Last night, we had the opportunity to attend the Compassion Experience interactive exhibit as it stopped in our neighborhood for the weekend. It is a 2,000 sq. ft. exhibit that allows visitors to get a glimpse into the lives of children living in poverty in developing countries. The exhibit is accompanied by an audio tour, which truly brings the experience alive and left me choked up more than once.

We were presented with two options: Kiwi, a little girl from the Philippines or Jonathan, a boy from the Dominican Republic. We opted to visit Kiwi’s exhibit last night. We hope to visit Jonathan’s tour on Monday before the Compassion Experience leaves our area.

The Compassion Experience is sponsored by child-sponsorship organization, Compassion International, and gives you an opportunity to sponsor a child at the end of the tour. You are not obligated to sponsor a child to attend this free event and there was never any pressure to do so. The workers were all very helpful and pleasant.

It gave all of us a greater appreciation for all we have and a deeper sense of empathy for those living in poverty around the world.

We sponsored a 3 year old girl named Zyreel from the Philippines last night. We pray that our $38 per month and our correspondence will be an encouragement to her and that it will improve her life like it did for Kiwi.

homeschoolIt’s still summer, which means I am in preparation mode for the upcoming school year. Although we are actively doing reviews throughout the summer, we plan to  officially start our school year on August 15.  As I am planning, I thought I would share our tentative schedule for this school year. You will notice that there are no times associated with these subjects, as study of English may take only 20 minutes while Math may require 45. Our schedule is flexible.

We have chosen to follow the classical method of education. My daughter is 7 years old, so we are in the grammar phase, where there is a lot of focus on memorization of facts to learn the “vocabulary” of history, math, English grammar, science, geography, and Latin. This is done through songs, chanting rhymes, and review games. There is also a focus on public speaking, as children prepare a presentation to their class each week on Community Day.

Our family is part of a Classical Conversations (CC) community that meets on Wednesday mornings from 9 am – 12 pm. On Community Day, tutors lead the classes in memory work, review games, science experiments, and art/music. After lunch, we will do a math lesson and call it a day.

The beauty of homeschooling is the ability to work at your child’s pace and hone in on their interests. For example, the extracurriculars we have chosen (foreign languages, ukulele, cooking, and sewing) are because our daughter expressed an interest in these subjects. One of her goals is to visit Japan and be able to converse with the Japanese people there. With ASL, she enjoyed participating in a Creative Sign Dance group at church and wants to pursue more opportunities to minister to the hearing-impaired through Creative Sign and ASL. She enjoys watching cooking competitions on Food Network and wants to learn how to cook, so we’ll have weekly culinary lessons. She wants to sew clothes for her dolls, so we’ll work on developing sewing skills.

Here’s what our tentative plan looks like:

Although this may look like a heavy schedule, it is not meant that all subjects will be covered every day of the week. There is a lot of grace in homeschooling and lots of field trips to enjoy!

Right now, this is our tentative plan. When we start our school year, we will make adjustments. I’ll post an update as we get into the swing of things.

If you want a very detailed look at another CC homeschooling family’s schedule with children at various ages, hop over to Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood. Brandy also offers free downloads of great resources, planners, and tons of guidance for homeschoolers who are participating in Classical Conversations.

Sunrise at Bellows beach. (Photo by Hubby)


We spent the weekend with five other families camping at Bellows AFS, currently our favorite camping spot.

Our family loves camping and we were so thrilled to have our friends join us! They were all pretty new to camping, so I wanted to make their first time out a good one (so they want to come camping with us again)! I planned the meals, hoping to make it easy and fun for everyone. I also had grand plans (or maybe grand delusions) of having the children help out with the meal preparation, but the adults ended up prepping while the kids explored the wooded areas above our camp site. In hindsight, this worked better and was much more expeditious anyway so it’s all good.

For the sake of posterity, I’ll share our menu and links to the recipes and equipment used.


  • Turkey Chili – (NOTE: this is my recipe, although in the link, I normally use edamame in place of kidney beans, but some may find that odd, so I used cannellini beans, pinto beans, and corn instead.) I made two batches of chili. One I made the day before camp and it was stored in a Ziploc bag in the cooler and reheated in our dutch oven in the Volcano Grill 3-Fuel Portable Camping stove using charcoal. The second batch was made around 11 am, shortly before we had to leave for camp. I made it in my enameled dutch oven, brought it to a boil on the stove, then placed it into my Wonder Bag for slow cooking the rest of the day. When we opened it up to eat it at dinner, it was still hot!
  • Rice
  • Mac n’ Cheese
  • Foil Packed Veggies
Dessert over the camp fire:
  • S’mores


  • Camp Fire Crescent Dogs – We roasted these crescent roll-wrapped hot dogs over the fire. This is a Pinterest idea that looked simple enough but was not as easy to execute in reality.
  • Hamburgers
  • Vegetable Sticks w/ dip
  • Chips
  • Campfire Flatbread Pizza –  I had plans to have everyone assemble their own pizzas and grilling them in foil packets. In reality, the children were having way to much fun adventuring, so the adults assembled an assortment of pizzas, then grilled them.
Dessert over the camp fire:


  • Scrambled eggs and rice
  • Sandwiches – Turkey, ham, cheese — everyone will assemble their own sandwiches. (This was the plan, but in reality we had so many hamburgers and hotdogs left over, that we ate that instead and distributed the extra loaves of bread and unopened packs of cold cuts and cheese amongst the families.)
  • Chips
  • Veggie Sticks


There were 12 adults and 12 children (ranging in age from 4 to 10)  in attendance at camp. As an only child, my daughter was so happy to always have playmates present. She was always the first child awake each morning, ready to start her adventures with her friends. Waiting for them to wake up was the hardest part.

Although there was a beautiful beach just a stone’s throw away, the children preferred to spend their time in the wooded area surrounding our camp site. It was hot and the woods provided ample shade beneath the ironwood pines. Some kids collected milipedes and roly poly bugs, observing them and carrying them around as pets. Others concentrated their efforts on building a fort with fallen branches and leaves. It was so wonderful to see them interacting with nature and each other without a screen in sight! This is what childhood should be, getting outside, getting dirty, and breathing the fresh air! Our apartment living and busyness takes away opportunities for exploration in nature without a concerted effort, so I am grateful for these camping trips that offer a concentrated dose of outdoor goodness for all of us.

Our 7-year-old daughter remarked, “I wish we could live here forever!” 

Perhaps if we were independently wealthy, I’d consider buying an RV and going cross-country, camping along the way. Unfortunately, however, we need to make a living so weekend camping trips it is. But even these short stints away from home are enough to make a lifetime of memories, and we intend to make a bunch more for years to come, God willing!

We have two more camping trips scheduled for the next two months, and looking for the next opportunity to schedule a third.

As much work as it is to prepare, setup, cook, clean, break down, clean up, and pack away, it is so worth it. I never thought I’d be a camping enthusiast, but I totally am.

This meme I found sums it up for me.

I am very interested in learning — and teaching Lil’ K — American Sign Language (ASL). As one who suffers from Ménière’s Disease, it is a real possibility that my hearing could be affected by this condition. And even if I am blessed to avoid deafness or significant hearing loss, becoming fluent in ASL could very well result in ministry opportunities or a future occupation. Besides that, I think expressing oneself with ASL to music is extremely cool. Sharing some of my favorite videos.





I think Lil’ K would love an assignment like translating a favorite song into ASL, then having herself filmed. (She totally wants to be a YouTuber. Even though I was a vlogger in the early days, I have mixed feelings about that!)

This is one of the many reasons why homeschooling is so cool. I can learn alongside my daughter and the experience will be able to enrich our whole family! So many possibilities!

Mom & Dad in Vegas (October 2000)

Losing someone never seems to get easier, especially when that someone is your mother. Admittedly, the pain doesn’t seem as raw and intense as it did back in 2011, just days before Christmas when Mom was dying of complications from scleroderma and a number of ailments such as pulmonary hypertension and congestive heart failure in a hospital room in Wahiawa. Then subsequently, her passing. It was just as she had wanted. No prolonged stays in the hospital. No nursing homes. No life support for weeks, months, years on end. When her body was ready to give up the fight, so was her soul. Just 9 days after she was admitted, she left us.  For years, she struggled with numerous ailments that she bravely fought through without so much of a complaint. Even in the midst of surgeries and treatments, she rarely ever complained about pain or discomfort.

One thing she did complain about, however, was getting her photo taken. I literally have an old Super-8 silent film clip of Mom running away from my Dad as he is trying to get her to smile and wave for the camera.

Today, I stumbled upon my old digital camera archives that went back to the year 2000. Sadly, of the literally thousands of photos that I had taken over the past 16 years, my mom’s beautiful smile only graced a handful.

I wanted to show Lil’ K old photos of her Baba (obaachan, grandmother), but there were not many to share. I lamented about missed opportunities to capture photos of memories long past and now the opportunity is gone forever.

As I looked through my archives starting in 2008 (the year of my daughter’s birth), I discovered that photos of myself was also small in number. Hundreds of photos of my daughter in various poses, in different outfits, making funny faces, and just being herself… but rarely one of me. I thought, “who wants to see me anyway? Everyone is more interested in seeing the cute baby — not this pudgy mommy with unkempt hair and no makeup.”

Besides, I am usually the one wielding the camera. The curse of the photographer is that she is seldom the one being photographed.


And admittedly, lately, I have hardly made much of an effort to take any photos at all. Lil’ K’s photographic record between ages 5 & 7 is sadly lacking. I had upgraded to an Android Note 3 at that time and was extremely disappointed by the photo quality of the camera which deterred me from using it. I realize that my Android is a PHONE, not a CAMERA and that I have a real camera that I can use instead but laziness has gotten the better of me lately. I understand that the convenience factor is not a valid excuse.

Down the line (hopefully many decades from now) when I am gone, I don’t want Lil’ K to lament about how she doesn’t have photos of her mom. Or of herself, for that matter. By being camera shy, self-conscious, or just plain lazy, I am truly doing a disservice to Lil’ K.

I am taking this as my wake up call to start taking more photos again. Even if it means lugging this heavy DSLR around. I will do it to document life, our family, and all those memories that would otherwise be lost if not for dusty old pixels.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even get ambitious and start doing vlogs again. Lil’ K certainly has a fascination with media, especially video, so who knows, she might be the next up and coming YouTuber in the family.

We started school yesterday, August 11, 2015. On a Tuesday. Why? Basically, because we could.

As a homeschooling family, we have flexibility. Flexibility to choose our start and end dates. Flexibility to sleep in. Flexibility to do school in the evening. Flexibility to take a mental break day when necessary. It’s wonderful and it suits our family.

This morning, we attended an orientation for Classical Conversations, which we are starting next week. We’re new to CC, so it will be an adjustment for us. I am excited about the change — and so is Lil’ K. She met some of her classmates today (all boys, all very rambunctious), but I think she will do just fine. There is one other girl expected to join the group once classes start next week.

As much as I love the lazy, carefree days of summer, it’s nice to have some semblance of a routine again. After her studies, we have been going out to do something physical. Yesterday, as I went walking, Lil’ K brought her scooter out to ride alongside me. Today, we went walking and practiced riding her bike (sans training wheels — she’s still trying to get the hang of it). During our walk, she enjoyed climbing all over this moss rock retaining wall. She enjoyed pretending that she was climbing a mountainside. I love seeing her climbing, running, jumping, and just enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

We were blessed with a gorgeous day. The clouds created beautiful patterns in the sky.

Being outdoors is as good for me as it is for Lil’ K. Even though I really have to psyche myself up to leave the comfort of our home, I always feel wonderful once I am outside. It is my goal to exercise for at least an hour each day. For me, it’s a matter of managing my Meniere’s Disease. For Lil’ K, it’s about nurturing a healthy, active lifestyle and an appreciation for nature.

I love new beginnings, especially the start of a new school year. In those beginnings, they hold such promise and opportunity. May we slow down long enough to seize those opportunities to enjoy our moments together and cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the many blessings we have.

“Who knew you would enjoy the outdoors?” a good friend of mine remarked when I told her how much I enjoyed our overnight camping trip this weekend.

Being sun averse makes being outdoors more challenging, but with adequate UV protection, I have found a way to enjoy nature without the adverse effects. Camping holds even more challenges, as I have certain requirements such as moderately clean restroom facilities, comfortable sleeping quarters, and a way to store and prepare food that doesn’t compromise its taste or safety.

Our family eased into the camping experience with three annual trips to a company beach house that a friend had access to each summer. One of the three years, we stayed indoors in the beach house bedroom, but the other two times, we camped with the others outside on the lawn in tents. However, we had the luxury of a fully equipped kitchen and two restrooms with hot showers at our disposal.

This would be the first time I would be camping without electricity, a kitchen, and private restrooms. Kudos to Hubby who went to great lengths to research and acquire the necessary items to make my first real camping experience a good one.


Hubby worked tirelessly before, during, and after the camping trip — and I am so grateful for all his effort that made this weekend so enjoyable. I am truly a blessed woman.

We had the pleasure of camping with several families from our church. They all had children ranging in age from 1 year old to teens. Lil’ K was never at a loss for a playmate on this camping trip. As an only child, this is a big deal.

Bellows has a nice mix of different terrain to enjoy. Our campsite was nestled amongst towering ironwood trees, giving the children many places to explore and feel like adventurers. Then, a short walk down the way provided access to the gorgeous beach where they enjoyed the sand and sea. It was so wonderful to see the children playing for hours together in nature — without TV, iPods, or anything electronic. This is how childhood should be.

Being (mostly) unplugged was therapeutic for me as well. It was soothed my soul to sit down and take in the beauty around me without the daily grind and pressures of homeschooling, work, housekeeping, cooking, caregiving, etc. pressing in around me. I feel so much closer to God when I am out in His creation and without the many distractions of life buzzing in my head.

We made many fond memories on this camping trip: fun at the beach, adventuring in the forest, time at the playground, night beachwalk by the light of glowsticks and flashlights, sleeping as snug as a bug in our tent, making new friends, enjoying s’mores by the campfire, and sharing simple meals together.  So much to be thankful for that we packed into just two days and one night.

This outing has made me a camping addict. We are already planning the next outing. And next time, we hope to go for three nights instead of just one.

2015-04-23Today’s meal was Homemade vegetarian pizza, a family favorite. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that we may have it as often as once a week.

I used to make my own crust from scratch, but have since become lazy with the discovery of naan bread at Costco. They are perfect for making pizzas and it’s always good to have on hand as they pair nicely with a salad or soup for a simple lunch.

Lil’ K is getting brave with the knife. After some practicing with me holding/guiding the knife, she wanted to do it by herself. So I helped her cut the first zucchini, then allowed her to slice the second one on her own. She’s still getting the hang of it, as some slices were thicker or thinner than ideal, I have no cause to complain since she managed to control the knife well enough as not to be dangerous and all of her precious fingers are still in tact.

I opted to slice the tomatoes myself, as that was a little harder to do. (The difficulty in which I have slicing tomatoes usually tells me when it’s time to sharpen the blade — and it’s time.)

After prepping the veggies, Lil’ K dressed the pizzas with sauce, mozzarella cheese, and all the fixings. She also brushed the extra zucchini with olive oil, gave it a dash of garlic salt and pepper, and roasted them. This is her favorite part of making pizza — the leftover zucchini!

Baked at 350º for 8-10 minutes. (Zucchini took a little longer.) Dinner was prepared much faster this time around and she found it satisfying to know that she did most of the work in the making of the meal.

5-year-old girl from Japan who maintains the household for her family.

5-year-old girl from Japan who maintains the household for her family.

My friend Arnold sent me an e-mail with a PDF attachment with photos and the moving story about an amazing 5-year-old girl in Japan. It showed me that by babying my 6-year-old, I may actually be doing her a disservice.

Here’s the e-mail:

Here is a story about a 5 year old girl in Japan who kept a busy life getting up 6am in the morning making her own breakfast, used the bathroom, washed her face, brushed teeth, practiced piano, fed the dog, went to kindergarten. When she got home in the afternoon, she hanged up  clothes to dry, folded the clothing, cleaned the house. She also prepared dinner for her dad.

Why is this little kid  doing so much house work? The story started in 2001 when her parents got married.  Mom was a cancer patient. After painful treatments, almost like a miracle, she got pregnant.  The baby was this little girl. She brought the young couple tremendous joy. Their happiness was short lived because 9 months after the baby came, mom’s cancer returned.

They started living a simpler life, going to bed early, getting up early, eating simple meals.  Mom thought that teaching the little girl how to cook is very important in life.  Mom started to teach the little daughter how to handle a knife and do house work.  She maintained that when one is healthy and knows how to take care of oneself, one can go to live anywhere. As long as the daughter could handle, mom let her do herself, and not helping her.

When she was four, mom gave her an apron as her present.  Mom passed away when the little girl was five, leaving the little daughter with dad.  She wrote to mom, “I have something to tell you, all the quick meals, I know how to do it myself.  Don’t talk badly about other people, and don’t forget to smile.  That was what you taught me.  Although I still feel that things are difficult, but when the car arrives by the hill, a road is surely there.  I don’t cry any more.”
To love your child, you must teach the child to have the capability to live independently. Whatever you think you should teach the child, do it.  It’s never too early.  
This is such a touching story that I would like all of you, grandparents, mom and dad, parents to take heart of the preceding paragraph. This was a gift of a lifetime from mom to her five year old

I had always wanted to incorporate home economics/life skills into our homeschool, but thought that Lil’ K was still too young. After reading this, I realized that at 6 years old, she is more than capable of doing many things around the house if I only taught her.

So many of our young people, high school, college, and sadly sometimes even beyond, lack life skills to make them self-sufficient. They can’t do laundry, they would rather go through a drive-thru than cook a meal, and keeping a clean house is not a priority. Like the mother in this story, I want Lil’ K to have the capability to live independently, and training her early will give her a good foundation for a lifetime. It also provides her with the ability to contribute to the maintenance of the household and make her a productive member of the family. Besides helping me, I’m sure this will instill some great ideals in her as well.

On Tuesday, I took the time to teach Lil’ K how to prepare a simple meal: miso soup, tossed salad, and rice. I went through everything step-by-step, explaining along the way, and letting her do as much of the hands-on work as possible. For the first time in her life, she held a chef’s knife and I taught her how to properly hold it and chop vegetables for the salad. She was incredibly excited! Of course, this made preparing dinner much longer. In fact, we ended up sitting down to eat at 8:00 pm. But it didn’t matter. It was time invested in my daughter and it was wonderful to see the deep sense of accomplishment she had when she served the meal that she had prepared to our family. She beamed with pride as she declared, “Dadddy, I made dinner all by myself today!” Then, she sheepishly added, “Mom helped a little.”

Someday, she really will be able to say that she made dinner “all by herself.” It is my hope that she can be my kitchen companion, observing, learning, and doing.

This is one of the gifts I hope to impart to Lil’ K. May life never become too busy to invest the time to train our children.

go-veganAfter watching documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Vegucated, our family has decided to go (mostly) vegan/vegetarian. The goal is to be completely vegan, but I add the “mostly” and “vegetarian” in there to provide a bit of leeway, because as you know, going from omnivore to vegan overnight is no easy feat.

Our decision is not one of ethics, although it is nice that we will be doing something good for the planet via our food choices, but going vegan is more of a matter of health. After all, Hubby and I aren’t spring chickens any more… and my father is 80! We would also like to set up Lil’ K for a lifelong foundation for health through healthy eating and exercise.

Our decision to go vegan was not made today, or even this month. It has been months in the works and we tried it for a bit and fell off the bandwagon for lack of variety. My small repertoire of recipes that qualified as vegan/vegetarian was small, so we tired of it quickly. My problem is that many vegan/vegetarian recipes sound so daunting with long ingredient lists, many of which can only be found at health stores. And truthfully, many of the recipes didn’t even sound appetizing to me. Our family typically eats “local” or Asian food (Japanese, Korean, Okinawan, Chinese, Vietnamese), so I decided that if our new way of eating was to have any sticking power, I would need to find dishes that would satisfy our Asian palate.

I did some searching today and stumbled across some great recipes online. I have been collecting them on Pinterest on these boards:

I also hope to document our foray into veganism and the recipes that I try and how well our family enjoyed it.