Lucy's 12th Birthday

Twelve-Years-Old

Each year I write a birthday letter to my kids on the blog…you can find Lucy’s previous letters here: tennine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one.

Dear Lucy,

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.

Lucy 12th Birthday

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.

Lucy 12th Birthday

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!

Lucy 12th Birthday

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.

Lucy 12th Birthday

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.

Lucy 12th Birthday

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.

Love,

Mama

Women's March 2018

What’s Your Superpower? Women’s March 2018

One year ago I hopped on a giant bus full of strangers and drove to Washington DC to participate in the Women’s March on Washington…it was an incredible experience that I will never, ever forget. I am so glad I was able to be there and it was incredibly cathartic to be around so many women (and a few men) who cared about many of the same things I did. In 2017, I’m grateful I was able to do more than just march (more on that here and here and here), but I was still excited when I heard there were going to be a few local opportunities to march again in 2018. And this time, I got to bring my 11-year-old daughter with me.

Women's March 2018

One of the new struggles I’ve had in the past year is balancing being an activist and a mother…on one hand, I’ve had to be away from my kids more than before while working on issues, attending meetings or summits and participating in the political process. But on the other hand, I think it’s incredibly important for our kids to see us being active and fighting for what we believe is right…especially our daughters.

Women's March 2018

I want my daughter to grow up not only being told she “can do anything,” but surrounded by women who are really doing it. I want her to look at the people I surround myself with and learn how to surround herself with good people too. People who don’t only care about themselves, but will give up hours, days and weeks to help others. So I was extremely grateful to be able to travel to the nearby Women’s March in Lawrence, Kansas with my cohorts from Education First Shawnee Mission and their kids.

Women's March 2018

We listened to speakers from many different groups, from leaders at Haskell Indian Nations University to the local leader of the NAACP and many, many more. Then we marched down Massachusetts Street chanting “Show me what democracy looks like…THIS is what democracy looks like!” The significance of this moment was not lost on me as we marched down a street that held good and horrible memories for me as a female college student (Mass Street is where many of the local bars are located, and I was assaulted and harassed there by drunk college men on more than one occasion). I was surrounded by strong, smart women (and some men!) who were there to support each other.

Women's March 2018

My favorite part of the day was watching my daughter and another Education First Shawnee Mission mom’s daughter starting chants and their excitement when the chants caught on with the crowd. Their faces would light up and they would hi-five each other. “We did it!”

Yes, girls. You certainly did.

Women's March 2018

Harry Potter Halloween 2016

A (Sort of) Harry Potter Halloween 2016!

Harry Potter Halloween 2016

Halloween 2016 is in the books, and even though it wasn’t as epic as last year, it was still a pretty fun night full of candy, fun, candy, friends…and candy! Last year Halloween was on a Saturday, our street had a block party AND our Kansas City Royals were in the playoffs, so everyone had TV screens out in front of their homes watching the game and cheering while the kids went door-to-door. We stayed up late and got to sleep in the next morning, which helped a bit with the inevitable sugar crash. Also, since the big day was on a Saturday, school parties were held earlier in the week, which helped the whole day to be less overwhelming.

Halloween 2016

This year was definitely much more mellow, since it was a Monday night, but the kids are still calling it “the best Halloween ever” so I think that counts as a success. Now, the sugar crash and having to wake them up for school this morning was decidedly less fun than last year. I feel like I need to send all the teachers a spa gift certificate for what they must’ve gone through today!

Ron Weasley Halloween 2016

Last year we did a pretty awesome family costume, and the plan was to do a Harry Potter theme this year. However, we ran into a snag when Lucy decided she couldn’t be her favorite character (Ginny Weasley) because in the end (spoiler alert for all you weirdos that haven’t read Harry Potter yet!) Ginny marries Harry…and if Tate was going to be Harry, Lucy just COULDN’T be Ginny! Gross! But we thought it would be a bit weird if we went as Harry Potter characters without Harry Potter…so Lucy decided to skip out on the family costume and instead dress up as a “cat person” which is something she made up. Apparently it’s half person, half cat, and she explained this to every adult who dared to say, “Aw, and you’re a kitty this Halloween!” No, she is a CAT PERSON. Totally different.

Cat Person Halloween 2016

Trent dressed up as Luigi from Mario Brothers for his work Halloween, which of course meant he had to shave his beard into an insane mustache. It was hilarious, but when he left the mustache for his evening costume change, he ended up looking like the creepiest Ron Weasley I’d even seen! The photo of the three of us cracks me up, because I think this is exactly how Hermione would feel about Ron with an insane mustache.

Harry Potter Halloween 2016

Harry Potter Halloween 2016

Now, if you need me, I’ll be off stealing mini Twix bars from my kids’ candy stash! Happy Halloween!

Pickles the Kitten

Introducing…Pickles Peters!

Pickles the Kitten

You guys, it’s been an interesting summer around here! There have been good and bad developments (more on those later), but one of the most fun has been the addition of a new KITTEN to our family! Lucy has been begging for a kitten for about four years, but her dad was very against the idea. I’m not sure what changed his mind, but out of nowhere he decided to surprise her with a kitten for her birthday earlier this summer! A few weeks later we came home with Pickles!

Pickles the Kitten

Pickles was a barn kitten, so when we brought her home we knew she was little, but had no idea how young she actually was. Turns out she was WAY TOO YOUNG and we ended up feeding her goat milk from a dropper until she was big enough to eat on her own. The good news is she’s now about 10-weeks-old and doing awesome! The bad news is she likes to sleep on my head in the middle of the night…

Pickles the Kitten

We were a little worried about how Teddy would do with a tiny kitten, but it turns out he’s the best dog ever! He takes so much abuse from Pickles, who likes to play all day long, but he is fairly patient with her and seems to enjoy having her around. After I posted a few photos of them to social media, I had quite a few requests to create them their very own Instagram account, so now you can follow their adventures over at @teddyandpickles. Beware, you may be overwhelmed by the cuteness!

Pickles the Kitten

Malala and Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Chat 2.0 : Malala Yousafzai

This past Tuesday evening I was incredibly honored and grateful to be invited to hear the incredible Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, speak about continuing the world-wide fight for education for all children. I’ve long been an admirer of Malala, since her horrific story hit the news in 2012. Two summers ago her book, I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, was one of my favorite reads. When I saw she was coming to Kansas City to speak, I knew I wanted to take my daughter. Malala was only 11 (a year older than Lucy) when she began writing her BBC blog, documenting life under the Taliban regime, and I really wanted my daughter to experience getting to hear someone speak who stood up against oppression at such a young age.

Malala Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Having the opportunity to take Lucy to this event was a huge gift to both of us. Malala’s message is one of empowerment, and she talked in detail about how education can enable girls to be change-makers in their communities. Before the event started, the host asked all the people in the audience under 20-years-old to stand up and be recognized…and I won’t lie. When Lucy stood up, and the people around us started cheering for her, I totally started crying. I’m so proud of the young lady she is becoming, and I know she’s going to change the world in big ways!

First we heard from Malala’s father, Ziauddin, who was so inspiring to me as a parent. He spoke about coming from a place where women were not valued in the same way as men, and how he had five sisters, but no one ever thought to send them to school. Ziauddin is an educator himself, and when he was blessed with a daughter, he knew he needed to create his own school to ensure she could attend. He said, “My biggest achievement in my life is being the father to a daughter.” He encouraged us to stand up against oppression and inequality, and reminded us that the biggest capitol we have in our communities is US!

“Your own voice is the most powerful voice…raise it!” – Ziauddin Yousafzai

Malala Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Then Malala came on stage and told her story. When she was 11-years-old, the Taliban came to her community and banned all the girls from attending school. She continued to attend, at much risk to herself and her family, and her father continued to teach girls, even though many schools were being bombed. She then began blogging for the BBC, sharing with the western world what it was like to be growing up female in Pakistan with the Taliban in control. In 2012, when she was 15-years-old, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban as she rode home on the bus after school. She was deliberately attacked because she had spoken out regarding education for girls. Amazingly, she survived and continues to speak worldwide about the issue of education for all people.

“I was shot to be silenced, but the opposite happened and my voice is louder than before.” – Malala Yousafzai

The question and answer section of the event was my favorite part, because hearing the candid and strong answers from Malala and her father was incredibly inspiring. Much of the conversation revolved around lack of funding for education around the world and the effect of poverty on education. Both Malala and her father stressed that the problem isn’t “lack of funds,” but instead the allocation of funds. Malala said the most surprising thing she’s seen in her travels is the lack of investment in education. She said if military entities worldwide stopped their spending for only eight days, we would be able to educate all of the children across the earth that are currently NOT attending school.

“More guns and bombs will never protect you. Educated children do not need to pick up guns.” – Malala Yousafzai

When I asked Lucy her favorite part of the event, she said it was when a child in the audience asked Malala what still scares her….her answer? Balloons! I loved that, because it helped show Lucy that even though Malala is an extraordinary person, she is still just a regular girl. Albeit, a girl who has won the Nobel Peace Prize!

Malala Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Malala also told the crowd that the reason she always felt she could speak up, was because her father ALWAYS listened to her and her siblings. Even if they just wanted to talk about something silly, she said he would stop what he was doing and really listen to them. This was a huge wake up call for me as a parent. There are definitely times when I dismiss what my kids are saying, or shush them because I’m too “busy” with my own stuff, and that is something I plan on working on. I want my daughter to know her voice matters, and that begins at home.

I have to give HUGE thanks to Hallmark, who along with sponsoring Chat 2.0, gave Lucy and I the opportunity to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event. Hallmark Cards has a mission to help create communities where all children have the chance to grow up as healthy, productive and caring persons and vibrant arts and cultural experiences enrich the lives of all citizens. I so admire Hallmark’s dedication to gender diversity, especially in the STEM fields. Lucy really enjoyed seeing the Hallmark engineers before the event, and learning how they use math, science, engineering and technology to create so many incredible products. Lucy loves art AND science, and she loved seeing how the two can work together to make beautiful things!

“You young people…you need to speak out. I didn’t wait for someone older to come speak for me. Believe in your voice. Believe in yourself.” – Malala Yousafzai

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Hallmark, However, the written remarks and opinions are entirely my own.

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