Thursday, June 30, 2011

Allie's Mom Does Not Have Cancer

Since my mom and sister have been diagnosed with cancer, my Allie has been worried about me. 

"Mom, do you have cancer?" 


When I'm sitting next to her on the couch, she'll grab my face and look under the bags under my eyes to look for yellow - and then, look under my tongue.  She heard one of the ladies at church tell me that a lot of doctors could look for those signs to detect cancer.

"Mom, I couldn't handle you being away from me like Missi.  Please, don't get cancer."

It breaks my heart.

I promised Allison that I would monitor my blood levels so they could determine if I ever get cancer - and I would get a,  *cough,* colonoscopy as soon as my insurance permitted.  I also promised I would eat lots of fiber.

Allie has been writing letters to her aunt - most of them too heartbreaking to even want to send to Missi.

"When will you come home?"

a big


I've noticed a new game in the sun room.  It's called "MAYO CLINIC."  In this game, Allison and Mariah, (Missi's youngest) are doing their best to diagnose Mykayla, (Missi's youngest).

The've made checklists just like doctors and nurses have

Temp - 99.5
Heart - good
blood sugars - 124
poop- brown
Belly - hurts, tickles, hurts, tickle, tickle tickle, hurt
Under tongue - white
eyes, - white

And they've checked her over and over every three hours.

The two come to me and look under my eye bags, and then, again under my tongue and keep trying to really believe that Allie's mom does not have cancer.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Day in The Park

This weekend, we took our Girl Scout troop to Itasca State Park to do some hiking.  I didn't expect to have as much fun as we did.  The girls' excitement sparked a love for the park. 

We saw lady slippers - oh lady slippers.  I told them The Legend of the Lady Slippers.  The girls were amazed at the story of the young heroine.

The Large White Pine captivated their imagination.  I didn't remember the Wigwam Ruins.  I didn't remember the Forestry Tower - I don't remember climbing it as a kid. 

I bet these girls will remember the green of the Minnesota Forest - the cramps they got when they walked too far and didn't drink enough water - the big foot print they saw with their friends.   They'll probably remember me singing to some of them when they were scared to walk down the stairs of the tower.

We decided to come come back the next year and rent some bikes - and of course, drink more water.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Choosing What Matters--

When I grade papers, I always like to grade kids on an easy rubric for them to understand.  I use something from the 6 + Traits of Writing.  I like the well-rounded way of grading - and it's easy to use.  As a student, I always like to know how teachers grade - what they expect from me.  As a teacher, I've always tried to incorporate this into my grading - I want students to write and write well - but I want them to know that their ideas are important to me.  If they get a C-, it isn't because I don't think they're smart.  It's because they don't proofread!

In case you're wondering, these are the Six Traits

Ideas, the main message;

Organization, the internal structure of the piece;

Voice, the personal tone and flavor of the author's message;

•Word Choice, the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning;

Sentence Fluency, the rhythm and flow of the language;

Conventions, the mechanical correctness;

•and Presentation, how the writing actually looks on the page.

from -

Each trait is given 5 points- and description on what 5 points looks like for each trait, what 4 points look like, and so on....   Uusually, I don't have a lot of questions on why the student got a 33 out of 35.  It's pretty clear cut and non-emotional.  I want kids to see What Matters - It needs to be clear cut.  Kids can't guess. 

A lot of kids take the grades on their papers very personally.  I like to take time for them to understand that I appreciate them opening up their hearts to me.  I want them to know that I think they have amazing potential.  Some kids don't open up to me - and that's ok - but they may not have a very high mark on their "ideas or voice" - and that's ok - they can still get an A-. 

I actually miss grading papers.  I will have my Spanish students write more this fall - I can use this rubric for them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Choosing What Matters

Of course, now that I'm pushing healthy on my kids.  I notice all the candy everywhere - and how darn hard it is to find healthy things on the road.  I pack a lot of snacks. 

Our staples include -

cheese strings
ham sandwiches
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Much to the kids' disappointment these are never included in my snack bag -

rice crispy bars
Little Debbie Snacks
Apple Pie
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Hershey Bars

Last night, Missi's youngest celebrated her fifth birthday.  I made sure they saved their unhealthy snack for cake - they really thought I was cruel.

A lot of  other parents probably think I'm crazy, but I think they are crazy.  Really, pop tarts for breakfast?  Really?  Really?

 I'm having trouble watching the junk food being stuffed into faces... and the excuses -

"Oh we're on vacation  - one little treat doesn't matter."  Down goes the super size Dairy Queeen Blizzard....

Oh dear.

I have to remember that I'm new at this - I'm a born-again-nutritionist.  I have to have patience for those who aren't on the same page as me - and keep pushing my own family to choose what really matters.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to Teach so They Pass the Big Test

Last year, I taught a reading class at the ALC in Thief River Falls....  I tried to teach the kids how to love reading.  I ended up teaching the kids that they NEED reading.  I ended up giving them lots of pointers on how to thnk in the box instead of outside of the box.

Most of the time, the kids who aren't passing these tests are the kids who don't think like anyone else.  They see bull when it's in front of them.  They never danced for the camera - they'll never dance for the camera.  They know standardized tests don't show their potential, and they're only made to make a test making company rich.  A lot of these kids don't have the background knowledge other kids have in test-taking.  This makes taking a standardized test for lower income students ten times harder.

Here are some tips I gave students about taking the MCAs.

1.  The passages on the test are boring.  They are not going to put passages on the MCAs about your favorite band.  Sorry -

2.  Because the passages on the test are boring - you're either going to have to make a personal reason to read the passage or fake a reason.

3.  They will always need read for any job or any schooling they take for whatever reason.   - and they will need to read passages that are boring.  Sorrrrryyyyyyyyy.

4.  Different groups will tell you that the answers are clear cut.  SORRRRRRRRRRRRRRy  they aren't.  You need to find ways to think like a test preparer.  WWTPD  (What Would a Test Preparer DO?)

5.  Again, fake interest in what you are reading. REALLLLLLLLLLLLY pretend you like that Emily Dickinson poem because Cee Lo Green's lyrics are not on this test.

6.  Take your time.  Re-read.  Think of the test as a manual to put together the most awesome computer ever.  Go back to the passage over and over.  If you don't get the question, move on and come back to it later.

7.  Ask yourself questions about the material at hand - if the material is about how to make maple syrup - ask yourself "I wonder how much sap will make syrup?"  Even if you don't care.  Questioning is the only way to learn material.

Tips for teachers;

1.  Find things they won't be remotely interested in reading.  (Since this is exactly what test preparers do)

2.  Give the kids a purpose to reading the article - "We are going to read this article about making maple - I need you to find these vocabulary words (blah, blink, and blue) and define them. 

2.  Read the article together, model the way your brain works while you read - how do you question yourself. "I'm really wondering what type of trees maple syrup comes from?"  "Oh - it's maple trees - oh hehehe"

3.  Tell the kids about times you had to read to get information to do things you didn't know how to do.   Like maybe --- let's say you had to read up on how to make an awesome patio for your wife - how did you read to get the information - and was it enjoyable - naw - but it was necessary. "How will I make this incredible patio for my loving wife?  Will I need lots of patio rock?"

4.  Good readers do these things automatically.  Struggling readers need to be taught directly how to re-read. 

5.  Most teachers are good readers already - this is why it's important for us to slow down and figure out how our brain finds the answers.

Reading class is mostly about re-reading and emphasizing to students to slow down. 

Some awesome resources for articles we think are interesting but students probably won't. (there's an article on maple syrup in here.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Auntie Bobbi's Food Revolution -part 2

E was angry with me for many days after the diabetes appointments.  My oldest was angry with me.  Oh - I hadn't realized the love of Junk Food at my house until now.  Mykayla- the littlest diabetic, just took whatever choices I gave her in stride.  Mariah, Missi's middle daughter, cheered the changes. 

"Now, we'll all eat like Grandpa Moe." 

My dad watches everything he eats.  He walks to work whether it's 100 degrees or -30.  He buys me apples, oranges, and pears.  My dad is a health food warrior in a world full of junk food slouches.

Once Mariah started cheering the revolution, Allison did too.

Ethan and Nat were not on board.

They snuck food and complained about me not so secretly behind my back. 

"We're not even fat.  Geez - why do we have to do this?"

I should have given them each a 12 minute time out - but I was too tired to remember how to parent.

That weekend, Jason and I took our girls to see Missi in Rochester.  My mom, dad, Mark, and Mark's mom shuffled the kids between them as Mark worked at the Sherrif's office as a part-time deputy.  Ethan's sugars ran extremely high over the weekend.

Turns out he had been sneaking cookies.  A lot of cookies.  And didn't give himself insulin to cover it.  It took a while for him to admit to his sneaky ways as mom and dad worried about his sugars that were close to 600.  Finally, he admitted he had goofed.  Big time.

That Sunday night, Ethan spent the night at my house.  We talked about what we had learned.  He was ready to argue with me regarding junk food - I stopped him.

"Do you like yogurt?"


"Don't you like ham sandwiches?"


"You like oranges?"

"Uhhhh yeah?"

"You like string cheese and nuts?"

He nodded.

"Then, why are we fighting?

He didn't have an answer for me.  So, I went on with my little speech.

"Your uncle doesn't think you should listen to Eminem, does he?"

Ethan started complaining about that..

I interrupted him.  "How about Eminem be your guilty pleasure?  He's low- carb- no -junk food.  Since you've been listening to him, you still do everything I ask you to. I'll tell Nathan to leave you alone about Eminem - as long as you follow my rules on the junk food."

He agreed.

And you know what?  We saw his doctor on Tuesday, the 7th.  His blood sugars were everywhere - any where from 66 to 599 until the 5th. After that, His sugars evened out from 70 to 150. 

We cheered.  Of course, we told Dr. Sondrol about Auntie Bobbi's Food Revolution - and she cheered. 

We don't have control over a lot of things in life.  Ethan's and Mykayla's eating habits didn't give them diabetes.  --- Missi had no control over her leukemia.

Since the 5th, Ethan's blood sugars have evened out so much that they only went slightly over 200 once. 

We do have control over our nutrition.  We can help our bodies out as much as possible - and I think I have at least one more person on board with me.

(My dad's name is Robert - I tried to start calling Mariah - "MOERIAH" and dad started calling her Moe -and she started calling him "Moe" - so now, Allison, Mariah, and Mykayla call my dad Moe.  ha!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Auntie Bobbi's Food Revolution - part 1

I am in charge of feeding eight souls for the next how many months?  Let's not think of that - let's think of the next week or six.

  I had been changing our meals to include more vegetables and had been trying to have the kids choose healthier snacks. It hadn't been going as well as I had hoped.

Last week, I took my nephew to his diabetes appointments. Both kids see a diabetes educator, a nutritionist, and a pediatrition who specializes in diabetes. Both E and M have pumps. The diabetes center can download all of the information from each pump and see all of the glucose readings from the past two weeks.  E's sugars were everywhere.  There were so many highs and lows.  It was depressing. I really thought I had been doing a good job regulating everything.  Turns out that E is still a kid and needs to be reminded.

"Time for you to step up to the plate"  Arlene, the educator told him.  "You know you need to check your sugars more than this.  What were you thinking?  What are you eating?"

 I took this as the perfect opportunity to bring up nutrition.

"We've always been told that they can eat anything any other kid eats, but I wonder of all the other kids are eating too much junk food.  What do I do? "

"One junk food snack a day is it."  She insisted.


"You heard me.  One.  The rest need to be bananas, yogurt, sandwiches, cheese sticks - E - healthy food.  All kids are eating too much junk - when we say you can eat like other kids - we mean other healthy kids."

"But I'm not even fat!!!!!" E was very angry.

I agreed with that - "No - you're not fat - but your food needs to better - I want the best for you."

We left the center with three goals.

1.  We all would only eat one junk food snack a day.
2. E. would check his blood before eating and as soon as he felt a low coming on -- this means a little less than ten times a day.
3. We would check E and M at 1am.  If they were above 120 and lower than 250, we could sleep the rest of the night worry free.  Otherwise, we'd correct and check again accordingly.

This day began Auntie Bobbi's Food Revolution.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Potential Donors

This weekend, Jason and I took our girls to Rochester to see Melissa Sue.  Before we left Thursday afternoon, Missi called and said there was a couple potential donors.  Their information is being processed through insurance at this moment.

So, we wait.  And hope.  We asked  - Will we receive?  It looks like it might be so.

Over the weekend, we met many other patients with AML.  Unfortunately, since the beginning of April, Mayo Clinic has seen many, many AML patients. (I'm going to be brave and wonder out loud - Fukishima? hmm- I'm not the only one who has raised their eyebrows at this)

One of the patients was diagnosed and already had a donor lined up.    He is a 20 year-old male from the USA.  That's all she knows about him.

We all wondered about this 20 year-old hero.  I wonder what motivated him to go to that drive or  booth.  Did he go on the internet and send for a kit?  I wonder if he knows that he will save the life of a 43 year-old mother of two from the USA.

I wonder about the potential donors that are being tested for Missi.  Do they pray for her everynight and hope they will be the one who saves the life a 39 year-old mother of three?

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:9