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Malia Maunakea
Mother Essentials

Mother Essentials: Malia Maunakea, Author & Mom Of Teens

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

For Colorado-based mom Malia Maunakea, her native Hawai’i is never far from her heart. The writer of both fiction and non-fiction is a Kānaka (Native Hawaiian) and grew up on O’ahu before relocating to the continent for college. But everything from her children’s names—Kiele (16) and Kaleohano (13)—to her latest middle-grade chapter book, Lei and the Fire Goddess, are rooted in Hawai’ian culture. Below, Malia sounds off her favorite Mother Essentials, including many that keep her connected to her homeland

Dohm Classic Sound Machine. “I’ve been mothering for a while now (my oldest just turned 16!) and since having kids I’ve become an incredibly light sleeper. My husband bought me a Yoga Sleep Dohm Classic white noise machine for my birthday over a decade ago to cut down on my waking at every little noise (and to stop me from asking him “what was that?” at all hours of the night) and I’ve used it every night since. We even take it with us during our camper van travels.” Yoga Sleep Dohm Classic Sound Machine, $39.99, Chewy and Amazon.

Go-To Sandals. “Another must-have for our entire family are our Crocs. My kids love the ability to slide them on with or without socks (and I love how quickly it gets them out the door). We all have Crocs classics and the kids will throw them in ‘sport mode’ with the strap behind the heel if our walk gets gnarly. We take them camping with us (they are incredibly lightweight and dry quickly) and I recently got a pair of Women’s Kadee II Flip Flops (I call them slippers. Hawaiian style.) for our international vacation since they pack easier than the classics, but are just as comfortable, light, and quick drying (great for showers). My son loves decorating his Crocs with Sharpie and Jibbitz.” Classic Crocs, $37.49, Crocs. Crocs Kadee II Flip, $19, Zappos.

Protein Powder. “My son, daughter, and I all have ADHD and having protein for breakfast helps us get our heads on straight(er) in the mornings. Protein powder and Greek yogurt into a smoothie with frozen fruit (I like mango, the rest of the family rotates various berries) and spinach is our quick go-to breakfast that is easy to pair with whatever else the kids want to eat. We are vegetarians and have been using Orgain’s Organic Protein Plant Based Protein Powder for a few years now.” Organic Protein Plant Based Protein Powder, $25.99, Orgain.

Hawai’i History + Language. “As a believer of lifelong learning, I love showing my kids that I’m not afraid to try new things, even if—especially if—I struggle. With online learning and various apps, it is easier than ever to explore. I’ve enrolled in an online Hawaiian Studies program through Windward Community College, and took language classes during the same semesters as my sophomore daughter and seventh grade son (all in different languages). At the dinner table, we can all moan and groan about our assignments and tests together, and share fun facts we’ve learned. Duolingo is my favorite language learning app that helps me keep up with vocabulary. Ka Alala is a great ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi podcast (and the creator offers lessons as well). I follow Adam Keawe on Instagram for snippets of Hawaiian history and insightful thoughts.”

Lei and the Fire Goddess. “Libraries are one of the best institutions in the world in my opinion, and the online book-borrowing app Libby is a favorite for my family. No matter where we are, we’re able to find new books to read for free (we make sure to download a bunch when we get to WiFi if we know we’re going offline for a while). My son is big into mythology and the Percy Jackson and Rick Riordian books, so he just downloaded Lei and the Fire Goddess, the new Hawaiian-mythology-based adventure I wrote for our family’s summer vacation.” Lei and the Fire Goddess, $16.73, Bookshop and Amazon.

Backpacking With Children. “Getting the kids outside has always been a primary family value for us. We started backpacking as a family when my youngest was two. These trips are opportunities to unplug and reconnect as a group. I wrote Backpacking with Children (CMC Press, 2023) to share the tips, tricks, and lessons we learned over the past decade (and hundreds of miles). One of my favorite chapters is the huge section of games to play while walking that will keep the kids entertained for days on end.” Backpacking with Children: How to Go Lightweight, Have Fun, and Stay Safe on the Trail, $21.35, Bookshop and Amazon.

Family Dinners. “We have been fortunate enough that for the past fifteen years my parents and sister have lived nearby and every Sunday afternoon we all go to my mom and dad’s house for a big family dinner to catch up on our week and talk story. It has been incredibly special having my family playing such an integral role in the lives of my kids. There are lessons learned and values taught—many discussions on what it means to be part of the Maunakea Team and making good decisions and choices. They are looking to move back to Hawaiʻi in the next year, so we’re making the most of these gatherings while we can. My kids are already talking about carrying on this tradition when they have kids, fully expecting to come over to my husband’s and my house for weekly dinners.”

Blurb Books. “I’ve accumulated thousands (if not millions) of pictures of our family’s adventures over the years. Every year we pick our favorite picture from the year to print and hang on our wall, but I don’t want to forget about all the other adventures, so I use Blurb’s BookSmart (or BookWright) self-publishing app to create family photo albums every year (though I have fallen a bit behind and need to catch up). I love being able to edit the layouts and add captions to each of the pictures. The kids enjoy flipping through the books from years past to see how much has changed.” Blurb.com.

Comfy Clothes. “Sweatpants and hoodies are my standard uniform when I’m typing at my computer. When I’m in public I try to find clothing that helps me look put together while maintaining the level of comfort that I’ve grown accustomed to. Mahina Made shirts are perfect for this. Soft cotton that fits like my favorite t-shirt with a lei printed on them, they are my go-to choice for everything from a school pick-ups to writing workshops. And because I’m incapable of maintaining a consistent body temperature when moving between the outdoors and indoors, I am sure to always bring layers with me. My Makuahine Vintage denim jacket gets commented on no matter where I go and pairs perfectly with everything.” Lei Tee, $52, Mahina Made. Custom Jacket, $195, Makuahine Vintage.

Hawai’ian Snacks. “One of the things my kids and I miss the most about Hawaiʻi are the snacks! Thankfully, we can now get them online. My son loves the dried li hing mui mango, and my daughter and I love the lemon strips. We all love the li hing gummy bears!” CrackSeedStoreHawaii.com.

Family Link. “Parenting in the digital era brings unique challenges and with two teens in the house I’ve come to appreciate the app Family Link to help my kids learn healthy boundaries on their phones. It isn’t perfect (I wish there was a way to put all game apps into a single folder and set a cumulative time allotment for that app folder), but it does help me monitor their usage and cut them off when necessary. My 16-year-old now asks me to set shorter limits for her when she knows she has other things to do so she doesn’t get sucked in!”

For more MOTHER ESSENTIALS, peep our recent features on Herman Miller creative director Kelsey Keith, chef VALERIE GORDON, artist ERIN JANG, Chicago party mom KRISTEN KAZA, Hedley & Bennett founder ELLEN MARIE BENNETT, Mochi Kids founder AMANDA STEWART, chef CRISTINA KISNER, chef CAMILLA MARCUS, artist CAROLINE Z HURLEY, Just Date founder SYLVIE CHARLES, food icon AMANDA HESSER, Prickly Pear founder MONA BAHRAINI, Solace Summer founder MEGAN BRE CAMP, Wonder Valley co-founder ALISON CARROLL, OZMA designer HEIDI BAKER, author TIFFANY ROSE SMITHHEIDI BAKER of OZMA, and PHOEBE SUNG of Cold Picnic.

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