Spring is in the Air

This week I got to do one of my favorite projects of the year. I needed a fun bright springy project to help lift the mood in my room. I also needed a personal reminder that it is actually spring even if we had a snow day only a week ago. We have officially completed testing (YESSSSSS) so I wanted to have some fun. I found this amazing and fun project on TPT.

The project is called, “Spring is in the Air.” I got the templates from Creatively Teaching First‘s account. I did this project last year with my 4th graders, they loved it so I knew my 3rd grade kiddos would love it even more!

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 7.41.32 AM

Last year I had my students write a short little paragraph on their favorite thing about spring. I wanted this year’s writing to be easier but also have some meaning behind it. We have started talking a little about poetry and different types of poems they can come across. I thought it would be fun to write a short cinquain poem about spring.

We started with a mini lesson on what cinquain poems are. We did a few examples together as a class (one of which they had to describe me…..it wasn’t as bad as I expected haha) and then we brainstormed ideas we could use for our adjectives and verbs to describe spring. Once we had a whole list on the board they each went back and made their own rough draft poem.

I went around and checked them off. Once they got my approval I gave them the writing mason jar paper (this project has 3 different parts to it, 2 of which are mason jar pages, one to write on and one to be the cover) to write their final copy on. I had strict instructions about neat handwriting, correct spelling, and making the poem look bright and decorated.

Once they showed me that they wrote their poem and decorated that mason jar, they were able to decorate the cover mason jar which said “spring is in the air” (there are other options that come with the project) and add the flowers to it.

I think they turned out SO CUTE!!!! They hung them up on our “rocking work” wall so now the back of my class is full of bright springy flowers!

This was such an easy project to do and was a nice easy project for them to work on to get their minds out of testing mode. They worked so hard the last few weeks that I wanted to do something fun (but also educational) as their reward.

Today we are going to do one of my other favorite projects!!! We are going to be celebrating Earth Day a few days early because of Good Friday and Easter (we also have Monday off.) We will be using The Lorax to help us think about our beautiful planet and how we can protect her. I can not wait to share with you our Lorax themed day! I am so pumped just thinking about it!!

 

To see all of our day to day activities and lessons go follow me on instagram @lifeoftherookieteacher!!

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

It’s crazy to believe that April is already half way over…??? Ummmmm, how did that happen? With testing and crazy weather patterns, I once again feel like the amount of actual teaching I’ve done is down to a minimum. (In case you didn’t hear, the midwest got yet another storm this past week, so Thursday school was cancelled again because of “blizzard like conditions.”) I think my students are starting to hit that spring slide because it’s getting harder and harder to motivate them everyday.

Because of that, I wanted to look into ways to keep them motivated and positive through the end of the year. I also am having many students who are becoming very emotional lately and I wanted to continue to remind them how to be positive and believe in themselves even if something doesn’t go as planned. I did a quick amazon search for growth mindset books and found The Growth Mindset Playbook; A Teacher’s Guide to Promoting Student Success, by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley.

Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 3.12.33 PM

I’m only a few chapters in right now but I wanted to reflect on some of the concepts I’ve come across already that I’ve found to be quite interesting.

The book begins by explaining the difference between growth and fixed mindset. Simply put, growth mindset individuals always see a way and are open to failure because they can learn from it, whereas fixed mindset individuals believe if they fail they fail and are completely defeated. I’ve tried all year to create growth mindset students but some are still struggling with effort because they don’t believe in themselves.

To help teach what growth mindset thinkers believe, the authors included a mini lesson to do as a whole class. The teacher writes out a series of scenarios on notecards. The scenarios range between how a fixed mindset person would react to a situation and how a growth mindset person would react to a situation. They work as a team to sort each notecard into a fixed or growth mindset category. The scenarios in this book are middle/high school age situations so before I try this out, I have to think of situations an 8 year old could relate to. I want to try this once our testing if over to hopefully spark some interest and motivation for the last month of school.

The second main idea I found interesting so far in this book is the concept that even if a teacher teaches growth mindset, their students might not be successful in grasping the concept. The authors found that a teacher can talk about having a growth mindset until they’re blue in the face but it won’t make a difference unless they model having a growth mindset themselves for their students. I think this was a pretty powerful idea. It shows how much of an impact a teacher has on their students. You can teach your students to believe in anything but if you don’t believe in it yourself, they’re never going to catch on.

I think I model this pretty well for my kiddos. Everyday we talk about the importance of effort and how we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. I stress that I don’t care if someone got 100% on a test or 50% on a test as long as they put in effort and strive to learn from their errors the next time around. I talk a lot about my mistakes and how I learn from them to do and be better at my job. I’m also a HUGE Harry Potter fan and have instilled that love with my class. I’ve shared with them the story of J.K. Rowling and how she got her start. I’ve told them about how she was rejected by 12 different companies before someone told her they would publish her story. This has always been a huge motivator for me and I love to share it with my students because the story is so inspirational.

I have not gotten very far into the book but I plan to continue reading to learn more about having a growth mindset and how to use that information to help my students and to help our class have a great end of the year. As I keep reading, I hope to continue to share little tips and tricks that I learn to help any of you who are also having a hard time getting your students to believe in themselves.

Testing Testing Testing

It’s that happy season again. State standardized testing has begun and I am trying to be the best cheerleader I can.

When we come back on Monday, my students will start the MCA (Minnesota’s standardized test) reading test and I have tried as hard as I can to prep them for what’s in store. We spent the whole week this week prepping for what the test is going to look and be like. We went online and watched tutorials on how to use the test and did practice tests all together as a class. By the end of today my kids were shot, and we haven’t even started the official test yet!

The past few weeks we have practiced with different new passages and taking comprehension test questions on them. We’ve gone over test taking strategies and have watched motivational videos but I don’t think I’ve done enough.

My students are 3rd graders, so in Minnesota, this is the first official year they take the MCA standardized test. I’ve done my best to prep them the best I can and explain how serious this test is but after today, I’m not sure they really understand. We’ve talked about how it’s important to do our best and to stay focused, but these are 3rd graders. Needless to say, I’m very nervous.

I know being a teacher, we are supposed to be positive and motivational but there is only so much I can do. I wish I could tell my students how I really feel about the test but we all know that isn’t possible. We are all set to “teach towards the test” in any state we’re in and we are seen as bad teachers if we don’t. I’m ready for the next few weeks to be over.

That being said, we have to give out the tests and they have to take it, it’s part of the job. I try to make testing days as low key and as exciting as possible. For our tests, we are given a total of 4 school days to work on them (2 for reading and 2 for math.) We get about half of every day to test and the other half to have classroom time. I try to utilize my classroom time to get them in the mood for the test and to relax and destress after the test.

When they come in every morning, I have a treat on their desk with a motivational note. I downloaded these FREE notes on TPT last year from Math Mojo‘s shop and I LOVE them.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 6.57.52 PM

The students come in each morning of testing excited to go! I usually put on a few GoNoodles before we head to our designated testing room so they can move and get their blood flowing. After the test, the rest of the day is for relaxation! Depending on the weather, (again, love Minnesota…) we will either go outside or play games in the classroom. The test takes out SO MUCH that I want them to decompress as much as they can. Once the 4 test days are over, I spend the rest of the next week doing fun art projects and team building activities.

I wish all of you luck as we head into testing season. Hang in there and be the best teacher/cheerleader/counselor you can be for you students! All I can think about is when I had to take these wonderful tests in 3rd grade. I want my students to have better memories than I have, that’s for sure!

My fellow teachers, we got this!

Help!! Teacher Advice Needed!!

Happy Fri-yayyy!! This has been an interesting week and I am tired! I feel like that exhaustion hasn’t exactly gone away in awhile. This post is a little different because I’m really asking for some help and advice on one of my students. This student is in the process of being tested for EBD but we’re having some hesitation with parents….because of that, I’m trying to find a way to help them the best I can, with as much support as we can give him/her without extra special ed support.

A little background…this student has had some pretty traumatic experiences in their life and because of that, already meets with our social worker pretty frequently. Over the year, I have learned that this student has extreme highs and extreme lows all in a matter of minutes. They can go from throwing a tantrum to giving out pictures saying “I love you” to everyone in the class in a matter of 5 minutes. He/she has also been removed from group interventions in reading and speech because they were a disruption to the other students in their group. They had to be placed in individual groups with just them and the interventionist. This student strives when they get one-on-one support. They LOVE when they get to be alone with myself, the social worker, or their intervention teachers. This student is the sweetest thing in the world but needs stable emotional help that we cannot provide them unless they are qualified for special ed. I’m at a loss.

This week, for example, is the perfect summary of who this student is and why they need someone to work with and a safe place to escape to….

Tuesday morning, this student came in to the classroom in a great mood (around 7:50am) and was ready to start the day. By 8:00, when the bell rang to officially start the day, I looked around and couldn’t find them. I looked around the room and found him/her in the corner sobbing while holding their breath and plugging their nose. I went over and had to sit next to them to see what was going on. He/she told me that another student (one of their super close friends) made fun of them and they just wanted to leave because “what’s the point?” They then plugged their nose again and I took it away to ask why they were doing that. He/she told me they were plugging their nose because they wanted to “prevent oxygen from getting to their brain so they could pass out.” What 3rd grader knows that (or has a tantrum like that in front of the whole class)!!?? I had to sit with them pulling their hand away from their nose until the social worker could come in to calm him/her down.

Later that same morning (about 30 minutes later), I couldn’t see where this student was. I looked around the room and then headed to my desk to let the office know this student had left. I then found him/her under my desk sleeping and when I say sleeping, I mean passed out completely! He/she was sound asleep. When the social worker came back and we all talked, the student was able to calm down enough to go outside with the rest of us for our morning mini recess time. When he/she came back in 15 minutes later, they were with the student that had turned them off in the first place laughing and talking because they were “best friends again”…….They were then inseparable for the rest of the day.

The next few days were okay but then today, when we went outside for morning recess, things turned sour again. He/she left for outside happy go lucky and came back in a TERRIBLE mood. A student from another class told me that my student tried to choke them because they wanted to play with whoever my student was playing with. When I approached my student, they didn’t deny it but then started to get very upset and angry and said that the other student deserved it because they were a bully. I tried to calm them down but he/she was so upset, they couldn’t control their emotions (something that happens ALL the time) and took off down the hall away from me. I contacted the social worker to come and when I went back out to the hallway, they were missing. I was panicked (this student has NEVER run away before until this week) and said I was going to call the office when the social worker arrived less than a minute later. That’s when he/she opened their locker showing us they were hiding in there the entire time. The social worker and him/her went for a walk to talk and calm down while I went back to try to teach the rest of my class. 10 minutes later, the student came back smiling and in the best mood they had been in the entire week. (Extreme low to extreme high….)

I have done my best all year (with the social worker) to give this student everything they need to feel safe and happy while also being successful in school but it has been an extreme challenge. We are not enough for them. His/her reading interventionist will tell the social worker and me that 15 minutes out of their 30 minutes together every day is pretty much a therapy session to release all of this student’s emotions and feelings that have built up throughout the day. When we finally had enough data to start EBD testing and had to reach out to their parent for agreement, this parent was completely against it. We tried explaining that the whole point is to give this student a place to go and a person to talk to whenever they are having a bad moment instead of crawling under their teacher’s desk and falling asleep out of exhaustion from anger but they still don’t want anything done. I don’t know what to do.

I’m posting this because I need help. I need advice on what I can do if this student is unable to get the support they need because the parent doesn’t want to go through with the process and have their child “labeled.” They need more support than myself, the social worker, and the interventionists can give together combined. Please, if you have ANY ideas or strategies that I can utilize, please share because this student needs everything and anything that is out there. UGH this is a case that breaks my heart. I want to do everything I can but my hands are tied. I feel useless. I will take anything you can give me!!

Deep Breaths and Namaste

Today was another one of those days. You know what I mean, the days when nothing goes right and your kids are OFF THEIR ROCKERS! Happy full moon right?

The day started when my severe ADHD boy told me that 1. he forgot to take his medication at home and 2. the school had run out of his supply of the medication that is stored in the nurse’s office. When he told me this, I was terrified because he is a handful on his meds.

Within 30 minutes, I had to have him go take “a break” in our movement room to release his excess energy (something he does in the middle of the day.) Needless to say, it was one of those days.

To add to the fun, I started to get a horrible migraine. I’ve never had a migraine before last year. (AKA My first year teaching….) What I’ve noticed is that when I’m super stressed, overwhelmed, or tired they come on fast and last for multiple days. My head had been hurting for the past few days but today it hit me in full at school. It was so bad that I couldn’t even do a read aloud for my class. I took a “mini nap” (or whatever laying your head down on your desk but not actually falling asleep is) during my prep and then put on a magic school bus on for my kids to end the day. I was trying my hardest to make it through. At the end of the day when my head was ready to burst, my lovely little boy decided he was going to yell at the top of his lungs while wrestling with his best friend in the back of the room. Yeah. I was done.

So pretty much I left school on the break of crying my eyes out and ready to take a 24 hour nap. When I got home, instead of laying down, I decided that I would try a more holistic remedy to my migraine by doing some slow de-stressing yoga. You guys, this was the BEST thing in the world!

I started Yoga with Adrienne‘s 2019 30 day challenge, Dedicate and it was the best decision I have ever made. (Yes that is a bit dramatic but when you have such a bad migraine you can’t even open your eyes, relief is everything!)

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 5.37.02 PM.png

I started with day 1 which is all about discern. It was all about recognizing your body and mind. The first and last few minutes of the practice was all about focusing on your breath. It was exactly what I needed. I’m not joking, by the end of the 50 minute practice, my migraine had gotten SO MUCH BETTER!! My head still hurts but I can at least keep my eyes open without major pain.

Oh man what a week. It was such a good week so I’m so sad it had to end like this. Next week will be better, I know it! Happy weekend!!!!

 

Goodbye Break, Hello 3rd Trimester

I don’t know about you but I am ready for spring! We just came back from our spring break and I am now pumped for sunshine, flowers, and warm weather! I’m also feeling the effects of the final trimester feels at school.

This week started our 3rd trimester for the year, which means we are officially 2/3 of the way to the end! That’s crazy to me because this time of the year is jammed packed with so many things and I don’t know if I’m ready for all of it!

We came back slow and easy this week to start the last 1/3 of the year off right. Monday was a professional development day so for the kiddos, it was only a 4 day week. At my school, 3rd graders receive swimming lessons as part of their phy ed curriculum. On Tuesday and Thursday this week, they walked over to our high school (which is right across the street) and had an hour of lessons in the morning. This was during my reading and math blocks. The afternoons were filled with their other specials (art, media, and music) and intervention pull outs, which meant that I really didn’t get to work with my class at all those days. Today, we had our “swimming celebration” at our local community center for half of the day and a movie party in the afternoon.

This meant that Wednesday was my only main day to teach. Because I wasn’t on a regular unit for the week, I decided to dedicate my reading block to letter writing (since writing gets pushed back in my curriculum, we don’t have much extra time to fit writing in.) I wanted a fun and light project to do since we were really just getting back in the swing of things.

I found a letter writing activity using the model text, The Day the Crayons Came Home on Pinterest that was exactly what I wanted. I read the story to my class and then we talked about features of a letter. (We have pen pals this year, so they have some experience with it but not a lot.) They then got to pick their favorite colored crayon and think about what their journey would’ve been like if they were a lost crayon wanting to come home.

IMG_4464

I modeled on the board an example of a letter they would need to write. We talked about including what color they are, why they left in the first place, what happened while they were away, and why they want to come back. They were super creative with their writings and really used their imagination!

 

This has been another crazy week. Starting next week we have to really jump into preparing for our state standardized tests that come up in April. I’ll be sharing different reviews that I use and activities we do in order to prepare for these. My kiddos are in 3rd grade and in the state of Minnesota, 3rd grade is the year they begin their standardized testing. Over the next month, I’m going to have to really dig into test taking strategies and test taking rules they will need to use and follow when the big day comes. Wish me luck!

 

For more day to day fun and live activities, go follow my instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher!

European Escape – Days 3-7

Bonjour everyone! I had planned to post my adventures everyday but I was so busy and preoccupied with my trip that I never got around to it. I am now back in the states, trying to avoid my jet lag, so I decided to share the remainder of my trip.

Again, I took advantage of a company called Education First Ultimate Break. This company is incredible! They have so many affordable trips around the world with everything done for you. They took care of my flight information, hotel payments, train tickets, and all of the unique activities we had the chance to be apart of.

Day 3:

This was our full free day in London and I definitely took full advantage of that. Our tour guide (who was incredible by the way) took us to a small market called Camden Town. This place was so cool and I highly recommend it. It was a mix between a farmer’s market and a craft fair but highlighting the different cultures that make up the UK. They had everything from food to jewelry. I had this AMAZING food called an arepa made by Venezuelan natives, so it was perfect!

53394977_10214096327909358_4736832573634772992_n

Once we left Camden Town we went to the UK’s National Museum and saw some pretty sick dinosaur bones! I had never seen a full size dinosaur skeleton before so it was pretty cool. We then were classic American tourists and took on the London Eye, which I loved! It was such a beautiful view. To end the day, myself and 4 other people on the tour, went to Her Majesty’s Theatre to see the Phantom of the Opera. Wow. That is all I have to say. It was incredible.

Day 4:

This day was all about travel. We left London and went back to King’s Cross to take the Eurostar Train to Paris. By the time we got to Paris and to our hotel, we had just enough time to take a quick nap before we headed to the Eiffel Tower. AKA MY DREAM COME TRUE!!

Our guide took us to see the Eiffel Tower at night so we could see it sparkle. I totally lost my sh** when it started to sparkle. The only way I can describe the experience was unbelievable. The view of the tower was so incredible that it didn’t seem real. It’s one of those things that is even better in real life. Photos do not do it justice. I mean, yes it is gorgeous in photographs but the real thing….there is nothing like it.

After the Eiffel Tower, we got a real French crepe (YUM) and took a river cruise to see all of the main buildings in Paris. It was breathtaking, but a little chilly. At this point, we were all STARVING so we went to the Latin Quarter and went to a classic, family owned, French restaurant where we each got a 3 course meal full of authentic French food. Honestly, nothing tastes better than authentic French cuisine.

Day 5:

We started the morning with a tour around the city. We stopped at all of the famous buildings and structures that make Paris, Paris. The tour ended at the Arc de Triomphe. Let me just say that the structure is also incredible. It is a sign of hope and fighting for what you believe in. They honor their fallen soldiers EVERY DAY by relighting a fire on the grave of an unnamed soldier rain or shine. Once the tour was over we got on a train and headed out to see Versailles. We got to hear the history behind the castle and got to see all of the famous rooms inside.

This day was jam packed because by the time we got back to the hotel we only had an hour before we left for a classic Paris cabaret show. It was a fun and crazy experience. We had another 3 course meal, lots of wine, and an amazing show. It was so exciting but by the time we got back it was midnight and I crashed before our last full day in the city of love.

53657204_10214096345469797_529715170067349504_n

Day 6:

This was our full free day in Paris. Our guide took us to see the Basilica and then on a little shopping tour. I picked up all of my souvenirs for my friends and family and then splurged on some homemade macarons. Delicious! I then spent the afternoon at the Louvre. As soon as I got there, of course I had to go right to the Mona Lisa. It was crazy. She had a full sized room all to herself and the room was crowded! It was worth the crowd though, because you can’t go to Paris and not visit the Mona Lisa. It was like looking right into history.

To end our trip, we had a farewell dinner (another 3 course meal, I love the French) and said goodbye. I made so many friends and memories with them on this trip, it was sad to see it all end.

53142687_10214096348829881_3807937800137867264_n

Day 7:

This morning we got up and took a bus to the airport. My flight left at 10:10 Paris time and got back at 12:20 Minnesota time. It was a 9 hour flight so even if it was noon, my body was programmed to 7:00 Paris time. I’m trying my hardest to stay awake but it’s killing me right now (totally worth it!)

This trip was everything I ever wanted. I had dreamed of going to Paris for as long as I can remember. I’ve collected pictures of the Eiffel Tower since I was 10 and now I have pictures of my own. I am SO sad it’s over but I am SO booking another trip to Europe because I think I found the place that I belong.

If you, or anyone you know, wants to go on a trip out of the country but don’t think you can afford it, that’s not true. You can. Go onto EF‘s website and look into all of the trip options they have! Believe me, it’s more than worth it. They also have payment plans, so if you book a trip for next summer, you’d only have to pay 100 bucks a month until the trip came. You also could save some serious cash on this trip if you refer to me. If you do find a trip comment below, or on any of my other posts, and I can tell you how you’d get to save $100-250! Trust me, this company can change your life!

 

For more day to day posts and live action (and photos from my trip) go follow my instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher. I’m also going to say this again, go look into Education First Ultimate Break‘s website. It is worth your time!!!

Day 2 – Living My Childhood Dream

Today was amazing and there were so many things I can’t even begin to explain what all happened.

We started the day off with a morning tour that covered most of London! Our tour guide was amazing and our guide was very entertaining (not like those tour guides that think they know everything and you no nothing)! We got the whole history run down of the city and stopped at some major places. We went to the Tower of London, walked over the Millennium Bridge, into the 2nd largest Cathedral in the world (St. Paul’s Cathedral), and saw many many more monumental buildings and statues. The tour ended with going to Buckingham Palace and watching the change of the guards. It was incredible.

We then got to have the afternoon to ourselves. We walked around central London for awhile and then went to a family Indian restaurant for lunch. I’m not a big spicy food person but I figured I’m in a new country so why not try something new? I wasn’t too bad!

I then hopped on the underground and headed to King’s Cross Station. If anyone knows why that is such a major place, we would be best friends. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan and going to Platform 9 and 3/4 has been like a dream of mine! Of course I had to get in line to get my picture taken on the platform, I would hate myself if I didn’t. Ahhhhh it was so fun!! Haha I also went in to the Platform 9 and 3/4 store they have there and bought a Hermione wand. 😂🙈 I know I’m a child. Being there was amazing!!

For dinner, a friend on my trip and I went to this place called Duck and Waffle Local. It’s just as it sounds. It’s a bar/restaurant that specializes in duck and waffles. I ordered some mac and cheese that had a duck egg yolk on top. It was delicious and so different! For dessert, I had a mini waffle with caramel and fudge brownies. Seriously you guys, this place was to die for! I also ordered a drink and found something super cool and weird. I ordered a vodka lemonade (my usual) and they gave me a glass with vodka in it and a side bottle of lemonade so I could mix my own drink. I don’t know if other states around the country do this but in Minnesota that is NOT a thing. It was awesome.

I’m now back in my hotel room trying to keep my eyes open. I love it here, it’s definitely my perfect vacation. Tomorrow I’m taking on the London Eye and Phantom of the Opera at the London Theatre, I don’t really need to say this but I am so excited!

European Escape – Day 1

Hello everyone and happy March! It’s that time of year again when we start to get the much needed spring break (if you still get one this year) and our break officially started today!

Growing up we never did anything over spring break and I was used to that. Now that I’m older, I wanted to do something for a change. A friend had told me about this traveling company for 20 somethings called Education First. Basically they book trips that are completely affordable for anyone in their 20s around the world. I always dreamed of going to Paris but I never thought it would be possible. I went on the site and found a week long trip that spends 3 days in London and 3 days in Paris. I fell in love with the idea instantly and booked the trip without thinking twice. To make it even better, the trip fell right over our spring break!

Yesterday I boarded my nonstop flight from Minneapolis to London at 4:45pm. I was so excited I didn’t notice that a boy I casually dated for a month was on the same flight. 😑 When I finally noticed him I tried as hard as I could to not make eye contact with him. UGH like really what are the odds? Once on the flight, however I forgot he was there. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:35 but we didn’t leave until 7 because Minnesota was in the middle of a snowstorm (again) and they had to “de-ice” the plane. When we finally took off I was exhausted!!!

The flight wasn’t bad, just long. I tried to sleep but it wasn’t the best rest. When we arrived in London we were so excited to get off and meet our driver (I was on the same flight as 2 other people going on the same trip. EF is so amazing, they arranged to have personal chauffeurs pick us all up.) We didn’t get that lucky though. We got off to go through immigration and we honestly stood in a line for an hour and a half. At this point, we were all tired, sweaty, and starving so we just wanted to get out of there. Our driver was awesome and took us straight to our hotel called the Ibis in Canning Town.

We were able to check in with our tour director and then met up with some more people in our group. We walked around our neighborhood and then stopped at a little Turkish restaurant that was delicious. We came back to our hotel and now I’m just laying on my bed trying to stay awake. We have a group mixer and appetizers tonight and then I’m finally off to bed.

Tomorrow we get a full tour of the city and I am so excited! This is going to be the week of my dreams and I will try to share as much of it as I can. Happy spring break everyone!

NEDA Awareness Week 2019

For those of you who are used to my posts, this one will be a bit more serious than my normal ones. I’m not one to promote major things but this post will be about something near and dear to my heart.

Today, February 25th, is the start of the 2019 national eating disorder awareness week. About 6 1/2 years ago, when my little sister was 14 and just starting her freshman year of high school she was diagnosed with anorexia-nervosa. This was a huge moment in my family’s lives. Our small family of 4 has suffered over the years helping her and watching her go through this incredible trying time. I want to share our story with you so you can maybe see the signs that we missed and to give you a look at how someone so confident can fall into the belief that you need to be a size 0 to be pretty and to fit in.

It all began a little over 7 years ago. My sister and I come from a very fit and active family. Our mom is the cross country and track coach in our town and runs all the time (seriously, ALL the time) and our dad wakes up at 4 in the morning to go lift for a few hours at the local gym. This is something my sister and I thought was the norm. We would spend a few hours everyday after school going to practices with our mom and knew that our dad would be in bed by 7:00 every night so he could get up and work out early. When my sister was going into 1st grade and I was going into 5th grade we started competing in gymnastics. We never knew anything different. So, when we were old enough to officially join high school sports, it was a no brainer.

My sister, Lea, and I are 4 years apart in age but were 5 years apart in school because of our birthdays. When I was a senior in high school, Lea was on the varsity cross country team as an 8th grader. Because of our mom being the coach and an avid runner, we would train with her in the summers before season would start. My sister ran so much that summer that when the season started, she was talented enough to be on the varsity team. I, being the annoying older sister, was jealous that she was that talented (better than me) and did NOT understand her liking for running so much. The season ended and we had a few weeks to rest before gymnastics season began. The only problem was, my sister didn’t rest.

A normal high school athlete who goes season to season is supposed to spend the little time they have between sports, saving their body. They are given those weeks to do nothing because they physically need the rest and a break. When the season ended that year we had about 3 weeks before gymnastics started and my sister continued to run large amounts of mileage a day. By the end of the cross country season, varsity runners on our team could run up to 7 miles a day because they had built up their endurance so much. No matter what time it was or what the weather was like, Lea would go out for 3-7 mile runs every single day. I thought this would end when gymnastics started because she LOVED gymnastics but running slowly began to take over the one thing she truly loved.

Our practices would go from 3:00-5:30 everyday. If the clock said 5:31 and we were still practicing, she would begin to stress because she needed to go for a run (she also had a touch of OCD.) This happened all season long. Slowly but surely her favorite thing in the world (gymnastics) turned into a burden keeping her from running. By the end of that gymnastics season all she cared about was going for a run.

Her running became so obsessive towards the end of her 8th grade year that she was running a minimum of 10 miles per day, EVERYDAY! This was red flag number 1.

The next red flag came when she started watching the food channel and got interested in healthy cooking. She would meal prep with my mom on Sundays and taught my mom how to exchange normal ingredients to a healthier substitute for every meal we ate. (Needless to say, I HATED eating the food at my house because the “healthy version” of these meals were disgusting!)

This obsession continued as the school year turned into the summer. She would eat as little as possible while also only eating “healthy” foods for her body. It got to the point that she wouldn’t eat anything unless she prepared it herself.

**Side note: I don’t find anything wrong with eating healthy but I also believe that it should be done in a positive way and not as a way to lose weight. My mom always taught me that anything is good in moderation and I’ve always believed that.**

Between the running and the diet, during that summer she dropped significant weight. Being her big sister, I was extremely concerned but I could only say so much without being accused of being “dramatic” or “jealous” of her healthy lifestyle. Towards the end of that summer, right before her freshman year started, her hands began to turn purple. Now when I say purple, I mean PURPLE! Not the purple your hands get when they’re cold but a dark violet that never went away. Obviously, this was pretty concerning. She went to the doctor multiple times to figure out what was wrong. (The part of this story that gets me every time is how did those doctors not see how underweight and malnourished she was!?) Finally, after 2 months of visits, her pediatrician made the concern verbal about her weight. After that first comment, it was only a matter of weeks before she had her first stint at the Minnesota Children’s Hospital.

Throughout the years, my sister has been in 4 different treatment programs. Some effective and some that hurt her more than it helped her. She would have good months and then fall 10 steps behind and would end up in another inpatient facility. We’ve had some scary episodes with her heart and her breathing. She had to wear a telemetry pack around the hospital whenever she was admitted because her heart rate was dangerously low and the abnormalities with her heart were alarming. Her teenage years were lost because of this disease.

As the years have gone by things have dramatically changed because of this. My family is completely different. Our traditions and dynamics have changed because of having to make room for treatments and meal plans. Our sister relationship is also different. We have had so many highs and so many lows. We still go day by day sometimes because, I’ll be honest, I can’t handle the change that has happened. Lea’s personality was lost during those years of treatments. The sister that I knew, is gone. In her place is a new person that I’m still learning to be around and get to know. I love my sister more than anything else in the world but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that I love every change that has happened.

After 6 1/2 long years of watching her go through this rollercoaster, I have a very hard time with anyone making comments about other people and their weight. I also have a very hard time when people make comments about their own weight and negative body perception. When someone makes a comment about going on a diet it makes me wonder what they may be thinking when they say that. We live in a world where we think that we HAVE to be a size 0 to be pretty. That is the most ridiculous thing in the world to me! Every person and every body is different. We all come from different places and are a combination of many different ethnicities. We’re not meant to be the same!

I shared this story because I hope that you can see how the signs were there. I hope that you can use what Lea went through, to help yourself if you need it. I shared with you the signs of anorexia in case a young student in your class needs someone to talk to and be there for them. I also share this with you because as the years have gone by, I have become much more aware of unhealthy relationships with food and working out. I hear little comments and see little actions that could possibly result in something much more serious. I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Look out for yourself and look out for those around you. Stop the stigma of the size 0 model who only eats kale for breakfast and spends 4 hours a day in the gym. That’s not normal or healthy. Be a shoulder for the ones who need you and stop the negative talk you may hear about anyone else. Be happy, love yourself, be proud of who you are and what you look like!