Monthly Archives: May 2009

May 10, 2009

next stop: japan

In two weeks, we’ll be taking off to Japan to explore Osaka and Kyoto. I’ve been to Japan before but without a baby boy. Even then, the hustle and bustle of a big Japanese city can be intimating. I’m most excited to explore the hot springs culture, eat a bunch of ramen and sushi, and buy things from vending machines. Japan should be a load of fun for baby Kai who will be 11 months when we arrive. I’ll keep you posted on my adventures when I arrive, but in the meantime here are some things that are on the itinerary:

Some of the travel ideas, I found in this cute and insightful book Japan for Kids: The ultimate Guide for Parents and Children

SpaWorld Osaka Japan, I have high expectations for this place. It will be fun for the whole family with three floors of onsens from around the world. On the third level, there is a full water park amusement pool for the kids.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan- It’s known to be the world’s largest aquarium complete with exhibitions of Japanese rain forests, California Coastline marine life , a giant Ferris wheel, and IMAX theater.

Ryoan-Ji Temple Kyoto-Here we’ll find one of the most beautiful Zen gardens which will be perfect after a day of sightseeing.

Japanese Supermarkets—I’m excited to find fresh bento boxes and cool baby food at the supermarket. He’s especially fond of rice crackers, and there’s no doubt we’ll find tons to choose from.

Stay tuned for photos and reviews of the places mentioned above.

just what the doctor ordered

Each spring, the world outside our home is invaded. Not by aliens or evil monsters, but they might as well be. This invasion is a thick dusting of yellow pollen which sends innocent victims clamoring for tissues and the safety of the indoors. The simple phrase “in bloom” sends me into a panic. For any seasonal allergy sufferer, there is only one cure – skipping town.While this is not an option for all, Annie P is my current ticket out.  With mandatory school attendance still years away, I book a flight south, to my hometown, to paradise.

Since the railroad made its way through Florida at the end of the 19th century, the allure of the healing properties of a tropical climate became one of its main selling points. The social elite from the northern states found places like Palm Beach a respite from the cold weather and a balm for winter ailments.  For some, they literally came south on doctor’s orders. Those doctors were no fools. Who doesn’t know the benefits of salt water alone? I consider myself fortunate that, as a child, many a cut and scrape were soothed in the healing waters off Miami’s beaches. Have a cold?  No worries. Just take a dip. Or breathe in that dewy air. You’ll feel better in no time.

Annie P and I left home sniffling, sneezing and coughing. To top it off, Annie P had a nasty case of eczema. So we came, gave it the recommended two days necessary for the winds, the sun, the air itself to work its magic. And wouldn’t you know it – by day three the tissues were put away.

As for Annie P, her grandmother’s backyard is a whole new world from the last time she visited. Feeling herself again, eczema clear, our newly walking toddler couldn’t wait to head outside each morning. The flora and fauna of the tropics fascinate and soothe her, just like her mom. Hibiscus and jasmine tempt her to touch them. Birds sing to her from the rooftops. The palm trees, almost whimsical in appearance, elicit giggles from a child who lives surrounded by oak and pine and cherry. Stumbling through her this tropical jungle, I can only describe her demeanor as one of pure delight. The marketing campaign luring people to the Sunshine State all those years ago was spot on. With all it has to offer, South Florida can still soothe the soul.

losing focus

Can you read that? It says “56 in a 35″

Criminy.

$149.00

All because I lost focus.

More importantly, I had quite the humbling moment with my middle kidlet in the car.

At first he panicked and asked …

… if we were going to jail (when he saw the light bar).

Then Tony asked why the policeman was mad at his momma.

I explained that I was going too fast.

(i.e. not paying attention, a million and one things running through my mind, late for the next activity, trying to figure out X, Y and Z, trying to find the right song on the radio, handing Tony his Bakugan that he’d dropped, adjusting my seatbelt … )

The nice officer smiled ever so sweetly and asked for my license and registration. I’ve always had pretty good luck with ‘getting away with warnings’ but today was not that day.

He returned to the car (after what felt like ages while I impatiently drummed my fingers on the steering wheel) and handed me my ticket.

A ticket that equals about 50 McDonalds Happy Meals or 130 RedBox movie rentals (I say 130 because I never return them on time).

That ticket also equaled several relaxing massages or a whole case of nice wine.

That ticket equaled more than that though. It equaled a costly reminder to stay focused. To try a bit harder to leave my to-do list at HOME when I get in the car.

To block out the mental tornado that is currently going on in my head when I’m responsible for other people while behind the wheel.

To keep my phone secured safely in its cute little holster and maybe even stop communicating while I’m driving.

As I was writing the check out to pay the fine, I showed Tony and explained that I was having to pay alot of money for my ticket. Alot of money for not paying attention and for failing to follow the rules.

You wanna know what he said?

“Momma, you should’a told the ociffer that we were moving to India. He would have let you go if you had told him THAT”

I am starting to realize that when I give my all to ONE thing, my efforts are much more magnified than when I multi-task and attempt to spread myself (too thin, most times) across the board. I am writing this post “out loud” as more of a reminder to myself in the coming weeks and months.

If you see me flying down the road in the coming days, or I seem to be losing focus and getting distracted from something you know I want to devote myself to, remind me, ok?

Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets. ~ Nido Qubein

little citizen of the month contest

In March we launched our first Little Citizen of the Month Contest asking our Facebook fans to submit pictures of their children wearing Tea.  We had an overwhelming response with more than 650 entries. Now with two months behind us I can say this contest is truly a treat. What a joy!

Aside from picking a winner, which is no easy task, I have the privilege of going through hundreds of pictures of beautiful children, full of energy and enthusiasm. The icing on the cake, they are all wearing Tea!

When I look through the submissions, I am captivated by their irresistible, little faces. Whether playing at the park, with their friends, at home or traveling the world, these children inspire, warm and delight us by just being themselves… Oh a child’s life.

What could be cuter than a darling little one eating ice cream, comfy and casual in stripes.

Or one traveling the world to find that there are doors her same size, cool as can be in Daily Tea.

And what’s not to love about our favorite Liberdade dress from our winner’s picture (at the beginning of this blog post), layered or worn by itself, styled to a T!

It has been such fun seeing vintage Tea, favorites from the past which I absolutely adored then and still love today! As well as our new spring collections modeled so well by our littlest fans, too cute! I love different collections worn together and girls mixing it up with boy’s pieces. The captions are thoroughly enjoyable. They are insightful, true at heart and many make me laugh out loud.

Thank you so much for sharing with us. And please, please keep submitting, you never know your child could be our next Little Citizen of the Month!!!

Salut!

May 3, 2009

moving stuff, protecting memories.

Moving creates stress. Moving fosters arguments and moving SURE adds an extra level of uncertainty to your relationships.

 

Moving can even breed bitterness and contempt as one starts the process of packing. How could something that people do every day, cause such anxiety? How could the things that are contained inside of four walls create such havoc?

 

It’s because we as humans – and even more so as mothers – attach our memories to things. We cling to physical objects in the hopes that maybe we can allow our little ones’ childhoods to linger a bit more. We desperately want to never forget the small moments that helped to form who our children are becoming.

 

What about looking at it from the opposite side of things? What about finding the positives of purging, cleaning out and making do with less. What if we all took a more creative approach to protecting memories, instead of holding on to the clutter?

 

When we started purging the house for our upcoming move to India, I got incredibly overwhelmed. How could I possibly take a home, that we had all lived, loved and played in for so long … and simply label everything either “ship” – “store” or “send away to Salvation Army”

 

We had alot of stuff. Sure, some of it was memories and some of it was necessities, but most of it … well, most of it just collected dust, interrupted our daily routine and caused more worry than any of it is really worth.

 

I decided to start with the kids’ bedrooms, followed by their toy room. As I spent several days sorting and creating various piles, I found that the “memory” pile was growing larger and larger. Toys that we had spent hours playing with, or artwork that the kiddos had labored over. Board games that we enjoyed together as a family, collections of matchbox cars and legos. Dressup clothes that no longer fit or were tattered and ripped.

 

All of those things somehow ended up in the “keep forever” pile. It wasn’t because they were worth anything monetarily. It sure wasn’t because I would ever mend the dressup clothes for continued play and most of those toys they had long outgrown and forgotten about.

 

That pile of things ‘to keep’ simply had memories attached to them.

 

In the several weeks that have gone by since I started sorting and purging, I have begun to let go of the attachment to these things, and have begun to journal my memories instead. I’ve replaced the physical ‘holding on’ mentality with a written form of keepsakes. I am choosing to do away with the stuff, and instead keep a longer lasting recollection of the emotions and moments that go along with the stuff.

 

By writing about those experiences (the puppet shows, the 100s of dressup escapades, the family board game nights, and arts & crafts time) and capturing what they meant to me, I am creating a much more important treasure box, so to speak, than if I chose to keep the items that were attached to those memories.

 

What creative ways can you keep memories alive, without keeping the stuff? How can you preserve your children’s childhood and keep it alive in your minds, without cluttering your living space?

everyone needs a little aloha

If you have ever traveled to Hawaii you have experienced Aloha Spirit from the locals. It can’t be missed. Aloha Spirit is thought to elevate and empower its people and keeps Hawaii the unique place it is. If you have not been to the islands, I can assure you that you have still experienced Aloha Spirit. After all, President Obama is from Hawaii. Aloha Spirit is difficult to put into words. It is a feeling and a way of life.

There is an actual law encoded in the Hawaii Revised Statutes, section 5-7.5. It acknowledges Aloha Spirit as “the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and is presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.” According to the law, The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. Character should express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s native people. Aloha spirit is thought of as a mutual regard, affection and an extension of warmth in caring with no obligation in return.

Although these definitions come from “the law books” I am confident Hawaiians do not spend much conscious thought on Aloha Spirit or it’s definition. It is just there within them.

Picking a name for our baby was easy for us … until we found out it was a girl. We both loved the name Drake for a boy. The main reason was our good friend and one of the nicest guys we know is named Drake. The other reason was that he is Hawaiian and we hoped one day our child would ask about his namesake. We would be able to tell him it was because we love Uncle Drake, he has Aloha Spirit and please go learn what Aloha spirit is all about. When we asked our friend Drake if we could name our baby after him, he happily said yes and asked the due date. “June 21st,” we told him. He shocked us by saying June 21st was also his birthday. That was it, divine intervention, we were certain it was now a boy. It had to be.

Both my husband and I have been heavily involved in athletics all our lives and we immediately began daydreaming of the cushy retirement package rewarded to the loving, supportive parents of a professional baseball player.

Three months later I had my ultrasound. We would finally get to have our suspicions confirmed regarding the sex of our new baby boy. The doctor’s office split my appointment that day so that I was to have a procedure, a lunch break and then the ultrasound. During our lunch break I insisted we eat at Top Dog, a hot dog stand in Berkeley … just to seal the deal. Sadly, it was not open. Not a big deal, I don’t even like meat by-products and I was just taking one for the team. An insurance policy. After passing the closed sign we switched up our plans and ate at Shen Hua, delicious Chinese food. At 1:30 pm we excitedly returned to the doctor’s office to find out the good news.

The doctor squirted the freezing cold ultrasound goo on my basketball-sized belly…hey, maybe a professional basketball player. The doctor circled the wand around and around and then exclaimed, “IT’S A GIRL!” I turned to my husband and said “I told you we should have eaten lunch at Top Dog. We ate at Shen Hua and you know what a fortune cookie looks like!” It was just a joke between my husband and I but as a resultant the doctor could no longer look me in the eye and felt personally obligated to softly mutter “well, I have both a boy and 2 girls and I can assure you they are both wonderful.”

When we returned home it was a struggle to find a girl’s name. We ultimately decided on Olivia. I lobbied for not giving her a middle name, deeming it really not necessary. My husband was adamant about having a middle name. In his words, “you have to give your child a middle name, it is Industry Standard.” It was also my husband who came up with the idea of using Drake’s last name, Parker. Really? Could we name our daughter with someone else’s last name? Isn’t that supposed to be the mother’s maiden name? And what does “Industry Standard” say about that? It all seemed a little stalker-ish to me. However, at that time Parker was listing in the popular girls names so that took away the stalker feeling I was having. In addition, it would sound beautifully professional should she have to use her full name such as a lawyer or CFO. Above all and most importantly, Olivia can still one day ask why she was named after a large Offensive Lineman and we will send her in search of Aloha spirit.

Ironically enough, I think most if not all who have met Olivia Parker Chaplin in the last 5-1/2 years would say she has already found it.

savoring the senses

At times I think another culture can offer insight into our own culture. It took a specific experience that I had in Greece combined with an experience of my fathers’ (with his close Japanese acquaintance), that made me realize what may be sparse within American culture.

I can remember it quite clearly. We were in Corinth, at a local tavern. From the rustic table where we sat, we could hear the owner pounding on the steaks and chopping the tomatoes with exact precision. It was an art to him, not to be rushed. We could hear joyful conversation coming from the kitchen. The chopping, pounding and laughing all seemed to fuse into our surroundings and melded into a lovely evening full of a banter which seemed to last for ages. It was so different from the hustle and bustle of the typical American lifestyle.

I was reminded of that night recently when my father told me a story about one of his Japanese friends. Instead of being disappointed by the fact that they would not be able to go site seeing on a rainy day, Kiko simply replied, “Well, we can enjoy listening to the rain drops.” Such a simple thing to enjoy! Such a simple thing to say! But I can’t quite picture an American saying it. My father’s meeting taught me a lesson. She taught me to listen, to pay attention and actually take the time to quietly observe my own surroundings, (even the simple sound of falling rain), in the same way that I would observe some new enchanting art exhibit. She taught me that there is something about being in the moment that changes one’s attitude about one’s surroundings. Perhaps by savoring each sense as we experience it, we become more involved in our environment, and in turn we actually enjoy our experiences at a higher level.

Although we often search for locations that offer quiet and tranquil surroundings, perhaps we can find the same serenity in the midst of our own homes. Sometimes the fresh smell of chopped produce or the slight sound of dropping rain can become a tranquil moment if only we wish it to be. Perhaps we simply need to be mindful of our own environments. To learn more about other cultures is to learn more about our own, and in turn it opens a door to learning about the ‘American Self.’ And maybe, just maybe, a little introspection can go a long way. As for teaching my two and a half year-old to be introspective, well, I guess I’ll just have to start out by modeling my behavior first and figure the rest out along the way!