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


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.



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!

KC Teacher Gift Guide 2017

Holiday Gift Guide for Teachers

My kids’ teachers are some of my heroes. They often spend more time per week with my kids than I do, and I’m so appreciative of everything they have done to shape the amazing little people in my life. Being a teacher, especially in Kansas, is not always easy. With budgets being constantly cut, salaries stagnant and long hours, many teachers don’t get the recognition they deserve. So over the holiday season I like to do whatever I can to make them feel special. I pulled together some of my favorite products from local, Kansas City-based retail stores and brands that would make awesome gifts for a teacher this year!

*While gifts are always appreciated, I have polled my teacher friends, and they are just as grateful when they get a thoughtful note or handwritten card from a child. Just remember, it’s not about the money spent, but about the sentiment behind it!*

KC Teacher Gift Guide 2017

Huglife KC T-Shirts (created by a teacher!) | Penguin Ornament from Pink Antlers Studio | Kansas City Ornament from Restoration Emporium | All Natural Lip Treatment Set from Handmade Holidays

KC Teacher Gift Guide 2017

Andre’s Confiserie Suisse Gift Box

KC Teacher Gift Guide 2017

Kansas City You’re My Favorite Tumbler from J. Lynn Designery | Terrarium Ornament from Pink Antlers Studio

KC Teacher Gift Guide 2017

School of Sock Kansas City Socks from Best of Kansas City | Andre’s Cookies and Hot Cocoa | Handmade Soap Gift Set from Restoration Emporium

KC Teacher Gift Guide 2017

2018 Refresh Planners from J.Lynn Designery | CST Sweets Dark Peppermint Toffee and Yummylicious Cookie Company Cookie Mix from Handmade Holidays | Pink Peppermint Candle from Pink Antlers Studio

Lucy in the Snow 2017

Snow Days and Chasing Slow

Lucy in the Snow 2017

The last few weeks have been short ones around here. We got back to a somewhat normal schedule after the holidays, just to be slammed with more days off of school for the kids than I can count.

Just kidding, I’ve counted. Twice.

Basically with the combination of national holidays and inservice/teacher learning days, we have four-day school weeks from now until mid-February. Which, let’s face it, isn’t ideal. Not only does this make my work schedule difficult, it is hard on the kids as well! It’s almost impossible for any of us to get into a groove when our schedule is all over the place.

When I’m faced with these types of working mom problems, I tend to get extremely over-stressed and anxious. I find myself making lists in my head of everything I won’t be able to do because I won’t have the time. I torture myself by looking at the social media feeds of my competitors and colleagues, seeing all their perfectly lit images and the work they have been doing, and instead of cheering them on, I feel resentful. I worry that I’m falling behind, yet again, and that I’ll never get ahead of the game. I decide that I’m destined to fail, resign myself to my bed with some fuzzy socks, ratty PJs and Netflix. Why bother even trying, right?

WRONG. Because I don’t have to live fast in order to find success, and the whole idea of hustle equating happiness just doesn’t resonate for me anymore. When my kids have a day off school, I enjoy being with them. I like stepping away from the computer and being present as we throw snowballs at each others heads or read books. I don’t feel lazy when I’m in my PJs with them until 11 a.m. I feel happy. Joyful, even!

Tate in the Snow 2017

So why I am I torturing myself? When they were babies and I worked out of the home full time, I felt guilty for missing all these moments. When I started my own business and they were in preschool, I felt guilty because I couldn’t work as much as I wanted to. Now I’m feeling guilty when they have days off elementary school. I keep waiting for the next phase of life, when things slow down, but I’m starting to think that’s NEVER gonna happen. There will always be something pulling me in one direction while another is pushing me the opposite way.

This year I am planning to focus more on being present, but also on listening to my inner self when it comes to my schedule and work. I am finding doubling down on hustle when it comes to work isn’t always resulting in success. Instead, when I focus on doing what feels right in all facets of my life (working, creating, mothering, reading, meditating, eating chocolate, whatever) the success seems to follow. Recently I was fortunate enough to be asked to read the new, beautiful book Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner, which really speaks to this topic. Erin chronicles her journey from a fast life, to a slow life and back again…and her conclusions aren’t what I expected. Instead of being a book about slowing down your life, this book was more about the question of why do we believe we have to have any particular sort of life for it to be a happy one? I related so much to her journey, and it made me think twice about my goals. Do I want a fast life? Do I want to be a minimalist? Do I want to disconnect from the internet and live in a yurt? Do I want to move to New York City and take my kids to school on the subway? Do I want neither? Both?

Chasing Slow

Do I have to decide?

Maybe we can just be balancing along the middle…sometimes wanting to throw out everything we own because the clutter is strangling us and other times buying a shirt on sale just because it looked cute online. Who knows? But for now, I can only be where I am. And I am a mom of two kids who are growing into grown-ups faster than I can fathom, so if they have a day off school, I’m probably needed on the front lines of the snowball fight. Afterward, when they are sipping on hot cocoa and fighting over marshmallows, I’ll likely sneak away for a little editing session or to answer a few emails. I’m not perfect, but luckily, no one is.

Lucy in the Snow 2017

If you’re looking for more info on this topic, the podcast “The Lively Show” is an amazing listen. I recommend starting with this episode!

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