Bantu knots and the hair bully

After a four-month teacher strike, our two girls went back to public school for the first time last week. As per our usual autumn routine, we took their hair out of extensions and styled it into some cute hairstyles.

I have been working extra hours lately, as we just opened a new business, so I opted for hairstyles that could be done in 30 to 40 minutes. One daughter got wide, flat twists, while the other looked up from her movie to see that I had done Bantu knots in her hair.

“Oh no!” my daughter with the knots all over her head exclaimed. “I can’t wear this to school! Kids will make fun of me!”

I was, of course, devastated. Not only had I put in the time to do her hair, but I wanted her to feel comfortable and confident with her hairstyle. My daughters are lovely little girls, and have always felt good about the way they look. Hearing her nervous about her hairstyle made me nervous. Would kids truly make fun of her? And who were these kids anyway? Some kind of hair bullies?

I sent her to bed with a towel rolled under her neck and some melatonin to sleep through that first uncomfortable night of Bantu knots. I promised that we would take it out in the morning if she still felt uncomfortable.

In the morning, she told us at the breakfast table that she was scared about the neighborhood boys giving her a hard time about her hair.

My husband’s advice? To quip back “Well, I can change my hair, but you can’t change your face. “

I thought this was a ridiculous thing to say.

I gave her a pep talk about feeling confident and proud of her hair, culture, etc. I also reminded her that her friends love her hair, and more people would like it that would not like it.

So I walked my daughter to school, Bantu knots and all.

After the day was done, I asked her about how it went.

She looked at me and smiled.

“I got lots of compliments on my hair.” She said. “One of the boys did make fun of my hair, though, until the teacher told him to leave me alone.

Then at lunchtime, he came to bug me about my hair on the playground.

I told him that I can change my hair, but he can’t change his face. He didn’t know what to say!”

I sighed.

“Daddy had a good idea!” She grinned ear to ear. “The boy just didn’t know what to say.”

Well it wasn’t my parenting method, but the result was my intention. For the last week, she’s worn her hair to school and not had anything but compliments. The annoying boy was apparently put into his place with her witty retort.

And most importantly, my daughter is wearing, with pride, an extremely avant-garde cultural hairdo that keeps her hair free from tangles and shows off the gorgeous shape of her head.

Take that, hair bully.

Ethiopia Day in Grade 2

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Yesterday was Ethiopia day in grade 2!

Each year, we have made a habit of celebrating some Ethiopian holiday in the classroom. (2013 pics) This year, we missed new year, and Ethiopian Christmas. So we decided to have a random Ethiopia day instead.

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I was woefully underprepared this time… In previous years we have sung songs, done Ethiopian dancing, ready to open stories, and eaten Ethiopian food. This year, with the upcoming trip and thousand other obligations, we had to plan on the fly. My dear friend M made injera for the girls. And then I whipped up some Yemesir Wat and Yekik Way (lentils and chick peas, respectively,) the night before.

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We all dressed in our Ethiopian clothes and took the counting book with us. The kids got to count loudly in English, Amharic, and Oromiffa. The book is called Counting Addis Ababa, and it’s available in my store, with all the proceeds going to Vulnerable Children Society. [Get your copy of Counting Addis Ababa here.]

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The girls also did their own show and tell. It was kind of neat what they chose from home… Musical instruments, a doll, and their wushas, little Ethiopian dog stuffies.

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I think it’s so important that we come to class every year. Our girls get to be proud of what we bring to class. They love being the experts! (It’s a family trait, from my side…) and sharing about Ethiopian culture. The other kids get a chance to learn a little bit about Ethiopia. Since some of the kids were in grade 1 and kindergarten with them as well, they consider themselves well versed. Several of the kids proudly took the lead eating the food, showing Ethiopia on the map, and shouting Oromiffa at the top of their lungs.nof course, there are always a couple of “it’s yucky!” comments, but the majority of the kid chomped the injera and wats down. Many of them came for seconds and thirds.

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Apparently, the extension of this Ethiopia day is to happen after our trip. I’ve been informed that the girls will be showing animal pictures and telling about their adventures in the Ethiopian forest late February. Sounds good to me! Should be fun!

I would love to hear what you do to celebrate your kids’ culture in school.

Sugar and Spice’s Donation Campaign: Love and Hope Centre in Addis Ababa

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When we heard that our 70 kids at the Love and Hope Centre in Addis Ababa could use extra health and sanitation items, the girls thought that would be the perfect thing to fill their bags for Ethiopia. They are going to be collecting toothbrushes, toothpaste, multivitamins, underwear, and first aide supplies for the children.

So they put together their own donation campaign… I just typed up the text. The girls decorated their posters for the school lobby and designed handouts. Don’t you love their creativity?

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I think it is so important to let them do this campaign by themselves. It’s amazing what a little trust and empowerment in seven-year-olds can enable them to do!

If you would like to donate to their campaign, please contact us with a comment below before the end of January. The sooner the better, please. 🙂 Then we will know how many bags we will be taking!

For the outsiders… Slam poetry

I heard about Shane Koyczan’s newest video from Okanagan College, where I work. Shane is an amazing slam poet, that you might recall from his memorable performance at the 2010 Olympics. He also happens to be an alumni of the college! And a resident of our lovely Okanagan Valley. He’s amazingly talented with the spoken word, and this video collaboration talking about bullying and the lasting effects on children is so worth watching… Pure poetry. Such an important message that I really felt in my heart.

If you want to hear more of his poetry, you can subscribe to a monthly poem at http://www.shanekoyczan.com

I have to admit I’m a fan!
And just for your pleasure, here is his Olympic performance.

Ethiopia Day at school

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Today was Ethiopia Day at school. We were going to celebrate Ethiopian Christmas, but Spice was sick on the day we had set aside. So instead, we had plain ole Ethiopian day in the girls’ grade 1 class.
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We did lots of activities, and actually spent the whole day on Ethiopian activities. We started by doing writing… The kids were fascinated to try their hand at writing Amharic.
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We read Ethiopia ABCs, which the kids just loved…
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The kids danced to Ethiopian traditional music, and ate shiro and injera during lunch break.
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Fortunately, we had enough dresses for all the girls in the class, and they all had a lovely time dancing around in the traditional dresses.
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At the end of the day, the girls did show and tell and shared all sorts of cool traditional items with the other kids, like a horsetail flyswatter, fabric and rope toys, a traditional gourd lunchbox, and all sorts of goodies.
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It was so nice to see the girls so enthusiastic… They were just delighted that Mommy and Daddy were spending the day in class, and that we got to share all about Ethiopia. It was kind of neat, too, because the girls had done something similar in kindergarten, many of the kids were familiar and especially open. Surprisingly, more than half the kids ate the shiro and injera… I had to make 2 batches of shiro!

It feels good that the girls are so proud of their heritage, and that the kids are so interested too. Thanks to the teacher who let us take over for the day! And to the kids who were all well behaved and really engaged!