Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teach Me Something Tuesday: Korean First Birthday - Tol

With Zoe's first birthday just 2 days away, I thought it would be a good to teach on the Korean first birthday called the Tol.

First birthdays are a really big deal in Korea. In the past with lack of medical information, Korea's seasonal temperature, and many childhood related diseases, the death rate of children was really high. Many children died before their first birthday. After the age of one year, the survival rate increased greatly, making this milestone a very happy one for the child's parents. It is also a custom to celebrate a child's 100 day birthday but in most areas, it is smaller in scale compared to the Tol.

The Traditional Tol Celebration consists of 4 parts:
1. Praying and Giving Thanks
2. Making and Wearing the Birthday Clothes
3. Preparing the Table and Performing the Toljabee
4. Sharing the Food with Guests and Neighbors

In modern times, due to the improvements in medicine, the influence of Western culture, and modern industrialization, the Shamanistic reasons for the Tol celebration have been reduced. However, the event is still celebrated as a time of congratulations for the parents and family.

In the modern
Tol, taking picture is an important part of the event. As many Korean homes are very small, many families rent a room in a banquet hall. The modern celebration includes the child's parents greeting guests, lighting candles on a birthday cake, the Toljabee event, and a toast.

offering tableTraditionally, Koreans would pray to Sanshin (a mountain god) and Samshin (a birth god, also called Samshin-halmuni"grandmother") on certain days following a child's birth (birth, 3-7 days after birth, and 100 days after birth). They believed thatSamshin resided in the cloth surrounding a baby.

To prepare the praying table, the parents placed a bowl of steamed white rice, sea mustard soup (mnyeok-guk), and a bowl of pure water on the table. Next to the table they placed
samshin siru (layered red bean rice cake). This rice cake was not shared outside the family because they believed that sharing this particular item with people outside the family would bring bad luck to the child.

After the table was prepared, the child's mother or grandmother would pray with two hands together. Rubbing her palms together, she would ask for her child's longevity, wish luck to the mountain god, and and give thanks to the birth god. This was acomppanied by repeated bowing. Male family members were not allowed to join in thes ceremony. Only female family members were allowed to participate.

Seoulites perform this ceremony early in the morning on the child's birthday. Residents of some other areas do it the night before the birthday.

Making and Wearing the Birthday Clothes:
Tol clothesThe clothes worn for the tol are colorful, dressy clothes. They differ depending on the child's sex. Both boys and girls wear a long tol-ddi (a belt that wraps around the body twice) for longevity and a tol-jumuni (pouch) for luck. Silk cloth is used to make the tol-jumuni, folded at the top with a colorful thread pull-string to open and close. For the child's longevity buttons are not used.

Boy's Clothes
Boy's Clothes-pink or striped jogori (jacket) with puple or gray paji (pants)
durumagi (long jacket) and a blue vest printed with a gold or silver pattern or a striped magoja (jacket) and a jonbok (long blue vest) with a gold or silver pattern and a hongsadae (traditional belt) over it
bokgun (black hat with a long tail)
tarae-busun (traditional socks)
yumnang (traditional round shaped pouch)

Girl's Clothes
Girl's ClothesGirl's Clothes-striped jogory (jacket)
-long, red
chima (skirt)
-gold and silver printed
jobawi (hat)
tarae-busun (traditional socks)
yumnang (traditional round shaped pouch)

Tol Table and the Toljabee

Birthday Table
The parents prepare a special Tol table to celebrate the child's birthday. The main food includes ddeok (rice cakes) and fruits. Over 12 different kinds of ddeok are prepared, including paekseolgi (white steamed rice cakes), susu-kyongdan (rice cakes coated with rough red bean powder), chapsal-ddeok or chal-ddeok, mujigae-ddeok (rainbow colored steamed rice cake), songp'yeon (half moon shaped rice cakes), injulmi (coated glutinous rice cakes), and gyep'i-ddeok (puffed air rice cakes). Among these, paekseolgi and susu-kyongdan are always included. Fruits can vary according to the season of the birthday. Different colors of seasonal fruits can be prepared and displayed in a row. Also, a bowl of rice, sea mustard soup, and many other various foods can be displayed.

Along with food, other items are needed for holding the
Toljabee event. Items such as large bundle of thread, a brush, a Korean calligraphy set, pencil, book, money (10,000 won bills), bow and arrow (needle, scissors, and ruler for girls) are arranged on the table to predict the child's future.

Table Setting
picture courtesy of ???The birthday child will be placed at the table so that the other guests can face him or her. Parents often sit the child on the bolou (Korean traditional mattress) and several bangsuk (Korean cushions). Since the child is small, this allows for getting better pictures. For the background, a Korean traditional screen is used at the hotel or other banquet hall.

Toljabee Event
Tol table settingsIn this event, the birthday child goes around the table and picks up items that attract him or her. The child's future is predicted according to the what he or she grabs. After placing the child in front of the table, the child's father becomes the guide for the child to go around the table and grab whatever he or she wants. The first and second items the child grabs are considered the most important. Usually Korean parents place the items that they want the child to choose near to the edge of the table. The child's future is predicted according to the items:

bow and arrow: the child will become a warrior
needle and thread: the child will live long
jujube: the child will have many descendants
book, pencil, or related items: the child will become a successful scholar
rice or rice cake: the child will become rich (some resources say choosing a rice cake means the child is not smart)
ruler, needle, scissors: the child will be talented with his/her hands
knife: the child will be a good cook

Sharing Food

After the Toljabee, the parents share most of the Tol food with the guests and relatives. It is a Korean custom that when the guests and neighbors receive the food they say kind words and wish for the child's longevity and good fortune. They also give presents such as a gold ring, clothes, or toys.

Food Meanings
susu-kyongdanEach food type and other items on the table have specific meanings.
paekseolgi (white steamed rice cakes) symbolize a pure and divine clean spirit and longevity.
susu-kyongdan (rice cakes coated with rough red bean powder) are used to ward off evil spirits so that the child can grow without any disease. (Koreans believed that evil dislikes red color.) Koreans believed that if they prepared these two rice cakes for each birthday until 10 years old, the child would not fall down and would grow healthy.
injulmi (sticky rice cakes) and chal-ddeok (sticky rice cakes) are prepared to wish the child to be tenacious and strong due to the stickiness of the rice cakes.
songp'yeon (stuffed rice cakes shaped like a half-moon) Two different moon cakes are prepared. One is left empty and the other one filled. The empty moon cake means the child will grow with a big heart. The filled one means to grow to be wise.
-jujubes and fruit are for the child's descendants to multiply and prosper
-noodles and thread represent a long life

When Koreans are invited to the first birthday of a child, they often present a gold ring to the parents. Friends and colleagues collect money to buy a gold ring. However, the rings are not for the child to wear. Instead, the parents use them later to pay for child's education or other needs.

We're two days away from Zoe's first birthday. We pray (not to a mountain god, but to our Lord) that she has a great birthday in Korea. We pray that she is home soon. Never in a million years would we have ever thought that we would have a child who wasn't at home to celebrate their first birthday. However, we are confident that God will have her home in His perfect timing. We will celebrate with traditional Korean food and some birthday cake. We pray that on the other side of the world, that she feel God's love on her special day! Hold on baby girl, we're coming! We may be apart on your first birthday, but we'll be together for many birthdays to come!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Beautiful Baby Shower to Celebrate Zoe

This past Saturday, two of my very amazing friends threw me an incredible baby shower to celebrate the upcoming arrival of Miss Zoe! It was beautiful and it was great to be surrounded by so many people who love us and have prayed for our journey to bringing Zoe home. It was an exciting time and we received so many amazing things. The encouragement we've received from these sweet families has kept us going during this process. Without their prayers and support, we know we couldn't have made it to this point. God has blessed us with so many great people in our lives. We thank Him for the gift of friendship and community.

Here are a few pictures from the exciting day:

Buffy, my amazing shower hostess and friend! Thanks so much girl! You've been an incredible support and friend to me on this journey (and in life in general)!

Dona, my other shower co-hostess. A true friend indeed. God has blessed our family with this friendship. Thanks for all your prayers and support on this journey!

A beautifully decorated table in honor of a very special Korean girl!

A beautiful hand-made hooded towel from my sweet friend Elissa!

Opening lots of gifts for Zoe

Lots of bows made by the talented Becky Loller

Yes, I proceeded to open the rest of my gifts with a bow in my hair!

So happy to have received the musical ball popper.
It was Robert's and Andrew's favorite toy as babies.

All the lovely, "Allybug Bowtique" bows from Becky!

The sweet Willard Girls

Thanks everyone!

a cute tea-set from the Rangel family

chopsticks with a note to "start practicing"

Becky "the bow lady" Lollar

Sweet Mama Jan

My mother-in-law and her friend Ginnie made it down for the shower

Sweet friend, Kristin

Jessica and Elissa, 2 adorable and amazing friends

Talented friend, Jodi made Zoe and amazing pop-out album...
I need to take a photo of it!

Sweet mama friend, Cheryl

All of our goodies spread out when we got home Saturday night.

Thanks to all of our sweet friends who have prayed for us during this journey. We also received some cash and Target gift cards that helped us get the pink car seat (pictured) and the jogging stroller we wanted (stroller is being delivered on Thursday).

We're all set for the arrival of Miss Zoe... hope it's soon!

Love, Paula

P.S. not pictured at the shower was the Rangel girls (except Becca who was my cute helper-girl handing me the presents). They snuck out before I got a picture with them.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Holt Korea Needs

We are planning to take a full suitcase of donations to Holt Korea when we travel to get Zoe. They've taken such great care of our girl and the hundreds more they have in care and they take great care of the birth moms too! Here is a list of the items that Holt Korea said they need. If you're out and about and see any of this stuff or find a great sale, grab it and we'll take it to give to Holt Korea. What an easy way to make a difference on behalf of the orphans! Love y'all!


** Cleft lip and palate bottles are needed (as many as possible).


*** 1. Gerber rice cereal - *** There are a lot of premature babies in care. These babies cannot tolerate the multigrain cereal that is available here, and single grain rice cereal is not available. "YES, STILL WE NEED LOTS of GERBER RICE CEREAL."

2. Diaper rash cream as like Desitin and aloe gel.
"During the Summer season, we need those."

3. Moisturizing Baby Lotion or Cream for dry skin is still a high priority. "We need this more during the Winter time... for a while, we will be ok without it." Examples include:

* Aveeno baby lotion - Many of the babies get very dry skin (dermatitis), especially in the winter and this lotion is extremely expensive in Korea.
* Cetaphil moisturizing lotion
* Johnson & Johnson baby lotion
* Vaseline will be also good.

4. Sometimes they have older children over 3 or 4. Coloring books, crayons, toys, etc are very helpful.

5. Baby & toddler Clothing - 0-36, 48 months clothing are always welcomed. "We would love to receive these for Donation."


1. Stretch mark lotion/cocoa butter- used for relieving the itchy skin of expecting mothers due to their skin stretching to accomodate the baby. This is the top priority for the birth mothers.
"Recently one adoptive family brought this but they were only able to give it to one maternity shelter in Seoul though they have 5 maternity shelters. Young teenager moms need these."

2. Maternity clothes- Assume XS, S, or M size. (maternity clothes are expensive in Korea). New maternity clothing only please (i.e. no hand-me-downs).

3. Aloe vera


* Multi-vitamin with iron - polyvisol (for babies)
* Cleft-lip/palate bottles and spoons
* Baby toys (rattles and teething toys)
* Preemie baby clothes (unavailable in Korea)
* Hand sanitizer - This is needed in the Reception Center as they go through a lot of it with the visitors. During the cold/flu season, it is also used by the foster families, etc.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mary Leigh and Rachel visit Zoe!

So I fell asleep on the couch last night watching tv with the hubs. I knew Mary Leigh (my college friend and fellow Korean adoptive mom) and Rachel (a Korean adoptee and fellow adoptive mom) were going to visit Zoe on Friday in Korea (our Thursday evening) and I knew I'd wake up to pics of my girlie. Mary Leigh sent Michael a Facebook message to wake me up and that she wanted to tell me all about Zoe and how awesome she is! I think they said they have like 100 pics of her, but for now, these are the ones I have. They are precious to me.

Seeing Zoe in the arms of my REAL LIFE friend makes this so much more real to me. She told me Zoe is a ham and LOVES to have her picture taken. She sees the flash and she turns and looks and smiles. She better get used to that. Mary Leigh took a few new outfits, pajamas, teething toys and baby snack puffs to her along with a card that the boys and I made and a picture of her brothers tucked inside it. Mary Leigh said she told her "your mama is CRAZY" and told her about her closet full of clothes; she said she seemed excited... that girl loves her some clothes!

I sat up and chatted with Mary Leigh in the middle of the night... sobbing. My heart is so full of gratitude for these moms who loved on my girl today...so wishing that my child was here so I could be giving her that lovin'! It's the strangest thing to know that 2 of your kids are safely tucked away in their beds and the other is on the other side of the planet. But we rest in the fact that God is protecting and sustaining Zoe and He'll bring her to us in His perfect timing. I just can't help but wish that time was sooner rather than later.

Anyway, here are a few of the pics they've sent so far! Enjoy!

Mary Leigh, my sweet friend loving on Zoe, my sweet girl! It warms my heart!

Such a happy girl and LOVES the camera!

Sweet eyes full of wonder.

I love this one. Mary Leigh is showing her a picture of Robert and Andrew. She said "brothers" in Korean and Zoe grinned from ear to ear. It made ML tear up. Precious!

Zoe in her crib with her new outfit from us! She's lookin' good in those new threads! (and that's the card the boys and I made for her.)

Checkin' out the new outfit. This is proof that not all of her clothes are pink. :)

Sweet angel face!

Chowin' down on some Gerber puffs. Mary Leigh said she LOVED them and she sure does have some chompers in there! HA!

Oh, y'all, I can't tell you how much I love this. Smiling and holding a picture of her brothers... see the next pic to see why this is so cool to me! (that we took in August)

So back in August when the sunflowers were in bloom at Shelby Farms, we took this picture with the boys!

HOW COOL IS THAT? I love that they are all dressed similarly and how much the pics resemble one another.