Tender Sapling

the blog


Leave a comment

Support Girls Education with Tender Sapling’s New Pink Line

We’re so excited to launch our new pink line today – the International Day of the Girl – and to announce that 9% of all sales between today and Malala Day (Nov 10) will go to The Malala Fund to benefit girls education projects around the world!

But before going further, a little morning humor. In my excitement this morning, I said to my three boys,

“Do you know what we’re launching today?”

“A rocket?!” said our middle tender sapling. lol! 🙂

Gotta love living life with boys! And as a mother of only boys in this world and someone who has been keenly interested and invested in supporting women’s and girl’s issues over the last couple decades, including via the Tahirih Justice Center and Best for Babes, it’s so wonderful to find a way to help advance the situation of girls with our new pink bodysuits and tees. It’s our rocket to support girls! 🙂 Continue reading


4 Comments

Japan: Cultural Reading Adventures + Fun Food and Crafts for Kids

DSC_0043_2

Our oldest son’s oil pastel version of Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a woodblock print.

This post is part of the Tender Sapling Travelers Series.

Passports ready? Let’s go to Japan!

Our recent “visit” to Japan via our monthly homeschool studies as part of Culture Club was not our first. We have turned our focus to Japan many times over the years, in part because my husband was born in Japan. Can you believe my mother-in-law even kept a beautiful Japanese outfit from his babyhood which each of our boys has been able to wear too? Sweet and a lovely connection to the place of their father’s birth.

This past year during early modern history, our oldest son became fascinated with the artist and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai and created his own version of the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa with oil pastels, which turned out to be his contribution at Culture Club a few months later. If you are a fan of Hokusai, share this book as an introduction to this colorful man, who was known by some thirty names throughout his life, and his work with your elementary aged children.

IMG_0814

Miniature origami samurai hats. Same folds as the ones the kids used to make life-size ones at our son’s samurai birthday party.

As as result of our family’s independent studies of Japan’s early modern history, our middle tender sapling asked for a samurai-themed party for his sixth birthday. No, not power rangers. Real samurai stuff. That turned out to be a blast, with the birthday boy teaching everyone how to make life-size origami samurai hats and me donning a lovely kumata (like a kimono, but made out of cotton), thanks to our friend who started Culture Club. Thank goodness for helpful hands, as I couldn’t figure out how to get the beautiful cloth to lay right and not look like I was wearing a jumble of sheets. The samurai hat folding fever continued for months, so our son was jazzed to teach dozens of kids at the Japan Culture Club how to make these smaller ones.

As you can see, Japan is one of those countries that is easy to explore. There are resources and experts readily available – museums hold amazing artifacts and works of art and our local Japanese steakhouse offers a memorable meal experience along with a chance to stand next to a life-size replica of samurai armour – not a bad option if the Met’s amazing Hall of Arms and Armour is too far to visit. Everyone can take a quick trip to the local library or an internet search, which yields a wealth of material.

Here is a list of books we loved reading as we re-explored Japan for Culture Club. We recommend these as a portal to Japan for preschool through upper elementary ages:

ChibiChibi: A True Story from Japan by Barbara Brenner and Julia Takaya (authors),  June Otani (illustrator)

If you love Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings, you will love this true story of a mother duck and her ducklings who take up residence in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace moat and capture the hearts of the people. After a scare when the beloved smallest duckling – Chibi – goes missing after a storm, prompting search parties and media attention, a special duck house is built to keep Chibi and family safe.

The Origami Master by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer (author), Aki Sogabe (illustrator)

This book introduces the reader to the ancient Japanese art of origami or paper folding through an imaginative moral tale of an origami master and a bird who copies his origami. The colorful pictures engaged our youngest. The older two ran off to fold origami birds as soon as the book was finished.

Since we have three boys who always seem hungry, here are three books that deal with food and introduce aspects of Japanese culture or creativity:

Tea with Milk by Allen Say

This is a sweet tale of how the author/illustrator’s own parents met in Japan and crossed cultural divides, both personal and interpersonal. The book starts with the main character’s move from the United States, where she ate spaghetti, to Japan, where she had to wear a kimono. It then follows her on her path of independence, finding a sympathetic soul and her future husband along the way.

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman (author), Allen Say (illustrator)

This is a another touching story of a young Japanese woman and a young American man who meet in Japan and become friends, bridging their cultural gaps as they eat food from each other’s culture.

Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa (author), Junji Koyose (illustrator)

Our big-machine-lovin’ three year old isn’t the only one who enjoyed this humorous Lilliputian-like story of little people with big machines who make a cake. Everyone in the family got a kick out of it. The Japanese connection? The author/illustrator is Japanese, as is the family celebrating a birthday with the help of the little people and their cake-making efforts.

As with all our Culture Club adventures, we tested out recipes. These are two simple and fun favorites from Japanese cuisine:

  • Our rice balls alongside Japanese dishes brought by other families to our Culture Club potluck lunch.

    Our rice balls alongside Japanese dishes brought by other families to our Culture Club potluck lunch.

    Rice Balls (Onigiri) – super easy, fun and yummy! The kids love getting their hands messy as they mold rice balls in their salted hands. Eating the tasty rice balls is the icing on the cake. The recipe I used is evading me, but it’s similar to this recipe, except we skipped the nori and umeboshi. We simply made sushi rice in the rice cooker and once it was cool enough to handle, the kids got their hands wet and salted and made balls from the scoops of rice I dropped in their hands.

  • Fun-shaped Hard Boiled Eggs. Yes, we shaped hard-boiled eggs into cars & fish using molds such as these. Again, fun, fun, fun! Gotta love modern Japanese whimsy! We pressed fresh hard boiled eggs into these molds and ended up with fun shaped eggs. Processed food? Not really. Fun? Definitely.

At our monthly Culture Club meeting, some of the other families brought these terrific crafts that are worth repeating:

  • Daruma Dolls – Daruma or Dharma Dolls are a good luck symbol with Zen Buddhist roots that the Japanese people tend to make wishes on by coloring in one eye of the doll at the new year. Once the wish comes true, the other eye is filled in. Cindy over at One Part Sunshine brainstormed these creative crafts the kids could take home and make a wish on. Basically, the kids used cut up egg cartons, red tape, masking tape, and sharpie/permanent markers to create these clever dolls.
Daruma doll created by our oldest son at Culture Club - Japan!

Daruma doll created by our oldest son at Culture Club – Japan!

Supplies used to create the above Daruma Doll.

Supplies used to create the above Daruma Doll.

Play Sushi

    – This homemade sushi set may rival a Melissa and Doug set. Our Culture Club founder, Sarah, gathered sushi boxes, chopsticks, and a collection of textile craft supplies for the kids to create their own sushi rolls, wasabi, and more. She then got busy with a glue gun, making their creations more permanent so they could take them home and play sushi chef or restaurant owner.
Creative sushi sets the kids made.

Creative sushi sets the kids made.

What are your favorite books, recipes, or crafts that bring Japan and its rich culture into your child’s life?


2 Comments

Celebrating Peace Day with Tender Sapling

Origami Peace Crane

Origami Peace Crane

We are so excited to be headed momentarily to the Green Festival in Washington, DC, where we will be hosting a Peace Day Celebration tomorrow! We will also have a booth with a small shop set up all weekend featuring our products already available online, as well as many new offerings. Come visit!

The Green Festival DC blog shared this about tomorrow’s Peace Day Celebration – which we hope all your DC area people can attend:

   “Green Festival attendees are invited to celebrate International Peace Day this Saturday at 12 noon in the Green Kids Zone. Participants will join in a worldwide Peace Wave at the start of this fun program by Tender Sapling that includes a little yoga, a little storytelling, a little origami, and a lot of fun.

   “Kids and the young at heart will engage their minds, hearts, and bodies to practice peace and create a symbol of peace to take with them. Kids will like that the origami craft will be led by a 10-year-old boy who will walk peacemakers through the steps to transform a square sheet of paper into an elegant crane – a Peace Crane. A simpler craft will be available for smaller hands. Messages will then be written on the peace symbols, to send wishes for peace out into the world. Plus, attendees will be offered complimentary “Love all the World” temporary tattoos and stickers, which feature Tender Sapling’s original take on the continents as interconnected hearts.

   “Enthusiastic origamists of all ages are invited to fold and donate additional Peace Cranes throughout the weekend-long Green Festival as a contribution to the Children’s Peace Monument in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, where some 10 million cranes are offered each year by people the world over. Tender Sapling will collect these cranes at their booth (#743) next to the Green Kids Zone.

   “This interactive peace program was designed especially for the 2013 Green Festival DC by Tender Sapling – Charlottesville, Va, creators of fun, inspired, eco-friendly products and resources for kids and the young at heart. The peace program captures Tender Sapling’s motto “Have Fun. Grow Noble.” What does it mean to grow noble?…”

–> Read more here.


Leave a comment

The Story of Stuff: Individual and Collective Action for Real Change

The Story of StuffDo you have too much stuff in your life? We are constantly amazed by the deluge of stuff in an American life, even when we try to control it and reduce. I know I’ve often wondered how we got here.

That’s part of why I love The Story of Stuff . If you haven’t seen it before, I urge you to stop what you’re doing and watch it right now (it’s about 20 minutes long). Seriously!

Since it was first posted online in 2007, more than 15 million people have watched this wonderful little video by Annie Leonard and Free Range Studios, but I expect that a significant portion of those people have no idea that Annie and crew have produced seven more short films in the same style since then.

The original film is a terrific, child-friendly introduction to “the way we make, use and throw away stuff.” With simple yet engaging animation, it introduces a number of ideas that children and many adults may not have thought about and connects the dots from planned obsolescence to our disposable culture. One of its greatest virtues is that, far from blaming or shaming, this story may stir outrage but it spins it toward empowerment and action. What can each of us do to reduce our consumption and our part in this cycle of consumption?

As a parent, I especially enjoyed seeing my kids get the concepts quickly. It is a great learning tool and one worth repeating every now and then when the cultural tide of material consumption pulls on them.

Since the original, Annie and her team have produced pointed explorations of the life cycle of specific product industries (electronics, cosmetics, and bottled water), all in the same no-nonsense, fun, and down-to-earth style as the original. Perhaps even more interesting, though, is that, recognizing that individual action is not enough by itself to make lasting change, they have begun exploring education for collective change.

With The Story of Citizens United vs. the FEC, the team explains in layman’s terms what this case means and why it is significant. Yes, it is outrageous that the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes corporations as people and grants them the same rights to free speech as individual citizens. Now what can we do about it?

In The Story of Broke, the team skewers the explanation that many politicians give for why the U.S. government can’t afford new programs or even to maintain old ones. They explain that the government is only broke because it first provides huge funding to corporations and their interests. Many of us suspect this already, but the way it is done is so subtle and obfuscated that we the public are kept blissfully ignorant, even as the economy tanks around us and we wonder why corporate profits keep rising even as individual bottom lines plummet.

Most recently, in The Story of Change, they approach collective change head-on, advocating for a grass-roots call for a Constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision and clarifying that corporations are not individuals.

In addition to being a great educational tool advocating for individual change and individual action, the Story of Stuff is also a great resource for being part of the urgent need for collective change and true reform — both for the environment and for social justice (and seeing how closely intertwined those issues are). Go Annie!


3 Comments

Can Individuals Make a Difference?

We believe, and we teach our kids, that every individual is important and that our individual choices make a difference in the world, whether talking about saving the planet or any other social justice issue. But some would argue, at least in terms of the success of the green movement, that that’s debatable.

Boy in Monticello garden

For example, Continue reading


Leave a comment

The Art of Bending

There’s a wonderful and little-discussed parenting skill I’ve learned to admire that I call Bending. Tendersaplingmama is like a jedi master at bending. I’m still learning.

foyer ironing

To use a well-worn analogy (which incidentally is how we all think about pretty much everything. Here’s a fascinating article on the brain as an analogy machine.), a mighty tree must bend with the wind; if it is too rigid, the wind may uproot or break it.

I’ve come to recognize that kids, or more precisely, kids’ behavior and all the things they do that cause frequency in a parent’s mind and life, are like the wind and we parents, or at least our rules, are the trees. Some level of rigidity is important. Children must learn self-discipline gradually over time, and there must be certain baseline expectations for safety and sanity, not to mention respect, courtesy, etc.

But I’ve come to realize that some of the behavioral expectations we place on young children are simply not developmentally appropriate for many kids. For example, there may be some two-year-olds who can be counted on to not touch breakables on a low shelf, but most would find them irresistible. Often restrictions we give kids are for the parent’s convenience or whim and don’t really have much to do with health and welfare or developing virtues. Those are the areas where we parents tend to get into the biggest power struggles with our kids (can you tell I speak from experience?). Continue reading


6 Comments

Sunshine Award – Not Just a Chain Letter (?)

sunshine-award

We’re delighted (and frankly quite surprised) to accept our first blog award – the Sunshine Award – from the inspiring Leanna at All Done Monkey! Thanks so much, Leanna!

The Sunshine Award is given to those who write positive and inspiring articles and bring some sunshine into the life of others. It’s an honor to be included in this group!

Like any blogging award this one has its own rules and requirements.

But before we get to those, here’s a little behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Tender Sapling blog team’s discussions about this award in the spirit of keeping it real:

May 22 (In car bursting with three boys, two tired parents, snacks to get us through a 14-hour car trip, and lots of stowaway stuffed animals nestled between bags packed for a crazy wonderful trip to Chicago, Emily glances at Facebook.)

Emily: “Wow! Honey, did you see this? Leanna nominated the blog for the Sunshine Award!”

Scott: “What’s that?”

Emily: “It’s one of those blogger awards. It’s for being uplifting and positive! Wow, how sweet is that? Leanna knows like a million bloggers and she included our blog on her list. That’s amazing!”

Scott: “That Sunshine thing still doesn’t mean anything to me.”

(Lightening flashes and thunder interrupts our conversation as we enter a massive thunderstorm in silence, all attention on road safety.) Continue reading