July 21, 2009

riding the rails

Maybe it’s the haunting whistle at five in the morning or perhaps it’s the gleaming steel curves of the engine, but there is something about trains that taps into a deep corner of my soul. It could be the romance-the vagabond lifestyle, the ease of which one can hop off of a train and instantly be in the heart of a new city. Or maybe it’s the pioneer spirit-looking at the open countryside filled with infinite possibilities. Regardless, as I contemplated the best way to get my family from Minneapolis to Milwaukee on a recent family vacation to the Midwest, I couldn’t shake from my mind the idea of taking the train. Sure, flying would be faster and maybe even more economical, but an airplane would be just one more opportunity for our luggage to get lost. We could have rented a car, but that option would have left us with children complaining of the monotonous views from the windows and wanting to stretch their legs. So, the train it was.

While it was no Japanese bullet train or the Orient Express, my children could not have enjoyed their six hours on the Empire Builder more. From the moment we boarded the train and climbed up a narrow staircase to our seats, the fun never stopped. There were complicated footrests to master and train table charts to look at. There was the observation car with its oval side tables and views of the Mississippi. There was the excitement of the dining car where we sat at a table with strangers and ate ice cream with tiny paddles. Every moment held a breathtaking discovery.

Watching my children embrace the experience of traveling on a train, I couldn’t help but think of the first train trips that I took in Europe and the indelible memories that they have left. How could I ever forget sitting on my pack in a cramped hallway while 70 German teenagers on a school holiday trip chattered the night away? And my heart still skips a beat when I remember the shock of having a border guard in Hungary burst into our train compartment in the middle of the night with his German Shepherd growling at us.

In a world that measures achievement by tasks accomplished or the distance one has gone, traveling by train forces one to slow down. The calming rhythm of the train and the measured pace of the scenery slipping by the window always has a meditative effect on me, and it had the same effect on my children. As we gazed idly out the window, we commented on the birds that we saw or the red barns in the distance. And perhaps that is the romance of the train-this communal experience with one’s fellow passengers and with the landscape, all of which is something that kids seem to be hardwired to enjoy.

July 17, 2009

easy and essential safety tip for your child.

Back by popular demand!  Lori Chaplin wrote this article back in October 2008 and we were reminded of the importance of safety while families are out traveling and enjoying the wonderful summer weather.  Keep a watchful eye as you venture out on your travels this season!

Have you ever “lost” you kid? Maybe you haven’t admitted it publicly but it happens to many families. It happened to us at Disneyland last weekend. I was parking the stroller and asked our daughter to hop out and get in line with Dad. A cast member told me I would need to move my stroller to “stroller parking.” I followed a path to stroller parking far removed from the ride which we were waiting. I quickly parked the stroller and did a brisk walked back to the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland, almost a jog. I was unaware that my daughter had followed me. I returned to the ride with my husband in line. We looked at each other simultaneously saying, “Where is Olivia? I thought she was with you!” Quick expression of panic and we both take off running.

This is the part that saved us. Every time we go to a public place like Disneyland, Del Mar fair, Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo, San Francisco zoo or any of the other places we would never had been found 6 years ago….we take pictures of our daughter on our cell phones. Front, side and back view pictures AT the site. This would allow us to show a picture of her in the outfit she was wearing and the hairstyle she had on the same day if she got separated from us. We always figured if we had a current picture on our cell phones we could easily show it and forward it to others if needed.

And we needed. Within seconds of missing Olivia at Disneyland, I showed the picture to the man who made me move the stroller and he began pointing and saying “Ohhh the little girl with pigtails. She is right there with another cast member!”

Slump of relief.

She did all the right things, found a “manager” and stayed put once she felt she couldn’t find us. But having the picture expedited the situation. Once back at Astro Orbiter, another family asked us if would like our place back in line and confessed they had a stomach ache too from the sympathy pains. I told them how I found Olivia and they immediately took out their cameras and took a picture of their 7 year old. I am sure that will become part of their “public place” routine. I can now personally recommend it to all parents.

July 14, 2009

flying solo

Flying doesn’t scare me. For some, the mere mention of an airplane elicits panic. Not this girl. Often, when a plane passes overhead, I’ll glance up and wonder what exciting place it’s bound for. And I’ll sigh with a brief moment of envy before returning to the day’s activities. I’ve flown often and for the vast majority of my life. My first flight was at 4 weeks old and I haven’t slowed down since.
Recently, I flew alone for the first time in quite a while. To celebrate my birthday, I met my husband at the tail end of a business trip for a long weekend in California. It was our first trip alone together since Annie P joined our family. The traveler that I love to be, I picked a place that left a whole country between my daughter and I. Better to just close my eyes and jump rather than dip my toe in the water by way of a close location, I say. I’ve flown halfway around the world, for goodness sakes. I figured I could leave Annie P on the east coast for a couple of days. So off I went.
The first thing I noticed about traveling alone for the first time since becoming a mother was the absolute tranquility of the experience. I don’t think that’s something you often hear people say about a plane trip. But for a mother, it can be downright therapeutic. Let me elaborate with a few examples.
On the way to the airport, I filed my nails – don’t worry, I wasn’t driving. I sat in the car with no sippy cups to dole out, no nursery rhymes to sing and filed my poor neglected nails. I chatted with my friendly limo driver (part of the birthday present). I took part in the excitement of a trip to the airport where I would be leaving for somewhere other than home. This was going to be good.
Once I made it to my gate, I just sat and watched my fellow travelers. People watching is a too often overlooked perk about traveling. When people go somewhere, they are inclined to hurry from one overrun tourist attraction to the next, without truly looking around them. One of the easiest ways to experience a new culture is to grab a seat in the center of the action, be it a market or a town square, and just watch how people live. Throw away the agenda and just be. That isn’t easy to do with a child. All your focus is on them; are they safe, where did they get the mystery object they’re chewing on from, are they bothering the person next to you. You get the picture. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s surely not as easy to come by. So I soaked it in. At one point they came over the intercom to announce that our flight would be slightly delayed. For the first time ever, I truly didn’t care. I didn’t have any real place to be. I’d get there, my dear husband would be waiting, and we’d carry on.
We did eventually make it on the plane. And here’s where my trip truly began.  I ordered a drink. I drank slowly, and without having to share. I read the vast majority of a book. I ordered a movie that I watched in the middle of the day with no interruptions. It was almost like a spa day. All I needed was the robe and slippers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in first class.
I did see a few uneasy travelers around me, sweating out the flight all the while reassuring themselves that eventually their feet would be on solid ground again. But me? I kicked my feet up as far as the space between seats in economy class will allow and enjoyed the blissful sounds of someone else’s kid crying.

the native tongue

Last month, we took our six and a half month old daughter Amelie to meet some relatives who were in town for my cousin’s graduation. My side of the family is Vietnamese, and except for some early cooing from my parents when she was two months old, this was the first time Amelie was surrounded by her Vietnamese relatives, all who baby talked and interacted with her in their native language.
I never learned to speak fluent Vietnamese. As new refugees in this country just after the fall of Saigon, my parents felt incredibly self-conscious speaking English in public because of their perceived heavy accents. Determined that their own children wouldn’t experience the same prejudice they faced, my parents had decided to speak to my brother and me only in English. In retrospect, it has been a great disappointment not to communicate in the native language of my relatives and have the ability to pass it down to my own child.
Amelie loves attention and eagerly allowed herself to be passed around between her great aunts and great uncles. I sat listening to them chat with her, ask her questions and hug her. One of my uncles even pulled out the karaoke machine and sang Vietnamese love songs to her. She cried at the end, possibly because of the high decibels, but perhaps because the serenade was over. I was thrilled with the attention too, taking way too many pictures and video clips. Even though I knew she was too young to understand, I wanted to retain these memories for her, especially the words they spoke, which were full of love and history.
My parents remind me all the time that I could take language lessons. They are convinced the Vietnamese is buried within me, since I still can understand what they say to me—I just can’t generate the words to reply. But I don’t hear Vietnamese on a regular basis anymore. My parents tend to speak in English when we’re on the phone. So when I do hear it, either in passing on the street, or on the car radio, or in a restaurant, I sit transfixed, silencing everything else around me, attempting to translate and understand.
My husband and I have talked for years about taking Vietnamese language classes. My father is getting older and although he has spoken English for over thirty years, I know he feels more comfortable speaking in Vietnamese. I don’t want that kind of language barrier between us. We always found reasons to put these classes off, but this weekend convinced us we needed to make it a priority. Children retain languages best when they are young, and I want us to be prepared when Amelie is able to speak her first words.
I know it will be difficult. This is probably why I’ve been delaying it for so long. But I’d like to believe what my parents say, that my fluency will not be so hard to attain, after years of listening to my family.
Sometimes, I feel the language swelling up in me. Little endearments I remember my parents used to say to me, I now find myself saying to Amelie. Although I cannot literally translate even to myself what I am saying, I hope she can feel the affection in the words, and trust that I mean them.

July 2, 2009

take a deep breath this holiday weekend…

I have always felt badly for my mother around the holidays- she gets so stressed about having guests, when they are coming and going, how to transport them, where they will sleep, how to entertain them, and on top of that, making massive amounts of food. As a kid I always got to enjoy having more people in the house, run around with the other kids, and enjoy the special holiday feasts. My mom, like every other host of holiday parties, worries about their guests feeling comfortable, taken care of, and having enjoyed their time.

So often, the idea behind holidays gets pushed by the wayside in favor of stressing over grocery shopping, making the house guest-ready, and how you’ll handle crazy relatives.  Sometimes, even the history or tradition gets lost in the excitement that kids have for having a day off from school, or adults have for having a paid holiday.  Of all of the different holidays throughout the world, the one common thread is that they give reason to bring people together, and celebrating our accomplishments and connections to each other.  The point is not to stress about the little things, but to enjoy being around the friends and family you love, and remind ourselves of the support system we have in each other. 

 And you might cringe at the thought of dealing with the in-laws or crazy uncles, but try to remember on this 4th of July weekend that hiccups are bound to happen, hot dogs and marshmallows will get burned, and it might be a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher handy!

 

June 25, 2009

Journey to Japan: An Interview with Emily

First, the itinerary: four days in Kyoto, an overnight in a “wooden” mountain town, then in Tokyo for more exploration at urban-energy pace. Emily describes this trip as almost spiritual, honoring the culture that inspired Tea’s founding aesthetic seven years ago. Enjoy the sights and senses of the Fall Collection and learn how Japanese culture affects Emily—profoundly.

So why Japan for Fall 2009?

The aesthetics of Japan are part of our soul.  Their innate simplicity and the cultural colors of indigo, black, and red move us immensely.  We visited temples and artisan workshops.  We instantly made connections between ancient traditions and the ceaseless innovation in everyday life.  Our pure enthusiasm is what we wanted to share.

Visit to Indigo Artisan Aisenkobo
Indigo Artisan: Aisenkobo

continue reading

June 23, 2009

Tea [heart] Tokyo!

Wow. Incredibly energizing, glorious, playful, strong, and charming. We’ve had so much fun creating our first movie to introduce our new collection – inspired by Japan. It’s infectious. There’s been plenty of dancing around the office.

Many, many thanks to all of the people who made this happen. Josh Tetreault from Emotive Brand is the filmmaking genius. Josh found the perfect music – “Ce Jeu” by Yelle – introducing us to the talented French singer. He was captivated by the incredible shots of our beloved, uber-talented photographer, Laurie Frankel. And Laurie was inspired by the beautiful “little citizens of the world” in our Fall 2009 photo shoot. An immense thank you goes to the children (and their parents!) in this video.

None of it would happen without our brilliant designers who make designer children clothing practical, real, and inspired. Every season they travel to a new destination to find original inspiration – bringing unique children’s apparel to the little citizens of the world.

Share the love – tell your friends!

Tomorrow, we’ll post an interview with our Chief Creative Officer – the visionary behind the brand. We ask her all about the trip to Japan – the sights and scenes that inspired the Fall Collection.

The new collection is available in stores now – and will be available online on our website by the end of the month!

June 22, 2009

father’s day hot pants

My 4-year-old son and I recently were shopping on Tea’s website for some new pants and a few tops. He had worn two, giant holes in his only pair of jeans, so when he saw the Sora Denim jeans and the Waves Rider blue hoodie, he shouted, “Those, Mama! I want those, please.” As I was filling our online cart, it hit me—“Yikes, it’s nearly Father’s Day! I need to go shopping for the other man in my life.”

So, with pants on my mind, I browsed to the Bonobos site: www.bonobos.com. If you or a man you love hasn’t experienced Bonobos yet, you should. Founded by two Stanford business school alumni and based in New York City, this company is awesome. They offer a fun assortment of trousers with knock-out names and bold lining, they swear by the fit and comfort, and they extend 100 percent customer satisfaction guarantees. I quickly found some cute corduroys (dubbed “The Cordistans”) and handsome shorts (“Marlins, Long”) that my husband won’t dare wear while mowing the lawn (unlike every other pair of shorts he owns).

It’s pretty hard to beat checking off responsibilities like clothing your family by doing so online. The photography on both the Tea Collection and Bonobos sites is terrific, so you have a solid idea of what you’ll be getting in the mail. The clothes are well-made and attractive, which I just can’t say about the slightly more affordable mass retailers. Finally, I completely trust the companies to exchange anything that doesn’t fit.

How’s that for a happy Father’s Day?

travel advice for road trips with kiddos

What do you get when you combine a car, three children, a cat, a vehicle full of luggage and over 800 miles?

You get a ROAD TRIP!

How does one safely make the journey, while also retaining sanity?

Some of our tried and true tips for surviving a road trip with kiddos:


I’m refraining from posting my thoughts on traveling with pets, as I hope to never do that again … if you need tips, email me and I’ll be happy to share our suggestions individually with you.

WHAT TO BRING:

  • CELL PHONE CHARGER! Too often I make the organizational mistake of packing this in my luggage that I don’t have easy access to. Huge bummer when you have a cell phone with a dead battery!
  • Bottle brush (We love this kind) — makes cleaning out sippy cups a BREEZE when you’re on the go with no access to a dishwasher.
  • Boxed milk that requires no refrigeration (We love this kind) — if your kiddos can’t live without milk, this reduces the need for a cooler in the car!
  • Ziploc bags of all sizes — perfect for trash bags (when you need to contain smelly trash, or to ensure that random french fries from the last drive-thru lunch stay put instead of all over the car).
  • Diapers that your little one has outgrown — maybe a strange tip, but they make for a really fun game of hot potato without fear of breaking or hurting anyone!
  • Dryer sheets to place underneath carseats — another strange tip, but it helps keep the car smelling … well … spring fresh!
  • Ziploc Big Bags (we LOVE THESE!) — pack one in your overnight bag for dirty clothes. The size holds your entire family’s dirty laundry AND zips shut to keep the odor-ifious-ness contained.
  • Travel size of Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo. This works for bathtime, sink-cleaning laundry if needed, washing out sippy cups, etc.
  • Nightlight. Nothing is worse than an unfamiliar bedroom (whether hotel or with family) than a dark bedroom.

If you are staying in a hotel or with friends along your way, pack what EVERY member of the family needs into ONE bag.

  • change of clothes for the next morning
  • pjs
  • swimsuits
  • toiletries
  • Ziploc big bag

When you arrive at your first night’s destination, it is so nice to only have to remove ONE bag for the night instead of pulling all sorts of random bags into the lobby, WITH your tired and cranky kiddos.

If you are staying at a hotel, ask the front desk attendant when you check in to allow you to raid their continental breakfast room/fridge for some milk cartons (put them on ice with your bucket) and boxed cereal.

Throw in some fruit, and you’ve got your own bedside breakfast ready in the morning without forcing you to get dressed and wrangle the littles into clothes first thing.

IN-CAR ENTERTAINMENT:

Use a small cookie sheet that magically transforms into a lap desk. The benefits to this are numerous:

  • Magnets STICK!
  • Colors are contained within the outer lip
  • Snacks are easily kept at bay (imagine goldfish flying all over the car when you hit a bump?)
  • They easily slide underneath the seats for storage

We find our trips go the best when I’ve pulled aside some toys several weeks prior to our trip, so that the toys become “new” to them.

The dollar bin at Target, or your local dollar store also makes for great “new toys” for in the car. Don’t go overboard, but pick up some cheap things and your kids will be thrilled!

We also intentionally swap out toys every 30-45 minutes … even if they’re not “done” playing with them. Instead of waiting until frustration levels are high and they’re beyond playing with the toys, refresh their scenery and swap out on a regular basis.

Ziploc or grocery-store bag each GROUPING of toys. Explain to your kids that they need to keep all like items together and you’ll all save yourself some much needed energy.

If you have room between carseats, throw in a plastic crate (like THIS) — the crate will serve numerous purposes along the way. (For the kids to keep their juiceboxes, snacks, toys in their reach, etc.)

Pack each kiddo a backpack of their own special things. Include in their backpack their OWN bag of colors, kid-friendly scissors and … a roll of tape. No joke here … that roll of tape can keep them busy for H.O.U.R.S!

Create a BINGO game of sorts (afix it to their cookie sheet lap tray for ease). Identify several things that the kids will be likely to see along your journey and let them color in the squares when they spot each one.

Create a “map” of your journey with your starting location, your final destination and pinpoint several landmarks or locations along the way. Provide stickers just for this map and help your children identify and understand a bit more the process of the journey. It cuts down a bit on the “Are we there yet?” question.

EACH AND EVERY TIME you stop for gas or potty breaks, clean out the car. Take the extra 5 minutes to throw away that trash!

ANOTHER MUST? Designate the pouches on the back of the seats for the kids’ shoes and socks. If they have special blankies or lovies, also use those pouches for those items. Instead of having to search high and low for these things when they are rapidly needed, form a habit of always placing them in those pouches.

DVD Players. I canNOT stress this enough. Each child gets their own DVD player AND headphones. Saves from fighting over which movie to play, whose player is louder, etc.

* * *
With a little bit of planning, alot of patience and some organization, you can make your summer road trips bearable! I’m sure there are SO many more travel tips. Share your favorites!

when mama’s sick

A few days ago I came down with a night fever. My body was achy, throat soar and i justed wanted to crawl into bed. I finally gave into the extra-strength Tylenol, which definitely helped me sleep well. I knew that I couldn’t just call in sick to work the next day — my work is being home with my child. I seriously needed good sleep to have enough energy the next day.

I realized the next day that there are ways to take care of a child while you’re sick. Specifically, ow key things you can do without walking miles (literally) or exhausting yourself. Living in a metropolitan area, we are usually on the go, everyday — unless one of us gets sick. Here are some things we did:

– Played on the bed. My son likes playing with stuffed animals now, especially bears and dogs, and he will talk to them, have them talk to each other (with my help), and feed them. And i can lay down on the bed the whole time. yay!

– Played at home. We found stuff to do around the house — no chores of course, though I was so tempted to do some. I kept reminding myself that I was sick and should just take it easy. We played with all his toys, took out some toys he hadn’t seen in a while, and read a bunch of books he hadn’t read in a while.

– Gave my son some homemade popsicles — this is one way he’ll sit still for a loooong time at the dining table. Gives me a moment to just sit and eat and relax.

– Took him on his tricycle around our building. He rode his tricycle (I helped push him along) up and down the hallways and to the little courtyard, where he played with rocks in the rock garden. Completely walled off garden so no need to run after him.

– Watched videos. I am not opposed to him watching videos in moderation, as long as it’s appropriate and educational.

I was also thinking of home remedies for myself. I always thought eating pineapples was good to ward off a cold, but also heard it’s not good to eat when you’re sick. What’s the verdict? I tried to drink lots of water. I also ate some honey (yum, good excuse, huh?) and gargled with warm salt water for the sore throat. I really don’t know if the honey and salt water work, but they do make my throat feel a ton better.

One thing my mom told me is, moms cannot get sick, because everything will fall apart, and it’s difficult to take care of children when you’re sick. Plus, it just takes so much longer to get better because it’s hard to take it easy when you’re running after a toddler, plus doing chores, cooking and so on.

Anything you like to do when you just want an “easy” day with your tot? Any home remedies when you’re sick or not feeling well?