I first found the Kelsays earlier this year while scrolling through our #teacollection photos on Instagram. The photos of their little citizens wearing Tea dresses while skating on a half-pipe instantly caught my eye. Our Australia spring collection was just about to launch and I knew the adventurous spirit of our collection would resonate with this family. I had to connect with them!
After reaching out to Calli, mom to the four kiddos and the powerhouse behind Skate Rising – an all girls skateboarding youth program, and talking to her about their life in Southern California, I was hooked — it was immediately apparent that they would make for great content partners throughout our spring and summer season! Together, along with their friend and amazing photographer, Nina Seibert, we’ve collaborated over the past few months to share photos of real kids, doing real kid things in our newest Tea styles. It was a match made in heaven. And now, we’re sharing the Kelsays with you! Read on to learn more about their family of kind, generous and adventurous little citizens!
Studio Tea: Tell us about yourself and your family…
Calli Kelsay: I am the mother of four amazing children, wife to the most handsome and interesting man alive, and creator of an all-girls skateboarding youth program called Skate Rising. Aubrey, my oldest, is nine. She is the most considerate person I have ever met, constantly thinking about others. She is strong, confident, and willing to try anything once. Kirra is seven. She loves to surf, skate, jump rope, play the piano, and hula hoop. She is a very active girl. She also has the best sense of humor I have ever seen, constantly laughing, and always trying to make those around her smile. She is known for skateboarding in dresses and tutus. Juliet is four. She loves exploring the world around her, flying kites, singing, and dancing. I honestly believe some days she wakes up ready to put on a musical. Chase will be two in a couple of days! He is mellow, very curious, and the busiest kid ever. One day, in a span of under ten minutes, he was able to climb on top of our piano, throw everything off of it, break into the “baby proof” cabinet in the kitchen, pour an entire box of cereal on the floor, then unfold two baskets of laundry quietly while I cleaned up the other messes. I couldn’t help but laugh because otherwise I would have cried! I think any parent can relate to this.
ST: Here at Tea, we believe that inspiring curiosity and adventure in kids from a young age, allows them to be open-hearted, little citizens. How have you seen this play out with your family?
CK: We have always encouraged out-of-the-box thinking, adventure, and curiosity in our children. We try to inspire this in our own home by offering Montessori materials and trays for our little ones to use daily and STEM style toys and books for our older girls as well. In our backyard we have a small sailboat full of sand for a sandbox, a play structure, giant skateboarding pool, a 4 foot mini skate half pipe, hideouts, 10 chickens, a fairy garden and a large edible garden. We also LOVE adventuring out in our own community and can be found at the beach, the botanical garden, skate park, or at our local nursery feeding Bubba, the tortoise, kale on a weekly basis. We travel to Mexico a lot and encourage our girls to serve other people. The last trip we took we brought down monkey bars for a one-room elementary school in a small fishing village. The children had the opportunity to paint the monkey bars and help install them with some of the local children. I believe that when children have opportunity to explore the world on their own and in their own way we are giving them the opportunity to become independent, self-reliant and open-minded individuals. I have seen this time and time again with my own children. They are welcoming to others, supportive and excited for those around them.
ST: Skateboarding, and sports in general, seem to be a big part of your family’s life. How did your family first get involved with skateboarding?
CK: A couple of summers ago, my older girls were surfing all of the time. Every Saturday, we would get multiple families out to one of the local beaches with us so all of the kids could surf together and Dad’s could push the little ones into the waves. Summer ended too quickly. The weather started getting cooler and my husband started working more. All of the sudden, I was struck with the fact that I can’t help push my girls into waves with my two little ones on the beach (mom problems). So I started looking into alternative activities for them. When I would bring up the thought of buying skateboards to friends I would get wide-eyed stares of concern and opinions of “they’re going to break their legs” or “Are you sure you want GIRLS that skate?” For some reason the rebel in me wanted to push to get them skateboards more after those opinions.
I decided to bring the girls down to the local skate shop and let them pick out their decks, grip tape, wheels and trucks. They loved being involved in the buying process. A couple of nights later I brought them to the skate park for the first time. We pulled up and the park was full of teenage boys. There I was with a new baby, a toddler, a five-year-old in a tutu, and a seven-year-old looking at me like I was crazy. Aubrey turned to me and said, “Mom I’m scared.” I told her that this is what skateboarding looks like and if she wants to do it then this is the environment she will face. I asked her if she wanted to go home and left it up to her. I could see her thinking intently about what she wanted to do, and the next thing I knew, she was dropping her skateboard to the ground and pushing through the teenage boys to get to the skate park. Kirra following right after her. The girls have skated almost every day since and now our entire family loves it!
ST: What other activities are your kiddos involved with? What are their favorites?
CK: Our girls are involved in karate, jump rope, piano, rock band, surfing, church and service for others.
ST: How do you manage raising 4 kids under the age of 9? What does a normal weekday look like?
CK: Do you want the truth or the fluffed up version? Haha. Life is very, very busy with all of my kids being so young but it is also so rewarding. A normal day at the Kelsay household starts at 2:00 AM for me… this is my “ME” time where I try to clean the house or get work done. I usually head back to bed around 3:30 AM and around 5:30 AM the kids start waking up. We take a few minutes to snuggle (or really tackle Mom) then get up and turn on happy music. The girls go collect eggs from the chicken coop and Aubrey cooks them for the kids for breakfast, Aubrey LOVES to cook. Making lunches, getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair almost always happen before 7:45 AM which is when we are off to school drop off.
Somehow the day flies by between adventures–cleaning, grocery shopping, eating, and learning. Before we know it, it is time to pick up the older girls from school at 2:30. We head back home and the kids all go in the backyard to play, skate, and explore. Dinner is around 5:30 followed by homework, showers, and bed time. Bed time is special because my husband, Matt, reads to the kids every night and we try to have family councils to learn about how one another’s day went. Then off to dream land. Then it all starts over again the next day.
ST: Tell us about Skate Rising and Exposure Skate. How did you become involved with this organization?
CK: As you know my two oldest daughters began skating over a year ago and I saw some very positive changes develop in them quickly. Skateboarding gave them increased confidence, perseverance and creativity. Their all-around happiness blossomed. Seeing my children push through fear, fall and get back up, and encourage each other to try new things, gave me the idea to try and bring these important life lessons to a much broader group.
Also, growing up in Encinitas, my family would often travel to Baja California where I witnessed real poverty for the first time. Somehow it didn’t seem right that my family had so much, while people who lived so close had so little. So, I decided to combine the two and created monthly, FREE, girl skate events for youth, focused on service and learning called Skate Rising.
Skate Rising teaches girls compassion through service and empowerment through skateboarding. Each month, our Skate Rising events feature a community service project serving a local nonprofit and a skateboarding clinic run by industry professionals. These free events serve girls age 4-18 years of age. With a focus on empathy and compassion, our service projects have benefited communities such as refugee families, underprivileged youth, victims of domestic violence and patients at Rady Children’s Hospital. The girls also take part in self-empowering events that teach confidence, positivity and courage.
I met Amelia Brodka, co-founder of Exposure Skate, through our family’s volunteer efforts and quickly found a friend. She is a pro-skater and one of the most kind and giving people I have ever met. Every November, Amelia and her team put together the largest all-women skate competition in the world at the same park where Skate Rising is held. Not only is Exposure Skate’s message to shine a light on girls in skateboarding, but they also bring awareness and give proceeds from the event to Carol’s House, a comprehensive shelter for victims of domestic violence. So it came naturally for me to partner with Exposure in bringing Skate Rising to the girls in our community. My official title is Program Director for Skate Rising and Development Manager for Exposure. As such, I plan and direct all of the monthly events, build community relationships, and help raise funds for the main event in November.
ST: How do you incorporate give back into your kids lives?
CK: We have always implemented service into our family life. It is just part of who we are. The golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is exactly what we try to live by.
Two years ago my daughter Aubrey, seven at the time, happened to be in a bathroom at school and recognized a teacher choking. She was able to see the seriousness of the situation and get the help needed to save the teachers life. She was nationally recognized with the Girl Scout Medal of Honor for her act. Through that experience, I realized how important it is to teach our children to help those in need around us. One thing that we do in our house to encourage giving back is that when we see our children doing random acts of kindness for each other or someone else we give them a small pom-pom to put into a mason jar with their name on it (you can get all of these items at Michael’s craft store). Once the mason jar is filled to the brim, that child get to go on a date with either my husband or me. They get to choose which one of us goes and what we do on the date. The only rule is that the date cannot cost more than $15.
We also implement service through the monthly Skate Rising events. We recently did an event to benefit patients at the local children’s hospital. My children ran around with me collecting all of the donations, sorting the items into groups and getting ready for the event. They are constantly helping each other, me, and those around us through service. I truly believe that the more service we do as individuals the happier we are.
ST: If you had to give one piece of advice to fellow moms and dads out there looking to infuse adventure into their children’s lives, what would it be?
CK: Encourage your children to think outside of the “box” or the normalcies of today. Give them the chance to, as Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus puts it, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”
ST: What was your most memorable family vacation, trip or adventure? Could be a small local trip to a huge excursion. What made it so special?
CK: Last year we went to Kauai with some great friends whose children were older and wanted to go on a fairly difficult hike. I was nervous to bring Juliet and Chase because they were one and three years old at the time. Somehow, through the discussion we all decided to go, even with the little ones in tow. We were off to canoe down the Wailua river and hike to the Sacred Falls. On this excursion, as usual with a toddler, we had to stop on a random side of the river for Juliet to go potty. In the process, I lost my sandals to about two feet of mud. There was no finding them or going back, so we continued on. After about 45 minutes we made it to the hiking portion of the trek. I had a baby strapped to me for about a mile and a half, crossing small rivers, rocky pathways, and going through thick plants and vines. (My husband and I had been taking turns sharing his sandals every few minutes.) I was so excited to finally reach the falls until I realized there was no safe place to put the little ones down to eat lunch. This could have been a very frustrating five hours of time, but the surroundings were so beautiful and the older kids were having so much fun swinging from vines and swimming under the waterfalls that all we could do was laugh about it. On the way back to the canoe I met a girl who saw I had no shoes and had a baby strapped to me, she insisted that I take her shoes and would not take no for an answer. We all left that trip knowing that this was one of our greatest adventures. If I hadn’t gotten out of my comfort zone in so many ways we never would be able to look back and smile at the random act of kindness a stranger did for me, the beauty that we saw, and the adventure that was had.
ST: Last… what is your favorite thing about Tea!
CK: Our family LOVES the Tea Collection. Always have. One of the main things I love about Tea clothing is that each season there is a new line with designs inspired by travels around the world. The prints are so rich and beautiful and the styles are timeless. I have items that Aubrey wore when she was four years old that now fit Juliet and they are still in like new condition five years later because of the durability of the brand. I also love that the Tea packages encourage art and creativity. My kids always rush to get the box so they can see what coloring pages or activity pages have come with the clothes. The last thing I really enjoy about Tea Collection is the level of professionalism and kindness all of the Tea team members have. I have absolutely loved working with Britton the past few months. I guess you could say I have a lot of love for the brand.
Lastly, come follow our family adventures on Instagram @kelsaygroms we are always up to something fun and love for you to join along!
Photography by Nina Seibert (beach shots), Calli Kelsay (skatepark shots) and Teresa Decking (family photo).