Now That the Holidays are Over, Here’s Everything I Did Wrong

By January 6, 2020 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

I’d like to blame the fact that Thanksgiving was later than normal this year, which meant we had less time between that holiday and Christmas to get our lives in order.

But let’s be honest: We lost, what, maybe two days? That can’t possibly be the reason.

I could also blame the fact that my kid’s birthday was a couple of days before Thanksgiving—which, honestly, did screw me up, if not emotionally financially—or that I had way more to do this year compared to last. Oh, I could find a lot of reasons why I made some poor decisions, but the truth is simply this: I was a complete mess.

I waited too late to order some gifts from Amazon. I foolishly decided to bake 400 cookies the week of Christmas. And even though I had ordered my Christmas cards in October—yes, advance planning!—I didn’t mail them out until two weeks into December. And some are still sitting on my desk.

So here are some of the screw-ups and bad decisions I made—and hopefully I remember to read this in October, so I don’t make the same mistakes again.

I Didn’t Update My Address Book From Last Year

All those returned Christmas cards because the address was wrong? Or the people I had forgotten on my list that got added last minute? Yeah, I never made those changes last year, so I made the same mistakes this year—including sending a card to a friend who moved three years ago. This time I’m going to make those edits to my list now while I can still read my own handwriting and save myself the stress in December.

I Didn’t Suggest Secret Santa at Preschool

Another parent—and elementary school teacher—tipped me off on this about a week before Christmas. This would have saved me (and a bunch of other parents) from buying 12 extra gifts this year.

I Baked—A Lot and Too Often

In short, I should have planned out my baking better. Cookies are challenging because they’re a high-maintenance product: You have to literally form hundreds of dough balls by hand, then place them spaced out on trays and swap these trays in the oven every 12 minutes. And if you’re making, say, five batches of cookies, that will require literally hours of standing around in your kitchen, waiting for cookies to bake. (Good thing I had the sense to install cable in the kitchen.) I could have baked cookies in smaller batches over a few weeks and froze them. Or I could have thought of something less tedious and time-consuming to make, like bar cookies or brownies. Or not baked at all. (Although coming up with an alternative gift idea only creates another stressor…)

I Didn’t Organize Landon’s Photos This Year. At All.

I always think, “Oh, what a nice gift it would be for his grandparents to make a photo book of the year.” Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I Didn’t Plan Anything With My Friends

To be honest, that didn’t even occur to me until after the holidays when I started seeing people posting on Instagram of dinners and brunches they had with their girlfriends. I know it’s a crazy time of the year, and I’m sure my friends—at least the ones with kids—were just as stressed as I was with managing school Christmas programs and goodie bags and Secret Santas at the office. And I must’ve assumed everyone was too busy. But still, that’s one of the best things about the holidays, getting together with friends, sharing a meal or just great conversations. It’s what I look forward to—and I completely spaced this year. My bad. Maybe we can celebrate another holiday, like Groundhog Day.

I Waited Too Long To Even Think About Christmas Eve Dinner

It wasn’t until a coworker told me she was trying to make reservations for dinner on Christmas Eve—and couldn’t because she, too, waited too long—that I even thought about it. We literally had nothing planned, which was too bad. I’m sure it would have been nice to get a little dressed up and go to a fancy dinner with my family, but I didn’t even consider it. Instead, we went to see Honolulu City Lights and ate hot dogs. Not the worst, but still.

I Baked Cookies For Everyone But Santa

Yes, I baked hundreds of cookies and made dozens of packages and gave them all away. Then my son asked what cookies we were going to leave out for Santa. Are you kidding me? Luckily, I had cookies gifted to me by other people—thank God for the bakers!—so I actually did have enough to leave out. But just barely. Next year I should make a special batch of cookies with Landon, so he can decorate them and feel a part of the experience. Hopefully I remember!

I Ordered an Advent Calendar a Little Too Late

I’m not Catholic, but I thought an advent calendar would be fun for Landon to get excited about Christmas. Essentially, I viewed it as a countdown—and he got a special surprise each day. This was actually a great idea; Landon absolutely loved it and was excited every morning to open the next door. But I had thought about it a little too late and it came on Dec. 2. Not the end of the world, but I could have been more on it.

I Didn’t Make a Budget for Christmas

I did have a list, so at least my spending wasn’t too mindless and spontaneous. But I’m still a little afraid to see my credit card statement.

I Didn’t Take Time Off To Enjoy the Holidays

I used vacation days to watch my son when his preschool closed for the winter break. But I didn’t plan anything fun or Christmas-y. No ice skating at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center or picking out trees at Helemano Farms. All the things I told myself I wanted to do this year, I didn’t do. I was too busy baking cookies (see above). I did, though, take Landon to visit Santa at Kāhala Mall. But even that was an afterthought: We were there to pick up lemon peel gummies from Carousel Candyland and walked right past the Big Guy. So we stopped, paid $10 to take photos with my iPhone and moved along. At least we did that, thought it wasn’t planned at all.

I Let Landon Open All of His Gifts

OK, to preface this: I wasn’t going to let Landon open all of his gifts at once. I wanted him to take his time to open each present before moving on to the next one. (I was trying to teach him appreciation.) Midway through this exercise, I realized he was opening boxes of toys he either wasn’t really into or too young to use, and we were just creating a mess of things in our living room. Instead, I had him unwrap everything but only pick a handful of toys to open and play with. The others I stored in his closet. I’ll take them out periodically throughout the year, when he gets bored with his other toys. Which will be, like, today.

I Didn’t Get Anything For Myself

I spent so much time (and money) focused on the kid—and everyone else—I didn’t think about myself at all. And Santa didn’t leave me anything under the tree, either. Next year I think I’ll treat myself to something. Maybe a vacation during the holidays.

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Just When I Thought I Hadn’t Done Much In My Life, I Looked Back a Decade

By December 31, 2019 Musings, The Daily Dish

The other day I picked up an old journal and started reading.

I wrote the same thing throughout, page after page, month after month, and it went something like this: I don’t exercise enough, I don’t write enough, I don’t read enough, I don’t travel enough. Nothing I had accomplished thus far meant much to me—because there was always more to do.

This is not an uncommon feeling. I call it the “Silver Medal Syndrome.”

Here’s what I mean: Winning the silver medal obviously isn’t as satisfying as winning gold. But bronze medal winners are actually happier than silver medalists because they almost didn’t medal at all. It’s all about perspective.

Research done in 2012 back this up: It’s a phenomenon explained by something called counterfactual thinking, when people compare their objective achievements to what might have been. Silver medalists look at how closely they missed the gold; bronze medalists see how close they were to not medaling at all.

If you compare yourself to, say, someone who seems to do/have/be everything—social media only makes this information more accessible, whether it’s accurate or not—you’ll never be satisfied with your life. You’re chasing what you don’t have. But if you stop and take stock of what you’ve already done, you might realize just how much you’ve accomplished.

I know this—but I rarely do it. And I don’t have any good reason why.

But as Dec. 31, 2019 approaches, I find myself thinking back on the past decade. So many things happened between 34 and 44 for me. I moved three times, adopted a second dog, taught college journalism full time. I surfed in Ireland, hiked in New Zealand and rode bikes through Amsterdam. I managed a full-time freelancing career, got married and divorced and married again, hired a therapist, ran a marathon, did a handful of triathlons, suffered two concussions, broke a rib, had my appendix removed, had a baby, wrote a children’s book and survived a tax audit and a ballistic missile alert. That’s a lot, wouldn’t you say?

I adopted Indy in 2010.
At least this was one of the most interesting things to happen in 2018.
The hubby and I on a hike in Tongariro National Park in New Zealand in 2016.

And those are the big events, the one I didn’t have to sift through old journals or Facebook albums to remember. Imagine all the stuff I can’t readily recall—the first-times, the last-times, the great meals, the new friends, the old friends, the scores and finds, the books I couldn’t stop reading, the movies that I still think about, the awards, the handwritten letters, the leaps of faith, the disappointments, the surprises, the decisions that turned out better than I could have anticipated.

Do I still think about all the things I haven’t accomplished? Of course. And I always will. I can’t help it. (And thanks to Instagram, I’ll be reminded all the time about how uninteresting my life is! Yay!)

But I’m going to start appreciating all the things I’ve already accomplished, no matter how small, and stop beating myself up for not writing a New York Times bestseller or filling up my passport with stamps. Sometimes getting out of bed without snoozing the alarm is a huge accomplishment—and I need to starting giving myself more credit.

So that’s my plan for 2020. Hindsight is always perfect. So maybe my reflections this year will be 2020, too.

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Yes, I Wrote a Kid’s Book!

By October 1, 2019 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

I am the absolute worst at self-promotion. But here goes.

I wrote a children’s book! My first!

If you ask me about it, though, I’ll likely change the subject or wave my hands and say, “It’s no big deal.” (Ask my co-workers.)

But the truth of it is that I really am excited about it. I’ve always wanted to pen a book—I’ve finished a young adult novel in four months (though it was never published) and I’m always writing some kind of fiction on the side (when I’m not busy writing for my real job). This is definitely a milestone for me. Like finishing a marathon (something I still haven’t done and, at least to me, a whole lot harder).

Here’s how it all began: My friend Mariko Merritt (@heybeachcake on Instagram) is a children’s book illustrator, among other talents. I’ve known her since she left for the Rhode Island School of Design way more than a decade ago. I surfed with her dad and I’d see her every summer when she came home from college.

She had dreams of illustrating a book filled with fruits and veggies. I had dreams of writing a book, period. So we both got together and did it. That’s really how it all happened.

The inspiration for this book, “Kai Goes to the Farmers Market,” was my son, of course. Since he doesn’t have a common Hawaiian name, we went with Kai, which happens to be my husband’s name. So it all worked out.

My kid loves to eat—and I love going to the farmers market. We’ve walked around a few in town. He reaches for anything on tables; I’m constantly apologizing and paying for things he puts into his mouth. My husband, who has worked at farms and helps farmers in his role as an ag instructor, has stressed the importance of growing our own food and supporting local agriculture. We have just about every kind of fruit tree you can think of in our backyard—and a hydroponics table to grow lettuce and an aquaponics system to grow everything else. The message in this book—that Hawaiʻi grows amazing fruits, veggies and other ag products, and we should support our local food producers—is close to my heart.

You know what’s interesting? I read a lot of children’s books. Like, I’ve probably read close to a hundred by now. And most are just OK. Some are amazing—funny, captivating and just long enough to keep the short attention spans of toddlers. Others are flat.

I thought, “Writing a kid’s book shouldn’t be that hard! I can rhyme!”

Oh, it’s a lot harder than I had anticipated.

Rhyming isn’t always easy, especially when you’re including exotic fruits like rambutan, pohā berries and jaboticaba. (I managed to do it, though!) And the storyline has to be compelling. My editor sent back the original copy and said, “This needs conflict.” Who knew a children’s book about fruits and veggies had to have conflict!

I’m eternally grateful for the Jane Gillespie and the folks at Beachhouse Publishing for taking a chance on a newbie like me. It was great fun to work on this book—and it was doubly awesome to see my words alongside the supremely creative work by a dear friend.

If you’re interested in getting a copy of the book or stopping by to say hi to Mariko and me, we’ll be signing books at noon, Nov. 16 at Barnes & Noble at Ala Moana Center. And we’re planning a farmers market-style pop-up on Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Da Shop in Kaimukī. You can also purchase a book here or message me for a copy.

Thanks for your support!

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How Preschool Took Over My Life

By September 4, 2019 #BabyFox


No one tells you about this.

So I will. Because I wish I knew this going into it.

I mean, sure, other parents did warn me. Subtly. Asking questions like, “So, did you start applying to preschools yet…?” when I was still pregnant.

I remember telling one friend that I hadn’t even considered it since I had several miscarriages and the last thing I was thinking about was preschool. I had a baby to carry to term! And I couldn’t drink Diet Coke anymore! I had a lot on my mind!

The question came up again just months after I had given birth. Preschools. Which ones I was thinking about. When was I going to start applying. My son had only been alive for eight weeks, and I was more concerned about getting him to sleep through the night and cursing the breast pump than which preschools offered the right setting for my son.

In hindsight, I should have heeded these subtle nudges.

Preschool is a thing. A huge, big thing. I didn’t realize it until it was almost too late.

I wound up applying to a nearby preschool when Landon was just 3 months old. To me, it was early and I felt ridiculous, but not a single person at the school was surprised. One administrator joked that I should have applied when I found out I was pregnant, since it’s first-come, first-serve.

Except it wasn’t really a joke.

I called another preschool around the same time and was immediately placed on a waiting list. The woman on the other end of the line confirmed what people had been saying to me, what I ignored or laughed off, and she was dead serious about it: “You know, you really should have called when you were pregnant.”

Crazy? Yes. But this whole preschool thing is. I got caught up in the frenzy, applying to more than a dozen preschools, some 10 inconvenient miles away. I created an Excel spreadsheet that I constantly updated, noting which preschools served lunch, offered early drop-offs or provided extracurricular activities. I compared tuitions and poured over online reviews. I harassed everyone I knew about preschools. I was wholly consumed by the entire thing.

Today, applying for preschool is like applying to college. (It seems, anyway.) The good ones—and “good” can mean a lot of different things, from being feeders to private schools to being convenient locations for parents who work in Downtown—are super competitive. And many of them require an assessment, where teachers observe the toddlers playing and interacting and, somehow, decide who fits and who doesn’t. At his assessments, Landon behaved like a typical 2-year-old, drawing, wandering around, deciding to lie down in the middle of the floor while everyone else was singing—and sometimes we got accepted and sometimes we didn’t and I have no idea why.

The rejections were tough. It felt like the school was rejecting my son, personally, that there was something wrong with him. As a mom, that was really hard to take. I know it’s not personal, I know my son is a great kid. Still, when a preschool sends the polite decline, it’s heartbreaking.

And then there are the acceptance letters, what you’re desperately hoping for. All of your fears that you’d have to quit your job and spend the next three years preparing your kid on your own for kindergarten with an iPad and visits to MyGym are gone!

Except you have another problem: Which preschool do I send him to?

Some send out early acceptance letters, giving you just a week to decide and send in your deposit. Should I wait for the school that I want? What if I get rejected and I’ve already turned down these other schools? Can I afford to eat the deposit? Just when you thought the stress was over, right?

And then there’s the issue of potty training. (See my earlier post on that.)

There are a handful of preschools that admit younger kids—under 3—and teach them how to use the potty. It costs more, but after what I went through with trying to potty-train my own kid, I’d pay double. If you can get into these programs, I would highly recommend it. But they’re super competitive and yes, you should have applied when you were pregnant. (Now you know.)

We got accepted to a bunch of great preschools, all of which would have provided loving, nurturing environments for Landon to learn, play and socialize—which is what I was looking for. I wasn’t so much concerned about which preschools produced Ivy League graduates or Nobel Prize winners. I just wanted to send him to a school where he would learn, have fun and be safe. And, thanks to a dear friend’s recommendation (a friend who likely did spreadsheets, too), we found one that fits.

We didn’t have any problems with the transition from at-home daycare to a preschool setting. In fact, Landon was more than ready to go to what he called “big-boy school.” He was so excited to play on the playground, to ride tricycles, to make new friends. When I dropped him off on the first day last week, he barely said goodbye. In fact, as I was trying to explain to him that I would be leaving and would come back later—which is what you’re supposed to say—he replied, “Mommy, you can go to work now.” Sheesh.

I can’t say it was a perfect transition. I could tell the first week was a bit hard for him at first. New teachers, new routine, new rules. He wound up throwing sand at another kid on the playground—playfully but still—and didn’t make it to the potty on time and wet his pants. He was more frustrated and tired than usual those first couple of days. But by Friday he was fine, napping instead of talking incessantly and keeping everyone else up, eating food for lunch he had never had before (like pastele stew) and riding around on a tricycle by himself.

So what did I learn? Parents are definitely more stressed than kids are about preschool—and rightfully so. We’re all trying to make the best decisions we can for our kids, and that may mean staying up late Googling, rearranging appointments and taking vacation days to visit schools and budgeting your money better so you can afford it. And preschool isn’t for every family. I know parents who have decided to skip preschool and prepare their kids themselves for kindergarten. (More power to them.)

So it comes down to this: Finding the right preschool will take time. It won’t be cheap. And the process may be stressful. (Or not. I know parents who applied the week before school started, got in and it all worked out.) Just know it’s a short time in their lives—and in yours. I almost lost my mind the three days we tried to potty-train Landon; I literally thought he was never going to figure this out and I was a total failure of a human. But he’s fine, potties like a champ.

When you’re in the middle of it, it’s all you see. It’s overwhelming. I’m here to say—you get through it. I did—and I didn’t even apply when I was pregnant.

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How We Failed at Potty Training a Toddler

By July 25, 2019 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

Yes, we failed.


All the books and blogs we read made it sound so easy. “Just follow these steps and you, too, will have a fully potty-trained toddler in just three days. It’s easy!”

Well, that didn’t happen for us. Not even close.

Why would I write about failing at this? Because I wish I had read a blog about failing instead of succeeding. I wish I read about someone’s mental exhaustion, about how she almost gave up, about how it took months to get her kid potty trained and what she did about it. Then maybe I wouldn’t have had such high expectations. I wouldn’t have been so frustrated by Day 2. And I probably would’ve opened that bottle of Prosecco earlier.

Here’s the thing: Potty training could be the hardest thing you’ve ever done with your child. (It was for us.) Or it could just happen. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that their kids just one day decided to turn in their diapers and use the potty. No training, no books, no gummy bear bribes necessary.

I’m not gonna lie: I had high expectations for Landon. He’s pretty agreeable and does what he’s told. He never throws tantrums. And he generally picks up new things quickly.

That is, until we started potty training.

First, we ordered “Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-By-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers” by Brandi Brucks. It came highly recommended from a few successful friends. Then we hatched a plan: We would, as the book instructed, set aside three consecutive days to work with him. We had already introduced the potty to him—he was sitting on standalone ones since he was eight months old—and had been talking about this for months now. He knew it was going to happen. Though I should have taken his comment, “I looooooove diapers,” as cause for concern.

The plan was simply this: We would go cold turkey with the diapers, getting rid of every single one in the house on the first day of potty training. Then we would put him in underwear, set the expectation and follow him around like a hawk—a mama hawk trying to potty train her son—until he figured it out. Sounded pretty simple.

Well, it was a disaster.

He hated every single moment of potty training. He refused to go. He threw the kind of tantrums we had only heard about and feared. And nothing would entice him, not gummies, not French fries, not excavators or garbage trucks, not the iPad, nothing.

And when we could get him on the potty—usually by force—he would sit there and nothing. Then, as soon as he was back in undies, he would pee. What was happening?

I couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong. We bought the recommended potty, we stocked up on cute underwear, we ordered five pounds of mini gummy bears. I made reward charts, I bought new books for him, I got all of his favorite foods and treats. We didn’t yell, we stayed positive, we were encouraging.

By Day 2, I couldn’t take it anymore. I lost it. When he threw a tantrum, so did I. I couldn’t understand why my son, this smart, adorable, easy-going kid, was now a terror. What was I doing wrong?

Well, lots of things, apparently.

First off, he had just turned 2 1/2, which could be a little young to start potty training. But we had no choice: He was starting preschool in late August and he needed to be fully potty trained by then. The pressure was real.

Secondly, he just didn’t want to do it. And there was no convincing him. He was much more strong-willed than I had anticipated. (What? My son?) And bribes weren’t working.

And finally, we realized how much we had been catering to him. He never threw tantrums because he actually always got whatever he wanted. Not that we let him stay up all night and party with Blippi. But we rarely fought with him about anything. He’s the kind of kid who puts himself to sleep, who never complains about what you’re feeding him, who prefers water to all over beverages, who loves veggies, who loves to read, who brushes his own teeth. For all intents and purposes, there hasn’t really been a reason to scold him.

But that was the problem. We had allowed him to become the boss of the house. He ran this place and he probably viewed us as servants with driver’s licenses who were tall enough to reach the stuff he couldn’t.

It has been about a month since we started potty training and, finally, it has started to click for him. He knows “that funny feeling” and now asks to use the potty. By Week 2 he was able to hold his pee for long stretches. And by Week 3 he could pee in the potty, no problem. (Poop is a different story.) But we had to work with him on one very important concept: We were his parents, the adults, and he had to listen to us. He was no longer the boss. And that was a hard fact for him to accept.

The whole process has been exhausting—but at no point did we give up. (Oh, I wanted to. I actually saved his diapers, just in case.) I felt like a colossal failure most days, but then there were the small victories. Like the first time he peed in the potty or the first time he asked to go. It may have felt like an impossible task—and it may have taken a month instead of a weekend—but like anything that’s hard but necessary, it got easier the longer we did it.

Did we use pull-ups when we had to run errands to Coscto? Yes. Do we still use pull-ups at night? Of course. And does he still have accidents sometimes? Uh, yeah. But he’s getting better about it every day.

But it’s really more like we’re getting better about it every day.

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