We have been traveling as a family since the kids were really small. I want them to see everything and I want them to be curious about the world we live in. Most of all, I want them to know who they are.
This last trip we took was really important because we decided to take my guys to meet my mother’s family in Japan.
After a 9 hour plane ride and almost as many hours on trains we arrived in Kochi, a little town on the island of Shikoku in the south of Japan.
My guys were a little nervous at first. Who were all these people?
But here we were in the very place my mom lived until she was about their age. And it was pretty magical seeing it all through their eyes.
We visited some neat sites; an old castle, the bustling Harume market and a famous little bridge.
We also stopped by a beautiful shrine perched high on a cliff on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from where we live now. The boys were amazed that the same ocean touched this beach and the beach near our house.
My favorite moment was walking the road between my grandpa and grandma’s family homes, realizing how close their families lived to one another in this little town; watching my kids run with glee.
Why on earth did my grandpa and grandma leave all this and move to North America so many years ago?
We traveled back up north to see the boat my mom journeyed to Canada on with her little sister and my grandma. The Hikara Maru is now a museum in Yokohama Japan.
Traveling with all our luxuries now: cell phones, laptops, ipads and easy commercial air travel I realize how brave my grandmother was traveling alone across rocky seas to a foreign land with two small children in tow.
“Do you know that my grandma came to Canada on this boat?” I overhear one of my guys telling the other.
“So did mine!” his brother says.
And so did mine.
I’m so glad we made this journey. In trying to help my kids figure out who they are, I’m learning so much about myself.
Congratulations to Annie! We love your colorful lion mask – he even seems to match your outfit!
Browse all the entries and honorable mentions on our Flickr page.
Interested in entering the contest for next month? Take a picture of your child’s completed activity book picture and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Activity Book Entry” in the subject line. We pick one winner each month to receive a $100 Tea gift certificate. To get the new activity book, simply make a purchase at Tea and we’ll send you one with your order. You can also download the activity book pages here on our Studio T blog.
From between the eyebrows to back and bottom of neck
Shoulder to shoulder
Shoulder to wrist (both arms)
Around the largest part of the arm (both arms)
Base of neck to the crotch
Around the chest (at the nipples)
Around the belly (at the belly button)
Around the hips (at the center of the bottom)
Inseam (from the crotch to the ground)
Around the thigh at the widest part (both legs)
With each measurement, add approximately 10″ (for the seams, the thickness of the fabric you will use, and extra breathing room). When in doubt, give yourself extra fabric for the suit—you can always take it in and make it smaller.
Step 2: BUY YOUR FABRIC
Estimate the amount of fabric you’ll need based the total of your final measurements. You will need the same amount of black and white fabric. Tell the staff at your local fabric store that you are looking “sherpa craft fur” or something similar to it. You can choose a black or white invisible zipper, just make sure it is a length that fits the torso of your child, from the crotch to the base of the neck. Don’t forget to buy any of the other supplies you will need when getting your fabric.
Step 3: START WITH THE HEAD
This is where you get a little creative! In order to make the panda head round and like a hood, use a ball that is close to the size of your child’s head (volleyball, soccer ball). From the white fabric, cut a square piece that fits all the way around the ball, with a bit extra. Wrap the fabric around the ball loosely with the fuzzy side facing the ball. Next, use safety pins to pin back the four corners of the fabric square in a circular way. This will be the opening for the face of the costume. Work slowly around the whole ball, loosely pinching the fabric and pinning it so that after you sew all the pinched spots, you will turn the hood right side in and the fuzzy side will be a flush circular shape. After sewing all the seams and pinches, choose the spot that will connect to the rest of the costume at the bottom of the face opening and cut a slit from there that is half the measurement of the circumference of your child’s head.
Step 4: THE EARS
To make the ears, just eyeball the size you would like them to be and cut two squares from the black fabric. (Always over-estimate when cutting into the fabric.) Here again you can just sort of ball them up until they appear to look like an appropriate panda ear and freestyle sew it together. Next, join the ears up with the white hooded head you made. Safety pin the ears on before sewing so you can really see where they are going to sit on the hood.
Step 5: THE BODY
Take a big cut out of the black fabric that is at least longer than the largest measurement you took from your child’s torso. Keeping the furry side facing inward, form it into a tube, then sew the seam where the two edges meet to form the tube. Do the same for the two arms. Remember, you want your panda to be able to move, so do everything with a little extra room. Next, take the two arms and place them on either sides of the upper torso area of the large tube. Pin them in place while you trace around the arms with your chalk to make the arm holes. Cut the holes out. Sew the arms on using your black thread. To finish the arms, you can fold the wrist seam in and sew it if you want a cleaner look.
Between the fur of the fabric and the fact that your child may only wear or fit into this costume for one season, nothing needs to be perfect! So don’t stress about mistakes and imperfections on your side.
Next, cut an oval shape from your white fabric, place it onto the front of the black torso you just made, and sew it on. Then find the center of the top of the chest opening, take your zipper, and cut straight down the center of the torso the same length as your zipper. Sew it in!
Step 6: THE PANDA BOOTY
Follow the same process for the legs as you did for the arms, but leave even more room in the legs than you think you need to (wider at the thighs and tapered at the ankles), and make them longer, too. Once you have your two legs, place them side-by-side. Now is when you kind of need to make it up—you are essentially making pants. After you figure that one out, sew the bottom onto to the upper torso.
Step 7: PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
Last but not least, don’t forget to sew the HEAD on! Then unzip the suit and let your child try it on. Presto! Panda time!
And do a little dance!
Jackie Jones is a graphic designer and illustrator who has had the pleasure to create projects with clients all over the world. She currently lives in the fruit valley of Washington with her husband Andy, and is painting up a storm for her first children’s book.
To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).
Esther, who handles catalogs and emails here at Tea, traveled with her family to Germany to catch up with relatives.
Every summer, my husband and I take our kids (now 8 and 7) to Germany to visit our families. The kids always look forward to seeing their Omas and Opas, aunts, uncles and cousins in Bonn and Cologne. It is important to us that our children are immersed in the culture of their parents’ native country, that they get to experience German traditions and learn to appreciate the similarities and differences between countries and cultures.
Every year while in Europe, we go on little adventures. We have taken the children on quick trips to Paris, Brussels and Berlin. Always by train – their favorite means of transportation. The ICE train travels at up to 300 km/h (186 mph). It often runs parallel to the freeway and the children love being faster than the cars – especially when there is no speed limit on a particular stretch of Autobahn!
On German trains, children under 15 ride free when traveling with an adult. During the summer months, there are special kids’ tickets, which can be exchanged for goodies on the train. In the past two years, children received a free Popsicle. This year, the goodies were a coloring book, colored pencils and a toy ICE train.
Our 2013 adventure took us to Nuremberg, where we strolled through the old streets, marveled at the medieval castle and its almost fully intact wall (with moat!), and enjoyed the local specialty of Nürnberger Rostbratwurst. To satisfy the children’s need for playtime, we went to the Playmobil FunPark, adjacent to the original Playmobil factory.
On the way back to Cologne, we opted against the high-speed ICE trains and chose to take the scenic route through the picturesque Rhine Gorge instead. If you asked my kids, they would say it’s “the river with all the castles”. They don’t understand the meaning of UNESCO World Heritage Site yet.
The train ride along the Rhine Gorge also took us past the Lorelei. This rock soars high above the water where the Rhine is at its narrowest. A strong current and rocks just below the waterline have caused many boats to sink here. Our children of course wondered why I was taking a picture of a rock. I told them the legend of the Lorelei, who sits on the cliff, brushing her golden hair, singing an enchanting melody, distracting shipmen and causing them to crash on the rocks. I’m sure someday they will understand the beauty of the poem.
As we were getting off the train in Cologne, the kids asked what our adventure is going to be next year. That’s when we knew we had done something right.
Next time you’re in the Lone Star State, be sure to swing by Dallas’ one-stop-shop for baby; Baby Bliss. Carrie and her expert staff will make you feel right at home!
Tea: How did you decide to take the leap and open your own store? How long has your store been in business?
Baby Bliss: My career started in retail as a buyer and later in wholesale. I just had the itch to do it myself! When my 30th came rolling around, I decided to make a change and boy am I glad that I did.
Tea: What is your favorite part of your day at the store?
BB: Well, I don’t spend a lot of time at the store these days because I have an amazing staff that allows me to do all the office work from home and spend more time with my kiddos after school.
Tea: We know how special and unique all of our stores are, what makes your store unique?
BB: My amazing staff! I swear people come in just to see them. They are fun, friendly, outgoing and that’s the vibe of the store. Everyone is welcome to come in, hang out, shop, and chat.
Tea: At Tea, we “Go There”, how do you share in that mission at your store and/or in your life?
BB: I love to go there! I love to travel. Before having kids, I was a worldly traveler. I was adventurous. Now that we have kids, we prefer to travel to beaches (I love the beach) where we can get lots of R&R.
Tea: What is the biggest trend you see right now in either shopping or kid’s fashion? What are people coming in for?
BB: My clients crave fashion for their kids that imitates theirs! I swear we hear all the time, “I wish that came in adult sizes!”
Tea: What do you do in your “spare” time?
BB: Family time is so important to us. I read something this summer and they titled it “the sweet spot”, post diapers and pre-teen, when your kids actually want to be with you, so we try to take full advantage of that, in between everything else! We are foodies, movie goers, art and festival lovers so we try to take advantage of all Dallas has to offer.
Tea: How do you balance it all? What tricks can you offer us?
BB: One day at a time! Then if my plate is just too full, I’ll ignore or delete things, like ‘OOPS’, I must have missed that.