Category Archives: Special Stuff

Toilet Literature

Bubba’s a lot like his mom and dad… VERY stubborn! When he makes up his mind to do (or not do) something, it’s very hard to get him to change his mind. With most things, his stubbornness is not that big of a deal (like when he makes up his mind that he wants to play with his train set). However, when he makes up his mind to NOT be potty trained, that stubbornness drives me crazy!


I know that he’s more than capable of being potty trained! He can count higher and identify more letters than some of the kids in my 1st grade class, but he’s made it clear to us that he wants nothing to do with going on the “Big Boy Potty.” Sometimes I think he’s doing it just to mess with me! Like the other day… I sat him on the toilet, and he said he didn’t have to go (only to turn around and make me a present in his diaper less than 5 minutes after I let him get down from the toilet).


I’ve read a few books about potty training to Bubba (and he always loves them), but I think I need to take a different strategy and completely immerse him in potty training literature! To do this, I’m going to need a bunch of titles, so I’d love to hear your recommendations! Please leave a comment below with the titles of potty training books that you think I should pick up!


Thanks in advance for your help!

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Filed under Mini Book Tour, Special Stuff

Punching Authors

I recently got back from the Illinois Reading Conference, and was able to get a bunch of books signed for Bubba! I always store these signed books in our guest bedroom (so I can give them to Bubba as gifts when special occasions come along), but I’ve been adding so many signed books to this collection that I’m running out of places to store them all… I may need to get a bigger room!


Anyway, I thought I would just share a picture of some of the new books Bubba will have to look forward to in the future:


I also thought I’d share some of the pictures I took with authors while I was there:



I never tell them that I’m going to smile and point, but I may need to provide authors with some sort of a warning in the future… Jay Asher (author of 13 Reasons Why) thought I was going to punch him when went to point at him! I feel really bad that I startled him, but he had a great sense of humor about it. I Tweeted my apologies, and this was his response:



Needless to say, I had a good time… and I can’t wait to give Bubba these books at just the right time in the future!

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Filed under Great Authors, Great Books, Lots of Laughs, Special Stuff

A Library Card For The Youngest Kids

Bubba loves cars. And trucks. And tractors. And trains. And boats. Basically, he loves anything with an engine that moves! He’s been in this phase for a while now, and I don’t see any signs of exiting the phase any time soon. For example, we recently went to a graduation where he held on to a blue matchbox car the ENTIRE time (the drive there, during the whole 2+ hour ceremony, and on the way home)!


There’s only one non-engine-powered item that Bubba will hold on to with the same ferocity… His library card!

My First Library Card

A couple months ago, our library started offering a “My First Library Card” to children ages birth to six, so I made sure Bubba got one of his own!


The idea behind the card is to have it act like a training card for the littlest of kids and to help foster their love for reading. The card allows Bubba to check out up to 10 books at a time (without fines) and expires when he turns six. At that time, he’ll get a regular “big kid” library card. How cool is that?!


Obviously I’m not the only person who thinks the card is pretty cool – Bubba holds on to it like it’s one of his cars, trucks, or tractors. Before we start walking over to the library, I hand him his card. When we get back home, I have to pry it from his fingers! He doesn’t want to let it go! I’m always surprised when he willingly hands it over to the librarian to be scanned, because he never willingly hands it over to me!


I’m so glad our library started offering the “My First Library Card,” and I hope others will do the same! It’s kind of nice having something other than a car or truck in his hands once in a while!


Bubba and his card


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Filed under Reading the Library, Special Stuff

What’s Your Suggestion?

A few months back, I used all the “Bonus Points” (from my Scholastic Reading Clubs account) and purchased the Junie B. Jones Complete Collection and the Magic Tree House library.  Obviously, I won’t be reading these to Bubba anytime soon, but I figured I would start stocking up his shelves with some classic series books for when he’s reading on his own.


Does anybody have suggestions for other series books I should get for him?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Filed under Great Authors, Great Books, Special Stuff

Blogging Challenge/Sunshine Award

I was recently tagged in the Sunshine Award/Blogging Challenge by both Mike Nitzel (@MikeNitzel) and Dr. Dea Conrad-Curry (@doctordea), so I figured I better get started!

Here are the rules of the challenge:

1) Acknowledge the nominating blogger (done!)

2) Share 11 random facts about yourself.

3) Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.

4) List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!

5) Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you).

Here we go…

Eleven Random Facts About Me:

  1. I grew up with 2 brothers and my wife grew up with 2 sisters, so I was thrilled when I found out that I was going to have a son.  I’m not sure how fathers with daughters do it!
  2. I served one term on the Moline City Council while I was still in college.  I enjoyed my time as an elected official (NOT a politician) and learned a lot in those four years.  I was able to be like Mike Rowe and do some of the city’s “dirty jobs” (like patching pot holes, throwing trash with the sanitation crew, go into a burning building with the fire department, spend a day with the wastewater treatment people, etc.), and I gained a greater respect for all those folks who make our lives easier…    but in the end, I found it was much easier and more rewarding to work with 1st and 2nd graders than to work in politics.
  3. I took the Polar Bear Plunge in Lake Michigan (Chicago) on New Year’s Day a couple years back with one of my brothers.  The temperature outside was a frigid 2 degrees Fahrenheit, so I didn’t want to get out of the balmy 33 degree water!
  4. I once rode a bull at the Rock Island County Fair.  Well, I guess I can’t really say I rode it – I fell off about 2 seconds after the gate opened – but I tried to ride it!  When they told me the Bull’s name was Strawberry, I thought I had a chance… but apparently the name was a reflection of its appearance and not its temperament.
  5. I am a card-carrying member of the Tennessee Squire Association, which means I am the owner of an unrecorded plot of land at the Jack Daniel’s distillery (and an honorary citizen of Moore County, Tennessee).
  6. I’m great at winning “Biggest Loser” contests at work, but I’m not so great at keeping the weight off!  I used to think guys in the NFL were huge until I met Defensive Tackle Mike Daniels (of the Green Bay Packers) this past summer at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event – I was bigger than him :-/
  7. Speaking of BBBS, I’ve been a “Big” to Christopher for almost 10 years now!  We’ve done some fun things together in that time, but I think my favorite was the Ferris Bueller type-of-day we spent in Chicago.  We took in a Cubs game, went to the Shedd Aquarium, ate at Margaretville, admired some of the art in Millenium Park, rode the L train, etc.
  8. I convinced my wife to name my son “Michael Jr.” by saying (for 9 straight months) that I wanted to name him “Michael IV.”  I told her that whenever our son acted up, we could use a very ominous tone of voice and tell him, “You’re going to end up like II and III if you don’t start acting right!” Needless to say, my wife did NOT like this idea at all – so by the time our son arrived, she felt like Michael Jr. wasn’t such a bad name after all J
  9. Our local paper declared me the winner of the “Griswold Award” about 4 years ago for the light display on our house.  Again, my wife didn’t like the idea of covering our house with little blue lights, but she eventually changed her mind and liked it J
  10. I enjoy watching all the birds that visit my house throughout the year.  I get bluebirds, orioles, hummingbirds, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, wrens, cardinals, blue jays, indigo buntings, finches, and even the occasional hawk!
  11. I love using LEGOs to teach – I’ve got BuildToExpress kits, WeDo robotics kits, Simple Machine kits, Mindstorms kits, and so much more in my classroom.  I’ve coached FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams and Jr.FLL teams, and my FLL team this year is going to the State Championship in Champaign Illinois this month!

My Answers to Mike Nitzel’s and Dr. Dea’s Questions:

  1. List the items you would have on the menu for your “last meal,” and Coke or Pepsi?  I don’t think I would be able to pick just one thing for my last meal!  I’d want my mom’s enchiladas, my wife’s chicken strips, Red Lobster’s shrimp linguini alfredo, some Harris Pizza, a Whitey’s malt, and (if I still had room) some of my grandma’s thumb cookies.  As far as Pepsi or Coke… it honestly doesn’t matter to me.  I’d rather have a root beer, Dr. Pepper, Sierra Mist/Sprite, or Cherry Pepsi/Cherry Coke.
  2. How long have you been blogging and have you done other kinds of formalized writing?  I guess I’ve been blogging for close to a year now about trying to read every fiction picture book to my son in my local branch library.  I’ve also written some editorials for the local paper, was a writer for the campus paper in college, guest blogged a few times, have an article that will be published in the Illinois Reading Council’s Journal this spring, and I’m working on a couple children’s books I’d like to get published sometime in the future.
  3. When do you do your blog writing?  Either early in the morning (before my son wakes up) or late at night (when my son is asleep).  When I’m on break, I also get some writing in when my son takes a nap.  See a pattern?
  4. What is the best leadership book you have ever read and why?  I don’t read a lot of leadership books (I spend a lot more time reading children’s literature), but I really enjoyed one of the first leadership books I ever read called When the Buck Stops With You: Harry S. Truman on Leadership.  I love history, and I really liked the way the author took Truman’s words and tied them to events in Truman’s presidency to come up with 156 different leadership lessons.
  5. Do you care if you have readership on your blog?  Yes and no.  Obviously I want others to read and enjoy my blog, but that’s not why I do it.  I do it because [if you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that] I forget things rather easily… and I want to remember all the good times I spent reading with my son.  My blog is something I’ll be able to go back and read to refresh those memories.
  6. What is your favorite movie and what about it makes it meaningful to you in some way?  This time of year I can’t help but answer, “Christmas Vacation.”  Every November, I have my family come over to my house and we do an official lighting-of-the-house ceremony.  I drag everybody outside, make them do a drumroll, and plug one extension cord into another to light my whole house (just like Clark does in the movie).  It’s become a tradition that I look forward to every year!
  7. What is the most traffic you’ve had on a single blog post?  I wrote a guest blog on the Nerdy Book Club website back in August and ended up with more than 500 views that day. 
  8. What is one thing about yourself that most people would be surprised to learn?  I think most people who don’t know me well are surprised to learn that I was in the Army for three years as a petroleum supply specialist.  I was stationed in GA most of those 3 years, but I was also one of the first Inactive Ready Reserves to get called back by President Bush (after being honorably discharged) to go to war in Iraq.  I ended up not having to go to Iraq, though, because of a neck/shoulder injury I sustained in a car accident.  I did end up spending 3 or 4 months back in the Army before they honorably discharged me a second time. 
  9. Who has had the biggest influence on your professional life?  Besides family and close friends, I would have to say SGT Keith Kerrick.  When I arrived at Fort Stewart, Georgia, SGT Kerrick was a mechanic in the motor pool where I worked every day.  He was (and I’m sure he still is) the epitome of leadership.  He was the kind of person who made everyone around him better, but never wanted to take credit for it.  I’ll probably never be as good as him, but the examples he set will always help guide me when I need it.
  10. Do you have anyone else read your blog before you hit “Publish?”  No.  However, I usually wait a day or two before I hit the “publish” button.  I like to read what I wrote with fresh eyes, so sitting on it for a day or two really helps.
  11. If you were not an educator, what profession would you have liked to pursue and why?  There are so many things I would love to try… engineering, dolphin trainer, major league baseball scout, professional chef, blimp/hot air balloon pilot, astronaut, writer for The Daily Show, shrimp boat captain, etc.  I think that I would like these types of jobs because no two days would ever be the same – kind of like teaching! 

My Questions to Other Bloggers:

  1. In three words, how would your coworkers describe you?
  2. What was the best book that a teacher ever read to you?
  3. What was your favorite (or most memorable) science experiment that you did in school?
  4. If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive), who are the 3 you would pick to join you at the table?  Why?
  5. What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
  6. If you had to choose a different career, what would it be and why?
  7. What’s one thing about yourself that people would be surprised to learn?
  8. Who is your favorite author right now?
  9. What is something you’re looking forward to?
  10. If you could change one thing about your home, what would it be?
  11. What is the one question you wish I would have asked, and what is the answer to that question?

My Nominees:

I’ve seen this Blogging Challenge/Sunshine Award thing going around for a while, and I really can’t think of anyone with a blog who hasn’t already done it… so I’m going to break the rule and not nominate 11 others.

However, if you’re reading this and have NOT been nominated by anyone else, consider yourself nominated!

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Filed under Special Stuff

My Guys Read Club Made Me An Armed Robbery Suspect

A while back, I wrote a post about starting up a Guys Read Club at my school, and (at that time) I thought only positive things would come from the club…  I never could have imagined that it would play a part in me becoming a suspect in an armed robbery case!

Here’s what happened:

My Guys Read Club has been going very well, so I applied for some grants to help us establish a “Guys Only” section in our library – and I got a call one morning from the Rock Island Kiwanis Club to see if I could come to their meeting at noon (that same day) to pick up a $500 check for the Guys Read Club.

Needless to say, I was excited about what this meant for our club, so I called my mom to see if she could watch Bubba while I picked up the check.  She was more than willing (like always) to take care of him, so I dropped him off and started driving to the Botanical Center where the Kiwanis meeting was being held.

On my way there, I thought I would send a text to my principal to let him know that we got the grant, so I pulled into a park’s parking lot and started to type up the text.  A few words in, I looked up from my phone and noticed a police car driving slowly by – and the officer inside was staring at me.  I didn’t think much about it at first, but when the officer pulled his car into the parking lot, got out of his car, and started walking towards me, I was a little curious.

I rolled down the window to see what he wanted, and next thing I know his hand was moving towards his gun and he’s shouting at me to, “put both hands on the steering wheel!”  After giving him my ID and explaining why I was there, he told me that there was an armed robbery in the area and that I matched the suspect’s description… and I was free to go.

Armed Robbery

I never did finish the text I was about to send, but I did see this article the next day:

I couldn’t help but smile after reading the article (considering the suspect’s description said he was mid-20s and weighed 175 lbs), and thinking about the whole situation.  I never could have imagined my Guys Read Club would cause me to be a suspect in an armed robbery case… I wonder what else might be in store for me because of the club!


Filed under Classroom Connections, Lots of Laughs, Special Stuff

Beds, and Lights, and Fines! Oh My!

This past week, Bubba finally got his “big-boy” bed, and I couldn’t be happier!  I had been looking forward to reading him stories in bed since the day he was born, so you can imagine how excited I was that first night!  He was excited, too… although it could’ve had more to do with the bed than me reading to him in the bed.

Mikey Bed

Unfortunately, the first couple nights were hard on my eyes because the lighting wasn’t right.  We ended up stopping by Target and bought a lamp that clips onto the headboard… so lighting is no longer an issue at bedtime.

Besides lighting the pages of books, the lamp turns out to be great for making hand shadows and getting the characters (and pants) to glow in the dark in Dr. Seuss’ book, What Was I Scared Of?: A Glow-in–the-Dark Encounter.

What Was I Scared Of?

I’m definitely getting more reading in with Bubba now that he has his own bed, but I haven’t been reading him books from the library.  With the colder weather, snow, holidays, end-of-the-quarter duties at school, etc., I haven’t been taking Bubba to the library.  In fact, I had my first fine (for returning books late) since we started our journey this past spring… a $5.50 fine!  I guess that’s not bad considering we’ve read nearly 1,000 books and have spent less than $6 to do it.

We need to get back into the old routine, though… if for no other reason than to get me a little exercise to burn off all the Christmas cookies I’ve eaten the past couple weeks!  Maybe that will be one of my New Year’s resolutions… What resolutions are you thinking about making?


Filed under Reading the Library, Special Stuff, Updates

Will He Like His Signed Books?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet another great author and get a couple more books signed for Bubba!  I always love adding to his collection (which includes works by Newbery Medal winners like Rebecca Stead and Clare Vanderpool, local authors, Caldacott Medal winners like Mordicai Gerstein and Eric Rohman, beloved children’s book authors like Marc Brown, T.A. Barron, and David M. Schwartz, and on and on and on).

Some of the many books I've had signed for Bubba over the years.

Some of the many books I’ve had signed for Bubba over the years.

I can’t wait to give Bubba these books as he gets older because I can’t wait to see his reactions to each of them.  It’s really going to be hard to wait to give him books like Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me (especially when I’ve been collecting $2 bills for a Fred Flintstone bank that I’m to give to him with the book – and if you don’t get that reference, you REALLY need to read this book!) but I’m sure the wait will be worth it.

One of the books I had signed for Bubba this weekend will be especially fun to see his reaction.  On her book Rip Tide, Kat Falls wrote the following:

Bubba's latest signed book.

Bubba’s latest signed book.

How cool is that?!  When she asked who she should make it out to, I told her “Michael” (since I doubt he’ll want to go by “Bubba” his whole life), and I told her it was for my 2 year old son… She decided to add the “great dad” part, not me 🙂

I can’t wait to see his reaction to it… I wonder if he’ll see it the same way or if he’ll just think he’s got a big nerd for a dad!

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Scientific and Engineering Practices in Children’s Fiction

With more than 700 books read so far, I’m starting to notice some pretty consistent patterns.  These patterns have given me a better understanding of what I like in a picture book, and what Bubba likes in his picture books (at 2 years old).  They’ve also helped me determine what Bubba and I don’t like in our picture books.

Another thing I’m starting to learn is what publishers of children’s books think will sell.  Obviously, there will always be a lot of fairy tale, princess, superhero, TV, and movie character books.  I’m also noticing that leprechauns, dinosaurs, and certain other animals keep showing up again and again, too.

I’ve found it very interesting – learning these types of things – but I’m also a little concerned that there are a couple things that really seem to be missing when it comes to fictional picture books – in particular, science and engineering practices.

Yes, I know that sounds like a ridiculous statement, and don’t get me wrong – I love a completely nonsensical story as much as the next person… and I know there are books about scientists and engineers out there.  However, books that feature scientific and/or engineering practices seem to be few and far between.  Why is that?  As a teacher of 1st graders, I know that kids LOVE learning about science… so, why not feed that natural curiosity?

Why aren’t publishers finding more stories that feature these skills?  A book could feature a skill and still have a princess, be funny, rhyme, and be full of adventure.

I understand that there are plenty of non-fiction books that feature these skills, but lets be honest… kids love fiction a whole lot more than non-fiction.

It would just be nice if children’s fiction focused a little more on some of the “Scientific and Engineering Practices,” which are:

Asking questions and defining problems

Developing and using models

Planning and carrying out investigations

Analyzing and interpreting data

Using mathematics and computational thinking

Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Engaging in argument from evidence

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Maybe someday this will happen… a guy can dream, right?

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Filed under Classroom Connections, Special Stuff

My Bad Habit

I’ve got a bad habit that I need to come clean about… I’ve got a habit of buying Newbery Medal winning books whenever I get a chance.  I like to think that Bubba will appreciate having so many award winning books when he gets older, but in the back of my head I know he probably won’t read most of them.

I keep buying them, though.  I buy them at bookstores, garage sales, Goodwill stores, and book fairs.  I just can’t pass up on an opportunity to buy a copy of a Newbery that I don’t have yet!

As of right now, I’ve got every Newbery Medal winner from 1967 to the present (and a smattering of others between 1922 and 1967).

Is this normal?  Should my wife be taking me to a Twelve-Step program to break me of this addiction?  Hopefully when Bubba gets older he won’t look down on his father for this habit!

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Filed under Great Authors, Great Books, Special Stuff