Tate Birthday

9-Years-Old

Dear Tate,

A few weeks ago, you turned 9-years-old. I hardly ever write on this blog anymore, but every year on your birthday, I want to make sure I get something written here. You are such an interesting, fun, wonderful kid, and that certainly hasn’t changed in the last year. But other things about you have changed, and I know if I don’t get them down in words, they will float away, just like all memories do.

Tate Birthday

The other day a friend of mine posted something to social media about how parenting is basically deciding where in the house you want to keep the giant pile of acorns that your children bring home and HAVE TO KEEP BECAUSE THEY ARE TREASURES. I was immediately taken back to your preschool days, when you’d come home with random items in your pocket…an acorn, yes, but also a lego guy, a feather, three pennies, a nickel and, of course, a couple of rocks. Those days feel so far away to me now, but I still keep a jar of your trinkets on a shelf in our kitchen. It reminds me of how much you’ve grown, and of how much I have loved being your mom.

Preschool Tate was cute, and honestly, so is 9-year-old Tate. You’re my own, real-life Peter Pan, a little imp who sometimes gets into trouble, but who easily skirts out of it with a wink and a smirk. In fact, the smirk is your go-to expression, including in all school photos and selfies. You pretty much always have a twinkle in your eye that suggests you might be up to no good. But mostly you just like to have fun, and you don’t often think about boundaries or limits.

This year has been difficult in ways I couldn’t have imagined when you blew out your candles last year. Since you were 2-years-old, I’ve worked from home and been able to be there for you whenever you needed me. If you were sick, I was there. If you had a school event, I was there. If you needed a snack or help with homework or someone to enter the password into the TV, I was always there. But this year I began working outside of the home again, and all of sudden, I wasn’t there. We are so fortunate, because you have a village of people around you (and me!) who have stepped up to fill the gaps since I went back to work. In fact, sometimes I think you like it better this way, as you get to spend time with neighbors, our super-fun babysitter, and at playdates with friends. Your relationship with your dad has strengthened in immeasurable ways, as he has been the parent volunteering at school and coaching your teams, instead of me taking on every role. We have gained much, much more than we lost.

This year we also moved to a new home, one that we chose, in part, because it kept us at your elementary school and near your friends. You love our new house, and it’s been so fun to see you here with friends and cousins, running around our new backyard and playing football on the front lawn. There has been so much change this year, and you have handled it all in stride. I’m so proud of you.

We also had an unfortunate experience where we, as parents, made a mistake and kept you in a situation that wasn’t healthy for you. Parents make mistakes, buddy. In fact, I make them every, single day. But this one ate away at me because I knew from the beginning it wasn’t a good fit for you, but I kept you in it because I didn’t want to seem overprotective or inflexible. I let my fear of making trouble direct how I parented, and I deeply regret it. But when we finally did make the decision to move on, you never blamed us. You kept a good attitude, even when it would’ve been understandable for you to lose your cool. You stuck it out and you held your head high, and I’m so grateful for how you navigated all of it. You are an incredible person, Tate.

My hope for you this year is that you find a way to give yourself a little grace, kiddo. You are a very competitive person, and sometimes that gets the best of you. It seems especially difficult because you are someone who tends to just be really good at almost everything you try. But then, when something doesn’t come as easily, you can get really down on yourself. As you get older, there are going to be so many things that you won’t be the best at, but I don’t want you to give up. I want you to enjoy the experience of trying something new, failing, and trying again. I want you to encourage yourself, instead of putting yourself down when you’re not perfect. You’ve already been working on this, and I can see a big difference. In fact, you just went snowboarding for the first time, and your dad said you fell constantly…but you always got back up. That’s the good stuff, kiddo.

I am so proud to be your mom, Tate. I cannot wait to see what this next year will bring!

Love,

Mama

Tate 8th Birthday

Eight-Years-Old

Tate 8th Birthday

Dear Tate,

Yesterday you turned eight and today is the last day of school before we start holiday break. I’m starting the break with a bit of a “fun headache” from the epic tale that was your birthday. I know having a birthday so close to Christmas can be a bummer (just ask your dad), so I do my best each year to make it extra joyful. This year was supposed to be more chill, since we only do parties every other year, but a late night stroke of genius changed all that when I sat up in bed and thought “We should take the kids to Winterfest at World’s of Fun for Tate’s birthday!” You were thrilled with this idea, so last night we closed down the amusement park with two of your best friends and our family. You were the only ones on the rides by the end of the night, as it was under 30 degrees and most of the park visitors had lost feeling in their toes (including myself and your dad), but it was worth it to see how completely happy you were to have this special celebration.

Tate 8th Birthday

You are simultaneously goofy and very serious, which is sometimes challenging as a parent. You’re incredibly sensitive and intense, and your moods are EXTRA. You are often the happiest kid in the room, but just as often you can become withdrawn or upset, and teaching you how to feel your feelings, work through them, and come to a resolution has been one of my main goals as your mother. I don’t want you to stuff any of those emotions, but you also can’t wallow, and that’s a hard lesson for me at 36-year-old, let alone you at EIGHT.

Tate 8th Birthday

This year we dealt with some real fear for the first time as I watched you experience episodes of anxiety. Your fear of thunderstorms and tornadoes spiraled to a point where we were having a hard time managing them. I am so grateful we were able to find a wonderful child therapist who has taught you (and me!) so much about fear and anxiety. I am incredibly thankful we are able to deal with some of these issues now, instead of waiting until you are an adult and so much of your thinking is solidified. I’m so proud of how you’ve handled these obstacles this year and how hard you’ve worked to overcome them. I know this is not a straight path, but what we’ve learned this year will help both of us for the rest of our lives.

Tate 8th Birthday

Right now your loves include: sports (soccer, basketball, swim team, baseball and recently you’ve started talking about hockey too), cats, your friends, video games, making mama laugh by making derpy faces, and reading. That last one is HUGE for us, since we started this year way behind on your reading abilities. But in the last three or four months, it all finally clicked for you and now you’re reading for pleasure whenever you can find a minute, just like your sister. Your favorite books are Dogman, Catstronauts and the Ranger the Dog series.

Tate 8th Birthday

Tate, you are bold and brave, often overcoming fears just to prove others wrong. You strive to be the best at everything you do, and want others to do the same. You are kind and sensitive, wearing shirts with sloths and kittens on them because they are “just so cute,” inviting a girl in your class to sit at the special table on your birthday because she was having a bad day, and loving to snuggle whenever the opportunity allows. I am so grateful for you and how you’re growing, learning and changing every day.

Tate 8th Birthday

A few weeks ago you came into my bed to snuggle and chat, and for the first time in ages, you fell asleep in my arms. I couldn’t believe how big you felt, and I realized it won’t be very long until you will no longer EVER fall asleep curled up in my hug. I felt a bit of sadness for future me, who will miss those moments so much, but then I looked at your face with your long eyelashes fluttering on your cheeks as you dreamed, and decided instead of being sad, I wanted to fully be present in that moment. That way, even when you’re a giant, smelly teenager, I’ll still have that memory to pull me back to these wonderful moments of parenting my sweet eight-year-old.

I love you, Tater.

Love,
Mama

Fox 4 Aquarium Segment

Summer Fun Activities : How to Build an Aquarium with Your Kids

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!

Click here to view video!

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.
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

Giving Back Party 2017

5th Annual “Giving Back” Holiday Party

Five years ago, 6-year-old Lucy begged me to host a holiday party for her little friends. I am not exactly a “party person,” so I was not thrilled with this request, but she had an adorable lisp and it was impossible to say no. Therefore, a tradition was born. The now named “Lulu + Tate Holiday Party” has become an annual event each December, where we invite way too many kids over to our house and set them loose with cookies to decorate, a holiday movie and general mayhem. This year we added virtual reality in the garage and a service project to the agenda…it was the best!

Giving Back Party 2017

This year we were extremely grateful to Qdoba for offering to provide the food for all the kids! Qdoba has an awesome catering menu, and we found it was perfect for a group of somewhat picky eaters. I even received messages from the moms afterward wondering what we had served to eat, because their kids loved it so much they were talking about it at home. And it made the party infinitely easier for me, because all I had to do was set it up in the kitchen, and let the kids go at it!

Giving Back Party 2017

But the best part about Qdoba providing the food, was that it left us with money leftover to do even more good in the world. This party was initially created as a way for my kids to give back to our community…each child who attends brings an unwrapped gift and then we donate the gifts to a local charity. This year, we donated two wagons full of presents to Operation Breakthrough, an incredible organization that provides education, stability and assistance to children and families living in poverty in the Kansas City area. But on top of that, we were able to spend our leftover money on supplies to make “Care Kits” for children living in foster care, who may be transitioning to a new home with little notice and no belongings of their own. The kits were decorated and put together by the kids at the party, and then we delivered them to Kansas KVC, an organization that provides case management, therapy, family education and support, transportation and aftercare services, impacting thousands of children and family members each day.

Giving Back Party 2017

I love how this sweet request by my former 6-year-old has turned into a holiday tradition that highlights the importance of giving back to our community in a very real way. While the party itself is a lot of fun, my favorite part is when we get to take the toys and other items to the donation locations. The kids are always so proud of what they have done, and I know that showing them how wonderful it feels to give back will stay with them as they grow up. So while I’m still not a “party person,” I’ll keep making an exception this time of year!



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