Archive for March, 2010

Kauai getaway, day 1

By
March 24th, 2010



The ultimate staycation required me to go no further than the neighboring island, literally. Not even as far away as Big Island. We hopped over to Kauai for a couple nights. It was my first trip alone with my husband in a year and a half. Our daughter is two. It was a bit overdue.

I'm sure you know the drill if you, too, have small children. Our existence has fallen into a comfortable routine, but the days are when we're at our best, so by late afternoon when he comes home from work, Claus and I are both brain-tired. We're not necessarily grumpy, but we're not about talking and sharing. We're about communication for efficiency, and we're still staying on the routine.

We play with Olivia together outside, or he'll take her for a run in the jogging stroller while I finish cooking dinner. I'm usually too tired to focus on anything that requires thinking. I've tried to file bills or even blog, and I can't. I look at the computer and end up surfing Facebook. I know I'm useless after a certain point.

When the opportunity came about that we had some extra babysitter time plus willing grandparents, we snapped it up and booked a stay at St. Regis Princeville. Kauai is my favorite island to visit (a close second is Maui), and I'd been quite curious about the newly rebranded Princeville resort.

It got a lot of buzz for being the legendary brand’s first resort in Hawaii, and opened in October 2009 following a multi-million dollar renovation. So it was planned: three days and two nights at St. Regis. Exciting!

CHANGELING

Wouldn't you know it, but the movie I saw the night before was Changeling. Have you seen it? Angelina Jolie plays a mother who searches for her kidnapped and murdered child. It's based on a true story. It's totally depressing. It was so intense and sad at times that I had to get up and walk to the kitchen. Hits too close to home, as a mother of a young child myself. So of course, after the movie's over, I'm like, "I don't want to go anymore." Claus laughed. "It'll be fine."

THE FLIGHT

Claus flies planes as a hobby. His friend John flies planes for a living. John let Claus pilot us to Kauai, and then took the plane back to Oahu himself. Hating commercial air travel as I do, I said yes. Sitting in a small twin engine plane can get very hot and bumpy - and I can get airsick - but that just tells you that I hate the lines and the TSA rules even more. I took on a full 16 oz. water bottle on my flight. HA!

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Of course, as we approached Kauai, I hear the guys semi-joking about an incoming jumbo jet. "Let's make sure to avoid that guy," they said. It was also storming. "Let's fly under the clouds so we don't get disoriented and smash into a mountain," they said. I'm in the back slightly nervous.

Pilot, co-pilot

Pilot, co-pilot

I called Paul Drewes when we landed to ask how long the storm would last, and I mentioned this little conversation I overheard. He laughed. "You could get him back. Just tell him you think you're pregnant again."

So I did. "Oh, you think you're so funny," said Claus.

"That's Paul's idea," I deflected.

"Surrre. Blame the pregnancy thing on Paul," he said. Pause. "Wait. That came out wrong."

ELTON

I have a friend in Lihue, Elton Ushio. He's the reason I like Kauai so much. Over the years, he's hosted me and my friends on a handful of wonderful eco-tours. With him, we've gone sailing, diving, snorkeling, hiking, spear fishing, and to Niihau.

with Elton Ushio

with Elton Ushio

We had lunch with him, and of course, he knows all the good spots. We tried a new one, Pho Kauai. Good food, good prices. Don't forget the iced coffee with condensed milk. Sinfully good.

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KAPAA

There was a lot of traffic through Kapaa, both to and from Princeville. If you go, budget an extra 20 minutes for the slowdown.

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PRINCEVILLE

It took us about 45 minutes to reach the resort, which is on the north shore of the island. "Built on historic grounds beside the emerald green Hanalei Valley and overlooking the awe-inspiring Napali Coast, The St. Regis Princeville Resort is surrounded by five majestic mountains, a patchwork of taro farms, a wildlife refuge, equestrian paths and hiking trails," sums up the press release.

Lobby

Photo courtesy St. Regis

As new guests, we were greeted with orchid lei at the port cochere, and after an efficient check in, led to our room. There are 252 rooms, and we were booked in one of the 51 rooms with an ocean view. The bellman gave us a quick orientation for the room.

Our room

Our room. Photo courtesy St. Regis.

At the risk of sounding like a hick, I've never seen this feature before: our bathroom had a window which you could make opaque for privacy. If you left it transparent, you could see through the room and clear out the window. A shower with a million-dollar view. If you flicked on the switch, it turned frosted white. Cool!

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After we unpacked we decided to tour the grounds: the infinity swimming pool, the bar, the spa, the exercise room, the visiting vendor in the lobby. It's a beautiful and compact property, easy to navigate.

Pool

Photo courtesy St. Regis

We decided to take a jog. We ran a two mile loop around the golf course. It's too bad we're not golfers, because "The St. Regis Princeville offers access to two premiere 18- hole golf courses, including the Prince and Makai designed by Robert Trent Jones, II. The championship Makai Course is also undergoing a major renovation to be completed in March 2010," according to the press kit.

At 6 p.m., I had a one hour massage, so Claus ran another few miles while I got rubbed by a guy named Pete, who I would now highly recommend to you. Great hands, sincere personality. I actually wobbled a little as I walked down the hall after the massage.

Halele'a Spa. Photo courtesy St. Regis.

Halele'a Spa. Photo courtesy St. Regis.

At 8, we made dinner reservations at a hot Hanalei tapas restaurant called Baracuda (pronounced Bar, like wine bar - a play on words). Good eats, but if your budget is tight, maybe go grab a burger first so you can let the flavors at Baracauda roll around on your taste buds.

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Zucchini

Zucchini

Honeycomb and cheese

Honeycomb and cheese

Beets and goat cheese - my favorite

Beets and goat cheese - my favorite

Beef skewers- just so-so

Beef skewers- just so-so

Scallop and potato - good

Scallop and potato

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We were seated outside and it started to pour, so the outermost table moved all the way in. We had dinner company, a nice couple from San Francisco. The wife owns a hair waxing salon specializing in Brazilian waxing. We ended up talking about pubic hair over dinner. The husbands were both used to this- that's her line of work to deal with crotches all day, and mine to be able to casually discuss anything.

So that was our first day on vacation. Loved it. Couldn't wait to see what was in store for us the next day.

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Nipple cream and bird poop

By
March 23rd, 2010



Claus had some dry skin affliction on his hand and the dermatologist told him to use lanolin lotion. There's a popular creme called Lansinoh that hospital gives to all new moms. I got a half ounce sample when I gave birth, and was told to use it on my nipples to prevent cracking during breastfeeding.

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I still have my old tube in our medicine cabinet and he sees it all the time.  Though I stopped breastfeeding over a year ago, I now use the ointment for chapped lips. He saw it and pilfered it last week.

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"Why is my Lansinoh in your toiletry bag?" I puzzled. When he told me that he needs it for his hand, I offered to get the other tube I left at my parents'. I'm sure it's there. Nothing gets thrown away there.

So I rang my mother. "Mom, long ago I left a tube of cream at your house. Is it still in your bedroom? Can you look for it? Claus needs it."

"Sure," she said. "Tell me what it looks like."

"It's purple, the brand is Lansinoh, and it says For Breastfeeding Mothers on the front."

Pause.

"For who again?" she asked.

BIRD POOP AND WRINKLES

Claus was packing for our weekender to St. Regis Princeville. I have packed days ago. It is the night before, and he is going through his closet for smart-casual polo shirts for the restaurant. "What's this?!" I hear him saying. "And this? What the heck?"

He comes out and shows me whitish smears on his shirts. "Is this gum? Crusty laundry detergent? What is this?" he exasperatedly exclaims. (I would later look at it in bright sunlight and figure out it's a moth cocoon.)
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I'm talking. Now I have to stop my train of thought and look at stupid white stains on his shirts. "I dunno," I say. "Bird poop? I line dry these outside sometimes," I guess.

"Bird poop?" He's totally annoyed. He rolls his eyes and goes back to the closet to find another polo. Then he's mad again. "This one is wrinkled!" He's totally huffy now. He has three polos and all are flawed in some way.

"I'll wash it again for you," I offer.

"We're leaving in the morning! There's no time! Bird poop!" he snorts.

"Well, that's your fault for being so last minute," I sniff back.

He comes to the bed with three polos for me to choose from. "Well, what's it going to be? Bird poop or wrinkles for the fancy resort restaurant?"

I decide to antagonize him. "Bird poop." I point to the darkest color shirt. He glares at me. I have called his bluff. He returns to the closet a third time to find something clean.

Since the aloha shirts have patterns, he wants to know what dress I'm wearing, so that we don't clash. "Bird poop," I tease. "With wrinkles."

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Working moms vs. stay-at-home moms

By
March 22nd, 2010



For as long as there have been women working for a paycheck, I'm sure there has been some form of mommy war going on. It's our intra-species conflict for superiority. Who's better, the woman who stays at home with her children all day, or the woman who goes to work to break the glass ceiling and blaze trails for feminism?

I unwittingly strayed into this battle when I naievely posted this on my personal website:

One day, there will be a real job. Right now, it’s a nice time to connect with my kid.

Diane Ako

A friend, S, wrote back, "Don't you think being a mom is a 'real job?' I think a lot of stay-at-home moms would agree you are doing them a disservice by saying that!?? Everyone says it's the hardest 'job' in the world but people still don't respect it since we don't get a 'paycheck.' It's so much easier to go to work and have other people raise your child."

Firstly, this mom-war thing isn't interesting to me and has never been something I felt like debating. One choice isn't better than another. There are so many variables to consider regarding personal preference and financial situation. I would never tell another woman what I think she should do.

Hence, to answer S's question, I'm not trying to belittle stay-at-home moms - which now includes myself! Perhaps it's a question of semantics.

DEFINE "JOB"

I used the phrase "real job" to mean working for a company and collecting a paycheck, a 401k, and medical benefits. Per Dictionary.com, I meant "a piece of work, esp. a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price." Maybe I should call it a paid job?

That's not to imply that I think motherhood is a fake job, or a lesser job. That's actually to imply that I think of a corporate job as far less than the labor of love and personal reward that parenting is. One would have to see it that way, since there is no paycheck for parenting, and my kid can annoy or exhaust me at regular intervals.

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CREDENTIALS

I was a full-time employee for 15 years before going to part time. I had a career I chose to pursue while still in high school. I was determined to be a journalist, and when I narrowed it down, I was determined to get on air, even if it meant I had to work in random cities, far from home, doing weird hours.

I understand professional passion. I know it very well. I don't know too many other people who would do what I did to get a job. I loved, loved, loved being a reporter. I loved finding and telling stories. I jumped through a lot of hoops to make (or try to make) certain stories or trips happen, and I am proud and grateful of the work that came out of it.

So, I understand the love a meaningful career can give you. I also know the energy it takes to maintain a career, and the emotional highs and lows that come with it.

To me, it's nothing like parenting. Nothing. Parenting is so much harder, but also so much more rewarding. Again, that's my take on it.

PART TIMER

I chose to drop down to part-time after I got pregnant, and it had been my plan to quit this April and stay at home for at least a year.  Let me first tell you about being a part time weekend anchor, which meant I worked Saturdays and Sundays and had the rest of the week off. (That was a great setup, by the way.)

There were a few weekends where I had to do a 10 am - 6 pm shift because I'd have to fill in for a reporter on vacation.  I'd go out, shoot two or three stories with the photographer, write it all up, format it for the website, get on my makeup and anchor clothes, check the scripts, and get on air. (Paul Drewes would do the 9 and 10 solo.)

I would miss seeing Olivia all day. I distinctly remember coming home at 7 the first night I had to do this, and still being totally energetic, and happy to see her. She was showered and fed, and ready for bed, and I was so happy to finish up the bedtime ritual of storytime and tucking in. I was sad I didn't have a little more time with her.

It was then that I experienced firsthand how much easier it is to go to work. As S said, it's so much easier to go to work and have other people raise your child.

In 2009, I moved to the weekday morning anchor shift. Because I got up at 3 am, I'd be zapped by noon. That was hard five days a week. Harder that she was so young; just two. I'd barely catch up on my sleep and the weekend would be over. Another person might be fine with it, but I couldn't handle.

Aside from the tremendous difficulty I had with being on the morning shift, the real reason I wanted to quit was to spend the entire week with Olivia. I see this as a venture I want to fully experience. I don't want to look back and wish I could have been there more. I have come to absolutely hate this phrase, because I've now heard it so much, but it's pretty accurate here: They grow up so fast.

Now I'm a stay-at-home mother. I'm still a little tired. I'm very happy, but I'm wilted at the end of most days because of the tremendous energy it takes to care for a toddler.

For instance, if Olivia is sick, then she will be whiny all day. That really grates me. I can deal with it at first, but after a few hours, I'm frazzled. Every month, I hand her off to my husband on his Sunday off, and I hide. I need to recharge and re-boot. I can't take being with a kid day in and day out, non-stop. I need some time off. Once every four weeks seems acceptable to me.

Still, this is my choice, and I'm happy with it.

BALANCE

I came across a good article by Leslie Morgan Steiner. "Finding one's balance between work and family can be a torturous task for any mom. Complicating every mom's personal dilemma is the societal tension between working mothers and stay-at-home ones. Motherhood in America is fraught with defensiveness, infighting, ignorance and judgment about what's best for kids, families and women.

"Wouldn't we be far better off if we accepted and supported all good, if disparate, mothering choices? Aren't moms ultimately united in our quest to stay sane, raise good kids, provide each other with succor and support, and protect humankind from the overly aggressive, overly logical male half of the species?"

Steiner sums up the angst wonderfully, but I still don't get why there has to be an issue here. The only moms I judge are the ones doing drugs, committing crimes, and being irresponsible citizens while neglecting their children. Frankly, I stand by my right to judge losers like that. Cyrus Belt comes to mind.

Let's take the financial need out of the picture for a moment. If a woman wants to work full-time to feel satisfied, why isn't that OK? It doesn't mean she's less nurturing. I think that means she will be a happier person, thus a better mom. By contrast, if she wants to stay home with her kid all day, that doesn't mean she's setting back the feminist movement.

What's the right balance for each mother? Only she can decide. I respect that.

HAVING IT ALL

I think Steiner hits the nail on the head when she attributes the heart of the conflict to insecurity over making the right choices. "How can some moms stay home? Why is it that others, like me, so clearly cannot? Do we all fight our private battles about which to choose? Does that explain why we're so catty and envious of women who've made different choices?"

Aah, yes. We can't have it all. We can't be Domestic Diva + Career Mom, and therein lies the rub. Even if working weekends was a nice compromise for my mom-ness, it certainly ensured I would not be top dog at the station. In local news, that would be the weekday evening anchor. Would I really want to do a 2-11 p.m. shift five nights a week and totally miss afternoons in the park and the bedtime ritual?

The move to mornings is regarded as a promotion because that means the anchor is on air more days a week, and management considers weekdays more important than weekends. I could not handle a morning shift and maintain my personal life. I loved the job so much- more than any other anchor shift I've done, actually- but what a major sacrifice to my family life.

So I thought about what one thing meant the most to me, and it was pretty easy: Olivia. Realizing I had to give up a career that meant so much to me was the hard part, but it's something I was willing to do. I took a "been there, done that" attitude. In that sense, maybe I'm lucky that I already felt I had proven myself.

That doesn't mean there aren't moments where the old newshound in me gets excited by some news event and wishes I could be part of it. When President Obama came to Hawaii last Christmas, there was a little part of me that wanted to be in the press pool. When KITV's Paul Drewes told me about his crazy behind-the-scenes logistics of covering the February tsunami scare, a warped piece of me missed some of that organized chaos. Sometimes, I see new talent on air and I think, "That could be me." And then I let go.

There are no easy answers, and I think a little part of me will always miss the news career I left behind. However, I'm aware that I made a choice, and when I look at Olivia, I'm reminded that I made the choice that's right... for me.

***

You can also email me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Women's prerogative

By
March 19th, 2010



I mentioned before that Olivia wants to marry our family friend T. (He's shy, so I can only use his initial.) When she knows he's coming over, she wants to make her hair pretty and put on makeup. Cute.

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The fickleness of females starts early in life, I guess. At his last visit, she announced, "I can't marry you, T, but I can ring-around-the-rosie with you."

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We were all taken aback by this random decision. "I just got dumped?" he remarked. "By a two year old?"

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***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

Kids humor

By
March 17th, 2010



LETTER FACTORY

I was lying in bed while Claus was dressing Olivia, so I didn't know what he chose for her to wear. Then I heard her saying, "I see an I, heart, W, O, W, W, W, U! I know my letters!" I had to laugh. That's her favorite "I (heart) Mommy" shirt.

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TWO OR 22?

It's so American to shorten all names to one syllable. Now Olivia is doing it, and I'm not sure where she got it from. Is she two going on 22? Her new fad:

Popo= Pope

Kung Kung= Kungz

Daddy= Dad

Inca= Inks

Ocho= Och

I hadn't yet heard her refer to me. I asked her, "What do you call Mommy?"

"Diane," she deadpanned.

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FIRST NAME BASIS

There have been other times she's called me Diane. She hears other adults calling me that, and thinks it's funny to do it, too. One day, she wouldn't stop. I was tired of it and advised, "You may call me that, as long as you can also feed, clothe, bathe, and attend to yourself. Can you do that?"

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She looked at me and considered the options. "Mommy," she responded.

***

You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com

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