Everyone, we are ONE MONTH into summer vacation! It is just flying by over in our house, but it makes me happy to know we still have over half of summer left to enjoy. Since June is National Aquarium Month, I headed over to Fox 4 Kansas City, to share how putting together an aquarium with your kids can be a perfect summer activity. The team from Picasso Exotic Aquatics taught me the best tips for creating an aquarium and I am super excited to share them!
Building one gives your children the chance to learn responsibility, critical thinking and patience. Aquariums can also be a nice escape from technology (we are dealing with a video game and tablet obsession this summer) and have soothing qualities that have helped my kids become calm, especially at bedtime.
Here are my top tips for building your own aquarium:
- When creating an aquarium with kids, it gives them the chance to work with their hands and learn about nature. Make sure to talk with the about the science and let them really get hands on with the process.
- Get a test kit and cycle your aquarium. Not only is this beneficial for the health of the aquarium in the beginning, it allows your children to learn how to test water and learn about water chemistry. Use your test kit often: regular testing aids give your aquarium longevity.
- Let the child help Aquascape the aquarium. Aquascaping is the art of placing the stones, plants, and other decor in a natural and aesthetically pleasing manner. Allow them to be proud of the new and beautiful home they have provided for their fish.
- Add live plants. These feed on aquarium waste, keeping the tank cleaner and algae production to a minimum.
- The location of the aquarium is important — people are naturally drawn to them. You want to be able to enjoy your aquarium while also allowing others to as well. Placement can also determine the aquarium’s stability.
- Keep the aquarium away from direct sunlight. Those beaming, morning sun rays can grow a mass amount of algae. If you want to place the tank right near a window, it is good to keep the blinds closed when the sun shows the most. Drafts from a window can affect the aquarium’s temperature.
- Cool or hot air blowing onto your aquarium can cause temperature changes and more evaporation. Especially in the winter when the air is dry. Buy an aquarium thermometer to help monitor changes and a heater to warm the water to tropical temperatures.
- Your aquarium needs it’s own space bubble. Allow room on the sides of the aquarium so you can easily do maintenance. More room to work is motivating when maintenance needs to be done.
- Locate an outlet for easy access and regular cleaning.
- Consider putting the aquarium in a part of the home you would like to inhabit more. The aquarium may draw you and your family to occupy a room not usually visited.
For as long as I’ve been writing about my life on the internet (so…14 years, holy crap) I’ve taken intermittent “digital sabbaticals.” I’ve written about them here in the past, with the main objective being taking a break from blogging and focusing more on my day-to-day life. That time has come again, my friends, but it’s different this time around. In fact, I have no idea how many of you will actually even see this post, since I won’t be promoting it on Instagram or Twitter or my personal Facebook. That’s right…I’m taking an extended social media break.
Why social media instead of a “digital sabbatical?” Well, it’s complicated. Except it’s not. The world has changed and while in the past I spent much of my computer and online time perusing and commenting on blogs, these days I find myself scroll, scroll, scrolling on the various social media apps. Most of this social media interaction happens on my phone, meaning it’s within my reach at almost all times of the day and night. This is a disaster for someone who likes to escape from reality…ME!
In the last few years, I’ve found my social media habit increasing as my other poor coping habits were cut out of my life. Don’t get me wrong, quitting alcohol, working toward eating healthy, and exercising are all awesome life changes that I’m really proud of. However, when I need to rest my brain or check out for a bit, my options have become a bit limited. Enter social media.
I’ve felt the need for a break for a while, but in the last few months, it’s really gotten loud out there and my brain was on overload. However, I always found reasons to stay online. I’m a small business owner, and my income depends on me getting the word out about what I’m creating. I’m involved in advocacy, and most of our events and actions have to be shared online. How could I continue to do these things that mean so much to me if I wasn’t posting on social media? I assumed it would be impossible.
In May, there was an incident where I found my social media interaction leading to physical and mental strain. I wasn’t sleeping, my anxiety was through the roof, and while on the surface I handled the situation fairly well, underneath I was exhausted. I knew this was the final sign that I needed a break.
I started with wide perimeters, but quickly realized if I had any access to my social media feeds on my phone, I’d end up scrolling without even knowing how I got there. In the end, I deleted all the social media apps from my phone and posted a social media break message on Twitter, Instagram, and my personal Facebook page. I then deactivated my Facebook account. I am still managing my Twitter and Instagram for August Light Studio and Education First Shawnee Mission, and have kept all of my Facebook business pages up and running, including the page for this blog. Facebook pages don’t require you to scroll through a newsfeed, so I figured I was safe keeping those active.
It’s been about a month, and I’ve found my anxiety has dissipated immensely. I take photos of my kids and upload them to a shared family drive so my close family members can still see them at baseball or camp, without sharing them with everyone on the internet. I have gotten between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. I’ve still been able to do my advocacy work, attending meetings, forums and even hosting a tabling even at a farmer’s market. I have read five books and listened to a ton of amazing podcasts. I talk to my friends daily using the phone (what a notion!) and my Voxer app. I finished my family photo book from last year that’s been sitting on my desktop for six months. I applied for a speaking engagement that’s been on my wish list for ages. I watched the first season of Schitt’s Creek.
But most of all, my focus has shifted in such a positive way, I feel it affecting everything I do. Originally my plan was to be off social media for a month, but a month has passed and I still have no desire to go back. So for now, I’m staying dark on social media, in order to stand in the light in real life. It’s a good trade.
First of all, how is this real life? You’re twelve. TWELVE! That is so many years of being alive in the world, it absolutely blows my mind. These letters are always filled with cliched sayings about time going by too fast, so I’ll try to keep that to a minimum…but TWELVE. Holy crap.
You might notice when checking out links above to your past birthday letters, there isn’t a letter for your eleventh birthday. Well, I have no idea how that happened. Let’s blame the insanity of last year (Trump becoming president, me jumping both feet into advocacy again, starting my new studio) for that oversight. To summarize, eleven was a great year for you, but it was when we started to see inklings of future Lucy, which have come out full force in your twelfth year. To put it plainly…you’re a tween. It has happened.
Tween is a term that I abhorred until I had a kid in this stage, because it’s exactly as it’s cringe-worthy name suggests. It’s in between. You’re not yet a teenager, but often you think you are and sometimes act accordingly (the begging for social media and slamming doors come to mind). However, you’re still a kid too. You still come crawling into our bed when there is a loud thunderstorm and need lots of hugs when you’re struggling. This flipping back and forth between kid and teen is EXHAUSTING for me, so I can’t imagine how confusing it must be for you. Oh wait, I once was tween myself, so I can imagine it and now I’m wishing I couldn’t because I’m even more exhausted!
However, even with all these changes happening in your brain and body, you’re still my Lulu. It’s been really incredible to watch you grow into the young women you are becoming. You’re a kind and loyal friend, a loving big sister (most of the time), and a helpful neighbor. You’ve found your love for performing in choir, ice skating and theater, and I’m excited to see how that evolves as you start middle school in the fall. You graduated elementary school with honors and worked through tough situations where you didn’t always agree with teachers or other adults in your life. You started questioning things more and more, and you will no longer take “because I said so” as a valid response to a question. You will push and argue your point, which can annoy me to no end when I just want to move on, but I know will serve you well as you continue to grow up.
As for growing up, you have a love/hate relationship with the concept. You often talk about missing being a little girl, but you also love having the freedom that being a bit older gives you. This will be a constant battle for the next few years I’m sure…wanting to have privileges of being older, but not necessarily loving the responsibilities that come along with them. I get it. We all have been there. It’s a struggle we all have to go through, and unfortunately, you can’t just skip over it. The lessons you will learn in the next few years won’t always be easy, but they will shape you as a person. I know that’s not what you want to hear today (I can picture you rolling your eyes at this very moment), but it’s true.
I love you, my sweet Lulu. Thank you, as always, for making me a mom and for teaching me every day. Parenting isn’t an easy gig, but having you as my firstborn has been a gift. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.