My Birthday Wish: Encouragement for a Detroit Teen (It’s Her Birthday, Too)!

Today I share my birthday with Sydney, a 15 year old here in Detroit that we spend a lot of time with and really love (you should hear Luke following her around the house saying “Neenee, Neenee!”).  I’m not always … Continue reading

We got no troubles, life is the bubbles…Under the Sea!

I was given a gift yesterday.  I could sense people watching my smile grow.  But I’m certain no other adult quite understood my delight.  Delight because, right there, before all of our eyes, “my kids”* had moved from timidity to bliss.  Unbeknownst to them, they’ve been a mermaid and a sea prince all along.  And today, they finally found their water.  This is the story I was lucky enough to witness.

Timid at the Spray Park
Floaties at the Beach
Spray Park Fun
Please understand that this next picture I’m going to show you is very sacred.  This was the reason for my beaming smile.  Them, “swimming.”  They just crawled along like this for multiple “5 more minutes.”  And I let them.  Because I’m a sucker for letting kids live out a good fairy tale…

Swimming for Begginers

*if you’re just catching my story, then “my kids” are the kids I mentor from an at-risk neighborhood in Grand Rapids. love.them.

P.S. Yes, I think the Mexican family was also surprised that I was darker than their children.  I think I’ll start wearing sunscreen.


Anything Can Happen Child, Anything Can Be

Last summer, after the little girl I mentor came to Day Camp, she called me on Saturday and said, “Apurul, when I come to camp on Monday, will I need to bring my back-a-pack?”

It broke my heart to tell her that she only comes once.  Because she knows that I’m at camp every single week of the summer.   I can only give “my kids” one awesome week of summer, but I try to give them tons of quality time the rest of the year.  And since they’re on Spring Break, I’ve been cramming.

Last week, we took a girls only trip to see Tangled.

Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well,that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

How do I help these kids dream?  How do I share the keys to unlock a world beyond their neighborhood?  How do I instill not only one dream, but many?

Often, my dreams have been fed by great books.  A while ago, I decided that I would give “my kids” a love for bookstores.  Today, we tried a new one.  I wish you could have seen them squealing as they discovered Schuler Books in Grand Rapids.

The three of us picked a worn couch for silent reading.  I think it’s a beautiful scene.
They loved watching ME read.  And I loved telling them about how fun it is to read a 700 page book that you never want to put down (The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand- read it?). They adore me, and it’s so important that they get to see this side of me.

We also sat like grown-ups in the coffee shop and read the original version of Rapunzel.  You know, because we like to compare and contrast literature to film.
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts. 
Listen to the shouldn’ts, 
the impossibles, 
the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, 
then listen close to me… 
Anything can happen, child. 
Anything can be.” 
-Shel Silverstein

Why I Came Home From School Crying Today

I’m not a crier.  So I wasn’t prepared to sit in a second grade classroom today and have tears well up in my eyes.

I showed up to mentor during my lunch hour with much excitement as always.  When the teacher asked me to stay in the classroom, I was pumped.  Because, let’s be honest, it makes my day to have kids huddled around me like they want my autograph (I handed out camp post cards instead).

But then, the teaching happened.  It was about alliteration, metaphors, similes, and “omomatopoeias” (yes, it was spelled wrong on a GRPS worksheet).   And the lesson was taught to second graders (most of whom are English as a second language learners) from a 3-ring binder.  So the tears welled up.  I had my first tragic, real life glimpse of our 50% graduation rate in GRPS.

These are the kids I love.  They deserve so much more than this.  It’s NOT FAIR.

I came home and legitimately cried.  Full out, kind of crumbled for the state of our education system.  I’m having a hard time getting over it.

Maybe you don’t know.  Maybe you haven’t experienced what it’s like in some of our schools.  You need to be aware.  We all need to work together on this.  Please watch David Guggenheim talk about why he made the movie, “Waiting for Superman” and why it’s not enough to “take care of my kids and move on”…

Oh, and you should DEFINITELY watch the movie.  It’s my plea to the world.

My Future Career: A Professional Field Tripper?

I’ve always envisioned myself working forever.  Until death.  If you have spent 5 minutes with me, you know I have big goals and dreams for helping children.

But, I’m starting to see the appeal of being a stay-at-home mom.  Because I would print those free business cards and hand them to every teacher.  My title would be, “field-tripper.”

I had a day off last week, so I got to go on a field trip!!!  It was with the litle girl I mentor and her 2nd grade class.  Now, I’m no stranger to the class or the neighborhood.  I’m definitely the only white girl that shows up at the park.  And they stare.  I think it’s because they wonder what color my hair really is.  So do I, kids, so do I.

On the bus, I felt one of the boys in the seat behind me reach over and touch my hair.  I looked back to VERY curious eyes.

“What are your eyes?” he asked.

Pause from me. (Because honestly, I really don’t know how to characterize their color).

“Baby Brown,”  he said with confidence.  There you have it.  Makes perfect sense.  I’m claiming it as my color.  Second grade genius.

The rest was magical.  Forever captured by my camera.  The kids LOVE having someone take their picture.  Here are a few of the little girl I mentor at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.


And here are my qualifications for being a professional field-tripper:

  1. Within 30 seconds, I knew all 7 kids in my group by name (and never forgot them)
  2. I played along at the dentist, the bank, the post office, the puppet show, etc.  And of course, created memorable learning experiences along the way.  That’s what we do, right SpringHill?
  3. Only 3 of my 7 kids got lost.  And it was only for 5 minutes.  At the end.  When everyone was trying to get on the bus.  No big deal.

I got invited back on today’s field trip.  That’s right.  They had one last week and this week.  I can’t go, of course, because I’m a working woman.  But I’m really hoping to have some time off on St. Patrick’s day.  At the Valentine’s party I got to hand out bingo chips!  I’m really getting into this “Room Mom” gig.:)