When Not Following Directions Makes Me Happy

The following is a recap of the events that occurred the evening of Monday, January 27th:



It’s getting late and I’m starting to get upset at Bubba… I put him to bed quite a while ago, and I just heard him moving around out of his bed – AGAIN!


As I walk to his bedroom, I can’t help but think, “This is the third time I’ve had to go to his room and tell him to lay back down!  I’m getting sick of all this playing around when he should be sleeping!”


I open the door, turn on the light, and enter the room.  At this point, I am planning on using my “teacher-face” and scolding Bubba (because I expect to catch him playing with his toys)… but minutes later I’m walking away from his room with a huge smile on my face.


What happened?  Well… when the light went on, I saw exactly what he was doing – he was at one of his bookshelves trying to pick out a book so he could bring it back to his bed and “read” it with his reading lamp!


The look on his face was priceless… It was as if I caught him with his hand in the cookie jar!  He ran straight back into his bed, tried to get rid of the evidence that he was using his reading lamp, and pulled the covers up over his head.


At this point, how could I be upset?!  I walked over, pulled the covers down from his head, and gave him a big kiss on the forehead before turning out the light and walking away.


I’m sure he thought (and still thinks) that he was in big trouble because I caught him out of bed… but in all honesty, I couldn’t have been happier!  If he ends up being one of those kids who stays up late reading a book under his covers with a flashlight, I’ll be one proud papa!


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Another Day, Another Guest Blog…

If you head over to The Omnibus Publishing‘s website, you can find a piece I recently wrote for a guest post about Guys Read.  Here’s the link:


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Guest Blogging

If you have a chance, head over to Darlene Beck-Jacobson’s blog today… I wrote a guest blog about Encouraging Engineering and Science Practices with Picture Books that’s running right now!  Here’s the link:



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Where’s Waldo Helped Me Find Purpose

When Bubba and I reached the library shelf with all the Where’s Waldo? books, I was excited (to say the least)!  I absolutely LOVED the Where’s Waldo? books as a child, and I couldn’t wait to get reacquainted with them.  There was only one problem – I was confident that Bubba wasn’t ready for the rigors of trying to find the red-and-white-striped-shirt man.


The reason I was so sure was because I, myself, had a hard time trying to find Waldo as a third grader, and Bubba isn’t even in preschool!  That wasn’t going to stop me, though… I was going to read those books and I was going to enjoy them – whether Bubba liked it or not!

After reading every Where’s Waldo? book in our library to Bubba, I wish I could say that he was able to find Waldo without my help, but that would be a lie.  He struggled to find the distinctive bobble-hat-and-glasses wearing man on every single page – but here’s what surprised me… He still LOVED it!  He was so excited to have a purpose for reading along with me, that his eyes were glued to every page!

And that got me thinking… Why hadn’t I given him a reason to follow along before?!  When an adult reads a text, he does so for a reason – He has a purpose.  It could be for work or for pleasure, but there’s always a reason.  The same is true for high school students and even elementary age kids.  Everyone has a reason for reading the books they read, but Bubba never really did – until now.

Now when I read to Bubba, I stop and ask him to point things out in the pictures.  I ask him to find certain letters.  I ask him to count the objects in the pictures.  I ask him to tell me what color a butterfly is, and I ask him if the bear is on the right or left side of the page.  Does he get the answers right all the time? No… but he’s having TONS of fun trying – and that’s exactly what I love to see!

Who would have ever thought that those Where’s Waldo? books from my childhood could make me a better parent?



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Our Friends at PBS

Lately it’s been taking longer to get through some of the books we’re reading because I’m stopping to have Bubba point to an object in the pictures or certain letter.  It’s amazing how much he’s picking up lately!  I wish I could take all the credit for his intelligence, but I know there are other factors at play… for example, his favorite TV show is Super Why! – which does an amazing job teaching letters and sounds to kids Mikey’s age.


It’s because of shows like Super Why! that my wife and I have been volunteering at our local PBS station (WQPT) for more than 10 years now.  We’ve done everything we can for WQPT; working phones and cameras during pledge drives, passing out balloons, putting on temporary tattoos, and running children’s games at special events, bidding on auction items and volunteering at their black-tie fundraiser, setting up, helping the admissions tent, serving beer, and providing security at their Brew Ha Ha fundraiser, selling pork chop sandwiches at our local PGA tournament, and the list goes on and on.


Over the years, we’ve gotten to know the staff at WQPT pretty well, and they’ve gotten to know us, too.  They always want to know what Bubba is up to, so when I told them that Bubba was going to dress up as Super Why! for Halloween, they sent him a Super Why! book, some Super Why! stickers, and some Super Why! temporary tattoos.  When we stop by the office to say, “Hi,” they always give Bubba a book to take home.  They even invite him to come to their Kids Club parties!


My wife and I are blessed to have people like our friends at WQPT in our lives, and we are so grateful they take such an interest in Bubba’s life.  Whatever success Bubba has in the future, there’s no way my wife and I can take all the credit… some of the credit will definitely have to go to our friends at PBS!

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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!


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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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