Archive for July, 2009


July 17th, 2009

Some of my best childhood memories live on a plot of land at the base of Pauoa Valley, where I most consistently spent my youth – or my life, for that matter. It’s a three-quarter acre parcel that my Chinese relatives acquired somewhere before the turn of the century, in Territorial Hawaii.

March 2009

March 2009

The property has only one opening, and that is the very busy Pali Highway. For decades, however, before the highway was built, that road ambled by as the two-lane Fort Street. Great-grandfather Ching Amana bought the land from his daughter Ah Lin’s boss. She cleaned house for him at his main estate in Nuuanu. There was a large, multi-family home in the center of the plot.

Original home

Original home

Mom at original home.

Mom at original home.

Sometime in the1920s, after my grandparents were married, my grandmother’s brother, Thomas, built a second home in the corner of the property, just for them. It’s where my mother was born. It was a three bedroom home for my grandparents and their two children.

In front of grandparents' home.

In front of grandparents' home.

I romanticize that it must have been a pretty peaceful life, because my mother describes co-existing with several families, living communally off the land, raising livestock and tending gardens. It seemed quaint.


In the 1960s, the first house was knocked down to make way for an apartment complex. My uncle, who I think of like a second father, ran that for half a century. I’ll just call him Unc here.

Me at Unc's apartment.

Me at Unc's apartment.

My mom left the house for college, but after giving birth to me, we all returned to 1735 Pali Highway to do that oh-so-popular Hawaii thing: live with your parents. As a mom, I can appreciate why my own parents wanted to have a ‘village’ to raise their child.

With cousins. Love the framing.

With cousins. Love the framing.

As a child, I loved it. I have a lot of cousins, aunts, and uncles, and there were constantly people dropping by, sharing food and companionship, dawdling for gossip, and bringing their kids for me to play with. I was raised as an only child, but I never hurt for company.


I remember Unc taking me for walks down to Chun Hoon, where he would let me pick out one toy. If I missed his weekly grocery run, he would bring home a comic book for me. Biannually, he vacationed in Japan, and I would miss him for the weeks he was away. I looked forward to the Japanese trinkets he would bring back. Sometimes, he went to San Francisco, and the gift from there was always teriyaki beef jerky.

We had five dogs living in various cages scattered around the yard. Totally local, huh? He actually built a dog house for the dog living under the lychee tree, and I got the fabulous, exciting opportunity to PAINT IT! I loved it! I think I got more white paint on myself than the dog house. I remember thinking that I liked to paint my nails, so how much harder could this be? I found out painting is hard!


There were also rabbits, turtles, and several species of birds living in huge aviaries that Unc built. (No cats. He hates cats.) And wonderful trees that would produce avocado, lychee, and the best mangoes. It’s probably why mangoes are my favorite fruit. He also taught me to ride a bike!

I left Hawaii for college, but I eventually came back in 1996 to work at KHNL. My generous uncle offered me a place to live in one of the apartment units, for a discount. I liked being home again. My mother liked the idea of having someone she could trust watch over me. I think I gave her a lot of stress by living in random cities, all by myself, across the continent for so many years.

Mine was #102.

Mine was #102, bottom right door in photo.

I remained close to Unc for many years, even after I moved away from the Pali. Then several years ago, a dispute between two relatives cleaved its way into my life and Unc’s life, effectively forcing us to pick sides. You might know how that goes: you say you’re too mature to have to choose a side, but de facto, you are forced to call out your loyalty for one reason or another. We landed on opposite sides of the fence.

I accepted it with sadness, because I had hoped he would meet my child. I settled it out in my head that it’s what he has to do, and that it’s not a reflection of how he really feels about me. Politics is a tricky thing.

In the winter of 2008, I received an exciting message at work: “Call Unc.” Call him? He is asking me to call him? Was the dispute over? I did, but he was only asking me to come by and pick up some of my mom’s belongings that had been in storage there for decades. He had sold the land – getting too old to manage the property anymore – and had to be out in a few months.

After the 10 p.m. news, I went by to get Mom’s stuff. He’s an old Chinese man, curmudgeonly and terse - moreso with age and disability. I can count on one hand the number of words exchanged between us. But it was more the energy that I got off him – the same kindheartedness I remember from my childhood – that told me he missed me, too. Before he closed the door, I made sure to tell him I loved him.

I loaded up my car and let out a bittersweet sigh. It was a wonderful gift Unc gave me, to be able to see him and the place of my youth one more time. He’s 85; I never thought I’d find myself talking to him again. It was near midnight, the city was quiet, I was alone in the parking lot, and it hit me with more emotion than I realized to be standing at my old home again.

The new buyers were planning to raze the land and erect their own structures. I knew this was the last chance to look at my piece of history, so I took a quick walk around, feet finding all the same steps, stones, paths, and turns that I have made a thousand times before.


I smelled the fragrant night air, closed my eyes, and felt the cool breeze against my face. I touched the lava rock wall around my grandparents’ old house. I even listened to the constant whizzing of the freeway traffic – something I had ages and ages ago learned to tune out. And then I said goodbye.

Goodbye godparents

July 15th, 2009

It's a Christian-based practice to nominate godparents as someone to sponsor a baptism. That person or people are supposed to ensure the child's religious education is carried out, and care for the child, in case the parents die. However, the modern view of godparent has expanded to someone who takes an interest in the child's upbringing. We aren't Christian, but we liked the idea of borrowing such a lovely tradition.


We asked my close friend, Joann Shin, to be the godmother. I met Joann when she worked at KHNL as a anchor and reporter. She has been such a wonderful addition to Olivia's (and our!) life and we're grateful to know her.


Joann was in Paris when I went into labor. She asked me to try to hold off till she got back to Hawaii, but I kind of didn't have much control over that. She made it home just in time to see me at the hospital the day after Olivia was born. She got into a fender bender on the way to the hospital, but still made it anyway. What a good friend.

Aug 07

Aug 07

She works like crazy, but she still made time for Olivia on a regular basis. She loves kids (I would hope one chooses a godparent who does!) She just got married, but even through her hectic wedding planning, she visited us monthly. She always brought gifts (no need! no need!), though the best present was the gift of her time.


We've gone to the pool, the kiddie play group, the park, and the beach with Olivia. She's babysat for me. She's great with Olivia, who always asks about Aunty Joann and Uncle Mike. "I love Aunty Joann and Mike," declared Olivia recently. We couldn't have chosen a better godmom.


What makes a good godparent? My coworker Jessica Hamamoto, mother of 9 year old Tiana and 7 year old Sierra, asked her husband's brother and his wife to be her girls' godparents. "Having someone you know and trust, who loves your children as much as you do, is the greatest relief. It's also important the parents and the godparents share the same values and beliefs."

Jessica, Tiana, Sierra

Jessica, Tiana, Sierra

"They do everything with them," continues Hamamoto. "They take them on field trips, vacations - it's like Disneyland all the time at their house. They spend one on one time with the girls. I'm so lucky to have them as godparents."


Joann and her physician husband just moved to Maryland so he can do his residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. We'll miss them, but I know we're both good keep-in-touchers and that Joann will always be a part of our lives. Thanks for being such a great godmom and friend, Jo!

May 09

May 09 here's the sad part. Olivia's godfather, Paul, just decided to move to Canada. Wha--? The case of the disappearing godparents?!

Tracking your toddler

July 10th, 2009

I'm still awaiting that third eye to grow on the back of my head. You know,  so I can keep track of my toddler. Until then, I'll just have to rely on some common sense aural tricks.

One of Olivia's two medals

One of Olivia's two medals

When I'm working in the garage or yard, I ask Olivia to stay near me, but of course, she doesn't always listen. Looking at the dog or the pond is always much, much more compelling. I started putting on those squeaker sneakers, but she - tricky! - likes to take her shoes off. I then improvised by putting small jingle bells on a diaper pin and pinning that onto the back of her dress (the back, where she can't take it off.)


I also found out that she likes to wear some big, clunky award medals we had lying around the house. She wears two and they sound like cow bells. If they're nearby, I add them around her neck, too. This poor kid is walking around at 70 decibels.

Emmalee Bugado

Emmalee Bugado

To my surprise I don't know too many other moms doing this. I asked a few at MyGym Hawaii, the childrens' fitness center in Kailua. The only one who did was Kehau Bugado. She says she has bell bracelets on her two-and-a-half year old, Emmalee. "I liked it when she was an infant. I could hear her moving at night and know she was OK," Kehau tells me.

Emmalee's bracelets

Emmalee's bracelets


On the internet, I found an $80 "18k Gold Plated Jingle Bells Toddler Anklet." It's supposedly based on Cambodian folklore, in which the dainty sounds ward off bad spirits. But $80? Whoa. Talk about tiny trendsetter!

How do you keep track your toddler's movements?

What's the right diet?

July 1st, 2009

There are some days when Olivia seems to want to live off three crackers. I try to offer her a balanced diet from all five major food groups (grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat and beans) at every meal. What can I do if she rejects it? I'm assuming she'll get what she needs over the course of the week, but there's still a part of me that worries.


My pediatrician says I can always get her off to a good start in the morning with a bowl of cereal, milk, and fruit juice. "I recommend offering a variety of foods at meals and kids can pick and choose what they want to eat and actually do a pretty good job of getting a balanced diet.  Many toddlers seem to eat one good meal in three days and that's pretty normal. You really can't MAKE a child eat. The more of an issue you make of it, the more they will tend to resist and end up eating less of whatever it is you think they need," says Dr. Erin Nakano.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which recently revised the Food Pyramid, two to three year olds should consume 1,000 to 1,400 calories, depending on his activity level. For age four, the calorie intake increases to between 1,200 and 2,000.

For example, for an active 2- or 3-year-old, any one of the following meets his daily requirement for fruit:
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 large banana

Or for meat and beans:
4 eggs
4 tablespoons peanut butter
12 slices luncheon meat
1 cup of cooked beans

Tofu patties

Tofu patties

Or for vegetables:
1 1/2 cups cooked broccoli spears
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

Yeah. Good luck getting her to eat one and a half cups of broccoli.

What's your trick to making sure your child gets the nutrition they need?

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