Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Learning cursive

June 29th, 2016

Learning cursive for me was a rite of passage. I remember sitting in Mrs. Smith's third grade classroom at West Hill Elementary School in Connecticut and writing the alphabet on wide lines with a dotted line in the middle for guidance. She would come around and check our progress, suggesting a fatter belly on the G or a loopier tail on the Z.

Di elementary

I'm going to assume you can find me because I'm the only Asian kid.

I'm creative. I'm not an art major, but I make my living in a creative field, and have always like doodling with letters in different fonts. Knowing cursive has completely expanded my artistic expression.

15-4-4 animals

Actually writing with a pencil and paper helped inform my sensibilities when it was time for me to help lay out the high school newspaper. Our teacher, Mr. Becket, taught us the difference between a serif and sans serif font, and how to combine the two for an elegant visual presentation.

That's why it's important for me that my daughter know cursive. Quality of life issues aside, there are the more practical matters of signing her own name. How will she sign for her credit card purchases after a shopping spree? (Ha ha.)

And then there's this scary bit from US News & World Report: "In the murder trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin, Trayvon's 19-year-old friend, Rachel Jeantel, testified to being on a cellphone talking with him just before his death. Many in the courtroom were shocked, though, when Jeantel admitted on the stand that she could not read a document a lawyer handed to her -- because it was written in cursive."

I have been vaguely aware of the longtime national conversation about teaching cursive in school. In the 1990s, I reported about the impact of the No Child Left Behind laws, in which teachers said a narrowed curricula edged out instructional time for cursive writing.

Now there are Common Core standards, which are silent on cursive, but prioritize computer use because its tests are taken on computers. Not long ago, I asked some teachers, who told me they don't teach it anymore.

"I'll teach her, then. It's important," I thought to myself. I'm constantly busy or tired, so most of the school year passed without me taking action. And then came the recipe book.

I brought out a notebook of recipes my mom wrote down for me. I asked Olivia, who reads two grades above her own, to tell me what ingredients I need. She said she had no idea how to read cursive.

Gosh! That really was the first time I've presented her a document in cursive, which is shocking in itself that everything is typewritten nowadays. Mostly, I thought, "This is your Popo's recipe book! You have to know how to read it!"


That very night I drew lines on some paper and started her on the first few letters. She took easily to it and really enjoyed it. She is now writing her name and some other words, and she's very proud of herself - and so am I.


Is cursive an anachronism? Maybe it is a throwback to the pre-Internet era, but I hope there will always be a place for it in our society.


People will always need to jot a few lines down on a piece of paper. What about the handwritten Valentine's Day or birthday card? I believe there's lifelong value in known cursive, and I hope Olivia will feel that one day, too.


Is the Easter bunny real?

June 27th, 2016

I can't believe I'm hearing this but my daughter just voiced suspicion about the Easter bunny's existence. We were talking about holidays and she mentioned, "I'm not really sure the Easter bunny is actually real."

2011: creeped out by the Easter bunny

2011: creeped out by the Easter bunny

We're pretty close and she likes to confide in me (more than her dad - it must be a girl thing) about lots of things, or work out her problems by conversing with me. This was a working-out-her-problems tone.

11-4-24_Easter_Di & Bunny

"Why would you say that?" I asked.

She had a very thoughtful argument laid out which consisted of:

  1. "He didn't come to our house this year and he's supposed to go to everyone's house." To which I said, I think he needs to be invited and we knew we were going to Amanda's house so we didn't send him an invite.
  2. "He hides the eggs, but how come Amanda's parents knew what was inside all the plastic eggs?" (Christy and Mike put numbers in many of them, and the kids exchange the number for a bigger toy that couldn't fit into the egg.) Obviously, the Easter bunny debriefed her parents first so they'd know which toys go with what number.
  3. "But there were 986 eggs. That's too many eggs to know about." Obviously, he wrote it on a piece of paper for them.

None of my rebuttals allayed her suspicion and I just let it go. I didn't try to convince her. She's nearly nine.

I hate to see that childhood innocence go, but maybe it's time? It is, after all, inevitable.

Olivia in white. Christmas Day with cousins.

Olivia in white. Christmas Day with cousins.

Still, I asked, "Does this mean the Tooth Fairy and Santa aren't real?"

She looked at me like I was out of my mind. "Of course they're real! How do you think I get money under my pillow each time I lose a tooth?"

A loooong letter to Santa

A loooong letter to Santa

And Santa? "Yes, he's real. He comes to our house every year and he knows what I want."

I was secretly breathing a sign of relief when she added, "I'm starting to wonder, though. His handwriting looks a lot like yours."

Sloppy, Mommy. I'll have to think of that for next year.

Maui: Piliholo Ranch Zipline

June 24th, 2016

My daughter is studying macaws and the rainforest in school, and knows about the layers of the forest, including the canopy and the understory. When we were planning our Maui trip, she really wanted to go ziplining.

"I want to feel like a bird flying through the trees!" she said excitedly. I've zip lined before and I knew I liked it.

Olivia on her first zip.

Olivia on her first zip.

There are other operations on Maui, but Piliholo offers tours through trees (rather than a flat field); it's right in Makawao, where we were staying; and my local friends give it high marks for safety and reputation. Perfect.


We booked the Six Line Treetop Zip Tour, which takes two hours, ascends high up into the trees, crosses aerial bridges, and even includes a bungee-like plunge off a 42-foot high deck. The longest treetop zipline is 930 feet!

42' QUICKjump deck

42' QUICKjump deck

The area is gorgeous. It's currently owned by the Baldwin brothers, Jeff, Duke, and Chris, whose forefather, the Reverend Dwight Baldwin, came to Maui in the 1830’s as a missionary.


While the main portion of the ranch is a premier cattle business and horseback riding venture, they started the zipline course in a corner of the ranch as a nod to the growing field of eco-tourism and a desire to share the beauty of the ranch lands. After two years of construction, it opened in December 2008.


Alatasi & Whitney

Olivia, though a little scared at first, quickly found her comfort zone and enjoyed her experience. The guides, Whitney and Alatasi, made her feel at ease with their warmth and friendliness. There was another family in our group with a boy her age, which added a sense of camaraderie. At the end, she asked if we could do this again!

I have to admit, when I stepped off the QUICKjump deck, I let out a little scream as my heart went up into my throat! Talk about my adrenaline rush for the morning!

With The Becketts

With The Becketts

And here's our funny of the day: just as I was about to leap off for another zipline, the other mom said to me, "Oh, uh. Your tie is coming loose." I was confused.

Our guide Whitney had just adjusted my carabiners and ties, and it was very clear they have a keen eye for your safety at all times. I jerked short and said, "What?!"

The mom, Mei, pointed at my head. "Your tie. Your ponytail holder?" and she pulled it off the end of my hair.

Whew. Right. Just that.


Then off I was for another zip through the tree tops, soaring like a bird in one of the prettiest places in the state.

More at



Jazz Peace Concert this weekend

June 23rd, 2016

Hawaii jazz greats get together this weekend for a Jazz Peace Concert at the Byodo-in Valley of the Temples on Saturday, June 25. The lineup is:

Rocky Holmes- Saxophones/ Flute
Brien Matson- Trombone
Ernie Provencher- Bass
Grant Carvalho- Keyboard
Mihoko M.- Vocals

Byodo-in Valley of the Temples is on 47-200 Kahekili Hwy. in Kaneohe. It runs from 12:30 - 3:30 p.m. and organizers say it's subject to weather. Temple admission fees apply: adult $3,
senior & child $2.

For details, call (808) 239-9844. More at


Maui: the community of Keokea

June 20th, 2016

This spring, I learned my great-grandmother, a full-Hawaiian woman named Helen Maliu, was born in Keokea. I don't know when, but when she married my full-Chinese great-grandfather, they moved to Papakolea on Oahu.

I've driven through Keokea before, but this time I wanted to revisit it with this new knowledge that I have ancestral ties to the area. It's a very small town; the 2010 US Census Bureau report puts the population at just over 1,600.

Sleepy Keokea

Sleepy Keokea

According to genealogy documents, one or two of Great-grandmother Maliu's five children (original last name Ako, but would have changed through marriage for the women) settled in Kula themselves.

Ironically, it's a full Hawaiian woman who is my link, though this community was originally settled by Chinese immigrants. I learned China's hero and first president, Sun Yat-Sen, briefly lived in Keokea in 1911.


There's a small park built in his honor. Also, Sun Yat-Sen's brother, Sun Mei, made his home in Keokea in the early 20th century.


It's well-maintained, with a few pretty paths and a couple of picnic benches. Most of the time, it's the feral chickens who seem to be enjoying the park the most.

IMG_5752 IMG_5756

Another well-known Chinese landmark is the Kwock Hing Temple on Middle Road. I happened to see it as we were driving by, and spun around to check it out.


Olivia and I walked up the stairs and peeked around the locked building. I was about to be satisfied with that, but a man peered around from the back and asked if we needed help.

With Nelson S. N. Chung

With Nelson S. N. Chung

How fortunate we were able to meet Nelson S. N. Chung, one of the members who helps care for the building. It's usually locked, but he let us peek inside.

He said it was built in 1907 and was the first two story structure in Kula. Over time, it's been renovated and moved about 200 feet south to its present site. The Hawaii State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places added it to their lists in 1982.

The building's original purpose was to provide services to immigrant Chinese workers, who the sugarcane plantations started hiring in 1852. In fact, there were so many Chinese immigrants, at one time there were six such halls - all helping the men with religious, political, and moral support- even funeral benefits. Now there are only two halls left.

First floor,

First floor, Kwock Hing Society Hall


Photos on the first floor

The bottom floor has old photos of Chinese immigrants. The top floor is an incredibly tiny worship hall for Buddhists. Probably like, three Buddhists at a time.

Second floor, Kwock Hing Society Hall

Second floor, Kwock Hing Society Hall

Side note: It's interesting to be inside a building built before codes standardized measurements. The steps were so small - about six inches wide!

Lastly, we wanted to end our little tour with lunch. Chung gave us directions and told us to pay attention because if you blink, you miss it.

The main strip in Keokea

The main strip in Keokea

The "town" consists of four businesses: Henry S. Fong Store (which Chung says used to have a companion movie theater from the 1930s to the mid-1950s), Keokea Gallery featuring local artists' work, Chevron K.S. Ching Store, and Grandma's Coffee House. Henry S. Fong and Mrs. K. S. Ching, by the way, were brother and sister.

Fong Store

Fong Store

Fong Store

Fong Store

Grandma's Coffee House is the only place to sit down and eat, and it was pretty busy. It has fresh baked goods and roasts its own coffee.

Grandma's Coffee House

Grandma's Coffee House

According to its website, "Grandma began roasting and blending Maui organic coffee in 1918. It wasn't long before Grandma's house became the place to go for a cup of coffee and to 'talk story.' It is now four generations later and coffee is still in our family."

Can I haz a cheeseburger?

Can I haz a cheeseburger?

The web story explains how it went from cafe to restaurant: "Years ago, we decided to incorporate Grandma's original homemade recipes and our exclusive organic coffee into Grandma's Coffee House."


It was a nice way to pass a couple hours in Keokea. Now I try to imagine my own great-grandmother living in this town, and feel I know her just a little bit better. What a beautiful community to have called home.