Posts Tagged With: #family

The Bridge to Summer Break

Summer is here, school is out, and the kids are home all day long.

When I was growing up that meant fun and adventure. We’d get up at sunrise, have breakfast, and then we were out for the day running around the neighborhood, riding our bikes in the canyons, and eating lunch at whoever’s mom would feed us that that day. If my mom had the day off from work, lunch was at our house. Everyone knew if we played our cards right, she’d let us hang out in the family room and play cards or watch television until time for dinner. We thought we were getting away with something – but the truth was she liked having us around.

As we got older, we could take the bus somewhere for the day. The beach, the zoo, or the library were popular destinations. Occasionally, it was a day at the mall and the afternoon matinee.

As the school year wrapped up, I asked my students (high school age, most receiving special education services) what they planned to do over the long break. Most responded, “nothing.”

Being the “speech teacher,” I would inquire for more detail, working on one last chance to teach better communication skills. “Define – nothing. Are you sitting on your bed twiddling your thumbs? Or sitting on the floor with your fingers in your ears?”

They give me polite laughter at the attempted joke.

Nothing means playing video games all day. Things have changed since I was a kid.

The moment they say admit that they have no real plans for summer, students that have been with me awhile know what is coming next.

We just spent the last five months reading a novel together as the platform to work on their language goals. This year we read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson.

We talked about the main characters, Jesse and Leslie, spending time stretching the wings of their imaginations bringing Terabithia into existence. It was in this land of their making, they learned the power of friendship, how to face the giants in their lives, and how it was important to give back to the world what they had learned. The ending is bittersweet, there were a few wet eyes and sniffles as we finished the reading.

Before we get back to how this relates to my student’s summer, let me explain why I read to my students.

I am not a reading teacher, my pay-the-bills job is providing Language, Speech, and Hearing Services to high school students. I use reading as a platform to meet their goals. It is through reading, I can introduce them to vocabulary and grammar in context. The stories demonstrate the use of critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a wide variety of settings. Most importantly, it is through reading we learn how to deal with strong emotions in relative safety, especially empathy.

Now, back to our main topic – What are you doing during Summer Break?

After they have told me that they plan on spending their summer in their dark, probably smelly, bedrooms staring at a monitor for two months, I take a deep breath and smile. “Is that the best you can do? Where is your sense of adventure? Where is your imagination?”

They roll their eyes.

“Are you ready for your summer assignment?” I continue.

From the freshman, I get wide-eyed looks of disbelief – homework over summer? The older students roll their eyes again and say, “We know, we know – read.”


This is their assignment, printed on stationary –

Dear Students,

It’s time to say goodbye to another school year. Where did it go? These past ten months have gone by too fast. I have watched you learn, discover, and become young adults.

I’m going to ask you to do three things over the Summer:

  • Read every day for at least thirty minutes (longer would be better). Read anything: sports magazines, comic books, the manual for that new video game, or novels. You don’t need money to do this – the public library is free. The librarians will be glad to help you find something of interest at your reading level. Take advantage of the library’s summer reading program and book browse. (To browse a book – pick up a book and start reading. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it. Return it and get another book. If you like it, finish it and then ask the librarian to help you find other books by the same author or in the same genre.)
  • Get some sun on your face every day. That means – go outside. Play basketball in the park. Go for a walk. Ride your bike. Have fun.
  • Come back to school in one piece. I don’t want to see any broken students in August. I want you back safe, healthy, and ready to learn.

Take care and have fun. I look forward to seeing you all in the fall.

Students that have done my summer homework report that they had a fun break, learned something new, and were ready to be back at school. Those that didn’t report they had an okay break and are not ready to be back a school.

If you have students at home for the summer and they’ve decided that hibernating in their bedrooms and vegetating is how they are spending their break, might I make a suggestion?

Encourage them to come out of the dark and join you in the sunshine. Make it a family activity to go to the library, take a hike, or do something new.

I have no children at home. It would be easy for me to park myself at the computer and surf all day. But I know that I’d be hurting both my physical and mental health. So, I read, write, take the dogs for walks, borrow my friend’s children for a day, and plan adventures. In other words, I follow my own advice to my students.

I’ll admit those last few weeks of the school year I was so looking forward to a break from getting up at 4:30 in the morning, being responsible for a hundred plus students, and facing the daily pile of paperwork on my desk.  But I also know that come the end of July, I’ll be ready to cross back over the bridge a start another school year.

I wish you all, my beloved readers, a happy and safe summer. And don’t worry, I’ll be posting my adventures so you can share in the fun too.

Until next time . . .

The door is always open, and the kettle is always on.

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Not a Mom, but I do Mother

Today is Mother’s Day, my least favorite day of the year.

I often go out of my way to stay home on the second Sunday in May. The reason being I get asked the same two questions every year, not just by strangers but by friends who should already know the answers.

  • What did you do for your mom for Mother’s Day? Nothing, given she died 21 years ago this November. The most I can do is go put flowers on her niche. I will always miss my mom.
  • What did your kids do for you this morning? Nothing, I have no children unless you count the ones with four legs and fur.

Argos and Rowdy Girl, my furbabies.

Cheryl Lacey Donovan wrote in her book The Ministry of Motherhood that “Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.”

But the truth be told, as an educator (both public schools and Sunday School) and a Girl Scout leader, I have mothered a lot of children.

You don’t have to give birth to be a “Mom.” I have many friends who have fostered, adopted, or been step-mothers. This doesn’t make you any less of a mother. What makes you a mother is loving a child unconditionally through life’s bumps and turns.

If you’re lucky like me, you’ll have a few who will bestow upon you the title “Other Mother” or “Auntie.”

One young man, who still calls me Auntie, had the staff at the high school convinced I was his real aunt. This backfired on him, when he was in trouble instead of calling home they threatened him with calling me. I’d give him an earful, and when he got home, he’d get it a second time.

Another young man, broke my heart when he told me, “You’ve been a better mom, than my own mom.” It was a bittersweet moment, in that I was glad I was there for him, but I understood what he meant.

The students who belong to the writing club I sponsor at the high schools often look to me to be a mom/auntie. Sometimes I forget that then a mom tells me, “Thank you so much for being such an important mother figure in my girls’ life!” It makes the hassles of paperwork, scheduling, and fundraising worth it.

Then there are my “mini-me” girls, who are now taller than me.

I’ve known Erin since she was six and she was in my Sunday School class. Her mom and I came to be “sisters.” When I’ve taken her places, even with you mom with us, people thought she was my daughter as her coloring and build are more like mine than her tall, dark mother. Through the years I have been a teacher, Girl Scout leader, and friend. She’s in high school now and doesn’t need me that much anymore, but that’s okay, I can still make her roll her eyes at my dumb jokes.

My other mini-me, Jessica, is another that looks more like me than her own mother. We met in the beginning orchestra of the local community college when she was ten. We both were learning to play the cello. She was this cute little thing whose toes barely touched the floor when she sat to play. Now in high school, her playing makes me sound like I’m still very much a beginner.

Erin and Jessica are the same age. They attend the same high school. They are best friends, and it’s my fault.

What is funny is neither of them remembered when they first met. I introduced them one afternoon when I had a Christmas cooking baking party with them and Jessica’s siblings. I had four children – Erin (11), Jessica (11), Kaylee (10), and Derrick (10) – in my small kitchen baking cookies. The kitchen was a mess, the cookies were impressive works of art, and they were happy, giggly kids.



Jessica, Me, and Erin

I love “my kids” and don’t you mess with them. I can be a fierce mama bear and will defend my cubs as quickly as their real mothers would.

The world is full of both wonderful women and men, who care for children, guiding and mentoring them. Just because they didn’t give birth to these children does mean they care any less than their parents do.

Let me wish you, the mothering non-moms out there, a “Happy Mother’s Day.” You too make a difference in the lives of the children. And though you may never be told “Thank You,” it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Until next time . . .

The door is always open, and the kettle is always on.


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