Thursday, September 4, 2014


a few months ago my gal pal, lena, & i took our kids hiking through makawao forest. it's a perfect spot to let the kids run free since it's massive, always empty, & there's plenty for the wee-ones to safely explore. along the way we bumped into another mom & her four kids. when it was time for them to go this mom called to her kids & they all came running. i mean it, all four kids dropped what they were doing & without any hesitation came on the very first call. lena & i stood there in awe. oh, & did i mention that they were all smiling. i've been a mommy for seven years, i've been an auntie for twelve, & i've spent my whole life constantly around kids but i have never seen that kind of joyful obedience. so of course i just had to find out this lady's secret. that's when i learned about the pono system & our lives have been so much better ever since. pono is a beautiful hawaiian word meaning righteous, proper, excellent, &/or upright. it pretty much sums up the qualities i want to drive my sons in their day-to-day choices.

i've tweaked & expanded upon the original idea that was pitched to me that rainy day in makawao forest. i've created a more holistic approach to meet the unique needs of my children. that's the beauty of the pono system, you can mold it to your children's individual personality while keeping to the main concept. the original pono system was strictly verbal but my kids are younger so i opted to add the visual aspect.

basically, every week or so we focus on a new pono habit. the amount of time we spend on each pono habit varies based on my boys mastering of the current skill-if they get it quick we move on after a week, if not we may stick to the same skill for two or three weeks. the current pono habit is based on a current  need for improvement or some skill that is lacking among my boys. like when tj was getting a little selfish with his toys our pono theme for the week was sharing is caring. or when cooper was getting a little fed up with his little brothers our theme was we not me. right now our pono theme is wake up & be happy. i thought this was an important habit to get in to-mostly for me-i mean, who doesn't want to start the day off with a smile.

with each new pono i introduce the theme, explain why this habit is important & what we can do to better master this habit, i put visual reminders on our pono wall: one typography print with a catchy saying that will ideally get caught in coop's head every time he looks at it & that i use to remind them throughout the day when i see someone (including me) starting to slip. the second is a pretty graphic print that will help the littles remember their new responsibility. we also have a list of all the pono habits we have covered to serve as a constant reminder.

now here's the best part, the pono jar. this miraculous upcycled raspberry jam jar is the real key to the whole thing. when i catch the boys using their new pono skills they get rewarded with pono points. pono points are money & my kids are willing to do just about anything to see the nickels & dimes grow in their pono jar. the amount of money they receive with each pono point varies, sometimes their act was simple & i just toss in a penny, other times they may get a quarter, it really doesn't matter. my boys just love to hear the sound of metal colliding with glass as a new coin makes its way into the pono jar. in the beginning the points were vital, i mean really, kids aren't just going to start sprinting the first time you call their names without some form of incentive. but over time i've helped the boys internalize the good feelings that result from their pono actions so now i only reward them monetarily about half the time. the rest of the time they are totally content with a word of praise & a pat on the back. the immediate goal is to teach kids good habits but ultimately you have the opportunity to teach your kids to be internally motivated to do good.

the pono system isn't a quick fix. it's a system, it takes time. but it produces real results. i have noticed drastic changes in each of my boys in the few months that we have strived to be more pono. mylo picked up on being pono even before he hit two. often i just need to ask my boys, "are you being pono?" & that's enough to motivate better behavior. they slip, every single day, they struggle & sometimes they are just uncooperative & unwilling to behave, & that's ok. because we all have grumpy moments where no amount of money & no feeling however warm & fuzzy it may be is going to get us on track. when we hit those days, i try to focus on making it to bedtime with as little tears as possible while gently reminding my boys when they are being pono & when they could do better.

**if anyone is ever interested in adopting the pono system for their own home i have a pono board on pinterest i often use to select new themes from, you can access it here

Monday, August 18, 2014

coop hits 7.

cooper is 7. my baby is 7. wow. it's like once he hit 5 he has been growing at a ridiculously fast pace. he's in first grade. that's like legit school, no more baby stuff. he loves it's a lot of work. fortunately, cooper is a genius (it's my blog, i can brag if i want to). he is our rational & reasonable. he understands so much more than the average kid. in fact, if you want him to do something, or not do something, you just need to sit down & explain the reason why & hence forth he will obey. cooper is intellectual & fact driven. he loves to learn. we spent the summer doing science experiments, art activities, & learning spanish & sign language just to satisfy his need for knowledge. we go to the library almost weekly & every time i have to limit him to ten books-which he sees as an almost impossible demand. every book he pics in non-fiction & the topics range from archeology to marine biology. he loves to tell what he knows & make hypothesis & discuss these things. he is polite, kind, & well behaved. he always comes home with the best reports from school & aunties. he loves being the biggest brother. he teaches his brothers & is always the first to come to their aid. mylo has figured out that if mommy won't do something for him (i.e. open another bag of chips or turn on another show) he can ask cooper who always complies. his new thing is reading to his brothers. it's probably my favorite thing ever. he is very well rounded & succeeds at just about everything he does (he gets it from his dada). he is very in tune with his body & has incredible control over his movements-if you teach or show him how to do something he can mimic it almost instantly. he has always had an innate understanding of his physical limits & never pushes himself beyond what he knows he can handle. he always knows when to stop or when to ask for help. he loves sports & insists i cheer the loudest (which is a stretch for this shy mama's limits-but i do it for the sake of my guy) & often plays better when he hears his mommy & daddy yelling. he loves praise & affirmation. this summer coop started earning his keep with daily chores & weekly allowance. he's still pretty shy in one-on-one situations but his confidence shines any time he's in front of a crowd. he loves dominating on the soccer field or presenting in front of an assembly at school (which he was asked to do twice last year). coop has lost four teeth this year & only adult tooth has filled in the gap. i love his gappy smile. it reminds me of the gummy smile he strutted for nine months as a baby. i am amazed by how tall he is. it won't be long until he passes me up. actually, too soon we will be able to swap clothes (not that he'd ever wear mine, but truth be told sometimes i do wish i could borrow his). he's everything i could hope for in an eldest child. he's strong, smart, kind, helpful, & above all a great example for his brothers. he's well aware of the responsibility he has as the biggest brother & he gladly embraces it. he has a gorgeous smile but nothing warms my heart like seeing his eyes light up. his presence adds so much to our family & our days just aren't complete when he's away at school. tj & mylo ask at least once every half hour if we can go pick up coopy & tj constantly tries to trick me into going by saying that he just heard the bell. then tj, mylo, & i compete to see who can be the first to hug coop when we pick him up in the afternoons. when daddy gets home he always reserves quality time with his buddy to chat about cooper's day & read whatever nonfiction has currently captivated coop's mind. we love him more than the sun, the moon, & all the planets & stars. we love him all the water to pluto's farthest moon & back.

1.  cooper's best friend: jai, blake, & andrew
2.  cooper's name: cooper j watkins
3.  cooper prefers to go by: cooper
4.  cooper's favorite animals: megaladon 
5.  what does cooper want to be when he grows up: gemologist or marine biologist
6.  cooper's favorite movie: curious george & ninjago
7.  cooper's favorite song: all the songs on 98.3
8.  what makes cooper happy? getting surprised with something really cool
9.  what makes cooper sad? when it rains & we can't go to really fun places
10.  cooper's favorite food: "square pizza" (little ceaser's)
11.  cooper's favorite place: fun factory
12.  cooper's favorite color: green 
13.  cooper's favorite game: mancala & war
14.  cooper's #1 wish right now: to find a genie & ask for three wishes: 1. a shrinkamajigger to shrink        things 2. a time machine 3. a real megaladon tooth

Saturday, August 16, 2014

coop's shark party

coop opted to go with a shark theme for his 7th birthday party. fitting since his birthday coincides shark week every year. i wish i could take some credit for how well this party came together but honestly, it was all coop. he planned the shark part over a year ago. in fact, he said he wanted a shark party when he turned 7 when he was not yet 4. this kid is a planner & he really sticks to his plan. so i guess i really shouldn't have been surprised when he came to me mid june saying he needed a paper to plan his party. he spent the rest of the afternoon organizing what activities he wanted to do, what he wanted the invitations to look like, what the party favors would be, who he would invite, where it would be, what we would eat, & what presents he wanted. then we got onto pinterest & his creative juices really started to flow. i had to veto a couple of extreme ideas (3-d shark attack cakes, pop up invitiations) for the sake of my own sanity but we were able to find things we could both agree on. yea, my 6 year old planned his entire birthday party. after that i basically followed his directions to help make his vision come to life. and according to him it was a total success. score!

his guest lists are steadily growing in number now that he has friends from school, the neighborhood, church, & sports. i limited him to a dozen friends & he had a hard time keeping to it. he came up with the ideas for the invites & signs & i designed them. he opted to have the party at kealia beach boardwalk (a great beach to have plenty of room for yourself but completely devoid of shade).

per coop's request we made rock candy (shark teeth), & red slime (blood), shark fins, & shark fact cards to pass out to his friends.

coop made a list of seven shark based party activities (seven activities for a seven year old's party-he's so attentive to details). there was a hold your breath under the water contest, a swim race, & a jump out of the water contest (coop won them all-it helps that he had time to practice). the main events were a shark tooth find featuring real shark teeth & a blood (ketchup) fight (don't get all hyped up. he isn't into gory or creepy things, in fact, the kid can't watch scooby doo without getting nightmares. he really just has a scientific way of looking at things & he understands that predators eat other animals & it's just the way it is. he accepts it & even admires the food chain).

we topped the day off with a pizza eating contest & hours of play in the ocean strutting their very own shark fins. i was a little nervous that we would jinx ourselves by celebrating shark style at a popular shark hang out but luckily there were no shark attacks while we were there.

i dragged my feet through the entire party process (i'm really not feeling the party vibe these days) & todd dropped the ball on his two responsibilities but it all came together without a single complaint from the guest of honor. it was rad having another opportunity to celebrate this amazing kid. he is so amazing & truly deserves the opportunity to spend the day as the center of attention, doing whatever he wants, & celebrating with his friends. every year i swear i am never throwing another party but somehow every year i get suckered into one "last". this year all my hard work was truly rewarded when cooper made me an extra special lego building. he said it was just for me because i did everything for his party & because i made him feel extra special. honestly, i throw the parties because i love seeing how happy my boys are at their parties. i've never once wanted any recognition for it. but this little act of love brought me to tears. i had no idea that he was aware of all that i do for him & it motivates me to do so much. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

ward camp 2014

i'm pretty sure that the 3 days we spent at ward camp were the highlight of my boys summer break. there is something special at ward camp that really can't be summed up adequately in words. the ohana feeling is strong, the grindz are ono, & everything is real chill. since we live a pretty fast paced life i think we all appreciate the break we get at ward camp. boys love being surrounded by some of their most favorite friends while at the beach 24/7. and sleeping in tents, the boys love sleeping in tents, especially when mommy invites their friends in for sleepovers. we chill by in the grassy areas surrounded by so many of our wardmates just playing horse shoes or washer toss, or we explore the trees & cliffs, or we play at the beach & in the water. i love that i don't have to cook & we are just down the road from home so i can take the babies back for naps (& real showers). i love that i get to know our ward members better & meet some people for the first time (i spend most of church in nursery with mylo or subbing in primary so there are a lot of people i miss.) the boys truly play all day every day & i just sit back & supervise (it actually reminds me a lot of my lifeguarding days-i often find myself counting heads.) we really are so blessed to be part of the wailuku ward ohana. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014


i've been dying to go to lana'i for years now. it's the last of the six accessible hawaiian islands that i stepped foot on. so you better believe when todd called me on his way home from work last friday & suggested the idea of island hoping for the weekend i jumped all over the opportunity. i packed up our gear & we were out the door two hours later. we rushed to lahaina, todd unloaded our bags & the kids, i bought the tickets & parked the car, & we literally ran on to the ferry just in the nic-of-time. i was so nervous that we forgot something in all the haste (ok, so maybe we forgot to pack one day's lunch & replacement batteries for our dying headlamps, but it all worked out just fine in the end)  the second the ferry departed & we were out on the open ocean my nerves were quickly comforted & our beautiful journey took a peaceful start. the boys love boats so right away they were excited to ride along the waters. we spent the whole ride standing at the rail admiring the water & searching for marine life. i was surprised by lana'i from the get-go. it really wasn't at all what i suspected. it was so much more. from eight miles away on maui you really can't get a good perspective on all lana'i has to offer.

lana'i was gorgeous. every color seemed more vibrant on lana'i & everything was so pristine. maybe it's because there are so many fewer people & buildings to distract from the view. 

we opted to camp (yea, i know, our third camping trip in a month. what else is summer for?) the boys love snuggling together on our air mattresses & i love the freedom that comes with living in a tent, on a beach. the lana'i campgrounds were the best kept i've ever seen, i mean, the bathroom had automatic soap & paper towel dispensers, most campgrounds don't even offer such bare amenities! 

my favorite place on island was most definitely the tide pools next to hulopo'e beach. they were unlike any other. the water was crystal clear, the waves were gentle, the rocks were easy to maunuvere, & there was a giant pool that was perfect some swimming. it was shallow enough in most parts that the littles could stand & deep enough that we could all enjoy a good swim. i love salt water pools (in fact, most of my favorite places in hawaii nei are salt water pools-the natural lava pools on big island, olivine pools on maui, make horse pools on moloka'i) but this one takes the cake. i guess you could say the best was saved for last. i was also a huge fan of the fisherman trail. so many rad archeological sites.

the boys loved swimming on hulopo'e beach. the waves were incredible. they reminded me a lot of napili bay. they were perfect for our favorite water activity, what we call body skimming. it's a cross between body boarding & skim boarding & it requires the perfect combination of waves & beach, & hulopo'e was that perfect combo. tj, coop, & i bodied skimmed for hours & only stopped due to sheer exhaustion. hulopo'e was perfect for crab hunting. we found some gnarly monsters every night. between those beasts & the giant frogs my heebie-jeebies were at an all time high. todd loved snorkeling around the beach. he passed some giant lobsters, would have made a great dinner had he have brought a spear.

coop & i are beach combers by nature. we love strolling the sand in search of treasures. blue beach glass, & solid shells are like gold in our family. shark's bay was perfect for scavengers like us. i have never seen so many unbroken & unoccupied shells. it was unreal. we came home with handfuls of such gems (free souvenirs!). the littles loved playing in the caves & catching hermit crabs in the little tide pools. mylo has a major fascination with crabs. todd loved snorkeling in the bay he said the waters were clear & the fish vivid. 

lana'i was exactly the vacation we needed. so chill. so beautiful. so peaceful. so perfect.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


todd has wanted to visit moloka'i from the moment he first heard about the island. when we first moved to maui he had a few students from moloka'i & they constantly raved about it. in fact, my friends that have visited all the islands say that is the most amazing of all the amazing hawaiian islands. molokaians say that moloka'i mo bettah. although, i was more than a little interested to see check out moloka'i for myself i was terrified of the getting-to-moloka'i process. you see, you either have to take a teensy little 1 engine 10 seater plane or cross the second worst channel in the world via ferry. neither of which sounded appealing. i conceded to the idea that as much as i wanted to visit moloka'i it just wasn't itn the cards for me. so for todd's 30th birthday i gave him a weekend solo on moloka'i. after his 31st birthday had come & gone & countless times encouraging him to go he still hadn't made it to moloka'i. he said he wanted us all to go experience it together. so i talked to everyone i knew, i read every review & i finally agreed to take the ferry. and that is how our moloka'i adventure went from a dream to a reality.

 todd found a great deal on mokulele so he, cooper, & mylo flew to moloka'i. todd said the flight alone was worth the trip. they had gorgeous views of the island & the pali coast. tj & i had a boat date on the ferry. it worked out perfectly. the crew said we had abnormally smooth conditions & we even passed a pod of dolphins along our way. we spent the next few days covering every possible inch of the island & taking in all the incredible beauty. it amazes me how i can live on maui & honestly know it like the back of my hand, yet, i can visit other islands & literally have my jaw drop in amazement. every side of the island was gorgeous in it's own unique way. there were plants & terrain i've never seen before. there were so many vibrant shades of blue, green, & brown that made the whole island feel alive. moloka'i definitely lived up to it's reputation as the friendly isle. the people were the kindest i've ever experienced. the whole island is full of aloha. it was incredible to see the moloka'i lifestyle. the sign outside the market reads, "aloha spirit required. if you're not ready to share it than please come again another time." we should all follow that mantra every time we get out of bed.

we loved every inch of moloka'i, because every single inch is breathtakingly gorgeous. and we covered every bit of the island that we possibly could in our few days. we visited the east side, west side, north side, south side, & every spot in between. my favorites were halawa valley, the make horse tide pools, & being relieved from photography duties. todd loved the pali coast & cinnamon butter hot bread. cooper loved finding treasures among all the rubbish & finding an awesome cave at mo'omomi & ono dragon fruit. tj was super excited to drive around in a truck & hunt for treasures on mo'omomi. mylo loved the park at one ali'i, & moloka'i pizza.

halawa valley


mo'omomi dunes

papohaku beach

fishponds, kamakou preserve, dragonfruit (probably the only thing that costs less on moloka'i than maui.)

make horse beach & tide pools


we opted to camp since we could easily bring all our gear on the ferry & the boys have been begging to bust out the tent all summer. i definitely, recommend taking any & all food with you. the selection is very limited & so overpriced. we wanted to try a night at each of the different campsites but due to torrential rain upcountry palaau was ruled out at the last minute. camping at papohaku was gorgeous & felt like real forest camping even though one of hawaii's biggest beach was only a few yards from our tent. our favorite was one ali'i. it is so centrally located at close to kanemitsu's so it makes for an easy late night hot bread run, which is a total moloka'i must. at one ali'i our tent was only feet from the beach & we had the most gorgeous views of maui & lana'i. the first morning we woke up a huge fever of stingrays right outside our door. it was incredible.

 the boys loved camping. i mean, what little body doesn't love tree climbing, crab hunting, flash lighting, marshmallow roasting, & late nights in a tent. it was like heaven. i was shocked with how well they slept. but i guess when you play hard you crash hard. cooper was the best little helper. always gathering wood for fires, building the tent, or finding any other need he could fill.

our moloka'i musts are: kalaupapa, halawa valley, kamakou preserve, mo'omomi, phalic rock, kanemitsu's bakery hot bread, pali coast, make horse beach.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

a mighty mylo party

given mylo's super hero obsession & his most common nickname it seemed like a no brainer that his birthday party would be themed mighty mylo. wanna know my favorite super hero characteristics of mr. mighty? 1. his second persona he takes on each time a costume of any sort is put on his little body. he goes from a chill little guy to a confident, strong, kind of domineering super hero instantly. 2. his super hero story lines. oh his super heros don't just fight, his stories have actual plots. and they are rather entertaining. 3. his sound effects. they are dead accurate & pure genius. this kid is a total kick to hang out with. 4. the deep raspy baby voice he gets when he becomes a super hero.

mighty was ecstatic to discover his party. for as observent as he is, mylo seemed to miss all the party planning talk, shopping, & crafting. so he was caught a little off gaurd when he woke up to our morning celebrations but he was totally shocked & absolutely stoked when he arrived at his party (todd took the morning off so he could hang out with mylo while cooper, tj, & i set up the party). all of mylo's most favorite friends showed up. these are the kids he plays with at least twice a week. they are really more like family than friends, we call them our maui cousins. honestly, these people are amazing. as soon as they show up the oms start lending helping hands & they don't stop searching for ways to serve until the party is cleaned up & we are on our way home. we are so blessed to have these amazing people in our lives.

this was the first party i've ever thrown that involved actual party games. normally there's some sort of major activity to participate in but this time i wasn't really feeling it so i stuck with the easy stuff. we pinned the mask on the mylo, bowled for buildings, searched for super heroes & demolished a piñata (my first ever homemade piñata, might i add. i was so worried about it falling apart pre-party that it turned out to be indestructable by toddler standards. but with the help of todd & his pocket knife we were able to get the job done.) mylo wasn't much in to the games. he spent most of the time going down this super speedy slide. he did love the piñata & the buildings are his favorite new toy. he loves to knock them down or use them as houses for his duplo figures.

i made super hero masks & capes for each kid. this was a major hit. i think i could have skipped games all together & just let them run around in their costumes & they would have been good. my super talented friend, suzy, painted & personalized these absolutely adorable peg dolls specific for each kid. i was amazed with the detail she put in to each. it was obvious which doll belonged to which person at very first glance. my favorite was mylo's curly hair. it is spot on. he is obsessed with his new "batman" as he calls them & insists on taking them everywhere. (random fact: when todd & i got married we had personalized peg dolls painted to represent us. they are one of my favorite details from our wedding & now i am super stoked to have my whole peg family.)

i decided to go with picnic food because, well, it's easy & i'm lazy. there were lunch boxes for the kids with sandwhiches, chips, string cheese, juice boxes, & fruit snacks for the kids. for the adults there were sandwiches, pasta salad, chips, & lemonade. and, of course, sprinkle cupcakes for all to enjoy. like i said, easy. 

mylo loved having a day to be celebrated & make all the choices (that's how watkins' birthdays go). but i definitely think his party (& his new pool grandma & papa gave him) was the highlight. he talks about his party ever day. he talks about who came & the games they played then he insists on putting on his costume. he truly is the mightiest mylo i know & i am so grateful for the opportunity we had to make his special day a little more special. we love you so, mighty mylo!