Tag: little citizens

kids are everybody’s business with the turks

IMG_0254Turkey has the “it takes a village” mentality when it comes to children, even in the metropolis of Istanbul. Turks trust each other with their children and they expect us, as visitors to their country, to trust them with our children as well. Everybody notices children and jumps to help with them, cuddle them or soothe them during a tough moment.

Turks simply love children and have created a culture where it’s fine to express that. The most common form of attention is the cheek-pinching. I’m surprised Grace doesn’t have bruised cheeks from the number of pinches but she has endured it with surprising, well, grace. A maitre’d standing outside his restaurant as we passed noticed her face was dirty and summoned a waiter to bring him a cloth to scrub it clean. As we boarded a public bus heavy-laden with bags and a stroller a kind young woman scooped up Grace, held her on her lap and sang songs to her as if she were her own. On a scenic boat trip up the Bosphorus where Grace quickly became bored, a young man who spoke no English picked her up and read her one of her picture books. She’s been given many pieces of candy from strangers, led away by a security guard museum to show her off to his friends, had shopkeepers adjust her clothing and received all kinds of free food in restaurants from thoughtful waitstaff.

Such lavish attention from strangers is disarming for us Americans, so accustomed to adults in keeping their distance from children unless they are 1) related to them 2) know them well or 3) have some kind of malintent. At first we (Grace included) were a bit taken aback by the attention total strangers would shower on our tiny two-year old. Once we realized the approach was universal and well-meaning though, we relaxed and, as long as Grace still felt comfortable, we tried to be as well. As we head home after two weeks in Turkey we’ll have to readjust to strangers remaining just that, while trying to maintain that caring attitude towards other children ourselves.

learning mandarin

Since my son was born — he’s now two — I’ve been speaking Mandarin to him. My partner speaks Vietnamese to him. I never really thought much about whether to speak to him in English or Chinese; I knew I was going to speak to him in Chinese, my first language.
Once he was born, though, I found myself looking for the right words to say to a newborn! My English is much better than my Mandarin, so it’s sometimes hard to stick to speaking in just Mandarin with him. Through raising him, I’m learning about my own limitations with Mandarin, and surprisingly, learning about my strengths and how quickly things come back. These old school phrases that I must have learned as a child just seemed to come out of nowhere! And Since he’s started to pick up more words, I realized how important it is to keep the language going!
One of the things I’m learning is that, like any aspect of parenting, it’s so important to surround yourself with a community of like-minded folks, or people in similar situations. When we have our friends over, who happen to know Chinese or Vietnamese, we ask them to speak to him in those languages. When my parents visit, of course, he will have a sudden explosion of Chinese words. It’s really amazing.
We’ve also been going to the local branch of our library. We’ve been checking out DVDs of “Follow Jade!” and music videos in Vietnamese. My son definitely likes the Jade videos (who he calls “Auntie Jade”) and though it’s bilingual and targeted towards an English-speaking audience, he still picks up new vocabulary from the segments. The library, especially in these tough times, is such a great resource in more than one way. I’ve also checked out multiple books on raising a bilingual child, and those have been helpful too.
I’m wondering if there are other parents out there raising their kids with multiple languages, and how that is going. Are people considering bilingual or even full immersion preschools to keep the language going? What are some other resources out there for parents raising bilingual/multilingual children?
Momo is a freelance writer and mom of a two year-old.

diapers and laundry and diapers, oh my!

Question from my best friend, Lisa: What do you do about laundry and diapers when traveling overseas?

Answer: Always make sure we have easy access to both!

It’s actually somewhat amusing that Lisa asked me this question. Twelve years ago she and I spent a college summer in Germany where, for two months, our clothes did not once see a washing machine. We were too poor and cheap so, for the entire summer, we washed our clothes in the bathroom sink using dishsoap. I think the dishsoap was Lisa’s idea. We smelled lemony fresh and, for the most part, looked pretty clean.

Don’t think Steve and I are laboring over hotel sinks washing out Grace’s grubby t-shirts, at least not most days. Now that we can actually afford to do laundry the modern way, we do. We always first price out the cost of having someone else do our wash for us. In developing countries like Honduras laundry is a non-issue because it is so cheap to have someone local do the wash (a few dollars/ load). In Buenos Aires this was the case as well, even though our apartment did have a washer. We preferred to spend our time sight-seeing than waiting for a load to finish so frequently utilized the low-cost lavanderia (wash-and-fold) around the corner where the price even included ironing Steve’s shirts!

In more developed countries like Turkey the cost to have someone else do the wash was outrageous. Istanbul surprisingly also didn’t seem to have a single public laundromat. Luckily for us we had rented an apartment from Manzara Apartments and they had a washing machine in their offices they let us use (one of the few good things about this company – more on them in a later post). The washer was tiny though (held about half of what our washer at home holds) and there was no dryer. We just washed the absolute necessities since we then had to trudge a quarter mile home with the wet laundry to line-dry it.

For the most part though, when we travel we are able to do our own laundry because we rent apartments/houses equipped with washers. On our recent escapades in Turkey we rented a house at the coast during our second week. It was equipped with a washing machine and a huge sunny deck for line-drying the clothes. We returned home with suitcases full of clean clothes rather than the usual post-vacation piles of dirty laundry.

One thing we never, ever use are hotel laundry services. Almost always these services are outrageously expensive no matter the country, up to $5/ item. If we’re that desperate we’d rather resort to me and Lisa’s “dishsoap laundry method” than shell out such exorbitant amounts.

As for diapers, we usually try to take enough with us for an entire trip because diapers overseas are almost always imported from the US and therefore very expensive. Diapers aren’t heavy so they don’t add a lot of extra weight to our luggage, and as we use them up they make room for whatever souvenirs we’re collecting along the way.

On our most recent trip to Turkey we found ourselves short on diapers the last day at the WOW Istanbul Airport Hotel. I called down to the front desk to find out where we could buy diapers in the area. I was pleasantly surprised when the kind man on the other end, in very broken English, said they’d send some up. An hour later no diapers had arrived so I called again. This time no one on their staff knew anything about the phantom concierge’s promise to send up diapers nor did anyone even know what “diapers” were. I tried the British word “nappies.” I tried explaining “you know, the thing babies poop and pee in.” I was transferred to six staff members before the last guy asked me to spell “diapers.” I did and he said he’d call me back. Five minutes later, after what I imagine was a lot of frantic googling and then titters when the staff figured out what I wanted, he called me back triumphant: “We do not have any in the hotel.” OK, that would have been nice to know an hour ago when someone else was promising diaper room service. Sadly we found a local grocery store and bought an entire pack of 36 diapers of which we used one. We left the rest of the package behind in our room so if you happen to go to this hotel and need diapers, just tell them you know some crazy Americans left some behind and they’re probably languishing in the hotel’s lost-and-found.

We have yet to find a country that doesn’t have very easy access to diapers and wipes, despite any language barriers. Though often expensive, every corner pharmacy or drugstore around the world seems to carry Huggies and disposable wipes. Too bad for the landfills but good for traveling parents.

the pleasure of to-doing the to-do list

to-do-listFew things are as sweet for this wife, mother and business owner as a completed to-do list. One where every last task is crossed off and the list for tomorrow reads “To Turkey.” I feel more relaxed now than I probably ever will during my vacation.

That’s where I find myself tonight, as we prepare to take off for Istanbul, Turkey in the morning. I’ve never been a last minute person, running around frantically in the final hours before an exam, a big event, or a trip to get everything ready. Instead I run around frantically a day or two before and I wind up with this wonderful window of a few hours just before leaving where everything, yes, everything, is done. Anything that’s not done doesn’t matter at this point. If it was urgent, I did it already. Everything else can wait until I get back and I don’t have to feel guilty about not doing it right now.

I savor this sensation of done-ness in a life typically so planned, so frantic. Is it possible that I plan trips just so I can have those few satisfying hours before of having nothing to do? Perhaps so.

So what do I do? I won’t bore you with the details I took care of to prepare for my absence from my online business. I’ve provided below though my standard checklist of things-to-do-before-leaving, things which apply to just about every traveling family. I hope it helps you create your own quiet moment of done-ness.

Traveling Family’s Pre-Departure Checklist

One week before departure

  • Stop mail, newspaper, diaper delivery, garbage/recycling pick-up.
  • Notify neighbors of absence.
  • Make arrangements for pets including extra food, water, litter, etc.
  • Provide instructions to housesitter/ pet sitter.
  • Provide emergency phone #s to relatives/ close friends.
  • Notify debit/ credit card companies of travel plans, especially when traveling internationally.
  • Get sufficient cash from bank, especially important when traveling internationally.

Three days before departure

  • Laundry for everyone.

Two days before departure

  • Pack. I try to be mostly done with this 24 hours before departure, so I know what I may need to run to the store to pick-up.

Day before departure

  • Last minute trip to Target to buy anything I found we’re out of while packing.
  • Confirm/ check-in online for flights.
  • Print out relevant itineraries, boarding passes, hotel names and phone #s, transportation info, etc.

And now I’ll go cross the last item remaining on my to-do list: “Blog- To-do list.”

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!!!


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.

easter for everyone

People tend to have strong opinions about whether or not it’s okay for kids who are being raised as Jews to celebrate holidays such as Easter and Christmas.  For many, not celebrating these holidays is a matter of cultural pride.  I would argue that non-religious aspects of these holidays have become a part of American culture and that we should embrace these fun traditions just as we would our own.

That said, this year Easter came and went without my 18-month-old daughter Zoe even noticing.  Yet, next year, when she learns about Easter in school, I feel strongly that she should partake in egg coloring, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts and whatever else one does on Easter (with the exception of going to church).  I did these things as a child but I do remember certain relatives and friends reacting with shock and disapproval when they heard this.  And we all have that place where we draw the line.  My mom was happy to decorate eggs with me and let me hang a stocking for Santa but looked at our friends’ yearly Christmas tree with disapproval.  I would imagine that over the years we will experience some negative reactions as well.

There seems to be a widespread idea that Jewish kids feel left out and sad around the time of these holidays because they don’t partake in the fun.  I think for the most part this is a huge myth.  Maybe there are some kids that feel this way but generally I don’t think that for most it is really that big of a deal.  So my decision to introduce these traditions to Zoe is not because I don’t want her to feel left out when her peers are painting eggs or hanging stockings.  Rather, I think any sort of festivity is worth joining in on.  Why miss out on anything?  After all, in our family we also love to celebrate the Hindu festivals of Holi and Diwali and any other cultural tradition we can get our hands on.