And then 14 happened

The minute I found out I was going to have a girl, I was terrified. I only knew how to be the mom of a boy, and the thought of having to raise a girl was overwhelming. Easton, who was 6-years old at the time, was at the ultrasound anxiously awaiting the announcement of a little brother. He saw my eyes fill up with tears and said, “It’s ok Momma, maybe she’ll turn into a boy before she’s born.”

She didn’t.

She arrived without incident on September 19th (2 weeks early) and gave me a run for my money until she was about 4-years old when we finally figured out that her constant tantrums were due to tonsils the size of overgrown tomatoes. With her tonsils out, she became a reasonable human being overnight, literally.

She is the most challenging out of my three biological children for one very complicated reason: She’s the one that’s most like me yet she’s not like me at all.

She gets upset with the same things as I do. She has the same insecurities as I did. And she argues just like me. At times, it’s exhausting parenting my mini-me. But here’s where I catch a break: I was rotten as a pre-teen, teen and well into my 20’s, and at 14-years old she’s an amazingly great kid. She’s a good student, a loyal friend, the best daughter/sister, and a Jesus-lover.

Everyone who knows Emery will agree on one thing: Emery has a HUGE heart. She will always see the good in people, no matter how deeply they hurt her. It’s both a blessing and a curse for her, but it’s a lesson for the rest of us, especially me. Everyone always says how beautiful she is, but it’s the beauty of her heart that is overwhelming.

Hau’oli la hanau Emery! You are loved by many forever and always.


A very little Emery with her light hair, big hoop earrings and squeezable cheeks.



At the top of Koko Head Crater still looking fresh after climbing 1000+ steps straight up.







Two minutes in my head

Sometimes my mind rambles, like my mouth. Here are a few completely random observations after living here for two months.

Food, Water and the Lack of a Decent Taco Truck

Hawaiians carry around HydroFlasks like Seattleites carry latte cups. They’re so popular here, they launch new colors in Hawai’i and then roll it out to the rest of the US.


This island could use an authentic taco truck or Mexican restaurant. Hawai’i is notorious for less than stellar Mexican food. The trade off? There’s fresh poi and poke around the corner.

Milk isn’t $10/gallon. It’s only $5.49. That’s still painful. I’m glad Kahea is the only milk drinker in the house.

Water straight from the tap isn’t cold like it is Washington, but you can drink it without a filter.

If you see someone selling poi mochi at an event, buy it right away. Every time I wait, it’s sold out.


The minute I realized that Hawai’i doesn’t have a Trader’s Joes, I started to miss Cookie Butter.

Local Living

Don’t go into a Walmart in Hawai’i unless you are patient. Very patient. It has to be one of the busiest in the country.

I love Waimanalo Beach, but I want to know why there are so many pieces of blue plastic in the sand and where it comes from.

I don’t mind geckos, but I wish they were litter box trained or at least had the decency to poop outside and not on my kitchen counters. I’m currently in love with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.

I practice my Pidgin accent on the checkers at the grocery store and people at the swap meet when Ric’s not around. Either I’m doing ok, or they’re laughing at me when I walk away.

Country music is gaining in popularity in Hawai’i, but there’s still only one country music station.

I hear roosters in the morning and I wonder if someone is raising chickens for meat/eggs or raising roosters for cock fights.

The first time we went to church, the Guest Speaker was the pastor from Ric’s church in Kaua’i and then we found out that the Campus Pastor used to be the pastor at the New Hope in Shoreline (WA). We took that as a sign that we had found our home church.



Mauka, Makai, Ewa, Hawai’i Kai loosely replace North, South, East and West. That only works if you know where those are in the first place.



When I was a kid in Los Angeles, you could ride in the back of a pickup truck. You can do that here if all the seats are taken in the cab and you’re over 13.

Hawaiians rule at backing in big trucks into impossibly small parking spaces.

I’ve accidentally turned into the US Pacific Fleet Commanders Headquarters several times. Once you turn in, you need an escort to get out. It’s slightly embarrassing.

I cry in the car during my commute at least once a week. Either because I’m completely frustrated by traffic or that I can’t make a left turn in town, or because I’m homesick.

There’s no parking here. None. That makes me cry, too.

Tears due to traffic frustration and homesickness aside, I look mauka at 6 PM for my daily rainbow or up at the clouds rolling by at night and I know that my roots will grow deep into the red dirt. I just need time.









HI Drivers > WA Drivers

I’ve got to hand it to the commuters of O’ahu, if awards were handed out for freeway driving, they would win for “Most Courteous Merge” and “Most Consistent Use of the Wave/Shaka”.

The good people of this island have let me slide across three lanes of traffic to get in the right hand lane when I realized that I couldn’t make a left turn (hint: do NOT use Siri to navigate your way in Honolulu, aka The Land of No Left Turn) and had to employ the “three rights make a left” method.

More than once, the traffic on H-1 has moved me to tears, so when I can be a courteous driver and let someone into my lane (and possibly save them from having an emotional breakdown), I do, and I get “the wave” or a shaka from the local braddahs every time.

I can’t say the same for the drivers of Western Washington.

Try to merge on to any of the highways or freeways in the Pacific Northwest and undoubtedly, someone will speed up (instead of maintaining their speed like they learned in driver’s ed), causing you make some quick life or death decisions while spewing expletives.

Back home, I’ve let people into my lane, waited for the wave, and when it didn’t come, I’d think to myself, “Where the heck is the wave? I didn’t have to let you in! I could have been a typical PNW driver and sped up so I could drive right next to you when I saw your turn signal on, but I didn’t. I let you in and you can’t even acknowledge that with a simple wave?”

But here, it’s different.

Maybe it’s because O’ahu drivers know that if they get into an accident, they could potentially be the cause of the freeway shutting down for hours while HPD investigates, therefore extending the already LONG commute of thousands of drivers. That guilt alone would be enough for any driver to be as courteous and safe as possible.

Maybe it’s because in the back of our minds we know that if we’re a complete jerk  to someone (on the freeway or off) that there’s a good chance that it’s your aunty’s second cousin’s first wife that makes the really good butter mochi. You just can’t burn a bridge here, this island is way too small.

Or maybe it’s the Aloha Spirit that emerges when you look over at your fellow commuter and think, “We’re all in this together.” We work, we commute and while we’re all miserable sitting in the traffic, bottom line is we know we’re blessed to have jobs and even more blessed to live here.

Yes, that must be it.


The dreaded H1.

When Twinkle, Twinkle goes horribly wrong

Have you heard Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”? The first time I heard it was when I purchased IZ in Concert: The Man and His Music in 1999. I loved the sweetness of the mele (song), and learned how to sing the hui (chorus) of Ahi Wela, the song that it is intertwined with.

I played that CD a lot when I was pregnant with Emery. After she was born in 2002, I would sing Ahi Wela/Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to her when she was fussy (and she was fussy a lot). It always seemed to calm her down.

It wasn’t until years later when I was taking hula and discovered Huapala: Hawaiian Music and Hula Archives that I bothered to look up the translation to Ahi Wela (written in 1891 by Lizzie Doirin and Mary Beckley) .


Ahi wela mai nei loko
I ka hana a ke aloha
E lalawe nei kuʻu kino
Konikoni lua i ka puʻuwai


Like a hot fire inside
The action of love

Going through my entire body
And throbbing in my heart 

Um, oops.

I know that my daughter didn’t suffer any emotional damage from hearing a provocative song sung to her repeatedly in Hawaiian, but it was still a facepalm moment. We’ve been involved with a hula hālau since Emery was 2, so I have a much better grasp on a big handful of Hawaiian words and I lean on my kumu hula and Huapala for song translations. Maybe it’s time to seriously study ‘ōleo Hawai’i so I know what I’m singing the next time I need to calm a fussy baby.

Or maybe I should just stick to humming.



The Milky Way at Rialto Beach, Washington | Photo: Easton Lemos | Instagram: @eastonlemos





And then he turned 21.

When we lived on the Mainland, the last week of August/first week of September was one of the busiest weeks of the year. We had the fair, the halau performance at the fair, back-to-school  shopping, and Easton’s birthday.

The move to Hawai’i meant no state fair, a back-to-school start date of August 1st, and that I wouldn’t be able to take Easton out for a drink for his 21st birthday (which is today, September 8th), or at the very least, send him down to Fred Meyer to buy a bottle of wine, a 30-pack of Busch Light and his own Hard Cider, legally.

I hate not being there for this milestone.

I could bore you with his birth story, or how we came up with his name, or how he was a vegetarian until he was 15 months old and his dad blew it by letting him eat a Happy Meal, but instead I will tell you that I blinked and he turned 21. He’s a pretty awesome human being that is getting a handle on “adulting”.  He’s living the dream, doing what he loves, and  I am proud of him every single day.

If you see him this month, give him a hug, tell him his Mom misses him, and then force him to take a selfie with you and post it to my Facebook page, please. He may be 21, but he’s still my baby and I’d love my Village to surround him so that he knows his family is sending all their Aloha from 2701 miles away!

Hau’oli lā hānau Easton! We love you and miss you and can’t wait for you to come visit!


Image by Life N Light Photo.

“Maka got out.”

Over the last two years, when I hear these three words here’s what happens to me:

I burst into tears.

I get a huge pit in my stomach.

I drop to my knees and pray for his safe return.

And then I go into Super Dog Mom mode to find him.

Oh, this dog!

On the way home from dinner with our hula ‘ohana last night, Ric checked messages and discovered that our neighbor Mano (the super amazing neighbor that gave the girls bikes and boogie boards) called us to let us know that Maka got out. He and his son looked for him for an hour, but couldn’t find him. This was two days before Maka’s 2nd birthday.

My heart sank.

Ric built Maka a deluxe size kennel in the garage. We have a fan on him, open the windows and crack the garage door for maximum airflow. Before we left, Emery argued that the garage door was too high. I knew Kahea couldn’t fit underneath (that’s our test), but what if I had misjudged? What if in the excitement of seeing my hula ‘ohana I forgot to lock his kennel? My heart sank when I realized this was all my fault. Whenever Maka and Bella escaped, I had four local networks on Facebook that I could post on. I don’t have that here.

Now what?

Kahea was crying hysterically in the back seat. “Mom, it’s late and it’s dark. He doesn’t know anyone here and the hurricane is coming. He’s going to be wet and scared, Mom. We have to find him!”

“Yes Baby Girl, we do. The best thing we can do right now is pray.”

And so we did. One of the things that I learned at The Rock Church (our home church in Washington), was to be very specific and intentional with my prayers, so I choked back my tears and kept it simple: Dear Jesus, please protect Maka and bring him safely home to us.

Maka’s never ran more than 1.5 miles away from home, but he’s never been missing for more than an hour, either. The worrisome part is less than a mile away is Kamehameha Hwy/Pearl Harbor on one side and Aloha Stadium on the other. All we had was prayer.

Ric and I had driven separately, so we drove through different areas of our neighborhood with no luck.

We arrived home at same time, opened the garage door and this is what we saw.

Maka was safe in his kennel the whole time.

What the…?

That is one AMAZING answer to prayer.

When we talked to Mano, he said that he was doing his dishes and heard the distinctive jingle of Maka’s collar. He went outside to wrangle him and saw a white dog run out of the culdesac. As the dog turned left, he heard every dog down the street start barking as the white dog ran past. He was certain it was him. “I’ve lived here 16 years and I’ve never seen a big white dog like Maka running loose in this neighborhood.”  Where that dog came from is a mystery.

All I know is that I’m thankful Maka didn’t pull one of his amazing Houdini moves and escape. I’m thankful that I have a caring neighbor that looked for a dog that he was sure was ours. And I’m praying that the phantom white dog found his people last night.

I am glad (and somewhat amazed) that this dog made it to his 2nd birthday, which is today (9/4). After all the surgeries, the swallowing of foreign objects, the escapes from our backyard in Monroe, and the journey to Hawai’i, I often wondered if he’d make it this far. We are thankful for this blue-eyed beast that keeps us on our toes yet somehow remains the calming force in The Caba Hale.

Hau’oli lā hānau Makapolūnani!

I think know you’re the reason I have gray hair.


Makapolunani (beautiful blue eyes) as a puppy, before the “fun” began.




A rather blustery day

Madeline and Lester might be on your radar this week. Madeline threatened to wreak havoc the Big Island of Hawai’i yesterday and Lester’s intentions are still unknown.


Hurricanes Madeline and Lester


Ah, the uncertainty of hurricane season in Hawai’i. It starts in June and typically goes through November. All you can do is make sure you’re prepared as you sit and refresh the Hawaii News Now Hurricane Center webpage and anxiously watch the path of the storm. You never know what Mother Nature has up her sleeve.

O’ahu has managed to dodge the brunt of the storms throughout history, with that unfortunate distinction going to Hawai’i Island and Kaua’i. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki pummeled the south shore of Kaua’i, causing $1.8 billion in damage and killing 6 people. The hurricane also destroyed 1,400 homes and severely damaged over 5,000. Rebuilding Kaua’i after Iniki’s destruction is what brought Ric to the Garden Isle. He stayed for 22 years. That was the last “big one”. Ric and my father-in-law keep saying, “We’re due.”


Tropical Storm Darby was our first experience with severe weather. The day before she was set to hit, we went out and looked at the huge waves. The cover photo for The Caba Hale, with Emery looking out at the ocean, was taken on that day. It was windy and only slightly rainy. We talked a little bit about hurricane preparedness with the girls that day, but had the big talk last night.

“Why do we have to have a mattress on top of us?”

“How are we all going to fit in the bathtub?”

“Will the roof blow off?”

“What if we’re at school?”

“What if Maka has to pee?”

Ric answered all their questions, we used “stay calm” instead of “don’t panic” and they went to bed feeling mentally prepared and safe. After our talk, “A Rather Blustery Day” popped into my head. It’s one of the Winnie the Pooh songs that I used to sing to Easton when he was a toddler. If Lester does hit, “blustery” won’t even begin to describe the weather. I think that’s my subconscious at work keeping me in “stay calm” mode.

We’ve looked at the FEMA list and are ready as far as supplies are concerned, with the exception of  toilet paper. That’s a hard thing to keep in stock with three females in the house.

Just do us a favor: when you see a hurricane headed our way, please pray a hedge of protection over the island chain and especially over the thousands of homeless people.

If you want to check the progress of the storm, here are two links:

Ironically, “Here Comes the Sun” is playing on Pandora.