convinced me to ride it, and I really enjoyed it. And I remember cows because at the State Farm Fair, the cows were large, bored, and pungent.

We had good times at the carnival recently. At the keiki carnival, my 10-year old son disappeared with his friends and popped up later to ask for more scrips. At the neighborhood carnival, we walked around with friends, tagging along as he played games and enjoyed different rides.

Here are a few lessons we learned (and re-learned) at the carnival:

It’s okay to spend money… within reason. Usually, my son has a hard time spending his own money. He hoards it like… gold. But at the carnival, he didn’t hesitate to use his own money. He was having a good time, and he knew how much he was willing to spend. The neighborhood carnival made it a little too easy to spend money. Instead of counting scrips, we reloaded a FunPass, and the credits flew by.

Competitive games can still be friendly. We should all cheer each other’s successes. My son congratulated his friends if they won and was enthusiastic, but not boastful, if he won. He even gave a prize to a friend because she wanted it, and he had one already.

Try something new. I may have been afraid to ride the swing as a kid, but my son didn’t hesitate to try it for the first time. Then he jumped off and ran to the Magic Maze. I had a harder time convincing him to take a bite of funnel cake for the first time.

Look out for others. My son is an only child, but he looked out for the younger kids in the group. He even rode the carousel (not the most exciting ride for a 10-year old) and encouraged a younger boy to hold on tight and not be afraid.

Carnivals are always better with family and friends. When was the last time you went to the carnival? What is your favorite part of the carnival?

Read, write, click love

February 14, 2017


“I have a dream I hope will come true
That you’re here with me and I’m here with you
I wish that the earth, sea, the sky up above-a
Will send me someone to lava”
“Lava” by Kuana Torres Kahele, Napua Greig & James Ford Murphy

When I was younger, Valentine’s Day was about storgē (familial love) and philía (brotherly love) with time spent with family, cards to all my classmates, heart-shaped cookies (with frosting and sprinkles), and cupcakes. As a young adult, Valentine’s Day swelled to include éros (romantic love) – with flowers, a special dinner, or a night out with friends. As a parent, Valentine’s Day broadened to agape (unconditional love) – putting children and family first, giving my son the last cookie.

You don’t need to buy candy, gifts, or flowers to celebrate Valentine’s Day. You can read, write, or click love.

1. Read. Read a love story –a romance, short story, poem, novel, or biography about someone who loves deeply, about close friendships; about enduring love; about giving relationships with animals. For a fantasy romance about true love, read “The Princess Bride.” Or get inspired by reading love letters on

2. Write. Write a note describing a time when you felt especially loved, or something you have done to make someone else feel especially loved. Write a love letter to a friend or mentor. Or write a Valentine’s Day Coupon Book, with ideas like a movie night, ice cream for dinner, or staying up extra late. Happy Money Saver has collected 10 fun free printables for kids and adults.

3. Click. Spend time with the people, animals, and places you love, and take photos to commemorate your time together. When my son was younger, I enjoyed creating photo Valentine’s Day cards. One of my favorites was posing his body to spell out the word “LOVE” (the photo in this post). Today, it’s so easy to customize photos with words and clipart to send a special message.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What is the most memorable way someone has shown you that they care?

New year’s resolutions – resolved!

January 3, 2017

New Year's Resolutions - Resolved

I love the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. It’s about a new year, a fresh start, and trying to improve your life. But in practice, my resolutions rarely last long under the pressure of big changes and high expectations. Instead of making resolutions this year, let’s reflect on some of the positive changes we’ve made in our lives.

The best advice I know about making resolutions is that your goals should be Specific, Achievable, and Measurable (SAM). But sometimes resolutions work best when you trick yourself into it, when you don’t make a big deal about it – you just start doing it.

When we’re setting goals, it helps to remember our successes. My most successful “resolutions” were not made at the start of a new year. I didn’t write them down or tell people about them, which are two really effective ways to change your habits. They involved small choices and humble goals.

Here are three quiet resolutions that had positive impacts on my life.

Nail-biting — resolved. I used to bite my fingernails when I was a kid. I knew it was a bad habit, and I didn’t like it. Not only that, it gives other people a bad impression about you. So I started painting my nails with clear nail polish, because nail polish tastes bad and no one should eat it. And it worked. Beyond just stopping one bad habit, it gave me the confidence to tackle other bad habits as well.

Self-depreciation – resolved (mostly). I have a hard time accepting compliments. I used to down-play compliments and even point out flaws or mistakes. But after I joined a pottery club, I noticed that when I admired someone’s art, they would simply respond, “Thank you.” I decided that I needed to change how I respond to compliments too. I am re-learning how to say “Thank you.” I still have a hard time accepting praise, but I think I’m a little more gracious about accepting them.

Speeding – resolved. I was mortified and chagrined when I got a speeding ticket one year. That ticket made me change the way I drive. I learned to slow down. I started to leave a big enough gap between the car in front of me that I can let other drivers into the lane. Driving has become less stressful, even when I am stuck in traffic. I wish I could thank that police officer, but I’d probably be too embarrassed.

Do you make and keep New Year’s Resolutions? What resolutions or positive changes have you made in your life?

Classic games for family time

December 13, 2016

Family Time Games

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest toy craze, to hunt for that “must have” gift. During the holidays, we are often bombarded with Holiday Toy Lists and Hot Toys of the Year. We are told what toys are popular and which will be the hardest to find, so buy it now.

But in my opinion, board games and card games are still the best family time activities – better than movies and video games, where we stare at the screen instead of pay attention to each other.

So I wanted to share some of the all-time favorite games that my family enjoys. There are no flashing lights, CGI, or robots, but these games don’t need it.

* Chutes and Ladders (preschool). I remember playing it when I was a kid, and I introduced it to my son. Even as an adult, I chant the number I need to roll to reach a ladder or avoid a chute. The game is pure luck, and not really competing against other players – you’re racing against the game to avoid the chutes and land on the ladders.

* Uno. In our family, it was Cars® Uno, a Crazy-8s card game on steroids. My son loved the bright colors, the quick-changing cards, and collected wildcards (he hoarded them like gold). You have to pay attention to the game, with all the color changes, reversals, and skip turns.

* Spot It. This is a wonderfully clever and ingenious card game that I discovered when my son was in elementary school. It really is mind-boggling. Every card has exactly ONE picture match with every other card in the deck. Our family played a lot of Spot It, including the “On the Road” and “Words” (with Disney® Pixar® words and characters) versions. We play tough – you have to say the matched object out loud (no finger-pointing allowed).

* Monopoly. We started with Cars® Monopoly, spinning for race car “properties,” but now we’re hooked on the classic Hawaii Edition, with properties like Ala Moana Center, Aloha Airlines, and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It’s about strategic buying, deal-making, and the strange realization that jail is often the safest place to be when the board is filled with houses and hotels.

* Chess. Technically, this is not one my favorite games, but my husband and son really enjoy it. And I enjoy reading a good book while they play.

Shh, don’t tell: for the holidays, I’m going to introduce Would You Rather?, a card game that asks you to choose between two options. There’s no changing the question or qualifying the answer. For parents with young children, The Measured Mom came up with her own “Would You Rather Question Cards” that is free and downloadable for personal and classroom use.

What toys did you play with as a kid? What toys do you enjoy playing with kids?


Clipart from