Archive for the ‘Family’ category

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

Holiday crafting: showcasing memories

December 6, 2016


I love to collect holiday ornaments to commemorate important events in our lives. I have a house ornament for our first home, dog house to welcome our dog, a stroller for our son’s birthday, a schoolhouse for his first day of preschool.

During the holidays, I would carefully hang them on our tree, and think about the memories associated with each ornament. But as the number of ornaments grew, I felt unhappy that all of the ornaments – and memories – were jumbled on the tree.

This year, I decided to create an ornament board so that I could display all of my commemorative ornaments and even write a short note about the event.

4’x8’ hardboard or plywood, cut to size
Acrylic paints and paintbrushes
Screw eyes, screws or nails
Drill or hand-borer

It took me three days to complete my commemorative ornament display. I bought a 4’x8’ piece of hardboard from a hardware store, and cut it to a more manageable 4’x5.5’ size. I painted a tropical scene with a coconut tree on the beach (not a snowy mountain scene – this is Hawaii, after all). Then I hung the ornaments in chronological order along the tree leaves. Not every ornament made it on the tree, but I chose the ones that had special meaning to me.

I put the ornament display right next to our tree, which my 10-year old son decorated himself this year. He hung up ornaments with their own stories – ornaments that he made, that people gave to us, that are eclectic bits from other gifts and packaging.

Now when I look at these ornaments, I can reminisce about the stories of our lives, and feel grateful for our memories and time together.

Do you collect commemorative ornaments? Do you have a favorite holiday ornament?

Questions are building blocks of communication

November 1, 2016


One Saturday morning, my 10-year old son and I went to a science fair workshop. A handful of dedicated elementary students showed up for this optional workshop, a warm-up event to help students think like scientists and engineers. It was a fun and eye-opening experience.

The very first activity was about communicating clearly and effectively. Each student had a partner. They sat across from each other, with two manila folder blockers between them. One student was the “engineer” who created something from blocks of different sizes and colors. It didn’t have to be something real or functional. The engineer’s job was to give directions to the “builder”, who had a set of identical blocks.

The challenge: the builder couldn’t ask any questions at all and couldn’t see what the engineer had designed.

The engineers struggled to explain which blocks to use and where to put them. Starting with the block color and number of “bumps” (studs) was relatively easy, but engineers looked frustrated as they tried to explain where to put the blocks, giving directions like “on top” or “at the back” or “in the middle.” They wondered whether the builders were following their directions.

After picking up the needed block, the builders looked confused because they couldn’t confirm the directions, or even make hand-motions. There was no model or blueprint; they had to rely solely on verbal communication. They wondered whether they were building the correct structure.

It really emphasized how important communication is to learning. We need to confirm what we learn and clarify what we don’t know. We need to ask questions without worrying about what other people might think about us. And we need to encourage others to ask questions of us, to make sure that we understand each other.

Communication is important in everyday life too. We need to communicate clearly, to share our ideas and opinions, and lessen the chances of being misunderstood. We need to listen carefully to what people are saying – and not saying.

What were the results of the building activity? None of the builders could duplicate what their partner engineer created.

At school, at work, and at home, do you feel comfortable asking questions? If you have tried this activity before, were you able to give and receive clear directions?

Celebrating Hawaii’s children and youth

September 27, 2016

Hawaii CYD 2016

Exciting news! The annual Hawai’i Children and Youth Day is back, kicking off a month-long series of family-friendly events. On Sunday, October 2, the day kicks off in Honolulu with a CYD Sunrise at Mauna’ala Royal Mausoleum and a CYD Fun Run at Kaka’ako Park. The main event starts at 10 am at the State Capitol.

It’s a day to celebrate Hawai’i’s children and youth, and spend time together as a family. Best of all – there’s free entertainment, games, and educational activities for children and youth of all ages (and free parking in the municipal parking lots too).

When my son was younger, the highlight of the event was the McDonald’s tent – he loved winning a prize and taking a picture with Ronald McDonald. The large, colorful tent always had the longest line and was always packed with people.

For the past two years, the event that motivates and challenges him is the early morning CYD Fun Run at Kaka’ako Park. He is not normally a “runner” but he enjoys challenging himself to the 3k run. High school student Jordan Jones did a fantastic job organizing it last year, and she’s coordinating it again this year. It’s free to register and runners receive a cool medal at the finish line.

Now that he is older, we’ll skip the Children’s Zone and go straight to the Teen Zone, with fun, educational, and career-oriented activities. He’ll probably head for the sports demonstrations, like soccer and golf. We’ll encourage him to check out the Financial Zone, which features a hands-on, interactive Financial Reality Fair.

There’s so much to do, we really need more than just one day. We could tour ‘Iolani Palace, take a guided tour of the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center, walk through the Hawai’i State Art Museum, browse Space Exploration exhibits, and watch the Team Magma Robotics demonstration.

Just as important as learning, is the opportunity to help the community – Children and Youth Day is also accepting gently-used clothes donations to help support Children and Youth Day, United Cerebral Palsy of Hawai’i, and National Kidney Foundation of Hawai’i.

For a complete list of the month-long events, visit the CYD website.