Oil Paintings by My 80-year old Mother, Keiko

In honor of my mother’s upcoming 80th birthday, I would like to proudly display some of her artwork.  If you think you’re too old to start a new hobby, think again.  She only began painting 8 years ago!  These are some of her oil paintings:

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“Tulip”

She painted this one as a gift to commemorate me and David’s 25th wedding anniversary.

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“Ducks in a Row”

This one was a special painting she did for my daughter Megumi.

About the artist:

Keiko

Keiko Nishiguchi began painting at age 72 upon meeting a master painter in Honolulu.  She is a mother to three daughters and a grandmother to two.  She resides in Honolulu with her husband Harry in a condo building which was once used for a shoot for the hit TV show, LOST.  They enjoy daily walks in Waikiki.

Out of the Mouths of Babes — How My 3-Year Old Taught Me an Important Truth

iStock_000015987368XSmallI was deep in thought one day when my kids were very young.  I think Josh was barely 3 and Meg was still a baby.

I was worrying and fretting over a conversation I had with someone which went really, really poorly.  I was being honest and truthful, but the other person reacted in a way which was unexpected.  She got really mad at me.  The thought of someone really important being angry at me about something I said weighed heavily on my heart.  I kept replaying our conversation over and over, wishing for a different outcome.  I also continued to rehearse what I should have said and what I will say the next time I had an encounter with her.  I knew I was right about my convictions about the matter — which, today more than a decade later, I cannot clearly recall what — but still, I was fearful.

Fearful of letting somebody down.

Fearful of having someone upset with me.

Josh must have sensed that something was amiss.  I was not my usual cheerful self…or at least as cheerful as I usually try to be with only a few hours of sleep a night.  Maybe that’s the reason why this little tiff had turned into a major relational nightmare in my foggy, sleep-deprived mind.

As I mindlessly folded the laundry on my bed, Josh crawled up to join me.  He was never a really talkative child.  Even today, as a teenager, he still tends to be a young man of a few words.  He sat and watched me sigh between each piece of clothing that I folded. He handed me mismatched socks to pair up.

Josh had always been a sensitive and sympathetic child.  When he was in the church nursery and another baby was crying, he would always crawl over and try to console, usually by patting its back.  Someone’s pain becomes his own.  He is still a good listener, and he says that he wants to become a clinical psychologist or a therapist someday.  He can read people using his senses…his sixth sense, mostly.

I put the pile of laundry aside and sat down on the bed.  I wanted to get comfortable so I could really focus on rehashing the incident yet again.  And again.  You know, it takes a lot of energy to continue picking on your emotional scabs!

Suddenly, Josh ambled over the pile of laundry towards me.  He patted my back and said these words which I will never forget:

“Don’t be afwaid, mommy.  Don’t be afwaid.”

Don’t be afraid? How did he know that I was afraid? My little 3 year-old was reminding me in his little toddler way these words from the book of Isaiah:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

How did he know this?  And how did he know that I needed to hear that statement at that very moment?  Did I ever tell him that there is nothing to fear?  I couldn’t recall if I had ever said those words to him myself, but somehow he knew in his heart that those were the words Mommy needed right there and then.

I knew right away that God was speaking to me through the mouth of my own babe, my toddler son Josh.  It was indeed exactly what I needed to hear, for I was starting to fear the failure of this relationship more than anything in life.  I was reminded that there truly is nothing to fear in this world, certainly not if God is with me.

From that moment on, my fear of disappointing a person began to slowly melt away.  In fact, it took several months and a lot of work to repair, but this relationship has been restored and has gotten even better now than ever.  It was also the beginning of my journey to tackle my people-pleasing nature which had dragged me down for far too long.  I also began to lean on God for his strength and to trust Him in all areas of my life.  Instead of wasting my emotional energy fretting and worrying, I learned to relinquish everything to the Lord in prayer.

And it only took a toddler’s sweet words to teach me that lesson.

“Don’t be afwaid, mommy.”

Has God ever spoken to you through your children?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

Year-Round School Schedule and Why We Love It So Much

Me and Meg by treeOur kids’ neighborhood K-8 public school happens to be on the year-round schedule, which means that though we only get five weeks off for summer break, we are treated with 3-week breaks spaced evenly throughout the year in the fall, winter, and spring.  Although the school year starts at the end of July (yes, that part is cruel), we finish with the other schools in our district the following June.  We have absolutely loved the year-round schedule.

Just when our kids have had enough with classes and homework, we get a few weeks off to refresh our minds.  And just when we parents are starting to go bonkers with our children being home all day, they go back to school.  Teachers say that their students retain more when they return for the new school year.  The teachers all love the year-round schedule as much as we do.

We particularly enjoy our fall breaks.  The weather is milder, the crowds thinner, and airfare cheaper than during the summer.  Many of our school families take their big trips to exotic places during the fall.  We take off to Hawaii every fall to go see their grandparents.  It alleviates the heartache we feel returning to school when other students are still enjoying their summer.  After all, while most families are going to back-to-school night, we are boarding a plane to paradise!

But, alas, no good thing lasts forever.  When Josh finished 8th grade, it was over.  No more year-round schedule in high school.  Due to sports and other inter-scholastic activities, all high schools in our area are on the traditional school calendar — long, hot summers and virtually no breaks all year except for a few days here and there.

Even worse, I would have our kids on two different schedules!  It pretty much meant that we were not going to be going anywhere for two years until Meg graduated middle school. Oh, the sadness!

What was I to do?

That’s when I took my friend Heather’s advice: enjoy spending time with one child at a time.

This August, after Meg already went back to school, I took Josh and his friend Sam to Honolulu for a week.  Yes, it was very hot, crowded, and expensive, but we had a wonderful time.  It was fun getting reacquainted with my teenage son while enjoying activities together such as snorkeling, swimming, and just hanging out.

Then this fall, I went back again to Hawaii for a mother-daughter time with Meg.  Her activity of choice was shopping, of which we did plenty in Waikiki.  The more time I spent with this girl, the more I enjoyed her.  We ate a lot of good foods together and spent much time with my parents and my sisters, her aunties, who also flew into Hawaii to be with us.  Between these two trips, my parents were also able to have individual times with each of their grandkids, which was a blessing.

(The only person in the household who hasn’t been able to go to Hawaii much this year is my husband David!  Don’t worry — he’ll be spending an extra week with Meg in Honolulu during winter break.)

Navigating the rough seas of various school calendars and breaks have taught me that, once again, parenting has a lot of unexpected surprises that could turn out better than even before.  Don’t get me wrong — we have absolutely loved year-round schedule and wish high schools had them, too, but we somehow figured out how to work with two overlapping schedules.  We are going to be entering uncharted waters once again when both of them are in high school next year, but I have a feeling that it is all going to be okay.  After all, in only a few more years, they are both going to be out of the house.  That is going to be so sad…but maybe unexpectedly good, too!

Does anyone else like the year-round schedule?  Tell me what to expect when our family enters traditional schedule.  What do you do with your long summers?