Category: Discovery and Exploration

my son’s first real haircut

baby's first haircutIt took me nearly 2 1/2 years after my son was born to give him his first haircut. All along, I had cut his bangs a little, but never the back of his hair. For months, my mom had been telling me to cut his hair. Most of the time, people thought he was a girl. And, his hair was kind of wispy, not super thick. But I still saw it as my son’s precious baby hair, and it took me a long time to prepare myself to cut it.

My mom kept emphasizing that it’s good to cut hair, so that it stimulates the scalp (or something like that) and new hair will grow back thicker and stronger. Everytime we visited my grandma, she would lament after looking at his hair and say, it’s so thin. None of those reasons were good enough to me, though. I know in some cultures (including mine, Chinese), it is common to shave a baby’s head either at one month or 6 months or so, regardless of whether the baby’s a boy or girl. That way, the hair will grow back stronger.

The real reason I was motivated to cut his hair is similar to why I usually cut my hair (also rarely these days) — for a change. My son had just entered a two-week phase of being extremely whiny, demanding and tantrumy. Miraculously, he’s never gone through his “terrible twos,” at least how I imagined it, yet. But all of a sudden, in that two week span, it was really, really difficult communicating with him, and even just being around him for the entire day. I was frustrated. I wanted my child back!

I didn’t so much blame the hair, but talked to my mom about his behavior. She mentioned again that perhaps I should cut his hair; it might change his energy and give him better “qi.” There was a thought I could go with. After all, perhaps his long sideburns tickling his face (he was always pushing his hair away), his long locks rubbing his neck in the middle of summer, and his bangs were all just too much for him and added to his irritableness. I could buy that. And at that point, I was desperate for a change! It wouldn’t hurt, I thought. I had been preparing for this day for months, it seemed.

First, I looked up all the kid salons in the area. They sounded fun and great but quickly decided that I wanted to be the one to give him his first haircut. The next step was gathering all the gear (scissors, comb, spray bottle, mirror, popsicles and his favorite video).

I looked to YouTube for guidance and found an excellent video of a mom cutting her son’s hair. I followed her steps almost to the tee. Except instead of a lollipop (my son has never had candy before), I made popsicles, to make sure he’d sit still for what I expected to be a long and tedious process. Turns out I didn’t even need popsicles. My son dutifully sat for a full 30 minutes with his eyes glued to my computer screen, which was playing one of his favorite videos, Planet B-Boy. Before I put in the DVD, though, I showed him the youtube video and told him what was going on. Then i asked if he would like me to cut his hair too. He nodded enthusiastically. That was a good sign.

That made my job fairly easy. My partner documented the whole thing on video. I first put the back of his hair in a ponytail and then snipped it off. (That’s going in the scrapbook that I have yet to start on). After that, it was very easy.

I wondered what he would think, seeing himself in the mirror afterwards. He looked like a little boy now, bigger than a baby or toddler. I gave him the mirror and he just looked, and kind of gave a smile.  Then I think he forgot about it all and just started playing (as I cleaned up a mess of hair on the floor, chair, etc).

But i will say this: I believe the haircut did change his qi. He seemed a lot more pleasant overall, totally left the tantrumy phase, was just happier. And I was happier being able to see his lovely face, seeing him grow up. He looked different, for sure. It was definitely a big milestone, one that took me months to get ready for! I’ve given him one trim since then, and now he will see pics of people getting haircuts and tell me that “mama” gives him haircuts.

Pinwheels for Peace

There was recently alot of buzz at the school over International Peace Day, and the elementary grades participated in Pinwheels for Peace.


The campus of school was colorful and the breeze nicely complimented the mission of the day … pinwheels galore were spinning and whirling

The Pinwheels for Peace folks estimate that over 3 million pinwheels were spinning around the world on September 21st.  Cool!

Near the middle school and high school part of the complex, these banners were also displayed.


I asked Tony what he learned from the celebration of Peace Day.
He said “Peace means you don’t honk and you don’t fight”
Outta the mouths …

surprising new tastes

musselI may not be the most adventurous eater around, but I have come a long way from my childhood when I thought that iceberg lettuce was exotic and that potato pancakes were the height of ethnic cuisine.  In Bratislava, I have blindly ordered from a menu written in Slovakian only to be presented with a dish that might have been goose liver or honestly could have come from any other related species. I’ve smiled politely while dining at a Korean professor’s home and happily munched on whatever delicacy he presented. While I may not seek out the most outlandish dishes that various cuisines have to offer, I’m not dining on pot roast and potatoes every night either.

My four year old son, however, has recently shown me up. On a recent trip to Baltimore the whole family sat down for a late lunch outside on a sunny afternoon. While the adults dined tapas-style, the children grazed on their grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit. Suddenly my son looked up from his plate, pointed across the table, and exclaimed, “What are those shells doing over in that??”

Calmly, his grandmother responded that that was paella and those shells were actually mussels that you could eat. Disbelieving, my son reached for a mussel and looked inside the ridged dark shell. My heart stopped and my eyes bulged out when my mother-in-law explained how to eat mussels, and my son deliberately put one in his mouth, began to chew, and ate it.

Clearly, I have been underestimating my son. While I know that given enough exposure to different foods children will eat almost anything, I have never seen my son so deliberately choose to try something new and to stretch himself. You couldn’t pay me enough to pop a mussel into my mouth, and here is my young son tossing one back like it was no big deal and then telling everyone that it was truly delicious. I am in awe of his spirit.

Back at home and preparing his uninspired breakfasts and his lackluster dinners, I am reminded of this lunch in Baltimore when my son proved to me that at the tender age of four he is capable of so much more than I suspect. His palate is not yet locked; his destiny is far from written. Given a little encouragement and opportunity, he will continue to surprise and amaze us with what new snacks he might munch on and with what wild, new adventures he might choose to embark on. Not only is it time to start sharing my curry dishes or my husband’s favorite okra and tomatoes with him, but it’s time to start challenging myself and moving out of my comfort zone just like my son is.

fun with play dough

Play Dough Sea Monster. Creative Commons photo by Tim Pierce.

One thing I love about being a mom, I admit, is all the fun stuff I get to do with my son. I am one of those parents that likes to play with all the kids’ toys, likes to go to the zoo, kids’ museums, and so on. Part of it is probably because growing up, we didn’t really have the same types of toys and places to go to; certainly, I didn’t play with things like drums or even a lot of play dough. (I had a lot of dolls to play with, mostly hand me downs or toys I shared with my older sister).

One activity that I love and find super therapeutic is making and playing with homemade playdough.  I found this online recipe through a friend and have been making batched since my son was around 1 year old.

When I say therapeutic, I do mean it.  The squishy material is soothing for harried souls, and that includes adults and children.  People often say that babies and tots have it easy; everything is done for them, they can sleep whenever they want, they have no worries, etc.  But I think children actually go through a lot, from small to big changes that they are not in control of.  So for whatever it’s worth, some play dough,  I think, is relaxing for the child too.

Our play dough play has changed over time. Before, we’d just make balls of colored dough. Then we would “cook” stuff like pretzels, bread, hot dogs (which is funny, because he’s never had a hot dog), etc. Then my son really got into statues, so I would make Buddha (is that sacrilegious?), lucky cats, dogs, and other figures from play dough. Nowadays I give him a muffin pan and he makes muffins, cupcakes or mooncakes. We don’t even have the plastic gear that kids often use with play dough, like the noodle maker and cookie cutters or things like that, though I should invest in some.

The options are endless, really. When we have our adult friends over, I usually give them some dough to see what they end up making; it’s actually an interesting experiment to see what people come up with, and how creative they get! It really brings out the inner child in all of us, I think, and is a soothing activity, to boot.

What are some other simple and fun activities that you do with your child at home?

*image source: Tim Pierce*

a divine filipino dessert

mini filipino macaroons

mini filipino macaroons

I’ve never considered myself a good cook and we’ve eaten our fair share of take-out and processed foods cooked at home. But lately, I’ve had a recent resurgence of domestication – almost to the point of obsession. I believe I can attribute this plight to the economic recession. I’m trying to save money on food so I can enjoy my other indulgences. Read: dressing my girls in designer and boutique threads that look simply adorable on them. During my quest I have found long lost family recipes – delicious snacks and treats that I enjoyed as a little one.

My recent find is a moist, sweet, and “slightly nutritional” treat that I can’t keep my girls’ hands off. They are so easy and quick to whip up – not to mention they provide a great way to administer fiber in your little one’s diet.

Filipino mini macaroons

14 oz. of shredded coconut

14 oz. can condensed milk

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ cup butter

½ cup light brown sugar

3 eggs

mini-muffin/cupcake papers

mini-muffin pan

Leave butter and eggs out at room temperature for approximately one hour.

Set oven to 350 degrees F.

Once butter has softened add it to mixing bowl and cream it by gradually adding sugar until blended. Then add vanilla extract, eggs and condensed milk. Mix all ingredients well. Once mixed, add coconut and stir into mixture using a spatula. Once all ingredients are incorporated spoon into mini muffin cups and bake for approx. 15 – 20 minutes until they are slightly golden brown on top. Enjoy.


Tea’s Top 10 Customer Preschool Memories

Takayama Plaid Top

Thank you to everyone who entered our Preschool Essentials Sweepstakes. We loved reading all of your favorite preschool memories.  Music, reading, and arts and crafts, especially finger painting, were beloved activities.  Nap time and snack time were also highlights in a preschooler’s day.  Meeting new friends, some lifelong, was a cherished memory for many.  Preschool clothes – selecting that perfect outfit was a weekly / nightly activity.  Tears, from both parent and child (not always at the same time), were also a re-occurring theme among the memories.

After reading hundreds of preschool memories, here are some of our favorites and a true testament that children do say the darnedest things!

Our Favorite Preschool  Memories (as shared and in no particular order):

Me crying and my son saying to me “don’t cry you can come pick me up in a couple of hours” – Alejandra

Our son was so excited about his first day at preschool. I picked him up at 12 and asked him how he liked his first day. He told me that first they told each other their names. Then they finger painted a picture, had some milk and cookies and then went outside. He looked at me and said “mommy, I didn’t know school would be so hard, I’m ready for a nap!” – Laura

On Hannah’s first day of preschool, both mommies and preschoolers went together for an hour.  On the second day of school the preschoolers went by themselves for an hour.  I told my daughter Hannah that Mommy would be going with her on the first day but on her next day of school she would be going by herself.  Hannah’s reply was, “But I can’t drive the car by myself.”  It was so funny! – Jen

Leaving on Tuesday, her teacher said, “See you Thursday!”  She looks at me, and says… “They think I’m coming back.” And giggles. – Leslie

I remember my son coming home from kindergarten class.  He told me he was the teacher’s pet.  He had been crawling on the floor and she had asked him if he thought he was a pet. – Doris

First day of school, I was so sad.  And as the tears silently rolled down by face, my then 5 year old reached over and patted me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, it’s just school.  I will be here all day and I will be waiting for you right here at the end of the day, Ok?”  – R. Cherie

My favorite memory is actually mine. Before we had snack we had to thank God for something. I would always thank God for toys. The teachers told me I had to pick something else like my family. I then thanked God the next day for my parents for buying me toys. Then they told me I had to say something else so I thanked God for money because that let my parents buy me toys. When my mom picked me up I asked her what incorrigible means. – Danielle

I went to preschool with one of my best friends.  He was always biting the other kids.  When our moms would pick us up each day I would promptly tell them, “Scott only bit 2 kids today!”  Good times! – Jill

Although few memories of my preschool days still exist, the most vivid are of days on the playground with a friendly boy who would one day become my husband.  – Lindsey

My mom tells the story of coming to get me after my first day of preschool and finding me out in the hallway in my cot.  The teachers didn’t know what to do because I wouldn’t go to sleep and kept singing “you are my sunshine” and they didn’t want me to disturb the other kids. –  Kim

the gift of a sick day

sick dayFor months now, my son has been eagerly looking forward to his first day of preschool. He played with his lunchbox, asked questions about his teacher, and daydreamed about what fun toys there would be at his school. On his very first day, he swiftly kicked off his shoes at the classroom door and jumped headfirst into the world of preschool with nary a look back at his sister or me. He was fine.

Two weeks of preschool later, and I’m second guessing my decision to send him to school as we already have contracted our first preschool illness—pinkeye. Oh, I know that childhood illnesses are almost a rite of passage for preschoolers, and I’ve heard school likened to a Petri dish, but I honestly thought we would have at least a month of school under our belt before I had to write “sick emails” to his teacher.

While I admittedly found my son’s illness a little annoying and inconvenient at first, at the end of his sick day, I changed my tune. For the past four years, I have managed to have a very open schedule with my children. We have had a playgroup with friends that we have religiously attended and a German class once a week, but that has been it. No music classes, no soccer, no library story times. And that has been all by design because I have completely cherished our slow-paced days together. We can meet friends at the park on a whim and stay as long as we’d like because we have nowhere to be. We can spend all day driving out to the blueberry farm and having lunch in a little town on the way home without feeling like we were missing out on some other planned activity. For someone who is reluctant to commit to structured activities, the past four years have been a lazy bliss.

And this year, with the enrollment of my son in preschool, my gently rolling days have come to a halt. We now have somewhere to be in the mornings, and I have to watch the clock all day long so that I don’t incur the dreaded late pick up fee at his preschool. Just two weeks into the school year, and I found myself contemplating having a preschool dropout for a son. And then comes his pinkeye, and I was gifted with an unexpected day of relaxation. Although the day started off with a seismic battle over eye drops, my children and I quickly realized that it was going to be a fun day—a day of puzzles on the dining room floor, grabbing a scone at the coffee shop, and picking hot peppers from the garden. In the midst of a September that is more black ink than blank spaces on the calendar in the kitchen, this quiet day with just the three of us hanging out was a welcome oasis, a special treat, and it almost makes me look forward to the next sick day.