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Fear & Loathing in Special Edu

Fear, loathing, discrimination, humor, compassion and victory all rolled up into a semi-neat little ball called special education...

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More Fear and Loathing.....
by: Speced9, 04-15-2010

with a new look!

Check out the NEW

at its new location on PT!


Rock Bottom Bagel
by: Speced9, 03-22-2010

Hi. My name is Speced9, and I'm a bageholic. I'm sure you've heard my story before. I just never thought it would happen to me.

I finally realized today that I have a problem. A bagel problem. A BIG bagel problem. It's consuming my life. Damn those Weight Watchers® product developers!

Oh, it starts out innocently enough. They give you some points. You use your daily points correctly, and you begin to lose weight. As time goes on, you begin to find the foods that give you the biggest bang for your points. That's where Weight Watchers® Original Bagels come in.

You see, your average bagel runs about 7 points on the ol' WW system. That's about one-quarter of your average daily point allowance for most folks. It's like a meal. A round little meal (with a hole). So, one can understand the joyous excitement I felt when I came across those WWOBs at my local supermarket.


I should have seen it coming, but I didn't think it would happen to me. The laws of supply and demand certainly shouldn't pertain to bagels should they? WRONG. They do. Remember the great Cabbage Patch Doll frenzy in the 80s? I was there on the front lines. As a stock boy at the local toy store, I saw first hand what high demand and low supply can do to a person. Everyone just had to have one. I saw rudeness. I saw greed. I saw people willing to slip me a few extra bucks on the side just to get one of those silly dolls in their hands. Heck, I had women sobbing right in front of me because little Sally wouldn't get her little adoptive doll that Christmas.

When I picked up my first package of WW bagels, I swear, there must have been a dozen packages on the store shelf. The next week, maybe half that. The week after that, just two (I took them both.). Then...the UNTHINKABLE....I went to the store and THERE WERE NONE TO BE HAD! The next week, the same thing! I had to go into bagel rationing at that point.

It was then that I began to get desperate. I started to go to multiple stores each week. When I found some, I'd take them all. I began to figure out delivery schedules. I'd come home on a Monday with three or four packages of those damn Weight Watchers® Original Bagels! (true story by the way, it just happened today) I'm feeling the thrill of "scoring some stuff" like Elvis did when he would get some Demerol from Dr. Nick.

Still don't understand? Fine. I took the liberty of making up this chart (which, of course, made me hungry for a WWOB)

I'm at the point now where my wife won't take anything I say at face value. She just figures it's the bagels talking. I've officially hit rock bottom.......What's that you say? There's an even lower calorie bagel out there? One point? ONE POINT? Kim's Light Bagels? Available online? YOU CAN ORDER SIX PACKAGES AT A TIME? I have three words for you.....



"Hey, Honey, have you seen my butt?"
by: Speced9, 03-22-2010

Yep. My butt. My hiney. My rearend. My, wait, I'm way too old to call it a booty. My backside (there, that's more mature). Yessiree......I've lost it.

Here's the story- this morning as I was getting dressed, I happened by my wife's full-lenght mirror. I was in the process of deciding to tuck, or untuck when I noticed my backside profile. My ass was gone. GONE! I couldn't believe it. The space between my belt and the back of my legs was a straight line, and that was WITH the wallet in the pocket. I thought to myself, "Where the hell did it go? I swear I had it yesterday! " Then, the comments my wife has been making to me over the last few months came flooding back. She was trying to warn me I think. Her "cute, little butt" comments were actually a clue that my rear end was getting as flat as a pancake.

I shouldn't be surprised. Women are far more in tune with butts than men are. Honestly, men don't have a clue. As a matter of fact, that's part of the marriage agreement. Men promise to honor, cherish and remain totally clueless about their own bodies. It's the wife's duty to let us know about our ear hair, nose hair, hearing loss and dwindling backsides. Women simply have more "ass awareness" than men do. They're always talking about one ass or another.

"Does this make my butt look big?"

"OMG! She looks like she had to pour her butt into those jeans!"

"That cheesecake went straight to my butt!"


I can't remember who said it, but someone once said that a middle-aged man's butt has the same look as putting pants on a standing frog. That's what I'm dealing with here.

As I drove to school, I began thinking about the weirdness of the whole thing. Speaking generally, as women age, they tend to get a bigger butt. Men, on the other hand tend to lose theirs. It didn't take long for me to put two and two together.

Women, for whatever reason, are stealing our butts!

AHA! SO THAT'S WHY MY WIFE IS ALWAYS PATTING ME BACK THERE! She's been sizing it up! She's been thinking about how my butt will look on her butt! Then, after years of plotting and scheming, she finally went and stole my butt. Either that, or she's been taking a little at a time in some slow plot of embezzlement. Who knows, there may be some kind of world-wide ponzi scheme going on here! Some woman half way across the world may have a few ounces of my butt!

Just as I was looking to see if the FBI had a division that specializes in this kind of crime, it hit me. My wife hadn't stolen my butt (only my heart... awwwww). No, I knew that I had simply lost my butt. I wasn't looking out for the little guy, and just like that, we became separated. I will probably never see him again. Yep, I knew the answer. The mystery was solved.....Where's my butt? I left it at the gym.


"Yes...there's someone else in my life."
by: Speced9, 03-04-2010

I know, I know.... I've become distant. I don't talk much any more. I've been acting strange and suspicious. Yes, I have my reasons....


I know what you're thinking, PT. I've led you on. I blogged and blogged and blogged for well over a year and then what do I do? I leave for an online social community with initials higher up in the alphabet than you.

In my defense, it's hard for a man my age to not fall victim to what FB offered me. It has it all!

1. Friends

It started out with my teacher friends from school, but that wasn't enough. Soon, I began hooking up with college buddies and high school memories. Heck, even the kids I hated in high school became my FB friends! Then, when I didn't think FB could befriend me any more, it gave me the ultimate friendship......CHILDHOOD FRIENDS! Yes! Think of all of the stories we've told back and forth!

"Hey, remember in first grade when you got an eraser stuck up your nose?" ! YES, I DO!

2. Music and Flair

They say you can never go home again. Well, that may be true, but you sure can show your love of music and buttons just like you did in your teen years. What can I say? It's like an online view of all my high school class folders stuck in a three-ring binder, and the front of my old jean jacket. It's all of the individual expression I can give with zero humiliation over my dorkiness.

3. Groups

You can never have too many groups on FB. There isn't an interest out there that doesn't have some kind of group. Are you a fan of the old horror soap, Dark Shadows? I bet there's a group for it! An estranged child of divorced aborigines? Check it out. I bet it's there. Grief stricken over the death of your pet albino mole rat? No problem!

4. Games, Games and More Games!

What's your poison? There's plenty of addictive, time-wasting games on Facebook. Farkle is my current drug of choice. I have to admit though that my will to farkle went down slightly when one of my friends beat my high score by 5k. I shouldn't be surprised. He was one of the high school kids on my friend list that I really didn't like.

5. Annoying Updates

Okay, there is a down side. Yeah, it drives me crazy, but, I have a secret weapon. It's called the HIDE APPLICATION button. With one click of the mouse, it's back to quality time with my new girl, FB.

Oh, now.....please don't cry. I never meant to hurt you, PT. If it makes you feel any better, I did mention you once.....


This One's for You, Dad
by: Speced9, 02-25-2010

I just wanted to make mention of a simple task that has special meaning for me. My father passed away in '03. One of his many "toys" was his snow blower. It went unused for the past six years because no one could get it started. Luckily for me, I have a step-son who works on small engines. He got it running for me this year.

Today was the first time that I was able to take the thrower over to my mom's and clean the driveway. It felt wonderful to do it with Dad's toy. So, I just wanted to say, "I felt you with me this morning, Dad, and I'm glad I could do it."


Ah, Mom! I Don' Wanna!
by: Speced9, 02-21-2010

Blogging is great isn't it? We're sharing our lives, views and educational experiences with THE WORLD. There is a downside that no one tells you about though. GUILT BY PROCRASTINATION.

That's right, GUILTY! I'M GUILTY! I'm full of guilt. I'm filled to the brim with guilt. Guilt that's good to the last drop. Guilt, guilt, guilt. How strange is it to feel like a word that sounds more like some kind of cooking utensil? (Cut your prep time in half by using a potato guilt!)

So, I haven't blogged for a month and a half. My last post was about my colonoscopy in December. It kind of makes me wonder if they somehow mistook my will to blog for a polyp and removed it by mistake. Nah, I can't blame the procedure for my blogging woes. Let's face it, I'm in rut. There's nothing going on in my life, personal or professional that is ridiculous enough to blog about. I even tried making a list:

1. Why did those Weight Watchers people give me 33 points a day when I was at 210 lbs., and only 28 now that I'm twenty-something pounds lighter? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

2. Where the hell is my local Cinnabon joint? We used to have one at the mall, now it's gone! How many rolls did they have to sell each day to stay in business? Surely I was contributing to at least half of their monthly revenue! If and when I decide to indulge in another one, I have to go to another state to get it! Is that like buying firecrackers in Missouri, then bringing them back to Illinois?

3. Why do children tattle on each other for the dumbest things? Just once I'd like to say, "Oh, thank you, Billy! Yes, you're right, Tommy shouldn't be coloring his tree blue. TOMMY! GO TO THE OFFICE! YOU'RE IN A HEEP OF TROUBLE, BOY!"

4. Teachers Who Need Twelve-Step Programs:
- The teacher who constantly says "SHH, SHH!" in the hallway.
- The counting teacher ("Tommy, sit down! One.......Two......)
- The older teacher with the collection of sweaters for every holiday.
- The teacher who still uses purple dittos.

5. Since we put up the privacy fence, I suspect that my weird neighbor, Gary has been doing yard work in the nude.

So, you see my predicament? Well, I guess there's only one thing left to do.........PLAGIARISM!

If you thought that last ARE YOU KIDDING ME tale was too incredible, just read on. You are never going to believe what happened to me the last couple of days!
Surely this isn't as severe as transporting Cinnabons across state lines.....


Hey! What's Going On Back There?
by: Speced9, 12-20-2012

You know, nothing says Christmas Break like a colonoscopy. At this point in my life, I consider myself a colonoscopy expert, so I thought, "Why not share the expertise?"

Yes, that's right, a colonoscopy expert. Given that this was my second trip down Colon Way, I was granted my colonoscopy tenure. This allows me to give suggestions to others and generally make fun of the whole process without repercussions from those sensitive about the anal arts.


The day before the exam, you can expect to live off of Jello® and broth.

If you're looking for variety, forget it. You can't have red, orange or purple Jello®. This, of course, eliminates 99.9% of the choices you have. What's it come down to? Lime, lemon, white grape or pineapple.
I have a great idea for the Jello® Company though. It's a new flavor, and will save time on meals during your prep day:

2. Plan that evening meal a little early. While Grandma and Grandpa go out for the early bird special at 4:30 pm, it would be a good idea to have that last bowl/cup/slurp of lime Jello® and broth. Why? Because you won't feel like eating at 5:00 pm.

Promptly at five, you will be instructed to begin the cleansing process. This consists of drinking the Gatoraide® Skunk Juice (Natural and Artificial Flavors) until you feel like puking. Your job is to drink down to each line on the jug every fifteen minutes. If you get the liter jug variety like I do, then you should be interested in knowing that there is exactly nine gulps from line to line.

This is one movie that should be eligible for the Rotten Tomato Award.

4. If you're lucky enough to have a master bathroom, you'll want to start hanging out in your bedroom after Round One. There you can listen to music or watch TV. I suggest playing them at low volumes so as not to muffle the weird gastric noises your body will begin to make. Don't ignore them! These are your warning signals for bigger and better things to come. Consider them the gastric equivalent of a rattlesnake shaking his tail before he takes a big bite out of your butt.

5. If you have family in the house at the time of cleansing, be prepared to answer the same question over, and over and over.

"Are you okay in there?"

If annoyed, you can always answer them with a guttural noise.

If you're really smart, you'll schedule your exam as close to dawn as possible. You'll already be cranky from the night before, plus the absence of food and caffeine will begin to drive you over the edge. As mentioned before in a previous post, the urge to swallow your toothpaste while brushing will enter your mind. If you succeed, you might as well wash it down with a gulp of mouthwash while you're at it.

It is a known fact that all pre-op nurses are terminally in a bad mood. Don't even consider making a joke about the process. As near as I can tell, they must be bitter about a friend or loved one dying during the colonoscopy process. Your flippant attitude about the procedure will only anger them more. This is especially important given the fact that this same lady will be inserting an IV needle into your arm at some point.

The anesthesiologist is your friend. Treat him well. This is the guy who decides what memories you'll have about the process. If you have a choice between haziness and out cold, go all the way OUT. Trust me. The only thing worse than having a hose up your butt is feeling like you're going through a mild LSD trip.....with a hose up your butt.

If all goes as planned, you'll go from talking to the anesthesiologist to waking up somewhere else like you just traveled through time. This is a time to celebrate! While your mind may be thinking of champagne and confetti, the recovery nurse (who WILL have a sense of humor) will only offer you crackers and soda. Take what you can get! Remember, you haven't eaten a good meal in over 24 hours. Unfortunately, the crackers are kind of like the peanuts you get on a flight- only one package per customer please.

10. Before you have a chance to come to your senses, the doctor will come in to talk to you about the results. Don't be alarmed if he/she sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher (WAH, WAH, WAH, WAH, WAAAAH). This is normal. Having a family member there is crucial because you only remember snippets of the conversation, and what you do remember will be wrong.

For example, in my twisted world, the doctor said I didn't have to have another colonoscopy for ten years. In reality, he said THREE. So, that puts me at 2012. Coincidence?


Wait.....Watch Her!
by: Speced9, 03-06-2010

I can only describe my eating and exercise behavior the last 6 months as sluggish at best. The habits I started after having surgery in June continued on a little too long. Before I knew it, I had put on twenty pounds. Oh, don't get me wrong, it was fun! Sloth and gluttony are the two most entertaining of the seven deadly sins without a doubt. It's only when it comes to choosing between buying all new clothes or losing weight, that the financially responsible adult in me makes the right decision.

It was around mid-September when I first realized that I was putting it on. Well, to be more specific, it was actually what I couldn't put on anymore. The ignorant male in me automatically assumed that the wife was washing everything in hot water.

When the boxer briefs start feeling like tighty-whiteys, that's a sure sign that things are going downhill. That didn't stop me though. I continued my slothy, donut-eating ways. October and November came and went while I ate and relaxed. Then, a sign came to me that it was time for change.

First off, let me preface this by saying that I loved my father very much. He was a very friendly man and well liked by all. I would be lying if I said that I didn't strive to be like him in my adult life. There's two sides to that statement though. I strive to be like him, but that doesn't include looking like him. I think my dad was a good looking guy, but he was always a pudgy man. Heck, his nickname was "Porky" after all.

So, there I was in my classroom when the office helper delivered the fall photos. When I opened mine up, I was in for a shock. Someone had substituted my dad's image for my own! How'd they do that? There's my face, and that's my shirt, but how in the hell did they superimpose my dad's body over mine? That was a wake up call.

Once I decided it was time to get back on the wagon, I had to figure out how. I had done the South Beach diet about five years ago, and I really didn't want to go through that again. Yeah, it's an okay diet in the long run, but those first two weeks of food detox are brutal. Nope...not me...ain't gonna do it.

It just so happens that a couple of my colleagues are doing the Weight Watchers thing. I won't lie. They both look fantastic. Of course, I've never told them this for fear of sexual harassment, but they do look great. So, I thought, maybe this is the diet for me. I decided to do the online thing because I really had no desire to go to meetings. The only thing on my mind was figuring out what and how much I can eat in order to get my underwear from riding down my backside any farther.

After all the rigamarole of signing up, I finally got my daily points allowance- 31 points. I have no idea if that's a lot because I'm too embarrassed to ask my WW co-workers what their daily points are. So, the way this thing works is that everything has a point value, right? Heck, I can do that! Thirty-one points. What can I eat in a day with thirty-one points? The ignorant male in me says, "Hell, that's 31 yogurts!" Okay, dumb idea, so I started by looking up my favorites:

Of course, I found some that weren't in the system.

I finally settled on just getting WW frozen meals for lunch. That's a no brainer.

With the prices they charge for these babies though, it's the corporate stiffs making all the money who are really the "Smart Ones", aren't they?

I really looked into planning sensible dinners for myself, but once again, I'm a guy. We want our food now. Planning meals isn't one of our strengths. So, it's either chicken and veggies, fish and veggies, a 4 oz. grilled burger and veggies or another WW meal for dinner. Even though I'm not all gung-ho, it's still a plan I can work with and get results from.

So, I've been on the plan for a couple of weeks and have gotten into my old exercise routine. I've lost about 7 lbs. so far and am feeling better than I have in months. No, you won't see talking about food points with others, but I would recommend the WW thing to others. I realize that the trick to the whole thing is learning to eat sensibly. It's a matter of not having too much of some things and portion control. Even the most ignorant male can figure that out.

Wish me luck. I know that I really have nothing to lose but my pride, some extra spending money and a bad case of plumber's butt.

CRACK KILLS! (Your posterior profile)


Oh, No, THANK YOU Officer!
by: Speced9, 11-28-2009

It's so hard not to be cliche' when compiling the "I'm Thankful" list. It's the same thing every year, is it not? I'm thankful for my family. I'm thankful for my friends. I'm thankful I have a job. I'm thankful yadda, yadda, yadda. It's time to recognize the little things in life, folks!


1. I'm thankful for my new privacy fence. I haven't really seen my weird neighbor Gary in over a month. Now if I can only find some kind of sound proof landscaping, I won't have to hear him talk on his cell phone as he aimlessly wanders around his yard.

2. I'm thankful that the kid in my class who used to cry and throw a tantrum now only cries when he doesn't get his way. Hey, it IS progress.

3. I'm thankful that a 50,000 words pledge wasn't actually a 100,000 word pledge. Oh come on! Have you looked at the main blog page lately? It's like Kanye West has joined PT!

4. I'm thankful that our school secretary is cool with me having online Christmas gift purchases delivered to the school. It eliminates the drudgery of being home to sign for packages, finding a good place to hide gifts and I know they won't be sitting on my front porch getting wet on a rainy day. I should probably buy her something online and have it delivered to HER at school.

5. I'm thankful that I can still make my step-daughter smile.....occasionally. For all I know, the shaking head and rolling eyes may take over in the next year. Here's a thought- why do teenagers use "gay" as in "That is SO gay!" to describe something they think is cheesy, embarrassing, or stupid. As it stands in today's society, that's a real un-PC thing to say (like teenagers care). I think we all just need to go back to the days when "gay" meant happy, we wore "rubbers" on our feet, and we all had at least one "hoe" taking up space in our garages.

6. I'm thankful that THE POWERS THAT BE haven't retaliated for all of the things I have instigated over the last year. I figured by now that I would have every hardcore kid in the district, and that my classroom would be in the boiler room.

7. I'm thankful that when my dog has an "accident" that she has it on the laminate floor and not the carpet. By the way, I think it's really stupid to call it an "accident". When a dog takes a crap in the house, that's no accident. It's not like she's walking along and PLOP! out it comes. I think if it's truly an accident she would at least try to clean it up before I get home.

8. I'm thankful for slacks with the elastic waist band. They help keep me in denial about the 20 lbs. I've gained since my surgery this summer. Now if they'd only invent dress shirts with an elastic collar, I could start wearing ties to school again.

9. I'm thankful that the feds have as of yet to create an EDUCATIONAL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT TASK FORCE. When they do, I'll be the first example they make of someone. I have way too many self-bootlegged children's videos for anyone to ignore. I'm wondering if my salary will be defense enough for acquittal. If not, I can always cop the insanity plea.

10. I'm thankful that I'm having a second colonoscopy next month. Now that I know what to expect, it's no worse than having to spend time with certain relatives during holidays (and no, Mom, I'm not talking about immediate family here). So, the phrases "seeing Uncle Joe" and "going for my colonoscopy" pretty much mean the same thing to me at this point. They both put me to sleep, and I feel emotionally violated afterwards.


You Can't Make This Stuff Up
by: Speced9, 11-16-2009

I think one of the great benefits of teaching are the stories. Who doesn't have at least one great story from the classroom to tell? I was thinking today about some of my funniest school-related moments. So, enjoy a humorous look at my classroom experience, and please, feel free to add your own!

I Wouldn't Put That on Your Resume!

After a bathroom break, one of my first graders informed me of a newfound skill.

"You know what? I can pee with my fingers crossed!"

It WOULD Probably Be the Most Money the School Has Ever Raised!

A little boy in my classroom was studying something in his desk while I was teaching. I asked him to bring me what he was looking at in his desk. I must admit, I was totally floored by what he brought me. It was an order form for pornographic videos, and they weren't the softcore type. Let me put it this way, every other title included the word "anal". I promptly sent him and his order form to the principal. My principal took the opportunity to throw out one of the best one-liners I've ever heard from an administrator. When she saw me in the lounge later in the day, she said to me,

"What kind of fundraiser are you running in there?"

If They Weren't Bigger, I Suppose I'd Have Something to Worry About

It was autumn. I liked bringing in signs of the season for my students to see. I'd bring in leaves of every color, and when I could find them in a pristine state, acorns. One morning, I brought in the biggest acorns I had ever seen. I had found them while I was taking a walk the night before.

We happen to have quite a few oak trees on the school grounds, so one of my students decided to collect some acorns during lunch recess. When recess was over, he came up to me and said,

"Can I see your nuts?"

(Keeping a straight face) "Sure, they're over there on the shelf. Go ahead." I watched as he went over and started comparing his acorns with the ones I had brought in that morning. He came back up to me looking disappointed.

"What's wrong?", I asked.

"Your nuts are bigger than mine!"

Well, Honestly, Some Teachers Are

When I taught 7th grade special needs math, I liked to make up calculator riddles. These were problems that students would do on the calculator along with some kind of clue for the answer. The answer was the word that the numerical answer would be when the calculator was turned upside down.

I gave my students their first riddle. The clue was, "I am this in the classroom, but your parents are this at home." The math problem was 2,200 + 3,308= 5,508 which, when the calculator was turned over would show the word "BOSS".

One of my low readers was raising his hand like crazy for this one. Since he rarely raised his hand, I sneaked a peek at his calculator to make sure he had the right answer before I called on him.

I said, "Okay, Matt. I am this in the classroom, but your parents are this at home. What's the answer?"

Matt replied in a most unconfident voice, "Buttholes?"

I'm Sure the Tutors on Tour With the Circus Deal With This Daily

My class had been in tattle tail mode for a couple of weeks. Frustrated, I decided to have a long talk with them about tattling. I made up a big sign that said,

A tattle is only okay if another person is:
1. Doing something dangerous.
2. Doing something destructive.
3. Cussing

When I finished my talk, one of my kids raised his hand.

"Is sword swallowing dangerous?"

I couldn't pass this one up. I said, "Yes it is. So, if any of you see another student swallowing swords in class, please tell me."

That's Just Their Nature, Kid

We were working on making a word web of emotions. I was asking the students to include things that made them happy, sad, mad and scared. One student was having a difficult time coming up with something for "mad". I sat next to him to give him a jump start.

"Okay, Jordan, let's think about something that makes you mad."

After several minutes of prodding, he finally says, "My cats."

I said, "Your cats? What could your cats possibly do that would make you mad?" I was fishing for something like, "they scratch me".

"Well,", Jordan began, "they sh*t all over the place!"

Have You Been Talking With Your Aunt?

This isn't a school story, but it was out of the mouth of babes, and my absolute funniest family story ever, so I have to include it here.

My niece was three going on four, and very into the "boys have a penis, girls have a vagina" stage of life. She came into the living room, climbed up into my lap and started watching TV with me. After a while she asks, "Do you have a penis or a vagina?" I smiled and said, "Well, Honey, I'm a boy, so I have a penis."

She nodded in recognition and then asked, "Is it a big penis, or a little penis?" With this question, my wife and mother-in-law poked their heads in from the kitchen. I was on the spot.

I said, "Well, I really don't know." I was praying inside that the conversation would end with that remark. I couldn't have been more wrong.

With my wife and mother-in-law watching, my niece proceeds to poke my crotch with her finger and say, "I think it's a little penis!"

Oh, the humanity!


Man of the House
by: Speced9, 10-24-2009

I don't know if it's only in my hometown, or not, but male teachers at the elementary level are definitely a minority. I've accepted that, but there sure are a lot of uncomfortable situations I've been in being the token male.

In college, I was the only guy in all of my classes. That was an experience for sure. I had one professor who would never acknowledge my maleness. I have no idea what his problem was. Surely it wasn't the mullet I was sporting during that period of time. He was constantly referring to us as a group with the term "girls" or "ladies".

"Have a nice weekend ladies!"

I can still see the snickering faces of my classmates on that one. Then there was the Child Psych professor who had the lecture on the development of boys. Every point she made, she seemed to look at me for some kind of confirmation.

"Between the ages of 12-15, the male genitals begin to grow larger."

Then she looks right at me. Looking back, instead of slumping in my seat, I should have given her two thumbs up.

Now, I'm the sole male in my school. It wasn't always that way. At one point, there were two others besides me. I really felt good during those years. I could be one of the guys, and not some guy hanging out with the girls. You'd think I'd absolutely love this, but I don't. Oh, sure, it has it's advantages. When the lounge bathroom is occupied, I can just mosey on down to the boys restroom. Still, I think I have more disadvantages than advantages.

Here's a good example- I'm an early bird. I'm usually the first person in the building for a good 30-45 minutes before anyone else even comes in the building. I've noticed over the years that the night custodians ALWAYS leave the lid up on the lounge toilet after they clean it. They also use some kind of weird pink cleaner in there, so it looks like this every morning:

I often wonder if my female colleagues, (knowing that I am the first person in the building each morning) are thinking that I've left the lid up, forgot to flush and have some kind of weird bladder infection. No one has ever said anything to me, but if I was them, I'd suspect me too.

Then there's the husband/boyfriend bashing. Let me tell you, when I walk in the lounge and I hear something like "I was so mad at my husband last night.....", I just turn right back around and head out. Me staying in there while that conversation is going on is like a Red Sox fan at a Yankees convention.

The other thing that is kind of weird are the baby showers we have. As far as I can tell, the proper etiquette for one of these things is to say, "Oh, THAT is SO cute!" after each present is opened. I'll admit it, I'm not brave enough to buy an actual present for these things. I just go to Babies R Us and get a gift card. The upside is that I know I haven't given a lame gift.

The downside is that no one ever says, "Oh, that gift card is SO CUTE!" Bummer.

There is a positive side to all of this though. I like to think of myself as a chivalrous kind of guy, so there's plenty of opportunity for me to show that. Need that box carried in? I'm your guy. Put up a few windows? Yep. I'm the man.

Spider in the corner? I'M FEARLESS!

The worst thing in recent memory was the night my female colleagues took me out for a little bachelor party before I got married. They picked me up, took me to dinner, then we went and played pool and darts. It was interesting to see drunk guys hit on my colleagues, but then some drunkard went and put a damper on my good time. He asked if we were out for a bachelorette party. I said, "No, this is my BACHELOR party." He replied, "Oh, dude! I just thought you were the gay friend."

Bummer. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)


by: Speced9, 10-29-2009

I think the question as to what to call your students is as old as the profession itself. When I taught at the middle school level, I just called my students Mr. So-and-So and Miss So-and-So. Something happened though when I transferred to elementary. All of a sudden, my mind was filled with endless names to call my kids.

"Kid" is actually one of those names. I use that one with former students and current students that aren't in my class. In translation, it means, "I recognize your face, but I'll be darned if I can remember your name."

I actually became aware of my name calling habit after I was at the elementary level for a few years. I had taken an after school job with the local Boys and Girls Club teaching technology skills. On my first day, I was telling a 7th grade girl to have a seat.

Me: "Let's have a seat there, Honey."
Me: "Huh?"
Me (thinking): "Oh, crap! Two minutes on the job and I'm already going to be written up for sexual harassment!"

I apologized of course, and explained that I had in fact developed a bad habit of using pet names with students.

You know, my regular ed. colleagues have it so easy. The first grade teachers can just say, "Okay, first graders!". The kinder and more gentle kindergarten and early start teachers always go for the "friends" thing. I always kind of thought that that was the perfect set up for some wise-cracking, street-wise, five year old thug to say, "I AIN'T YOUR FRIEND!" Still, I couldn't do either in my classroom. First off, I have children from K-2, and second, I ain't their friend. I'm their teacher.

So, that leaves me with the great distinction of having a plethora of names to call my students, and get away with it. Here are just a few:

1. Sweetheart- Call me a sexist pig, but this one is always reserved for the girls as in "It's okay, Sweetheart. Let's get a band aid for that scratch."

2. Buddy- This one is usually for the defiant boys as in, "Hey, listen Buddy, you don't want to make that choice, do you?"

3. Dude- An exclusive name to show two things: One, a minor academic victory, and two, how hip I think I am. This one is also usually tagged with "you rock" as in "You ROCK, Dude!"

4. Honey Bun- This sweet little name is anything but sweet when I use it. I save this one for girls with an attitude as in, "You might want to sit down and get going on that work there, Honey Bun."

5. The Rhyming Names- I don't know how many of these are original, and how many I just picked up from someone else, but nevertheless, I use them daily.

Nosy-Rosey- As in, "Hey there, Nosy-Rosey, stop looking through my stuff."

Bossy-Flossy- As in, "Uh, who's the boss in this classroom, Bossy-Flossy?" This one is exclusive for girls. For boys, it's the more macho, Bossy-Rossy.

Grabby-Abby- As in, "Keep your hands to yourself, Grabby-Abby."

Chatty-Patty- As in, "Zip the lip there, Chatty-Patty." Of course, there's also the Jabber-Jaw alternative with this one.

These names led to a few nicknames for specific students. Obviously I never referred to the children in question using these names, but they were fun to use between colleagues. I think they lessened the tension that these particular kids brought upon me. Let's see, there was Cryin'-Brian, Newt the Poot (and yes, he had a MAJOR gas problem) and Crash Keeney (a.k.a. the boy who had some kind of boo-boo every day).

So, call me insensitive, but I like my collection of elementary names. I never use them to degrade, or sap their will to live. I'd say they take the edge off of discipline, or help to make a child a little more comfortable when facing some kind of stressful situation.

Unfortunately, it doesn't go both ways. I've reminded many a student that my name isn't Dude, Bud, Silly or Poopy-Butt. In those situations I remind them, "THAT'S MR. POOPY-BUTT TO YOU YOUNG LADY."


Tap, Tap, Tap, Cya Gary!
by: Speced9, 10-22-2009

As I sit here typing away, I can hear the now familiar tapping of a nail gun. I like to think of it as nails going into the lid of a coffin, but in reality, it's the nails going into a privacy fence. The fence that now separates me from my weird neighbor, Gary.

My wife and I had decided on this privacy fence issue a long time ago. Let's see....uh, was the day Gary moved in. So, it has been something that we've planned financially for and attained. Of course, once the poles went in a little over a week ago, it has been the subject of conversation for Gary.

First off, let me explain the fence situation around my house. We already have a privacy fence in the back with the politically correct "nice side" facing us. I don't know who came up with this idea, but in my book, if I'm shelling out thousands of dollars for a fence, then by golly, I want an uninterrupted view of the "nice side". Still, that's not the way it goes, you have to think of curb appeal as they say on HGTV.

So, we have three sections to put up that offer these views: the front of the house ,one wooded area and (gulp) Gary's house. Well, let me get right to the point. I have three parts of a privacy fence to put up with one "nice side" already facing me. I obviously have to have the "nice side" facing out towards the street. That's a no brainer. I haven't suffered through hours of HGTV for nothing. With the other sides, I'm not concerned about what the Squirrel Family, Mr. Owl and Old Lady Opossum have to say about the "bad side" facing their homes, and I'm also not concerned about weird neighbor Gary's view as well. What a shock, huh?

As I said, when the poles went in, the conversations started. If I had to describe Gary in terms other than "slovenly, sloppy and the most severe case of adult ADHD I've ever seen", I'd have to say that Gary is a man who has his multi-million dollar prize money spent before he buys a single lotto ticket. He's just that way.

As soon as the poles went in, Gary started tearing his chain link fence down. He caught me one day (drat!) in the back yard and began telling me how he was going to move his fence back about 20 feet (into a utility easement no less) and how it was going to match our new fence. He's telling me this while he's rolling up chain link and digging out poles.

At the end of the conversation, he toots his own horn and says something to the effect that by tearing his fence down, it will be easier for our fence guys to finish the fence on his side.

"Uh, Gary...", I began, "we aren't putting the finished side on your side of the pole." You would have thought I just told him that he was actually raised by his grandmother and his sister was actually his mother.

Gary's way of dealing with this was to annoy our neighbors for the last week complaining about me and my fence, and the fence guys today. He's out there asking their opinion etc., etc.,etc. and just basically keeping them from working at the pace they want to. I watched them pretty much use the same tactic I do when Gary catches me in a conversation- I just keep working and say, "Uh huh" every few seconds.

Finally, I had to go out there. I just had to. I had to save those guys. I went out and asked the fence guys how it was going. They gave me this "HELP! SAVE US!" look and said, "Fine." Then Gary says to me, "Hey, it looks like you're finally getting your fence up!" To which, I reply, "But it won't get done if you don't stop bothering these guys!" End of conversation.

As the day went on, and the fence went up, I began to think of what I will be missing now in my every day life:

1. All of those items tossed conveniently around Gary's yard- the bathroom sink, the wooden pallets, the two wood burners, pieces of old Chevy truck and a couple of dead pine trees. Oh, and all of the poles he just recently pulled from the ground.

2. The weekly sitcom I can watch as Gary works in his back yard. I think the name of the show is, Started It, Then Forgot It.

3. And, of course, the cat and mouse game I had to play to stay out of conversations every time I had to go into the back yard.

Those days are now over and I feel good about it. I can't help but think of one possibility though. I hope Gary's not familiar with Kilroy.


Well, At Least She Didn't Drool on the Desks
by: Speced9, 09-30-2009

Last year, one of the high ranking POWERS THAT BE of the special education department made a visit to my school. I expected to see her, and so did my special ed. colleagues. We thought wrong. She avoided us like the plague. Today was another one of those visits, but I was determined to get some attention.

When the collective special ed. staff of my school complained about not seeing our high ranking PTB, we were told that it was our principal's fault. As the host of our school, it was up to my building principal to create a schedule for for her to follow while visiting us. For some reason, that schedule didn't include coming to see any special ed. teachers. You'd think seeing us would be a no-brainer, wouldn't you? That would be like the CEO of McDonald's going to the local mall food court and visiting every food stand except McDonald's!

So, when the faculty was officially notified that PTB was to visit today, I made a point of emailing my principal and specifically asking her to schedule in at least 45-60 minutes of time in my room. She said she would do it, but wouldn't specifically say when the time was.

Well, lo and behold, around 10 a.m., PTB walks into my classroom. It was during reading block time and my kiddos were really on today, so I was pretty psyched that someone from above would see some of the great things my colleagues and I are doing. Unfortunately, as PTB sat there, she was a little hard to read.

When she first came in and sat down, she had this look going on.

"Okaaaayyyy", I thought, "Maybe she's a little miffed that I specifically asked for her to come to my room."

After about ten minutes, I could have sworn that I saw a yawn or two.

As I worked with my little cherubs, we were getting little victory after little victory. I made a point to look over at PTB with a smile on my face to show her how pleased I was at their performances.

This is the look I got back in return:

By the end of her time in my room, I can only describe PTB's facial expression and body language as someone who really didn't want to be there, and maybe a little resentful at my assertiveness about the whole visit.

It's kind of hard to explain, but I think this look says it best:

She was scribbling notes throughout out the visit though. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or not. After all, she could have just been writing,

All work and no play makes PTB a dull administrator
All work and no play makes PTB a dull administrator
All work and no play makes PTB a dull administrator
All work and no play makes PTB a dull administrator
All work and no play makes PTB a dull administrator
All work and no play makes PTB a dull administrator


And Doggone It, People Like Me
by: Speced9, 09-30-2009

Every school could use a little bit of Stuart Smalley, couldn't they?

I just watched a very interesting short film on youtube called Validation. It made me realize the power of the positive word on others. For our friends, it builds them up and helps them make through another day. For those we have trouble getting along with, it makes them wonder what we're up to.

I'd like to take this time to validate a few of the individuals I see at school on a daily basis.

To The Child Whose Nose is Always Running

You have an amazing tolerance for gross sensory stimuli my child. The way that phlegm just sits there on your lip like an abstract jello mold while you go about your kid business is something to be proud of. It says, "I don't have time to waste by following basic hygiene rules. I have learning to do!" Kudos to you, Runny Nose Kid!

To The Teacher No One Gets Along With

You have the most personal space of anyone I've ever seen. At lunch, the entire table is practically yours! You always have a seat next to you at workshops to plop your coat and briefcase down in. You're like a compact car on a lonely stretch of desert highway at two in the morning. Ah! Wide open spaces! Such luxurious lanes!
Kudos to you, Teacher No One Gets Along With!

To The Pseudo-Lobotomized Administrator

Wow. You must be the world record holder for the most memory loss in one career. You are the King/Queen of letting the past be the past! You don't let a little thing like remembering what it was like to be in the classroom guide your administrative decisions! No siree! You're like Don Henley's boys of summer- don't look back, you can never look back! Kudos to you, Administrator With Pseudo-Lobotomy!

To The Long-Winded Lounge Chatter

Oh my gosh! What a story! Do you have any more? Those nephews of yours kill me! Your dad did what? HA, HA! What a card! How do you remember all of those GREAT stories? (Oh, that's right, you don't. We get to hear them at least three times each, don't we?) You deserve the best lunch time accommodations my friend! Here, take a seat at this table with the teacher with extra personal space to spare! You deserve these kudos, Long-Winded Lounge Chatter!

To The Enabling Parent

I've never seen so much love come from one parent. Really. It makes me teary eyed. Not many parents will extend the life of their child's legs by carrying them into the school their whole Kindergarten year! I assume that you must have the most family time of anyone I know given that you don't spend much time with silly things like discipline! Who has the time? Of course, your psychic abilities impress me the most. How else would you know that we're out to get your sweet little cherub day after day? It's uncanny! Kudos to you, Enabling Parent!

To The Slacker Custodian

If anyone would know where Jimmy Hoffa is, you would, my friend! How do you find such great places to hide? You must also have the most healthy sinuses in the building! While the rest of us are having these phantom cigarette smoke smells coming and going through our olfactory systems, you never seem to smell a thing! Oh, and thank you for worrying about the amount of exercise I get each day. Complaining to the principal that my chairs need to be up on the desks each evening, then leaving them for me to put back down in the morning has probably been the equivalent of a major calorie burning workout by the end of the year! Kudos to you, Slacker Custodian!

To The Used Car Salesman-Like Special Education Supervisor

In the world of public relations, YOU ARE A GOD! I've never seen anyone who could take a big, fat lump of coal and convince the public that it's shining like a thirty carat diamond! That's skill, my friend! How motivating you are the way you entice parents and special education teachers to turn on each other when it's really the administration at fault. Let's not forget your financial skills! Your motto- Why buy materials when we can have the outdated regular ed. stuff for free? Are you related to Leona Helmsley? It's genius! Kudos to you, Used Car Salesman-Like Special Education Supervisor!

To The Anonymous Venting Blogger

Way to go! You completely drained the stress right out of my body, AND you gave me something to do for the last forty-five minutes this Saturday morning! Kudos to me, Anonymous Venting Blogger!


An Open Letter to the Abusive Parent
by: Speced9, 09-12-2009

Dear Scumbag,
When you called me at school this morning to explain your child's absence yesterday, it never entered my mind that you were already laying the groundwork to cover your abusive ways.

I have to admit, I believed your story at first. I'm familiar with your family and it wasn't a stretch to believe that your older daughter had hit your six-year old son with a beaded necklace across the face. It was also a nice touch to ask if he would be able to get an ice pack from the school nurse if he complained about it hurting, after all, that's what you said you did after it happened two days ago, and the reason why he was absent from school yesterday.

Unfortunately for you, I'm not that dumb. Believe it, or not, I can put two and two together. When your child came to school today, I was expecting to see a cut, or a few red spots on your boy's face from the impact of a beaded necklace. Instead, I saw a swollen eye and redness on the side of his face that looked more like he was slapped a good one by someone with a rather large hand. Again, it's unfortunate for you that your son doesn't understand the need to lie in this situation. When I nonchalantly asked him, "Hey, buddy, what happened to your face?" He replied without missing a beat, "My dad hit me." How sad it is that a sweet little boy can say so matter-of-factly that his dad hit him.

Yes, he told me the story of how it happened. It's so interesting how you took part of the truth to tell your lie. Yes, it was a fight with his sister, but it wasn't with his older sister. It was with his younger sister. I assume that you felt it was necessary to end a dispute between a six-year old and a toddler by knocking the older child down with a slap to the face. If by chance you actually apologized to your boy (out of fear, or guilt) you might want to do it again because he has no recollection of you doing so. How sad it is that he actually feels like he deserved what you gave him for a tugging match with his baby sister.

So, as the law requires, I turned you in to Child and Family Services today. Believe it, or not, I don't need the law to motivate me to do so. Even if it was against the law to report you, I would have. I was happy to do it. When you call tomorrow morning, (as many of you do when reports are filed against you) I won't play dumb as to who turned you in. Trust me, I'll let you know that it was me, and I'll tell you why.

Unfortunately for me. That's all I can do in this situation. A mere reporting to the authorities. The man in me who was raised to never hit a woman or child would love to take it further than that. I'd love to be able to say to you, "Hey, tough guy. The next time you feel like taking your anger out on someone, why don't you come and take it out on me?", but the unspoken law of professionalism prevents me from doing that. What a pity.

The best I can do to deal with the tremendous fury I am feeling inside right now is to post an imaginary letter in my blog. Truly, I'm at a loss how I, your son's teacher, can have more love and respect for your child than you do. Unfortunately, my love and caring alone isn't enough for him. He needs it from you and his mother too. Should you decide to get help, well, I wish you the best and will help any way I can. If you intend on continuing a life of deceit, anger and physical abuse, then I have nothing for you except contempt, lack of respect and an ever watchful eye, and believe me.... I'll always be watching.


by: Speced9, 09-12-2009

All in all, I'm pretty flexible when it comes to all of those "extras" that we teachers seem to encounter as part of our jobs. The after school meetings, nighttime programs and summer workshops are just part of the job. I do have to wonder sometimes though what some of these people are thinking when they schedule things on certain days and at certain times.
Here's a few examples from my neck of the woods:

We have a parent educator in our building. She is responsible for scheduling those activities that get our students' families involved in the their education. Most of them are breakfasts that run about 30-45 minutes before the normal school day. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for getting the family into the school, but one activity in particular has left me scratching my head. For the past three years, she has scheduled a grandparents event on a FRIDAY NIGHT, then wonders why she doesn't get any volunteers to help out. Oh, yeah, I can think of no better way to start my weekend off than to come back to school from 7:00-8:30 p.m. to serve grandparents dinner!


My special education supervisor is in charge of planning professional development activities for our self-contained classroom teachers. It's not a mandatory thing, plus, you get paid for going. I relish the chance to hook up with my colleagues across the district, so I usually go. Well, I just found out tonight that she has scheduled our first meeting next Tuesday! Of course, she hasn't sent out anything about it yet(I found out through the grape vine.). So, with the time she has left, let's see...... She will have someone type up an invitation sheet tomorrow. It will get sent out to buildings Thursday. It will arrive at buildings on Friday, then the school secretaries may, or may not get it in teacher mailboxes before the weekend begins. Call me crazy, but I think our teachers, especially those with kids, would want a little more heads up time for a meeting that will run from 4-6 pm in the evening.


We have a teacher in our school who is always in charge of African-American History Month activities. Last year, she scheduled a big assembly with lots of local celebrities/politicians etc. in attendance. Three days (YES, THREE DAYS) before the assembly, she sent out an email asking what each individual teacher was planning for their class to do during the assembly. All of us were were like, "Uh.....when did you ask us to have some kind of performance for the assembly?" Long story, short. The teacher in charge got all defensive about it and accused many of trying to make her look bad. "Yeah, right.", I thought, "You don't need us to make yourself look bad!"


President Obama decided to make a speech to the youth of America about the importance of education. Someone believed that he was going to take the opportunity to somehow brainwash our children into becoming advocates for his new health care plan and began to complain. Then others believed that person and thought, "I don't want my child to be a socialist!" and submitted complaints of their own. Before we knew it, the frenzy grew and grew leading the entire country to believe that President Obama was going to turn our youth into the kids from Village of the Damned.

This lead to lots of absenteeism and angry phone calls fielded by our poor school secretaries all morning from panic-stricken parents all over a 15 minute speech encouraging our children to stay in school.


*Note- I am not an Obama fan, but I do think that this was a fine example of fear and loathing by the public of America.
I think the great philosopher Yoda said it best:

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

"Hate also leads to stupidity."- SpecEd9


Wii-inding Down
by: Speced9, 09-01-2009

When I first started teaching, as weird as it sounds, I would unwind from a long day in the classroom by just sitting in my bathroom. I know- weird, but my roommate and I had this deep blue shower curtain that would capture the afternoon sun through the window bathing the entire room in this comforting blue aura.

This past year, I've found a much different way to wind down that involves cartoon violence and sound effects.

Yep. Thank goodness I have a Wii. When we first got one during Christmas last year, I found that Wii Sports baseball did the trick quite nicely.

There was nothing that a few rounds of batting practice and home run derby couldn't cure. Of course, playing a game against the computer had its calming effects too as long as I was winning. Unfortunately, once your character turns "PRO", the computer opponents get tougher and there goes the calming effects. It's not like I could have a bad day then feel better getting beat 12-1 by a computer-animated opponent with no legs and balls for hands.

At some point I had to switch sports, so moving on to Wii Sports boxing filled that gap nicely. Now there's a stress reliever!

Jab! Jab! Uppercut! He's down! Take that, you bureaucratic, educational leader!

Right cross! Right cross! Right cross! Want some more, teaching colleague who got on my nerves today?

Unfortunately, I ran into the same problem with boxing as I did with baseball- once you reach that "PRO" level, it's time to take a beating yourself, which isn't an option after a trying day.

That leads me to the recently distributed Wii Sports Resort. I immediately gravitated to the swords play game. That's kind of a misleading name because you don't actually use swords. They're more like those play lightsabers you can get at the toy store. They even make the sound of hitting someone in the head with an empty roll of wrapping paper when you score a hit.

So, now it's- WOMP! WOMP! WOMP!, then a fall and a splash as your opponent falls off the platform and into the water below. It even kind of follows the routine of dealing with administrators. My opponent will throw a comment at me, I'll block it, then hit 'em right back with a few of my own comments.

Even better is the feature called SHOWDOWN. In this game, it's you and your trusty wrapping paper roll against an army of lunkheads (i.e. THE POWERS THAT BE). Most of them take one WOMP of the saber to knock down, so it's quite satisfying to knock three or four down with one swing. Then, there's these other dudes (I'm guessing the high level administrators) that take two or three hits a piece to knock down. Ah! Stress relief at its finest!

From left to right: The Directors of Special Ed., Personnel and Reading Instruction, The Superintendent and that annoying teacher down the hall. (Coming up from behind: That clique of teachers who like to gossip and that damn copier that jams.)

My only concern about this method is that it is highly addictive. I'm guessing I'll hit rock bottom when I pull out a Wii remote and start waving it in the faces of those who stress me out one day.


Summer of Sloth
by: Speced9, 08-27-2009

summer (sum-er)n.
1. The usually warmest season of the year, occurring between spring and autumn and consisting June, July and August.

sloth (sloth)n.
1. Aversion to work or exertion; laziness;indolence

summer of sloth (sum-er uv sloth)n.
1. How I spent my summer vacation.

Last summer, I was so Bob Villa-ish. I painted. I installed doors. I was so Mr. Mom-ish too. I cleaned. I polished. I cooked. I was SUPER HUSBAND.

This summer, I just got off on the wrong foot. A little advice to my fellow teachers- DON'T START YOUR SUMMER WITH SURGERY! After that, it's just downhill from there. So, in order to prep myself for the inevitable question I'll have to answer a dozen or more times starting tomorrow, I better start brainstorming now.

"Hey! How are you? What did you do this summer?"

The Totally Unbelievable Summer Vacation Story

"Wow! Glad you asked! I spent the first month of summer vacation helping a village in a third world country dig a well, build a school (I even taught there for a couple of weeks.) and fight a civil war. I was exhausted by the time I went home on the 4th of July to celebrate the holiday weekend with the President and his family. Boy, that Bo has a leg humping problem! It's not like you can kick at the Presidential dog! He has his own Secret Service agents you know! Well, after that, I came home and replaced all the walls in the house. It was a bit of a task to tear down the walls but leave the new door frames I installed last summer intact. Then in August, I started putting my classroom back together. The gold leafing I put on the walls is pretty, but boy does it take time to install! Well, enough of me, how was your summer?"

The Making It Seem Better Than It Was Summer Vacation Story

"My summer? Oh, it was okay. I had a little outpatient procedure on my nose in June, but I was back to my old self within days (I just got back to my old self three days ago). I did a lot of research (I watched TV) and reading (the newspaper) that gave me a lot of ideas for this year! (I didn't get any ideas, just brain degeneration.)
So, I'm well rested (I haven't been to bed before midnight in three months.) and ready to go! (I'm ready to go back home and go to bed.) Well, enough of me, how was your summer?

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth Summer Vacation Story

"My summer? Yeah, thanks for bringing that up, pal. What happened? I'll tell ya, what happened! Some crazy doctor took a melon baller to my sinus cavities and then lied to me about the recovery process! I sat on my butt, popped pain pills and watched crappy daytime television. Now I'm addicted to "All My Children" (Kendall didn't do it!). I ate like a cow and can't fit into my teacher pants anymore, so I'm petitioning the School Board to change the dress code to include sweatpants with elastic waistbands. The highlight of my summer was going to the State Fair and seeing every teenager in town standing in sidewalk-blocking groups with their cell phones stuck to their ears (Who could they be talking to? All of there friends were right there standing around too!). Just when I began to feel like myself again, August had reared its ugly head, so here I am. and...... NO, I don't give a crap what your summer was like, so sit down and shut up before I have to call your mom on the first day of school."

Have a great year everyone!


The World According to Billy
by: Speced9, 08-07-2009

It's not often that I am completely blown away by a movie, but I feel compelled to write about this one. Put this one on your rental list- Billy the Kid. I'm glad I did.

As I was browsing through the documentaries on Netflix, I came across this gem of a movie. I actually had no idea how deeply it would affect me when I clicked it into my Queue. All I knew of it was that it was about "a teen in small-town Maine enamored with girls and pro wrestling" I thought, "Hmmm...girls. I like girls (er...women) and pro-wrestling is mildly entertaining when there's nothing else to watch". So, I figured it was worth an hour and a half's time during a lazy summer afternoon.

The thing about this movie is that it's not what it seems to be when you first start watching it. From the opening scene where Billy is giggling and opening his mouth wide for the camera and asking, "Did you see down my throat at all?", I figured him to be your average teenager hamming it up for the camera. Then I decided that he must be a teenager who's a trouble maker. I figured I was going to see some kind of documentary about juvenile delinquency. Boy, was I wrong.

Then, with the very next scene, I knew something was special about this boy. I could tell by the way he walked. I could tell by the way his eyes darted back and forth. I could tell by what he said:

"I know I'm unique. I don't let it go to my head though. I'm just someone who was born different from others. You know, not black, not white, not foreign, just different in the mind. Different brains, that's all"

My special ed. intuition told me right then and there that this boy has Asperger's, and I began to watch the film with even greater interest.

Now here's where the film again becomes something else than what I expected. I expected to see this young man going through the obvious social problems that many with Asperger's experience, and I did see that. What I didn't expect though was to be hanging on this kid's every word. If I ever saw him in person, I'm sure that I'd ask him what the meaning of life is. Now, don't get me wrong, not everything Billy says is thought provoking. He does have his moments when it's very obvious he is confused by the world, and that people just don't know what to think of him. For the life of me though, I couldn't understand why people wouldn't clamor around this kid. He is the most fascinating fifteen year old I've ever seen, bar none.

There is Billy the confused adolescent:

"Do teenagers always bite the heads off their elders?" (talking with his mom about his relationship with his step-father)

There is Billy the man of chivalry:

"I don't shoot the women. I think it's a sin to hurt women, real or fake." (playing a shoot 'em up video game)

There is Billy the insightful young man:

"I don't think I'm better than anyone else, which I think no one should feel." (when talking about how a girl made fun of him)

There is Billy the awkward boy talking to girls:

"I ride around the town a lot when I'm feeling bored- good way to get a tan." (one of his opening lines to Heather, a girl he is interested in who has vision problems).

And there's the Billy who might just say the wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person:

"Just like her, I have a little condition.... bronchitis." (referring to Heather's eyes when meeting Heather's grandma for the first time.)

I'm telling you, if Billy would have been around in the 80s, no one would have cared what Frankie had to say.

So, please check out this wonderful film. Despite the fact that I've never had Billy in class, or even met him for that matter, the pride I felt in seeing him take on the world made me realize that I had indeed chosen the right career path. Thank you, Billy.


Acronyms R Us
by: Speced9, 07-19-2009

Where else but in special education can you have a million, ever changing acronyms?

I've previously blogged concerning the number of name changes we've had for retardation since the mid-80s. A recent post by a fellow PTer, FLteachESE made me realize that there are so many variations on the different eligibilities across the world that the number may be infinite. Let's take a look at the acronyms from my neck of the woods:

CD- Cognitively Disabled (formerly known as: Mental Retardation, Cognitively Impaired, Mentally Impaired, Mentally Handicapped, Educable Mentally Handicapped and Educable Mentally Retarded.)

SLD-Specific Learning Disabled (Wow. Three letters for this one. It used to just be LD, but someone decided that acronym wasn't specific enough. So, they added one to it.)

ED-Emotional Disability (Do you suppose there's a kid named Ed who is ED?)

DD-Developmental Delay (There's a good bra joke in there somewhere.)

Autism- (Why no acronym for autism? Isn't this disciminatory? I'm wondering if there is a parent group currently functioning to get autism its own acronym?)

MD- Multiple Disabilities (It makes you wonder how many of these children are mistaken for a doctor.)

OHI- Other Health Impaired (Yeah, why don't you just go ahead and call it ADHD and stop messing around?)

OI- Orthopedic Impairment

HI- Hearing Impairment (There has to be some rule about an acronym actually spelling out a word. I'd say this one is in direct violation.)

VI- Visual Impairment

What's the difference between an eligibility being a disability and another being an impairment? I think there's a fine line between the two, but hey, I'm not in charge, so I can't make that call. I do know this, all of these acronyms are disabilities that could lead to impairments in our special education workforce, that's for sure.

Impairment: an injury, illness, or congenital condition that
causes or is likely to cause a loss or difference of
physiological or psychological function.

Disability: the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in
society on an equal level with others due to social
and environmental barriers.

TBI- Traumatic Brain Injury

SL- Speech/Language (a.k.a. Slow Learner to the ill informed regular ed. teacher as in "That kid's an SL! You know, a SLOW LEARNER?")

LD- Language Disorder (Ah! There's our answer for the need to get all specific on the learning disabilities!)

Just think, there's the possibility that every school district in the world has their own version of these eligibility acronyms. It kind of makes you wonder if THE POWERS THAT BE are trying to one-up each other on how many times they can change an acronym under the guise of being more politically correct.

Personally, I have a few of my own to add. It would be great if we could have an unlimited amount of secondary eligibilities that could be given without an MDC (don't ask):

HS/ShS- He's a Spitter or She's a Spitter

KOPN- Kid's Okay, Parent's a Nut

BEP- Behavior Enabled by Parent

CC- Case of the Critters

SF- Sticky Fingers

CN- Chuck Norris (watch those hands and feet!)

SQED- Same Question Every Day

I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm wiling to guess that the only special education acronym that is constant from district to district, state to state and country to country is I.E.P. Who knows though, some smug beaurocrat may get it in his/her head to change it to

SAP- Singular Academic Plan

Personally, I'd change it to:

PRMBD- Pain in the Rump but it Must Be Done


Smells Like Sinus Surgery! Part 3
by: Speced9, 07-13-2009

Ooh, that smell,
can't you smell that smell?
Ooh, that smell,
the smell of death surrounds you.
-Lynyrd Skynyrd

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm grumpy.
I'm grumpy because I haven't bounced back as quickly from this surgery as fast as I thought I would. For three weeks I've been what I consider a slug. Oh, I've done lots of things (bike riding, housework, yardwork), but not at the usual mile-a-minute pace I'm used to. Then, to add to my grumpiness, a new factor in the sinus surgery recovery comes to light-


This, of course, is the weirdest sinus symptom I've ever had. I've dealt with the infamous metallic taste when an infection comes on. That's doable. This stinking nose thing is killing me though.

Let me try to explain this to you, the reader. Imagine this- you're in the kitchen (which I was) and you smell something rotten. It's a smell that is a cross between bad cheese and dead rodent. So, you look around the kitchen trying to find the source of the dead, cheesy mouse. Garbage can? Nope. Disposal? Nope, nope. The dog? No?


So, you go downstairs, and BINGO!, there's that smell again! Are dry roquefort hamsters known to rise up from the dead and scamper away?

It's about this time that I figure out what the deal is. I'm smelling my own nose. It makes sense I guess. The nose picks up on olfactory stimuli no matter where that stimuli is. So, if something's stinky inside your nose, then it makes sense that you will smell whatever it is. After all, you can hear a fly buzzing in your ear right?

The problem with this though is that there's no way to get away from it. You can close a garbage can. You can run the disposal. You can even bathe the dog, but you can't run away from your own nose. Trust me. I tried.

What's causing this smell in my nose? Well, according to Dr. Internet, it could be a couple of different things. First off, it could be a sinus infection (like I've never had one of those before), or it could just be the normal healing process from my surgery. I'll have to wait and see when I go to the real doctor tomorrow.

So, I've been through two days STINKY NOSE. I tried everything to make it more bearable- lots of saline spray, sinus flushes- I even tried putting a little Vicks® under my nose like those FBI dudes do when they're looking at a dead body. That doesn't work at all. As a matter of fact, it follows the same principal as using pine air freshener after polluting the lounge bathroom. After you spray it, it doesn't smell better. It just smells like someone crapped a forest in there. The same with my nose, it smelled like a guinea pig with a head cold had died eating cheetos in my nose.

Good news today though. My symptoms are half of what they were yesterday- literally. I woke up this morning and only stink in my right nostril. How's that for weird? The left side is as fresh as a daisy while the right side is holding on to the plan of making my life miserable. So, I kind of have this love/hate relationship going on with my nose right now.

I guess the only thing I can do until I talk to the doctor tomorrow is think about one of my favorite jokes (which I'm sure I've posted before, but hey, favorite jokes are made to be told over and over and over, plus, this one kind of applies to my current situation).

Man #1- My dog has lost his nose!

Man #2- How does he smell?

Man #1- Terrible!


The Perfect Storm
by: Speced9, 07-12-2009

Consider yourself warned.
Recovery from the sinus surgery has been well, interesting.

You know, after a surgery there's a kind of comfort that comes from setting your responsibilities aside and getting a little TLC from the ones you love. Since last Friday, I've spent an enormous amount of time in my trusty recliner, remote in hand and a beautiful wife to bring me food and drink. No man would pass that up no matter what their post-surgery pain level was. Unbeknownst to me though, the Perfect Storm was brewing. While I was enjoying my male-dominated fantasy world, factors in my recovery were joining together to knock me down a notch or two.

You see, I'm a regular kind of guy. When I say regular, I mean regular. Get what I mean? No? Well, with the threat of sounding like Mary Katherine Gallagher, I think the character, Reverend Veasey, from the motion picture Cold Mountain said it best-

I used to be as regular as morning prayers. Matter of fact, I could set my watch by my bowels.
So, by the third day of recovery, it finally dawned on me that I wasn't so regular anymore. I was constipated. Yuck. Now that I think of it, isn't constipated a great example of onomatopoeia? Say it slow with a deep voice a few times and you'll get my drift. All those hard consonants keep the vowels from flowing I figure.

Honestly, I can't remember a time that I was really constipated in my life though. Well, wait.....there was that time that I ate nothing but Lucky Charms for three days. That was an experience. Geez, college eating habits, but beyond that, nothing. So, it wasn't until I really started looking at my recovery plan that I discovered I was doomed from the start.

First, let's talk pre-surgery here. Remember that Prednisone they gave me? Guess what? It causes constipation! Then there's the anesthetic. Huh? It can cause constipation? What about the anti-biotics they gave me? Yep! They can cause constipation! Vicodin for pain? CONSTIPATION! How about being immobile for an extended length of time? What? You're kidding? THAT causes constipation too?

The list of side-effects plays out like a conspiracy theory. It's not like they tell you these things you know. It kind of makes me want to start an activist group to get a mandatory warning label for products that cause users to bind up. I think this one would suffice.


So, let's just say I had my work cut out for me yesterday when my quest for regularity began. With an extended belly and the walk of a 120 year old man, I shuffled into the local drug store and made my way to the laxative section. Man, and I thought there were a lot of pain relievers to choose from! I opted for the generic, maximum-strength variety of laxative. No chocolate for me though. Why would I want to spoil the future comfort of coco with a memory like this? Nope. I opted for the pill. The package promised that two of those babies and a good night's rest would provide gentle relief. I liked that idea. Relief is what I wanted, but heck, if I could get gentle relief, I was all for it.

So, after THREE nights of promises for gentle relief, my generic laxative finally came through today. Actually, it came through about four or five times, but who's counting? Once again, I have to quote the Cold Mountain reverend to describe the emotions that came forth:

Oh God of my God! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Israelites! The tribes of Israel are about to flee from the banks of Egypt! Hallelujah!
Interestingly enough, the expression on Wahlberg and Clooney below must have been the same expression I made when things started to come through (or is it out?) for me.

At this point, I'm back to being a regular guy, but my experiences are far from over. I'm pretty sure that the household cash flow will become a little constipated too when the bills start arriving at the end of the month.

This blog post is two-ply!


Smells Like Sinus Surgery! Part 2
by: Speced9, 06-23-2009

Yeah, I smelled it, and it didn't smell good.

Still, it's worthy of a blog post, so here we go.

Part One- Starvation and Thirst

Hey, you can't have surgery without starvation and thirst. There's nothing like trying to get a mouthful of chips and that last drink of water in at 11:59 p.m. the night before. At the height of my withdrawal symptoms (more on that later) I actually began to wonder about a possible loophole in the No Food or Drink After Midnight rule involving a supersonic jet and a destination into a different time zone.

While the rule does have its reasons (i.e. puking on the operating table kind of puts a damper on things I figure), there's really more to it than a little fasting before a procedure. The medical establishment makes it seem so easy-

"Now, just make sure you don't have anything to eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery. If you need to take medication the morning of the surgery, you may do so with a sip of water."

BUT, what they really mean to say is-

"No food or drink after midnight the night before surgery. You can expect to be really cranky by mid-morning, even more so if we have instructed you to take medication the morning of surgery that should be taken with food or milk! How silly of us! We crack ourselves up! You will also want to refrain from any mental figuring of the approximate time you will be able to eat and drink again after the surgery. We will most definitely be running behind to begin with (by HOURS), or short on recovery room and/or dismissal staff which will delay your little trip for a double cheeseburger and large, chocolate shake by 5-6 hours."

Part Two- You're Not Addicted Huh? Heh, Heh, We'll See About That!

No one, I repeat, NO ONE will ever be able to convince me that caffeine is not THE MOST ABUSED DRUG ON THE PLANET. I also suspect that there may be a conspiracy in the works by the NEW WORLD ORDER to bring the earth to its knees through the elimination of soda, chocolate and coffee from store shelves.

I expected a little bit of a headache given that I am a big drinker of the Diet Vanilla Pepsi, but I had no idea how bad it could get. As I sat there in the We've-Called-You-Back-to-This-Room-to-Wait-in-Order-to-Hide-the-Fact-We're-Running-Hours-Behind Room, the first throbs of a caffeine headache started rearing its ugly head.

Slowly, I began to start feeling less and less like myself,

and more and more like this guy =====>

It was incredible. My head was hurting more than ANY migraine I've ever had. I was nauseous. I was sweating like a prize fighter during the post-bout interview.

At that point, I said to my wife, "Get the nurse! I think I'm going to pass out!"

My wife gave me the look that said, "What? Where's this coming from?"

When the nurse came over, I said, "Slur, slurring, slurry, slur, slur!"

Translation: "I think I'm having a major caffeine withdrawal here. Can you do something?"

The nurse gave me the Oh-You're-an-Addict-and-Don't-Know-It Look, and went back into the area of the room where the medication was kept. I likened that area to the snack bar at a movie theater. Things were kept in these overly-lit, glass cases, and I'm sure everything was way overpriced.

She came back about 15 minutes later (just enough time for me to writhe in agony and scare the crap-ola out of my step-daughter) with a syringe full of something. She put it into my IV line giving me quite a feeling of floating in the air. Unfortunately, I was stupid enough to state that fact-

"Heh, heh, heh, it feels like I'm flooooaaaaatttttiiiiiinnnnnnggg gg!"

Immediately, my symptoms were cut in half. About five minutes later, she came back with another one and shot me up. This one didn't lift me off the bed like the other one did, but it did take the headache down to a pinpoint, and totally eliminated the nausea and sweating. I felt normal enough to ask what she was giving me.

"Oh, it's caffeine. Each dose is equal to about a cup of coffee!"

This blows me away. Two cups of coffee? I was sweating in front of my family like a street corner junkie over two cups of coffee? I couldn't believe that a couple of sodas was the difference between a mild headache and all out psycho withdrawal symptoms! So, lessoned learned. I'm on the road to caffeine reduction in my life. Your plan is foiled with me NWO!

Part Three- They Slipped Me a Mickey

I don't know when they do it, but they do. Some time between the straight shot of Diet Vanilla Pepsi and the gas mask, those nurses slipped me a Mickey. I think the official medical term is "something to relax you". The trouble is, I don't remember them saying that, and I swear, I had my arm with me the entire time. All I know is, by the time I went from the caffeine detox room to the operating room, any remaining faculties I had were gone. This was quite evident when the attending nurse asked me about my Chinese calligraphy tattoo.

Nurse: "What does your tattoo mean?

Me: "Slurred, slurring, slur, slur, slurrrrrrrr!"
Translation: "A%#hole! Giggle, giggle"

Me the Next Day: " I can't believe I said that!"

Anyway, that's the last thing I remember, period. Hopefully they had a Chinese calligraphy dictionary handy in the operating room to answer that question on their own.

Part Four- How'd I Get Here and Where's My Diet Pepsi?

That's pretty much what goes through my mind after a procedure. It happened with the colonoscopy, and it repeated itself with this procedure. I was also in the mood to show my gratitude for said Diet Pepsi because I recall thanking the nurse for it and informing her that I was putting her in my will. The nurse who refilled my soda got the same treatment, though I do recall telling her that she would have to split the 10% of my assets I was giving her with nurse number one.

This brings me to another realization- I can't hold my anesthesia. Give me some of the sleepy gas and I immediately become a total idiot when I wake up. On the way out of the hospital, I pretended to drive the wheelchair I was in like a NASCAR driver. Somewhere in my memory are the smiling faces of visitors in the hospital laughing their butts off at the silly man with a nose bandage holding onto an imaginary steering wheel while a nurse wheeled him out to the car. With the Youtube age upon us, I can't begin to tell you how paranoid I am that someone took some cellphone footage of that little act and has already uploaded the footage under the description, "Nose-Bandaged Idiot Wins Wheelchair Race".

Part Five- Joey Tribbiani Would Be So Proud!

Believe it, or not, I spent the next 48 hours in my recliner with the occasional break to go to the bathroom and shower. My wife was wonderful. Not only did she take care of me, she also put up with more stupidity, memory lapses and the changing of the nose bandage. That's when you really see how much someone loves you. You've gotta be in love to change a nose bandage.

Part Six-David Copperfield Has Nothing to Worry About

So, today was my post surgery follow up visit. When I arrived, the receptionist informed me that the doctor was running an hour behind. Was I supposed to be surprised by this? Heck, the surgery was performed three hours later than scheduled, I wouldn't expect a follow up visit to happen at any time within the first hour after my scheduled time! Just call me a realist.

When I finally got in there to see the doctor, he had more unpleasantness arranged for me that basically consisted of pulling stuff out of there that he had somehow missed the first time around. Trust me, now I know why they put you under. You don't want to see what they're pulling out of there! It was like a magic trick gone bad. Remember the ol' Pulling-the-Scarves-Out-of-the-Mouth trick? Just imagine that only with your nose and much, much messier. Blech... I mean..... abracadabra! If you ever want to see the longest pair of tweezers ever, just go to your local ENT guy. They're amazing!

Let's sum up:

Scheduling Conflicts
More Stupidity
Loving Wife
Very Long Tweezers

Oh, and a determination to cut down on the caffeine. Wish me luck!


Signing (or is it sinusing?) Off for a While
by: Speced9, 06-18-2009

Tomorrow at 11:00 am is the big sinus surgery. After a week of sleepless nights from the Prednisone, I'm kind of welcoming being put under. Heck, at least I'll get some sleep! Hopefully I'll have something to blog about when it's over. Who am I kidding? If I don't, I'll just make it up!


I'm In The ZONE...Part Two
by: Speced9, 06-18-2009

With a looming sinus surgery on Friday, I started a mega-dose of Prednisone today. What a great drug! How else could a mild mannered teacher take on the persona of The Incredible Hulk in the blink of an eye?

Don't get me wrong, I understand the basis for putting me into a drug-induced state of nervousness, irritability and super-human strength (or so I'd like to think). They can't start excavating in my sinus passages if things are all gunked up in there. I figure Prednisone is the equivalent of STP Fuel Cleaner for surgeons.

Still, I can't help but hate the stuff. By noon today, the Prednisone Roller Coaster of Fun had begun.

Phase One- Nerves of Tissue Paper

I'm like Jerry Seinfeld in the Chicken Roaster episode.

"You look a little stressed."

Phase Two- A Plethora of Emotions

I'm like a multimedia presentation in a curriculum covering pre-teen emotions.

At first, there was a feeling of well being.

Then along comes self-pity and sorrow.

All the while, I'm seeing things scamper by my peripheral vision.

There's rodents, bugs, aliens and I'm pretty sure I saw a family of Borrowers in there somewhere.

It's about that time that irritability sets in.

What am I irritated over? I think it's easier to say what isn't irritating me, actually.
My dog? Ticking me off!
My kid? Ticking me off!
Daytime TV? Ticking me off!

Heck, I'm going back years and thinking of stuff to tick me off!

My brother breaking my battery-operated monkey that plays the cymbals when we were kids?

All I know is that I'm keeping my mouth shut when it comes to the wife. The only thing worse than being on Prednisone is being on Prednisone AND having to sleep on the couch.

Phase Three- A Case of the Jimmy Legs Topped With a Side Order of Pain

I'm telling you, if I wasn't aware of the fact that I'm hallucinating already, I'd swear that Kathy Bates paid me a visit this afternoon.

What's up with that? Actually, this is the first time I've experienced the aging joints of my elders. Since this is my first MEGA dose of the stuff, my wife (an experienced Prednisone user) tells me this is pretty common. I can handle the restless leg syndrome, but walking around like my grandpa has got to go!

Phase Four- Other Side-Effects I Have Yet to Discover

I think the fact that I'm blogging at 11:00 at night is a pretty good indication that insomnia might be heading my way, but I'm still feeling hopeful that I will get a good night's sleep.

The massive hunger pains that others describe has never hit me while taking this stuff, so I'm pretty sure I'll get by on that one. Still, I think I can be sufficiently sleep deprived and about ten pounds heavier if I really apply myself this week. Wish me luck!

Update: 6/16/09
Got the insomnia. I didn't go to bed until midnight last night. I laid there until 1:00, then got up and watched a movie. I think I fell asleep around 3:00 and woke up at 4:30. I'm truly in Seinfeld Chicken Roaster mode.

"Hey everybody, I'm on no sleep, no sleep!. You don't know what it's like in there, all night long things are creeping and cracking. And that red light is burning my brain!"

Update 6/17/09
Hey, GREAT emotional experience last night! I cried for no good reason at all! Yep. It's the truth! Me, Mr. Manly-Man started crying on the couch without any kind of emotional stimuli. My wife and I thought it was pretty funny. So, since I figure that crying for nothing is wasted tears, please let me know if there's anything you want my tears of Presdnisone to stand for.

Doggie having surgery? I'll cry for you!
Teenage son/daughter have failing grades this quarter? My tears are your tears!
Marriage problems? I've got tears to give!


Like a Demented Donnie and Marie
by: Speced9, 06-11-2009

Okay folks, time for another chapter about my weird neighbor, Gary. I was in the midst of my daily rite of passage as a teacher on summer vacation (a.k.a. A nap), when the doorbell rang. Guess who? Yep. It was my weird neighbor, Gary.

For those of you not familiar with Gary, his main social disability is the fact that he doesn't know how to end a conversation. I think this quote from a past blog entry says it best:

As usual, he can't just get right to the point. A conversation with Gary is like landing a hang glider. You have to keep circling, and circling and circling around the target before you finally land.
So, there's Gary at my front door, trying to explain to me why he has crossed over the imaginary line that keeps him at a distance 24/7 in order to ring my doorbell. LONG story short, Gary has a nephew who is receiving special ed. services in a nearby district. His sister, (a.k.a. the boy's mother) is in a heated debate with the district over what services her boy should be getting. I ask, "Well, what is his disability?"
Gary doesn't know.
I ask, "Has he ever been tested?"
Gary doesn't know, but he immediately whips out his new high-tech cell phone to give his sister a call.

(Holding the phone up to his mouth) "Call my sister."

Nothing happens.

(Again holding the phone up to his mouth) "Call my sister!"

The cell phone makes a beeping sound and says back to him, "Would you like to use your mobile device?", or something like that.

(Now Gary's practically kissing the phone.) "CALL MY SISTER!"

It's at that time I just have to point out to Gary that he could have dialed the number already. So, Gary dials his sister's number.

"Hello, Beth? This is Gary. Hey, I'm over here at my neighbors house."

Gary then proceeds to tell his sister my NAME, what my house looks like, my SCHOOL and the fact that I have a lot of years under my belt. Who knows, maybe it's Impress Your Family With Your Neighbor's Credentials Day.

As Gary begins talking to his sister, it's quite evident that Gary has met his match in the conversation department. He can't get a word in edgewise. This, of course, is also a sign to me that the whole apple falling from the tree analogy continues to be true.

It's at that time I hear the words that send fear into my heart.

"Here, why don't you just talk to my sister?"

So, here we go. A conversation with Gary's sister. First impression? She sounds like him talking falsetto. It's the very same hang glider of a conversation pattern only female. Round and round I go.

VERY LONG story, short, The boy's teacher is too young and he ain't learning nothin'.

"She must be nineteen, or so!"

I didn't have the heart to tell her that that was kind of impossible. Then again, I guess a child genius could be driven to teach special education. Who am I to immediately discount the possibility?

"He has a sister that age, so he doesn't think of her as a teacher. More like a sister."

So, the conversation goes on, and on and on. Every few minutes or so, I repeat the same thing over and over:

"Well, if you're not satisfied with the services your child is getting, you should ask for an IEP meeting to discuss it. That's where I would start. If it's a behavior issue, it's up to the teacher to demand his respect, and for you to back her up."

All the while, weird neighbor Gary is pacing back and forth on my front porch. I figure he's pacing for a couple of reasons. First, he probably has to use the bathroom, and second, he's probably afraid that his sister is going to beat the length of time that anyone in his family has engaged me in conversation. Yet another family competition I figure.

Finally, I make the mental decision to use Gary to get out of the conversation with his sister. So, I say, "Uh, Gary's here now looking kind of bored, so I'm going to turn the phone back over to him." That leads to another five minute conversation between Gary and his sister where he's not getting a word in again. Luckily, he walks away and waves goodbye to me.

(CUE THEME SONG TO The Great Escape)

In case you're keeping tabs, this is the second family member of Gary's that I have had the misfortune to talk to. I'd love to see the stats for their Keep Your Neighbor Occupied With Never-ending Conversation Competition.

1st Gary- 2 Days, 3 hours and 23 minutes
2nd Gary's Sister- 35 minutes
3rd-Gary's Dad- 27 minutes

Unfortunately, I figure this is the SUMMER ROUND, so I probably have a few more conversations to go.


Before there was blogging...
by: Speced9, 06-06-2009

there was a thing called journaling. With a case of the "busy bees" today, I came across an old journal of mine. I started it during my junior field experience classes in college and continued to write in it until my second year at my current school. As I read, I found some interesting stories and insights coming from the college student, student teacher, rookie educator and seasoned professional that is me. Some made me smile, some made me wince and a few had me realizing the journey I have taken to become the teacher I am today.

January 13, 1987 (Field Experience Class)
Short day, but busy. I made out vocabulary cards, behavior tokens and read to the class. Alas! Something to do!

February 11, 1987
I got a letter from a student today. Little does she know that it's things like that that make it all worthwhile.

February 16, 1987
I can't believe that I'm TEACHING! It's really strange. Something take's over when I'm up there.

April 10, 1987
I've seen proof of the great divide between special and regular education in this school. One teacher, Mrs. B. doesn't like sharing the music teaching with me and my supervising teacher. She always takes control of the whole situation. Basically, she plots and plans the music lesson behind our backs, leaving us up in the air. On a positive note, I have been able to play my guitar for the children. That's a great thing. There's nothing like a kid coming up to you and telling you that they liked your guitar playing.

April 27, 1987
A glum day- right this minute to be exact. I just messed up a math lesson and my super took it over. I wish she wouldn't have, then I would have saved face.

May 4, 1987
A note on teaching- It's not just standing up there and whipping out the facts. Teaching is being a mother, a friend, a salesman and a political activist all rolled into one.

September 17, 1987 (Student Teaching)
A weird occurrence to note- A student in my fourth period class noticed that another student was in my second period class.

"He's in special classes, ain't he?"

and I was thinking, "Yes, and so are you!"

I don't think that this student realizes that he is in special education too.

October 13, 1987
Elementary school- in a way, it's a lot more threatening than the high school I just came from- all those little blank faces staring at you.

December 4, 1987
My last day as a student teacher. Have I been prepared? Am I good at what I do? So they all have told me, I'll do fine. We shall soon see.

February 21, 1988 (First Year Teacher-Middle School)
Beyond basic stories about the kids, my first year is giving me a lot of insight about this profession. I may look back on this passage and think that I was maybe overreacting out of ignorance, or worse yet, underreacting for the same reason. You see, we are in the midst of contract negotiations and basically, the hype has started. Salary, prep periods, class sizes. I keep finding myself wanting to stand up and yell, "WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?"

November 27, 1988 (Second Year Teaching)
I never thought I could be this stressed. At this point, I'm deliberating two things:
One, moving out of town to give teaching another chance, or two, staying here until the spring of 90 (to fulfill my student loans) and giving up teaching entirely.

February 6, 1989
In October of 88, I wrote that my situation wasn't that great, but as I know now, it was in fact, very good. I just didn't have anything to compare it to. Some time in mid-November, my beloved leader decided to create an "alternative program" for students with stacks of referrals thicker than books. It has put me in a position where I am laughed at by my fellow teachers.

February 10, 1989
A boy named Robert came up to me in the hallway today and asked me if I would take him to see the St. Louis Blues play. It seems he that he won a couple of tickets and no one will take him. I was, and still am very flattered that he would ask me, but at the same time, I think it's very sad that he has to ask a teacher of all people to take him. I'm going to take him. It will show him that people do care about him.

February 22, 1989
As a part of the alternative program, I decided to do a service learning project. The project had to consist of providing some service, or project for the school. It took a little work. I really thought that the AP kids would have some good ideas, but they were pretty lame. I finally shaped their ideas into doing a desk cleaning service for the other teachers. That's when they perked up. The thought of getting out of classwork twice a week proved motivating. They're calling the project, AC/DC (Alternative Class Desk Cleaning).

April 6, 1989
Every once in a while, I'm surprised at the AP students' interest in certain things. I took a fish bowl full of shells into class with me today. I thought they could sort them during freetime. The gang was very interested in the shells, so we spent the entire period looking at them and talking about where they came from. I was very impressed.

August 31, 1989 (Third Year Teaching)
I certainly have some dandys this year. Most notably there's a student named Andre who I have to wonder how anyone could have passed this boy up to the 7th grade. I can't say that his reading skills are low because they are basically non-existant. How can anyone expect this kid to be successful?

November 13, 1989
Andre has made some progress and has shown me that he does have some ability for a sight word vocabulary. Still, I wonder what life will hold for him in the future. I'm hoping that he doesn't end up being "gang material".

December 12, 1989
It bothers me that in general, there are a lot of kids in this school who can make a lot of waves. I know this sounds crazy, but it was almost like a prison uprising the other day. It's like those kids can go off, and we can't get it under control because there are too many of them. A girl gave me two boy's names that she says were throwing rocks to start the whole fiasco. I'm considering using the "frame technique" on both of them (i.e. going to both and saying the other named them) so they'll convict each other.

May 11, 1990
I got a call for an interview for a state job.

May 15, 1990
I'm starting to feel a little apprehensive about this interview. It's normal. YOU CAN DO THIS JOB!

May 23, 1990
Ok, a little practice for this state job interview-

How do you perceive special education in the year 2000?

I perceive special education in the year 2000 as changing a culmination of legislation (crossed out)
(Boy, this is going well.)

I perceive special education in the year 2000 as a time in which professionals will be dealing with disabilities in their most severe form. (crossed out)

I perceive special education in the year 2000 as leaning towards- ( madly crossed out)

As professionals in the field of special education, we will be dealing with disabilities- (cross, cross, really crossed out)

Special education in ten years will be a time in which we as professionals will be making decisions based on data and the least restrictive environment. These decisions will affect the roles that special and regular educators play in education.

May 25, 1990
I didn't do as well as I thought I would in that interview. I don't know if it's just that I genuinely didn't do well, or just clouded because I didn't knock them out of their seats. Nevertheless, I'm going to plan on returning to my usual place come fall.

January 2, 1993 (Department Chair of Special Education Services)
So much has happened in the last two years. I didn't get that state job. It came down to experience. I went to two interviews, but didn't come away with it. I decided in '91 to take the Dept. Chair job to get more administrative experience. It definitely has lived up to that expectation. The other reason I took it was to clean up all the wrong doings in the system. LRE changes made by deans at the snap of a finger and class size violations are on the top of my list.

February 12, 1993
When people find out that you're a special ed. teacher, they always say something to the effect of, "You must have patience.", or "I couldn't do that!", or even, "How do you keep from going nuts?" Even though they say these things, I really don't think they fully understand the impact of the situation on the person doing it. Sure, I have loads of patience, but sometimes it falters. Sometimes, I really believe that I can't do it.

December 12, 1994
I'm on the burn-out trail. I promised myself that I would write down one positive a day. Here goes-

1. James worked with me when 2 other students wouldn't.
2. A behavior disordered student asked me to escort him to class to avoid a fight.

Boy, that sure helped. (HEAVY SARCASM)

June 21, 1995
After being passed on a transfer to one elementary school, I have two others in the works. One if for a BD class, and the other an EMH class. I hope I get the EMH class. It's at one of the better schools in the district.

October 20 1997 (Second Year Teaching Elementary)
I guess I'm at the point where I can consider myself "seasoned". I transferred back to elementary a couple of years ago to get away from the buearocratic duties of Dept. Chair in the middle school setting. I'm very happy to have done that. It saved my career. Not just going back to elementary, or the classroom in general, but by particularly going to the school I am at. It's a great school. I'd like to finish my career here. I kind of wish that I had written in this journal when I started there in 8/95. The fears that I was feeling in 87 were there again in 95. I wasn't sure of myself. How was I going to teach these little children? What should I do? All those blank, little faces staring at me? I found out quickly that I could do it, and I LOVE it.

February 12, 1999
Just a thought-
It doesn't matter how good of a class you have from year to year. There's always some child, parent, teacher or administrator who can throw a wrench into your little teacher scenario that you developed in college education classes. The thing about teaching isn't that we do what we do. It's the fact that we keep coming back for more year after year.


Classroom Withdrawal
by: Speced9, 06-06-2009

Remember the count down scene with Mark Harmon in the movie, Summer School? I used to be like that in my younger days. As time has gone on though, I find myself not particularly looking forward to the end of the year.

I know what you're thinking! "He's full of it!" Seriously, though, I'm not a big fan of the end of the year. While other teachers are taking things down, I wait until the last day to even start. I totally hate the look of a classroom minus its color, pattern and literature rich existence.

Most of all, I miss my kids. MY KIDS. That sounds funny to me sometimes, but they are mine with all their personalities, quirks and demands.

So, what are the signs and symptoms of classroom withdrawal during the summer? Here are just a few:

1. Auditory hallucinations of bells ringing at 8:55, 9:00, noon, 12:45 and 3:30 each day.

2. An irresistible urge to smell crayons.

3. Morning supervision in your front yard.

4. Inability to pee between 9:00 am and noon.

5. Sitting criss-cross-applesauce while watching TV.

6. Posting a schedule on the fridge each morning.

7. Silent passage in your own hallway.

8. Calling the in-laws when your spouse won't follow your directions.

9. Referring to your bedroom as The Teachers' Lounge.

10. Forming a social committee to plan your July 4th family reunion.

If you, or your teacher friends exhibit any of these symptoms, follow these recommendations:

1. Watch the entire Room 222 DVD set.
2. Proclaim June, July and August as casual dress months.
3. Eat three Smuckers® Uncrustable Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and a small bag of baby carrots.
4. Create a rubric titled, Participation in Summer Fun Activities.
5. Refrain from any and all sensory input involving khaki pants, dress slacks, ugly teacher sweaters and t-shirts bearing school mascots.

Repeat if necessary. In extreme cases, teachers with classroom withdrawal may find it necessary to blog while symptoms decrease.


Why Didn't You Go BEFORE the Year Started?
by: Speced9, 05-29-2009

The stars must be aligned in my favor. Over the past month or so, I've gained a few allies in the quest to take down THE POWERS THAT BE a few notches. The amazing thing isn't gaining the alliances. Nope. The amazing thing is WHO my new allies are- PARENTS.

Isn't it amazing how we can go through our careers with this thought?


Okay, okay, I know there are many times that parents and us just aren't on the same page, but when the stars align at the right time, you can actually see that we have some of the same interests at heart, namely, our children. That's what has come to pass with me.

It started with a workshop I attended that was sponsored by a parent group for students with disabilities. Long story short, I ended up getting a board member to visit my classroom. This sent THE POWERS THAT BE into a tizzy. You can read about that here.

Things didn't stop there though. I began to attend this parent group's meetings. Then, parents started attending special ed. committee meetings through our union. We basically decided this through our combined meetings:

1. We both want change.
2. THE POWERS THAT BE like to screw with both of us.
3. THE POWERS THAT BE want us to be at odds with each other because it takes the heat off of them by redirecting our focus.
4. THE POWERS THAT BE would pee their pants if they knew we had joined forces.
5. Together, we could be a very influential group.
6. It would give us great pleasure to see THE POWERS THAT BE wet their administrative pants while making positive change happen.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Now, don't get me wrong, we still have our differences (like the topic of full inclusion for all special needs children), but we agree to disagree and communicate our opinions. I really believe that we can help each other in many ways.

Now, here's where it gets really good. It just so happens that two of my parents are involved with this parent group. One is a real heavy hitter. So, it's like I have Superman and The Incredible Hulk in my corner right now. One of my most recent fights with TPTB is getting a curriculum for my students who don't benefit from SRA Reading Mastery. Basically, I need a curriculum that focuses on survival reading skills. There's plenty of good programs out there, but TPTB won't buy it for me. Their argument is that my students don't need the curriculum until they reach third grade. My point is that they use Level II of a curriculum at that age and that we should be using Level I of that same curriculum when they are K-2 with me. As always, it's a power play and the money game combined. Well, it just so happens that Superman and The Hulk are the parents of the two children I need the curriculum for, so they're on the case already. I'm talking the full blitz here- phone calls, emails and personal visits to THE POWERS THAT BE. (Oops! trickle, trickle)

Wait. It gets better. Our district has this bad habit of splitting up levels of special ed. instructional classes between schools. For example, my primary level (K-2) class is the only instructional class at my school. When my kids reach third grade age, they have to switch schools. Only a couple of schools in the whole district have both levels in one place (primary K-2 and intermediate 3-5).

Superman and Hulk understand that this isn't in the best interest of their children. Of course, I'm in full agreement with them. I would love to have a partner to plan with, and to continue to be a force in my students' lives as they go through third, fourth and fifth grade. Heck, with RTI out there, just think of what another special ed. teacher and I could accomplish!

So, my super heroes are starting the push by parents to have both levels of instructional classrooms at the elementary level. This should be good. Yeah, it's going to upset some people if this turns into real change (i.e. teachers having to move their programs to another school to be with another level), but I would be willing to move to another school myself and would jump at the opportunity.

THE POWERS THAT BE are in for a wild ride. I'm no psychic, but I'm betting that sales of Depends® might increase at the administrative level in the near future. (LOOK OUT! IT'S A GUSHER!)


If Rubrics Were School-Wide
by: Speced9, 05-25-2009

Some may call me organized. Others claim I am a neat freak. Regardless, I don't think I'm any different from any other teacher in that I enjoy a clean classroom to teach in. Unfortunately, our district custodians look at things differently.

About ten years ago, our district decided to make some budget cuts. Besides our beloved librarians and school tech specialists, they also started the routine of our custodians cleaning our rooms every other day. Frankly, I don't see how this saves money. The guy is there every day regardless, now he just does less.

So, one day the custodian will only empty the trash, and on the other, he will empty the trash and sweep the floor. Oh, by the way, we're also asked to have our chairs up on the desks and tables to make their job easier. The result of that is for us to have chairs to take down from the desks and tables when we come in in the morning. What's up with that?

Now, here's my problem; dusting and moving things to sweep behind them are a thing of the past. The only time things are moved is during the summer when they resurface the wooden floors. The dust rag is not be a part of the custodial tool set, mind you. That little chore has to be done by yours truly.

This got me thinking about rubrics. If I had to create a rubric for my custodian, I think it would contain statements like this:

*can recognize a broom
*able to visualize dirt behind a movable cabinet
*refrains from eating out of the class treat jar
*can make a back-and-forth motion with rag in hand to dust shelves and window sills
*able to put trash cans back where they were before emptying
*turns classroom television off of ESPN when exiting the room
*recognizes and understands the word TRASH written on a box left by the trash can
*plugs things back in after using the outlet for the vacuum
*refrains from breaking things
*uses good citizenship by admitting he broke something
*recognizes and understands the word SAVE on white board
*clears browsing history after using my computer (i.e. Google Search- Brittney Spears Crotch Shot)
*able to follow a classroom map for placing furniture back in August, especially when he requested one to begin with
*understands that placing desk and chairs on newly waxed floor before adequate drying occurs will result in a super glue type bond

With all that in mind, I have to place our current custodian on the rubric as
(1) Novice- not at level of children who are selected as cleanup person in my classroom each day.


No Checks Please
by: Speced9, 05-30-2009

I guess at forty-something, I'm at the beginning of my fiddley-foo stage of life. Still, I find myself shaking my head more and more at my twenty-something coworkers as time goes on. There's a thing called, PAYING YOUR DUES, and I'm not so sure that today's generation understands what that means.

Let's face it, we all have our gripes. It's always one thing or another, but there are some things that you can depend on when you begin your teaching career. Crappy classrooms, crappy schedules, crappy materials and the kid who craps (in his pants). That's called PAYING YOUR DUES.

For example, I have a coworker who's all bent out of shape because she has to service LD students at two different schools. She's only a second year teacher, but she continuously complains about having to be at two different schools. In her mind, she expects to get that perfect placement from the get go. She doesn't seem aware of the DUES process. Does she expect to have it all like I do with two years under her belt? Hell, I wouldn't let her have what I have quite honestly. If someone gave her what I have, I'd have to steal a little bit of hers just to have more than her. After all, I've PAID MY DUES.

When I started in the late 80s, my first position was to take the overflow from the departmentalized 7th grade special ed. classes at a local middle school. When the teachers in place were deciding who to send to me, do you think they took the best kids they had and sent them over? No, like any teacher who has PAID THEIR DUES, they sent me the worst of the worst. So, my first job was working with the kids no one wanted, and having to change rooms every period of the day. I didn't even have a cart. The kids had to help me carry stuff around.

My second and third years weren't much better. I was assigned to a room, but it was an old science lab that just so happened to be split in half by portable partitions. Needless to say, you could see and hear the other class in THE SAME ROOM, so it was a ridiculous situation. I opted to travel every hour for those two years as well.

My fourth through eighth years, I had my own room, but I was always given the crappy classes to teach. One year I had BD resource, which isn't a bad thing in itself, but it is when you have a school that doesn't know how resource works. Another year, I was placed as an instructor in an "alternative" program (alternative meaning, "place to put the kids we really want to expel") teaching kids I wasn't even qualified to teach. Yet another year I was given all the science classes, without, I might add, any science equipment to teach with. They gave me some workbooks though. How generous, huh?

It wasn't until I moved to my current position in the mid 90s that I finally had my own room and a program to teach that I liked. I was in the wonderful world of primary special education, but still, I had DUES TO PAY because I was the low man on the totem pole. Yeah, I was the one with 9:00 am P.E., Music and Art. I was the one with one computer, but no software. Yep, that was me without any materials to teach reading, math, social studies and science. Monday playground supervision? Yep, me.

As the years went on, PAYING MY DUES started to pay off. I think it went something like this:

"Oh, he had to teach 7th/8th grade special ed. science without science materials? Hmmm.... that means he should get one of the new computers in his class now."

"What? He was made to teach a psuedo-alternative program without being qualified to do so? Well, heck, let's give him some reading materials"

"He had who? The crazy kid who would spit on the floor, and the mother who would write a note and/or call every day of the year? Give that man some new desks for his classroom!"

So, now, after PAYING MY DUES for twenty-something years, I have a beautiful classroom, more materials to teach than I ever had, an optimal supervision and specials schedule, computers out the wazoo and most importantly, CLOUT. So, Miss I-Want-It-All-Now, the next time you complain about having a prep period at 9:00 am, ask yourself this-


-and remember, mommy & daddy can't pay YOUR DUES for you. Likewise, you can't pay them using store credit.


Life As a Husky
by: Speced9, 05-24-2009

I've only been what I would consider thin one time in my life. I was nineteen. I think my uncle said it best during those times. He remarked to me, "Boy, you look over-loved and underfed." only he didn't use the word "loved". I'd say I stayed slim and trim up through my college years until I got my first teaching job and managed to start eating something besides 10¢ boxes of mac and cheese for dinner.

Now, as a forty-something whose metabolism is all but gone, I'm finding myself thinking about my childhood, and what it meant to be HUSKY.

The first thing that pops into my head is playing Khoury League baseball as a kid. Ever wonder how they figure out which seven year old should play what position in organized baseball? Well, the tall kid is always the pitcher because his legs give him that added thrust to throw a blazing 55 mph fast ball. The smallest kid is always the shortstop. I'm assuming there's no need for an explanation there. Then they find the kid with the least athletic ability and shove him in right field. Finally, the HUSKY kid (that was me) gets to be the catcher. I don't know why they figure that one. There aren't many catcher/base runner collisions in Atom League baseball. I got to play catcher for quite a few seasons, but finally transitioned to shortstop when I was ten. Luckily, I still had the qualifications for the position because I was also short as well as HUSKY. Who knows, I might have been the first HUSKY shortstop in the history of the game. I think it wasn't until Kirby Puckett came along that short/HUSKY individuals were allowed to play the outfield.

So, besides being a shoo in for catcher, I also had the wonderful privilege of having my own area in every Sears department store across the nation. When August rolled around, one of the places my mother would take me for school clothes was the official SEARS HUSKY section in the boys' clothing department. Wow. What an honor!

I seem to recall thinking that HUSKY meant "macho", "manly" and "tough-as-nails" before I realized what it really meant. I'm pretty sure the literal meaning of HUSKY is "short, fat kid". I can just hear mothers around the world now, "Oh no, Honey, you're not fat, you're just HUSKY." To make matters worse, you had to deal with the word HUSKY on the back of those jeans. Geez....broadcast it why don't ya! No need to turn around and show the other kids your belly! Anyone can see from the back that you're HUSKY! Now that I think about it, I don't think they had a fat section for little girls did they? What would they call it if they did? Sears HEFTY? Sears CHUNKY? Nah, those sound too masculine. How about Sears PLUSSY? Who knows.

Anyway, in researching this post, I looked to see if Sears still sold boys' clothes under the HUSKY brand name. Guess what? THEY DO! It seems they don't sell those jeans with HUSKY on the label any more though. Now they just get other companies to make clothes for HUSKY boys, so you see things like "Canyon River Blues Boy's Husky Twill Pull-On Cargo Shorts" for sale.

Still, I'd like to think in this day and age that we're not allowing third-rate retailers to demean and label our children. That's why I'm going on a crusade to force Sears into renaming their HUSKY boy's clothes to the "METABOLISM-CHALLENGED" label. I'd even settle for Sears "BIG-BONED". Either way, I'm sure they'll fight it because it's going to be a challenge to get all of that on the jeans label, but hey, PC is PC right?

So, if you'd like to join the cause, you can contact the judgmental, shallow and insensitive people at Sears HUSKY here. Tell 'em the fat kid sent you.


Well Traveled Ties
by: Speced9, 05-03-2009

Have you ever had a relative that always gives you the same thing at Christmas? You know, like your Aunt Bessie who gives you those rock hard fruitcakes each year? Well, I have the same dilemma with ties.

There was a time when I wore a tie every day. Monday-shirt and tie. Tuesday-shirt and tie. Wednesday-shirt and tie. Thursday-shirt and tie. Friday (a.k.a. Casual Day)- jeans, shirt and tie.

About six years ago, I stopped wearing ties. My reason? I had one too many funerals to attend that year and just got sick of ties. Seriously. I couldn't stand to wear another tie. Now, the only time you'll catch me wearing one is for Open House, weddings and, duh.... funerals.

Unfortunately, a relative of mine still thinks I wear ties every day. She's also quite a traveler. I don't mean across-the-country traveler either. She's a world wide traveler. So, instead of "My relative went to (Name your place) and all I got was this lousy t-shirt", it's "My relative went to (Name your place) and she very graciously got me an expensive silk tie."

Trust me, I've tried to hint to her over the years that I really don't wear ties anymore. It's kind of like that great aunt who perpetually treats you like your eight years old. She just refuses to believe that I would wear anything but a shirt and tie to work. So, with every trip, I get another tie. She even tells me what to wear them with and when.

So far I have ties from the following countries:
1. Australia (cute little koalas)
2. New Zealand (some kind of fern pattern)
3. Italy (gondolas)
4. Africa (Elephants)
5. Russia (Penguins- I can't figure that one out)
6. Egypt (pyramids)
7. Croatia (weird symbols of which I can't decipher)
8. Scotland (Scottish kilt pattern)
9. Ireland (shamrocks, go figure)

(I know there's more tucked in drawers and boxes somewhere, but these are the ones currently in my closet.)

With the ones I got today, she tells me that I can wear the Ireland job on St. Patty's Day, which is totally doable I figure. The Scottish one I was told to wear with a black suit.

So, here I am with a tie collection that's traveled more than I have in my entire life. What am I going to do? Well, I have a few ideas.

1. If I could some how get my ties a credit card, maybe I could find a loophole that would give me (or my ties rather) all of those back frequent flier miles.

2. Border for an "Around the World' bulletin board!

3. I could give them away at O'Hare International. I'd just wait for the planes coming in from Egypt and say to the first guy off the plane, "Excuse me sir, you dropped this in Cairo!" Then I'd head off to the arrivals gate for some different guy coming in from Italy.

4. "Guess what kids? We're not making crafts for Father's Day this year! Nope! This year you're giving your dad a tie!"

5. In twenty years I could pretend to start traveling around the world myself, and re-gift them to some other unsuspecting relative.

I'm the eternal optimist though. It could be worse. Just think if she decided to start bringing me sweaters! Oh, the humanity!


The Unfortunate Side Effects of Middle Age
by: Speced9, 04-27-2009

I've always thought it kind of odd that my mother would check the obituaries each day. I think it started when she retired. At some point, she stopped reading Dear Abby, and started reading the obits. Over the years, she has informed me of many of her past friends and acquaintances who have passed on. I'm not at that point in my life, but I'm certainly aware that I have passed into the time of life where many people I've known and loved are reaching the end of their time on this earth.

I hate to associate death with comedy, but I can't help but think about an episode of Seinfeld where George talks about how each day of the week (except Tuesday) has a "feel". It's the same when people pass on. When my grandparents passed away, it had a feel. When aunts and uncles passed on, it had a feel. Friends who had their lives cut short at a young age have had a feel. I also know from losing a wife and father that they both have their own feel as well.

Now, depending on your particular relationship with the dearly departed, that feel can obviously be different for all of us. I can only speak for myself here, so please don't think I'm being insensitive to your particular losses. I'm only putting my "feel" out there at the time I felt it.

I lost my grandparents early in life. I had a grandpa who died when I was seven. My only memory of that time was that my mom let me get ice cream from Mr. Softee who was ding-donging down the street before dinner. In my seven year old mind, I knew that meant my mom was very sad. After all, what else but sadness would allow my mother to spoil her own son's dinner? My other grandparents passed away from my teen years through my mid-twenties. That was a different kind of feel. I was in the self-centered and self-indulgent phase of my life, and my only thought was that they were old, and it wasn't surprising to me that it was their time to go.

I did realize one thing though when my paternal grandma passed on. First, it was the only time up until then that I experienced seeing a body minus its soul out of the confines of a funeral home. She passed away shortly before I came to visit her in the hospital, so she was still in the bed when I arrived. It gave me the chance to talk to her alone and give her my final goodbye. That in turn helped me understand that it was okay to feel those feelings and act upon them. I also understood that she was our family's rock. She was a home base. When she left us, we lost any extended family closeness we had up to that point.

I had quite a few aunts and uncles pass away from my mid-twenties up until now, and I can definitely say that those experiences have a much different feel than grandparents. I think they do because I didn't see them all that often- maybe once a year if I was lucky. With those kinds of losses, you have the great memories of them, but less of a feeling of loss because they weren't in your life day in and day out. I hate to say there's a hierarchy here, but let's face it, I think the average person isn't as close to aunts and uncles as they are their grandparents.

It's only been in the last ten years that my "feel" has been one of great loss. Six years ago, I lost my father to cancer and my wife to heart failure. Even though both were great losses to me, each had its own feel. With my father, I not only lost a protector, I lost my constant so to speak. All of a sudden, I didn't have my comedy partner to bounce one-liners off of anymore. I didn't have my baseball buddy to watch the game with on the weekends. I didn't have the older version of myself to pal around with.

With my wife, it was similar in some respects, different in others. Shows I had watched for years with her no longer interested me. They just weren't the same without our comments flying back and forth at each other. She was also very, very funny, so I missed that aspect in my life tremendously. Most important though, I lost part of who I was. I spent six years of my life taking care of her, then wham!, it was gone. I'd always heard people say, "Part of me went with him/her when they died", but I never really understood it until my wife passed on. It was like I didn't have a purpose anymore.

As many of you know, those feelings become easier to deal with over time, and healing takes place. Sure, you never forget, and a tear can appear out of nowhere during the most innocent times it seems. I have moved on and remarried knowing that the man I am today is largely due to the impact my father and wife had on me before they left us.

Now I find myself with yet another loss, and feel. My father-in-law passed away last night. I didn't have too many years to get to know him, but what I saw in that time, I liked. In all honesty, he reminded me a lot of my own father. They had the same sense of humor, so we kind of fell into the silly, sometimes vulgar and definitely childish ways of communicating with each other that my father and I had.

They (whoever they are) always say that many blessings can come out of those things we cannot believe are happening to us. For me, losing my wife meant that I would eventually meet yet another wonderful woman to share my life with who just also happened to have a father that reminded me a lot of my own. It also put me in a position where I could honestly say to my wife, "I know what you're feeling."

So, where does that put me now that my father-in-law had to leave us? Well, I'll tell you. It leaves me with a beautiful thought. Somewhere up there, my father is meeting my wife's father for the first time, and they're getting along famously. I'm also sure that they're probably plotting and planning some kind of paranormal practical joke on me. That's quite all right. I'd welcome it with open arms.

p.s. No, mom, I don't think you're going to kick it any time soon.


You Always Remember Your First
by: Speced9, 04-19-2009

No, I'm not talking about dates, kisses, or.... well you know. I'm talking about the first time you had to become the disciplinarian. I remember mine quite vividly. I was pre-student teaching in a rough, urban school. The principal of the school saw fit to put me in charge of the class while my supervising teacher was gone for the afternoon (Can you say potential law suit?). Things were going well until the class clown started up with his schtick. It was then that I gave out my first detention. I can still see the what?-how-could-you? look on his face. Well, that's nothing compared to the hammer I had to bring down on my step-daughter tonight.

I'd like to think that after twenty years of teaching I have a pretty good handle on child behavior. When I became "Step-Daddy Dearest", I realized that home problems were a lot different from school problems. I don't mind saying that I really feel like a fish out of water sometimes. First, there's the aspect of being responsible for a child, then there's the aspect that I'm dealing with a twelve-year old girl. Remember, this is coming from a guy who didn't have any sisters. I have no insight whatsoever into the psyche of a pre-teen little girl.

One of the main things I've had to deal with is the amount of phone time for my beloved step-child. I had no idea how important that bit of technology is to a young woman. My wife has explained it to me many, many times, but I can't seem to see the benefit of watching TV and being on the phone, playing on the computer while on the phone, or sitting with feet up in the air while in a closet talking to someone on the phone. She's literally has that phone up to her ear more than I've ever witnessed before. I've actually thought of asking if she'd like me to duct tape that sucker to her head to save arm strength, but my wife has informed me that the jokes I think are so darn hilarious will not set well with the pre-teen just-coming-into-the hormone-management-phase of her life. Despite this, we have our limits and expectations set for her. She has her "phone time" from 7:00-9:00 each night, and she is to use the cell phone we bought her for safety reasons as she walks from her school to mine each day (the neighborhood is not a great one, rather than having the land line ringing all night.

So, onto the hammer and its falling. On Friday, she came into my classroom as usual and began on her homework. This was also her father's weekend for her, so she was diligently trying to get it done before 3:30 when he was to pick her up. Well, she didn't finish, but decided that I should take her book bag home with me instead of finishing up at her dad's house. The conversation went something like this:

(Handing me the book bag) "Will you take this home with you?"

Me: "Are you done with your homework?"

Her: "No."

Me: "Then you need to take it with you."

Her: "But there's part of this I don't understand!"

Me: "You're dad can help you with it, can't he?"

That's when I got THE LOOK, and yes, it's THE LOOK my wife has somehow genetically passed down to her.

Her: "My dad can't help me with this!"

Me: "Your dad can't help you with 6th grade history?"

Me Thinking: "On second thought, he probably can't. , but she still needs to try it on her own instead of coming home late Sunday night and attempting it then."

The rest of the conversation was a fast-paced blur, but let me explain it this way:
There was a red face , a hateful tone of voice and some things that she shouldn't have said. That in itself was a mistake on her part considering her mother just talked about her attitude the night before. To make matters worse, this pre-teen hissy fit was happening RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY CLASS of K-2 students.

The comedic part of the whole episode was one of my children with autism saying in his beautiful, monotone voice, "What's wrong with your daughter?" about three times in a row. Despite this, as you can imagine, I wasn't too thrilled with an outburst in front of my class. So, I basically told her to leave and go to her father's car, but before she left I said, "If you ever do something like this in front of my class again, you're going to have a major problem."

When I got home, my wife and I discussed it. That's one thing I really love about my wife. We have great communication when it comes to discussing anything at home. We usually talk about what we think we should do, then meet in the middle. She wanted to take away her phone and computer for a week, and I was thinking more of a day or so given that it was a first offense. We settled on three days.

I'm no dummy though, I know that these three days of non-communication with her giggling-girl posse will be the longest three days of her life. I'm also betting that she will figure that her 6th grade social life will be over in those three days. The important point though is that she understands that we expect respectful talk at all times, and that any kind of attitude while she's a guest/role model in my classroom will not be tolerated.

So, when she came home tonight, we sat her down for the TALK. We talked about the Friday meltdown and I could tell she understood where she went wrong. Then we told her the consequences surrounding phone and computer use. My common phrase of "And then there will be tears!" finally came true after five years of raising this child.

The whole guilty feeling from that first detention I gave in 1986, came flooding back to me. I sincerely felt sorry for her. I know it seems like the end of the world to her, and I'm empathetic towards that. On the other hand, I know a point had to be made, and her mother and I made it, together.

I'm an optimist by nature though. I can see some good out of all of this. For the next three days, maybe I have a chance to play a board game with her, or watch a (gulp) teen-oriented movie or TV show. Basically it's our chance to break away from the pre-teen-isolation-from-the-not-so-cool-parents gig for a few days. I figure she'll shun that idea for the first day or so, but maybe, hopefully, she'll give into her boredom and spend a little quality time with us.

So, when the headlines read,


you'll know that I am the parental terrorist responsible. I'm certain I will get a "Totally UNCOOL Dude!" verdict in the pre-teen court, but I'm sure I won't get sent away for too long. Next Friday is skating night, and I'm the keeper of the allowance.


A Definite Case of Phobophobia
by: Speced9, 04-15-2009

If I had a split-personality, I'd prefer to have one side of me be Stan Laurel and the other Oliver Hardy. That way, I could say to myself, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." Unfortunately, that mess is yet another confrontation with THE POWERS THAT BE.

Okay, long story, short(ened). During a recent workshop sponsored by a local parents' group for students with disabilities, I made contact with a couple of influential parents from the group. Like many of you already know, when parents talk, TPTB listen. I found it fascinating that these parents could actually get the pseudo-lobotomized to a meeting with them, much less working towards some kind of mutual goal. Now, I've posted before that this particular workshop was a total wash in terms of TPTB answering any questions, but I did take notice of the fact that these parents had true power of some sort. It dawned on me that these parents were making headway by using THE FEAR the POWERS had for them. I liked that. I can't lie.

So, I asked to join their little group with the interest of working together to promote the changes we so desperately need in our special education department. I began posting on their Web forum and was getting positive results. At some point, someone in the group posted about the interest that some school board members were showing about special education. My response to that was to say that I wished board members would visit my classroom. I continued by saying that when TPTB come our school, my classroom is usually passed by. If I'm lucky to get a visitor, it's usually for a couple of minutes and that's it.

Someone in the parent group decided to take liberty with my comments, and start inviting board members to my classroom. Personally, I didn't mind, I love visitors. Call me crazy, I guess. Before you know it, I had one particular board member emailing me to make arrangements to visit my classroom. It blew me away. Here's something I've been trying to do for my entire career, and this parent group gets it done inside a week!

This particular board member mentioned to me that she would like to motivate the rest of the Board to start visiting classrooms. I saw this as a positive sign, and began contacting my colleagues to see if they would be interested in having board members visit their classrooms. I did it by using the special ed. email reflector. I had nothing to hide, and knew that TPTB would see my email. Unfortunately, that's where it began to get dicey.

Today, I received an email from THE POWER THAT BE in special ed. She had sent the email to me, and to every principal and special education teacher in the district. The gist of the email was this:

1. Board members are always welcome to visit classes, BUT
2. Principals, not teachers should be inviting them, AND
3. The district needs time to brief the board on how special ed. works BEFORE they make these visits.

My thoughts?

I also got an email sent directly to me from the Director of Personnel stating the same thing. Yikes!

It was at that point that I got mad, and when I get mad, I get productive. My first thought was, "WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF?" Well, you know as well as I that THE POWERS THAT BE are afraid of the Board knowing THE TRUTH. Plain and simple, it is. In case you're wondering what the scientific term for that is, it's


I also think THE POWERS THAT BE have these phobias as well:

Allodoxaphobia- Fear of opinions (namely, the teachers' opinions)

Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection (maybe our district isn't as great as they say it is?)

Cenophobia- Fear of new things or ideas (uh..that would be any idea we, the teachers think of)

Decidophobia- Fear of making decisions (that's a given)

Tropophobia- Fear of making changes (we've done it this way for years!)

Tyrannophobia- Fear of tyrants (that would be ME )

So, I made my email replies and made sure to CC: my responses to my building principal and union president. I thought about CCing to the parent group as well, but I thought that might be going for the throat too soon.

Wish me luck.

By the way, I just thought of something. There may be a reason why THE POWERS THAT BE stay away from our classrooms in the first place. I think it's a case of Pediculophobia (Fear of lice). I wonder what the fear of snot is called? No matter, they probably have that too.


Smells Like Sinus Surgery!
by: Speced9, 05-22-2009

First off, the blog entries are getting a little scarce of late. Where are you at, Bloggers? So, for those of you in need of worthless reading material, I'm your man.

Onward we go!

Man's best friend may be the dog, but his sinuses can be his true enemy. (Especially if he's allergic to dander.)

I'm in the midst of another marathon sinus headache. It started Friday morning (the last day before Spring Break) and it's still with me today. My apologies to the members of the committee that met Friday morning. What you viewed as a hissy-fit over the current state of affairs was actually my reaction to sinus pain, and the effects of pain killers. Yeah, I was WHACKED out on drugs. For some reason, I'm thinking of Whitney Houston here.

"Sinus attacks are whack!"

I guess I'm lucky that I have prescribed medication that I can use in the event of pain. My migraine meds make quick work of a sinus headache, but unfortunately, they are also good for a quick rebound headache as soon the effects wear off. Hence, my marathon headaches.

So, I made a call to the ENT this morning. Another week, another antibiotic. With all the antibiotics in my system of late, I think I'm the guy the government should call in to open those letters containing a "powdery substance". Save the bio-hazard suits, boys. My body is built for bio-harzard.

The other aspect of the ENT call this morning was my impending sinus surgery this summer. They were urging me to do it sooner, but with a recovery rate of one to two weeks, there's no way I'd have it done during the school year. Truthfully, I'm not so sure about this surgery. It sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me.

The doctor says I have "thickening" in the membrane of my sinuses. My response to that is, "Isn't my whole body thickening as I get older? Thickening waistlines, eyebrows, ear hair and skulls are common among men my age, aren't they?"

The surgery goes like this:
They go in through the nose and shave off those thick areas in the sinuses. I don't know about you, but I'm picturing my doctor standing there with a flashlight, a vacuum hose and a melon baller. He also tells me that it is "computer guided" for those areas around the eyes and brain that can get a little tricky. Yeah, great isn't it? I'm just hoping the computer guiding him isn't running Windows Vista. I'm so excited that I have the potential to come out of this as a blind, blithering idiot with clear nasal breathing.

I'm accepting of the fact that I won't get any better unless I have the surgery. As a matter of fact, I have stated to my wife several times (in the throws of sinus pain and pressure) to remind me of my suffering if I try to get out of it. Those of you who followed my colonoscopy threads also know that I'm thinking of stupid things to say to the doctors and nurses before and after the surgery. Here's a few off the top of my head:

"Will this effect my boxing career?"
"Man, I bet it's going to burn like hell the next time I snort coke."
"Is my finger considered a sanitary surgical tool?"
"Is this how Michael Jackson got started?"
"How will I smell after surgery?" Punch Line: "Terrible!"

Well, at least there's good news to all of this. It'll give me something to blog about this summer. Let's just hope I can keep from dripping all over my laptop as I type.


You've Got The Look!
by: Speced9, 04-01-2009

Okay, married men. You know what I mean when I say my wife gave me THE LOOK today. There's a lot in that look, we know. It says so many things.

My LOOK came today at the Super Walmart (which, by the way is Latin for very large, confusing store with slow checkout lanes). We were doing the weekly grocery shopping together, as we often do. I think I've mentioned before that we work from THE LIST. If an item isn't on THE LIST, and you try to put it in the cart, you'll get THE LOOK. Simplified, it goes like this:


So, I wasn't trying to sneak anything by. I was going for a LOOKless trip (my record is one, I think). Next up on THE LIST, was feminine products. Since we were not familiar with the Super Walmart layout, we were in search of these things.

Now, this is where I blew my record. I look down the aisle and see big, fluffy, pink packaging on a shelf. I'm feeling good about my discovery, mind you. I tell my wife, "There they are!".

She looks, then I get THE LOOK.

"What?", I say.
"Those are Depends, Honey." (If you can imagine THE LOOK, then you can also guess the tone that statement came with.)

THE LOOK in this case had the job of saying, "Uh, listen, stupid male. I know that you think anything that covers and absorbs a woman's private area constitutes a feminine product, but you're wrong. I'm also not so sure that you're just playing dumb in order to make a stupid joke that only you think is funny."

There are other meanings to THE LOOK depending on the situation. It can also mean:

1. I spent hours making that lasagna and you just wolfed it down in three minutes?
2. One more joke about HGTV and I'm going to bury you in the garden.
3. Making fun of me because I'm crying at a sappy Lifetime movie will only make your life more miserable.
4. Yes, we have to go to that wedding!
5. You're sleeping on the couch, mister.
7. I can't believe you're asking me a question while Idol is on.
8. Baseball again?
9. Since when do you sleep in the nude?

Oh, and I might add that there's always a reaction from me when I get THE LOOK. I like to call it THE VIRTUAL RECOIL. It only has one meaning. It means, "Honey, I'm thinking about going over there, curling up into the fetal position and waiting until the danger has passed. Oh, and I LOVE YOU!"


Please Ignore My Horns and Pointed Teeth
by: Speced9, 03-24-2009

Today my attendant was out. At this point in the year, that's a very scary thing I might add. Why? Well, because any sub attendant who is able to do the job satisfactorily has been offered a full-time, permanent position by this time in the school year. So, theoretically, the only type left in the pool are those who swim in the shallow end.

I've had a few notables over the years in March, April and May. Let's see- there was the guy who let my students pummel each other with snowballs at five paces on the playground. He was interesting. There was the rough looking lady (I swear she had PRISON TATOOS!) who literally tried taking over my classroom. I had to carefully take it back over without getting shanked. Then there was the guy who fell asleep while working with a child (I had to wake him up at the end of the day.).

That leads me to today's sub attendant;
If you aren't familiar with this type of sub, here's the basics:

1. Walks in front of you while teaching to tie a kid's shoe in the front row.
2. Does the work for the student instead of pushing them to do it themselves.
3. Gravitates towards the whiny ones.
4. Even after being told that the whiny ones are playing the sympathy card on her, she still gravitates towards them.
5. Sends kids up to interrupt your reading groups with their complaints.
6. Gives you the look that says, "HOW COULD THEY LET AN UNCARING MONSTER LIKE YOU TEACH THESE SWEET, INNOCENT CHILDREN!" when you ignore the child, or tell them to sit down.

By lunch time, I literally had one-third of my class crying about something or other. The afternoon wasn't much better. So, here's to you, OVERLY PROTECTIVE, MOTHERLY AND SUSPICIOUS OF TEACHER NEGLECT SUB ATTENDANT!

You make me realize that so much more time could be wasted in my average day. Oh, and I might add, you make my permanent attendant look so much better. I think that's God's way of telling me that things could be worse, so I should stop whining like my students were today.


1 Attachment(s) That's So Cliche!
by: Speced9, 03-21-2009

Well, I hate to beat a dead horse, but my weird neighbor, Gary has taken the cake. There was definitely a calm before the storm, but now all hell has broken loose.

If you've been keeping tabs on ol' Gary, you know that he has everything in his backyard except the kitchen sink. Well, yesterday he added insult to injury. Take a look at the attached picture. The proof is in the pudding.


Man-Child Merchandise
by: Speced9, 03-29-2009

If someone would have told me 30 years ago that I would be the proud owner of some of the things I own, I'd probably respond like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. "Get the BLEEP outta here!" So, what kind of things am I talking about? I'm talking about things that a 45 year-old man should never eat, watch or wear around his poker buddies.

Okay, let me preface this list by saying I've taught K-2 children for a long time. Surely I should cut myself a little slack and say that some of the things I buy are for their benefit only, but honestly, I think that would be a lie. My only defense is that through being with these little sprites, their tastes have rubbed off on me. Thank goodness I haven't picked up on all of their tastes. Eating cereal with chocolate milk, those tremendously sour jaw breakers and (ugh!) boogers is not my idea of a gourmet meal.


10. Candy Corn
I don't know why I like this stuff. I hate Halloween. I don't like corn. What's the attraction? I'm still waiting for candy green beans, spinach and carrots (Oh, wait, they make those already. Easter right?)

9. Cutesy School Shirts
Most guys will wear the school shirt with a crest, or the "PROPERTY OF" athletic shirts, but my tastes run towards wearing things that I feel a little uncomfortable wearing outside of school. I've had many a weird look in grocery stores and gas stations wearing a cartoonish school mascot, Dr. Seuss, or peace education (I'M A PEACE KID!) shirt.

8. My Todd Parr Watch
I've blogged before about my Parr addiction. So, it's a no brainer that I have a Todd Parr watch. It's great. I love it. The face has a picture of Otto and the word "dog" across the bottom. The guy I bought it from says that it was a merchandizer gift from Mr. Parr during his days in clothing design. Personally, I'm looking forward to a resurgence of Parr clothing items. (In adult sizes please)

7. My Curious George Tie
I have a lot of goofy school ties, but my Curious George one is my favorite. The kids love it. I love it because it has a blue background, so it goes great with khakis. From a distance, I look totally professional. I also have various Dr. Seuss ties, and one in the shape of a Christmas tree. I need to get an ugly Christmas sweater to go with that one.

6. A Magic Wand
I know, you're thinking, "WHAT?" Yes, a magic wand. Our reading instructional leader gave it to me. It's one continuous piece of metal that forms a star at the top. When you strike it on any surface, it makes this magical "CHING" sound. I don't think it's the noise that gets the kids' attention when I use it though. I think it's the sight of a grown man holding a magic wand with a star on top.

5. Legos, Legos, Legos
Okay all you Type A personalities out there. Do you want some stress relief? Legos. Play with legos. Better yet, sit in the middle of a group of kids and play with the legos. Make something with them that their little minds aren't ready to envision yet. You'll get a lot of "ooohs" and "aaahhs", plus a lot of requests of "Make me one!"

4. Star Wars Lightsaber Duels for the Wii
So, what do I have in common with the average elementary Star Wars geek? That's right. Star Wars Lightsaber Duels. Let me tell you, you feel pretty darn powerful with one of those crackling light swords at your disposal. I'd love to have one at our next budget meeting. Need that budget cut in half? I can do it, no problem.

3. Bubble Makers
When I was in junior college, a friend of mine brought about six bottles of bubbles one day. We sat out on a bridge between two buildings with four other friends and blew bubbles like crazy. It was a riot to see all of these bubbles floating all over the campus, and people's reactions to them. They all had this I-didn't-know-bubbles-were-in-the-forcast look.

I recreate that moment-in-time every spring at my school. Instead of five friends to help me out, I have one of those bubble blowing guns that can put out a shower of bubbles in no time. This leads me to mention that there's different types of behavior that children exhibit when bubbles are around. There's the sadists. They pop those suckers as fast as they can. There's the pro-lifers who will follow and protect that bubble as far as it can fly. Then you have the optimists who think they can catch one in their hand. Call me a stinker, but I haven't divulged the secret to that yet.* I just like to tell them that I will give them a dollar if they can catch one and bring it back to me.

2. A DVD Collection Any Kid Would Covet
I'm all about having a stash of DVDs for the perpetual inside recess days between December and March. Over the years though, it's gone from having movies that the kids will enjoy to ones that WE will enjoy. Yep. I watch them too. Of course, I have all of the ToddWorld DVDs, and quite a few Dr. Seuss titles. My other favorites are WALL-E, Charlotte's Web (70s animated version) and an Eric Carle DVD put out by Disney a few years ago.
Now, there is a down side to this. I've become the official lending library of my school. No problems there, I like to share, but knowing how things can disappear, I keep a check-out page on the inside of the DVD cabinet door. No sense in upsetting the kids (okay, me) by having a favorite end up in the black hole of someone's classroom.

1. Tennis Shoes That Light Up When You Walk
Okay, I don't really own a pair of these, BUT I WANT A PAIR! They are so cool! Surely these must come in size eight and a half. Somewhere there's a seven year old giant (and future professional wrestler) who has a pair of these in my size. All I'm asking is for his hand-me-downs.

*You have to have a wet hand to catch a bubble. The wetness takes away the friction that will pop a bubble on contact with your hand. DON'T SHOW THE KIDS THIS!


2 Attachment(s) Getting a Word In Edgewise
by: Speced9, 03-05-2009

Just a quick plug for a cool Website. It's called Wordle. Wordle is a free Website that makes these cool word clouds from your copied/pasted text. I took the liberty of making two word clouds from the Fear and Loathing blog.

This is the way it works-
It takes all of the words in a document and puts them together in an artistic way. The most commonly used words are larger than those not used as often. So, if you like, type the word "like", like a whole bunch of, like, times, then the word "like" will be like, the biggest word in the word cloud. Like, you follow me? (How do kids talk that way and stay sane?)

Check out the Fear and Loathing in Special Education Wordles in the following reply posts!


Wag the Dog
by: Speced9, 03-01-2009

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the department of special education in my district is piss poor (Can I say piss poor on PT? Apologies in advance if I can't!). The closest I can come to describing TPTB is that they are clueless about their apathy, and apathetic about their cluelessness. I thought this was only a routine they used on their special educators. Today I found out I was wrong.

They use this schtick on parents too! Today I went to a parent workshop put on by an organization for parents of children with disabilities. I was mainly interested in a presentation by our superintendent, and a parent question and answer session. First off, I really wanted to hear our super's viewpoints on special ed. because half way through his second year in our district, I still had as of yet to hear any thoughts from him concerning my area of expertise. Second, I was very interested as to how our new director in charge of special ed. would answer questions from parents. Actually, I was hoping to see ANGRY parents asking questions. Call me a sadist, but I love to see TPTB squirm.

So, the super was on first. Let me take a minute to describe our super. He's kind of like watching a reality show celeb at a shopping mall. He tries to come off as this big STAR, while ignoring the fact that he is speaking in front of a Hickory Farms kiosk. Oh, and he's constantly touting this book he wrote. I'm surprised we don't have a copy of it in our school library, and are forced to hold book studies about it during our lunch period.

When his presentation began, something in the back of my mind said, "DEJAVU! DEJAVU!". I immediately realized that I had heard this stuff before. Finally, it dawned on me. This was the same feel-good presentation about the future of the district he had given during the opening day workshop at the beginning of the year. The insulting part was that it didn't have anything to do with special education! Oh, wait... that's a lie. He did mention special education once. It was during the part where he mentioned that 21% of our student body had IEPs. About 15 minutes into this, I turned to a parent sitting next to me and said, "Uh, were you under the impression that this presentation was going to be about special education?" He nodded yes. "Yeah, me too. I'm at a loss here."

<===Our Superintendent
<===The Audience
<=== Me

After the special education presentation that didn't mention special education, I was off to see heads roll at the parent question and answer session. As I said, I was really looking forward to this because our new director doesn't really have a special ed. background other than teaching in a self-contained classroom for a few years. She spent the last ten plus years as an administrator in the reading department before our new super started shuffling TPTB around just for the heck of it. As I came into the hall for the session, I realized that she wasn't going to be the only one there to answer questions. She had assembled a panel that consisted of a case manager, a social worker, a psychologist, a regular ed. teacher and a principal. (Please note the absence of a special education teacher on the panel). As the session began, I realized that she was going to keep her head.

Our beloved, clueless director had pulled a fast one. Rather than answer questions herself, she would direct the questions to "the panel". She was like a corrupt politician referring questions to his lawyer. I was just waiting for her to plead The Fifth.

The session began with questions she claimed had come from a parent questionnaire. These were pretty tame questions like, "What are the components of a case study?" and "How does the district determine that a student needs a one-on-one attendant?" I was sure she was going to claim that someone had asked, "Where do you get your hair done?"

I recognized her strategy immediately. She was going to fill up the 50 minute time frame with as many of these pathetic questions as possible in order to avoid the questions parents really wanted to ask like, "Why isn't my child receiving the services he/she was listed as needing on his/her IEP?" and "Why does my child's teacher have a class size over the limit, little support and no teaching materials?"

With ten minutes left, the actual questions began. The first parent was asking about the lack of training our attendants have. That's as far as the question and answer session went. She literally cut the woman off and directed people to go to their next session. I was floored.

I joke about the special ed. department of our district a lot, but in reality, I'm really embarrassed by it. It's the old case of laugh, or cry. It's beyond understanding as to why these people want to ignore the children who need them most. Sometimes I wish that I could take the empathy, dedication and effort that countless colleagues of mine show each and every day and bottle it. I'd package it up, slap a Diet Coke® label on it and put it in a vending machine that sits in the BIG WIG lounge at the administrative offices.

Aw, heck. Who am I kidding? They probably don't pay for their own drinks anyway.


My Name is...and I'm a(n)....addict.
by: Speced9, 02-25-2009

addiction (n):an obsession, compulsion, or excessive physical dependence or psychological dependence.

Think about it, folks. We all have addictions. Here are a few of mine.


10. Todd Parr Books
I think the attraction here is similar to why people like music artists who aren't great singers (I'll throw a plug in here for my favorite band, THE CARS. (see below) Ric Ocasek is one of those singers that makes you feel good about singing along with a song. He's the voice of every man who ever thought they could front a band.).

Todd's books are simplistic in nature. Pick a theme, add some repetitive text and pictures that you're sure a five-year old could do and you have one of Todd's books. I think I'm addicted to the vibrant colors in those pictures of his, and the ability for an instant shared writing experience for my students.

I don't have all of his books....yet. I'm still working on it though. I still need a few of the Otto series to buy, then my collection will be complete.

9. Diet Vanilla Pepsi
I can still remember my first bottle. I was in the checkout lane of my local grocery store when I spied something new in the little glass case sitting next to the line. I picked one up and the rest is history. I like this stuff so much that a regular Diet Pepsi tastes like crap to me. My only addictive frustration is that they don't sell this stuff in six-pack bottles. So, I'm forced to buy them two at a time at the local gas station, or get it in cans which I hate.

I think it reminds me of my childhood. My mom used to make snow ice cream when we were little. This was before fresh-fallen snow was considered toxic, and eating raw eggs was considered safe. She'd get a big bowlful of snow, add an egg, sugar and tons of vanilla extract.
She doesn't know this (yet) but I actually tried of sip of vanilla extract when I was a kid. WARNING: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME! It wasn't a pleasant experience. It was one of many baking ingredient experiments I tried as a child. I also drank a spoonful of cinnamon powder mixed in milk, and ate a chunk of baker's chocolate. Those were definitely the first WTF? moments I had as a child.

8. Decorating my Classroom
I used to have a normal looking classroom. Little desks in a row. The big teacher's desk in the corner of the room. It was all so...simple. Then came the trend for all of us to have a THEME. Whoever thought of this idea must be the same person the conspiracy theorists claim introduced heroin to the poverty-stricken public. All of a sudden, my colleagues were decorating their classrooms with catchy titles like, "Second Graders Under the Sea", "Kindergarten under Construction" and "Rootin' Tootin' Fourth Graders". So, peer pressure is really to blame. I picked my theme (city) and went with it. Oh, it was all so innocent in the beginning. I came up with the idea to make each section of my classroom some kind of recognizable city place- Town Hall, Warehouse, Library etc. As the years went on, I'd come across other items that fit the theme. As a decorating addict I had to have them. For example, I found these great fiberglass fire hydrants on ebay. My thought process was, "Fire hydrant! City! Fire hydrants are in the city! I must buy one!" I bet I'm the only teacher in the history of education to have a two foot tall, fiberglass fire hydrant in their room. How sick is that? Does it serve any educational purpose? No. I think it's there just in case I ever get a student who acts like a dog (or a fireman).

No one ever questions a Beatles' fanatic. No one ever makes fun of a Dead Head. While other kids were looking for the guidance of Lennon and Garcia, I was more interested in the quirky lyrics and music of Ocasek. I don't like to think too much when listening to my music.

The addiction comes in when you look at my collection of CDs that are Cars related. I have everything. I have stuff no one even knew existed. Did you know that Ric Ocasek put out seven solo albums? I knew you didn't! I also have CDs of radio show interviews and bootlegs of small venue concerts. I have it all. I think my wife said it best when she proclaimed, "If Ric Ocasek put out an album of farts, you'd buy it." My first thought was, "Is it available?"

6. Cardinals Baseball
Children learn what they live. My dad was a Cards' fan, so I am a cards fan. I can remember being with my dad in the garage on a summer night listening to Jack Buck call a game. Playing Wiffle Ball with the neighborhood kids, I was always Lou Brock, or Curt Flood. Sometimes I'd be Bake McBride just because he had a cool sounding name.

My addiction has lessened with age though. I used to watch every game, even if they were losing big, and I'd go to the ballpark at least a dozen times during the season. Now I'm more apt to switch back and forth between the game and another TV show just to check the score, and I maybe go to a game a couple of times a year. Their winning record does effect my mood though. I'm a little off the next morning after a loss, and forget it when they blow their chances in the playoffs.
At least my classroom isn't Cardinals-themed. ("Okay, kids, let's go sit down in the dugout!")

5. My Laptop
I'm using it right now as I type this. What's not to love when you can sit on the couch and work at the same time? I used to hate laptops. I hated mousing with my finger on that little pad. The keys seemed too small for the thickness of my fingers. Then, one faithful day, the special ed. department saw fit to provide me with a brand new Macbook. Now I can't imagine getting through a work day without it. I'm the guy who has the open laptop at meetings and workshops. I love being able to type up notes and create resources as soon as an idea pops into my head. The problem with that is that some of the POWERS THAT BE have a real dislike for open laptops in a meeting. In their paranoid world, anyone with an open laptop during a meeting is automatically checking email, or adding friends on MySpace. I have nothing to hide. If I get THE LOOK, I just turn my screen around so they can see it. Then they get that I-jumped-the-gun-and-feel-foolish look on their faces. It's priceless.

4. Facebook
Facebook is the 21st century version of sitting around the barbershop and swapping old stories, or looking at photo albums during a family reunion. Plus, it's so freakin' friendly. You add a friend, and ol' Facebook comes right back with, "Here are some people you may know!" It's like your own private detective answering the question, What ever happened to...? I really like the little box where you can type what you're currently doing. Most of the time, people put really boring things in like, "Frank is eating italian cuisine tonight.", or "Cheryl is going shopping!" I like to put stupid things in mine like, "Hank is pondering the meaning of life.", "Fred is now Warren, one of his many multiple personalities." or "Milly is picking her toenails."

3. Pirates of the Carribean Online
Arrr! Who doesn't be liking to talk like a pirate! Every day is Talk Like a Pirate Day with Pirates Online. I hate chatting on there though, there's too much to do- fighting skeleton's, shooting at other ships. It's a power trip. Who wouldn't love to have a flaming voodoo stick? Think about how handy that would come in when dealing with administrators.

"Ye be rubbin' me the wrong way ye land lubber!"
WHOOSH!, then you have one crispy administrator.

2. Wii
After the initial soreness covering my entire body, I became addicted to this little gem. If they ever combine Wii with Pirates Online, I don't think I'll ever leave the house. My addiction for this game system is rooted in the boxing portion of the game. What man doesn't fantasize about winning a tough man contest. In the world of Wii, I'm one bad mo-fo. Then, there's the Wii fitness. I can hit some tennis balls, take batting practice and chip some shots on the green and the ol' Wii will tell me that I have a Wii Fit age of 20. Man, I'm in good shape! Er...well, at least my arms are.

1. Blogging
Where would I be if I couldn't share my skewed thoughts on a regular basis? This is stuff I won't even talk to my wife about. If I did, she'd give me THAT LOOK. The LOOK is her way of saying, "What in the hell are you talking about? Why did I marry you? Were you this weird when we were dating? Do I really have to spend the rest of my life with this?"

Please don't IM me and tell me how much you enjoy reading this stuff. You're only encouraging me. You're better off buying a drink for an alcoholic, or giving nasal decongestant to a meth addict.

So, what would Heaven be like for me? It would go something like this-
I'm in a world of brightly colored, kid drawn graphics with a fiberglass hydrant and Diet Vanilla Pepsi by my side. I'm listening to a Cards game and THE CARS simultaneously while playing Wii Pirates Online and recording the whole thing on my Macbook so I can post the experience on my blog and the pictures on Facebook. Oh, and I'm also free from addiction.


Cough! Hack! Sniffle!
by: Speced9, 02-19-2009

My kids are dropping like flies lately. Yesterday, I had almost half of my class out with the flu, severe colds and/or strep. I've seen more projectile vomit than a 24 hour marathon showing of The Exorcist. Unfortunately, the same is true at home.

My wife and step-daughter have been down all week too. The kid came down with a fever, congestion and sore throat on Monday, and my wife quickly followed on Tuesday. Their consumption of Kleenex and Campbell's Double Noodle soup makes me wish I had invested in tissue and soup options last week. Surely their stock has risen despite the recent trends in the stock market based on my family's consumption alone. I should call President Obama and let him know that if they would stop focusing on foreclosures and instead focus on tissue and soup sales, they would see that America IS spending money on something!

So far, I'm unaffected. I like to think that I have the germ fighting power of Superman, but I know that's just an old teacher's tale. I hear people say that all the time- that teacher's build up immunities by the years of wallowing in the mucus of children. If anything, it's because we get kind of germ phobic being in the profession we are in. How many times a day do you tell your students, "COVER YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU COUGH/SNEEZE!" How many times a day do you reach for that pump bottle of hand sanitizer? (You can always tell who the hand sanitizer addicts are. They're the ones who aren't getting sick, but have hands that are cracked, chapped and bleeding.) I think if we could get away with it, we'd all wear a face mask to school every day between the months of December and April. That's a great idea, but I'd have to draw a scowl on mine in order to keep my teacher face at optimal performance levels.

I'd like to say that I have some survivor's guilt at this point, but really I don't. Sure, it's hard to see my loved ones so miserable, but I know that despite my addiction to zinc pills, I will still come down with whatever they have at some point. The only difference is that I will probably start feeling bad around 4:00 tomorrow afternoon, then I'll be miserable all weekend. Around 8:00 pm Sunday night, I'll make a miraculous recovery just in time to go back to school on Monday.

That's me- Superman. I believe in truth (cough), justice (hack) and the American (sniffle) way!


Brewster's Hundreds
by: Speced9, 02-19-2009

Back in August, I entered the "Create a Winning Classroom" contest sponsored by Carson-Dellosa publishing. I had my sights set on one of those $25 gift certificates they were giving away for teachers who use Carson products in their classrooms. After a couple of months of waiting, I began to think that my classroom wasn't a winning one.

I like to think of my classroom as a work in progress. I adopted a city theme about five years ago, and have added to it every year. It's kind of like those guys who start adding lights to their Christmas displays. Before they know it, they've put up 250,000 lights and have a $3000 a month electricity bill. That's me. I'm like the Clark Griswold of teachers.

So, I figured I was a shoo-in for one of those gift certificates. The contest flyer said that they were giving away 200 second place $25 prizes. Combine that with the 100 first place prizes of $100, and I thought my odds were pretty good at winning something. I wasn't greedy about it. Twenty-five Carson-Dellosa dollars was all that I was looking for. I wanted just enough to get a new pocket chart, or a bunch of new border.

The contest deadline came and went, and I didn't hear anything. I posted on PT to see if anyone had entered and/or won anything. I think one person replied that they had won $100. It was kind of like going into a job interview with confidence, and then not getting the job and wondering, "What the heck happened? Did I have a boogie hanging out? Chives on my teeth? A gibberish-spouting spot on my shirt?"

I have to admit it. I was disappointed. I thought for sure I would win something. This was like ol' Clark expecting that big Christmas bonus and getting a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club only I didn't even get the jelly.

Sometime in mid-October, I came home after a rough day. I had just recently said goodbye to my beloved poodle Bailey, so a trying day with the kiddies was the last thing I needed. The phone was ringing when I came in. Little did I know it was fate calling.

The woman on the other line said she was from Carson-Dellosa.
"Ah-hah!", I thought. "Twenty-five buck-a-roos coming my way!"

I was wrong though. I hadn't won one of the second place prizes. I hadn't won one of the 100 first place prizes either. Nope. The classroom decoration gods were smiling down on me. I had won the GRAND PRIZE! I couldn't believe it. I even said to her, "But all I wanted was one of those $25 jobs!" So, ol' Clark Griswold won the neighborhood Christmas decoration contest after all. Hey! We're all going to WALLYWORLD!

After the initial shock of it all, something dawned on me though. How in the heck was I going to spend $500 on Carson-Dellosa products? Yeah, you read it right. $500, and my school has to spend $500 too.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "I could spend $500 on school materials easy!" Well, just cool your jets there fella. It ain't that easy.

I've gone through the entire Carson-Dellosa catalog about five times. The closest I've gotten to $500 was $412, and I was really adding a lot of stuff that I may never use. Borders, borders, borders and more borders. Bulletin boards, centers activities and pocket charts. I just can't seem to spend the limit.

So, I'm in a bit of a fix right now. I have about $412 marked in a catalog with $88 more dollars to go. Here's the catch though. I don't get to spend this money at my leisure. In two months I have to go on a shopping spree at my local teacher supply store with one of the owners of the company.

I can just see it now. I'm in the store and at the end of my spending rope. Patti Carson, the co-founder of Carson-Dellosa Publishing is going around like my mom shopping for school clothes when I was a kid.

"How about this? Do you like this?"
"Mmmm..... I don' know. Maybe."
"Well, how about this then? Do you like this?"
"I don' know. I guess so."
"Alright! Enough! You're getting this!"
"Ah, Mom! Not that! That'll make me look stupid! The other teachers will laugh at me!"

I only hope the shopping spree doesn't end with-



Long Time Klutz, First Time Stunt Man
by: Speced9, 02-14-2009

Many times in our careers we will have those important moments that we will remember forever. You know, those moments that make us proud to be an educator? Well, today was an experience for me to remember, but it hardly qualifies as a proud moment.

I just had to document this experience because I found it just so gosh darn funny. My class was in the midst of our Valentine's celebration and I was playing the good host by going around to each child to comment on the valentine's they had received etc. At some point my legs decided they could no longer function properly. (Translation: I tripped over a box on the floor.)

That's right! I came. I saw. I tripped. I fell and I looked dorky doing it.
As soon as it happened, I immediately noticed that the only sound in the room was me laughing. The kids were totally silent. Luckily, all I hurt was my pride.

Of course, I had to fill out the obligatory ACCIDENT REPORT FORM. There's nothing like telling THE POWERS THAT BE that you're threat for a future law suit. I'm betting money they make me wear a helmet and a bubble wrap jacket in the classroom from now on.


Keeping Enemies Closer
by: Speced9, 02-08-2009

"Come into the parlor!", said the spider to the fly. A feeling of pure evil has come over me. THE POWERS THAT BE and I will cross paths this week, and I don't intend to let them escape.

Citing a need for administration to become more familiar with the district's schools, our new superintendent has made the top brass schedule visitation days at each and every school. Now, this isn't an obligatory twenty minute tour by any means. This is a full day at each school. One can only imagine the nervousness of THE POWERS as they contemplate spending a day in the trenches with us foot soldiers.

As fate would have it, our director of special education is scheduled to be at my school for an entire day this week.
(maniacal laugh)

I find this quite ironic because that same director has been hiding from our union committee to improve conditions in the special education department as of late. She's quite good at it, you know. Here's a list of her most commonly used weapons against speaking with us:

1. "I didn't get your email"
(translation: "I didn't read your email", or "I automatically deleted your email", or better yet, "I merely forwarded your email to another bozo in the department.")

2. "I didn't get your message"
(translation: "Your message is still sitting on my desk under a pile of papers.", or "Your message was automatically forwarded to that same bozo in the department.", or better yet, "Your message was eaten by a visiting ED child.")

3. "I tried to return your call."
(translation: "I called you back at a time when I knew you wouldn't be there. Tag! You're it!", or "I still can't figure out this dialing 9 business.", or better yet, "I spent 20 minutes talking to you before I realized I was conversing with a dial tone!")

4. "I can't fit that meeting into my schedule."
(translation: "What schedule? Do I have a schedule?", or "That meeting will surely run past the time I normally leave each day, and when the clock strikes 4:30, I get the hell outta Dodge!", or better yet, "I'm usually napping at that time.")

So, as you can see, I've got a great opportunity here. This may be my one and only chance to leave an impression, make a point, or just plain ruin an administrator's day. Like any good soldier, I have to have a battle plan. So far, I've come up with these:

1. The "Act Surprised They're Here" Plan
This plan begins by making THE POWER believe you didn't know she was coming. THE POWER, in seeing this, will strategize that since I didn't know she was coming, then I wouldn't have any kind of plan of attack against her. Then, I will invite her to come and observe my room during a time my students are at specials. Gotcha! Instant meeting in my room!

2. The "Give Her a Dose of Reality" Plan
This plan begins by inviting THE POWER to my room to read to the kiddies. Before she comes, it is my job to whip them into a frenzy by singing Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes while feeding them Pixie Stix.
When she arrives, I place her in the close confines of the great, oval rug where she can be interrupted, touched with sticky hands and drooled on in five different colors.

3. The "You're Not Going to Talk Business? Then Why Don't You Take This With You!" Plan
This plan is the most horrible I've thought of yet. It begins with me trying to schedule a meeting with her on behalf of my union special ed. committee. When she refuses, I drop the subject and talk about how cute and cuddly my class is this year. Then, I send my student with the chronic lice problem over to give her a big hug and a thank you for visiting our classroom.

Even if I don't follow one of the plans above, I'm really going to enjoy making our great director uncomfortable for six and a half hours. Man, life is good.


The Highs and Lows of Winter Break
by: Speced9, 01-03-2009

I have to admit, this wasn't the normal Winter Break for me. Usually, I end up getting bored the day after Christmas. That wasn't the case this year. I had plenty of things to keep me busy.

So, I thought I'd write about my break to save the memories of it forever in cyberspace. I might also add that I'm due for another colonoscopy next winter, so I'll probably relish these times one year from now.

I must admit, the break started off a little rough. My wife and I spent Christmas Eve with her family and Christmas Day with mine. At her folks house, I got to witness a full-blown screaming match between my sister-in-law and my niece. It reminded me of that commercial where the guy is selling the Total Transformation behavior program that is guaranteed to work with your out-of-control kids. You know the one-


Parent: Thanks to the Total Transformation program, I have my life back!
(translation: Thanks to the Total Transformation program that I couldn't consistently follow, a prescription for Xanax and a boarding school located thousands of miles away from me, I have my life back!)

I was also pelted with snide remarks from this same sister-in-law because I refused to watch another one of her children while she went to Reno for a week. That's a long story in itself, but let's just say that I had no desire to 1) enable her behavior of throwing her kids off on others so she could continue a life where she pretends to not have kids, and 2) babysit the Tasmanian Devil for a week.

Not to be outdone by my wife's side of the family, my brother and I got into a verbal exchange Christmas morning. It's not worth explaining, but I do find it funny now that while we were going at it, my wife, mother, and sister-in-law (my brother's wife) were yelling from the kitchen, "Boys, it's Christmas. Uh, boys, it's Christmas! HEY! IT'S CHRISTMAS YOU KNOW!"

So, like I said, things started off a little rough, but they got better. For starters, we got my step-daughter a Wii for Christmas, which means, we also got ME a Wii for Christmas. Long story short, there are some muscles you never use until you get a Wii in your household. The pain you'll experience in the coming days after getting the Wii will let you know which ones they are.

Then, I was able to finally come through on a promise that I made my late wife concerning her dog, Bailey. For those of you unfamiliar with Bailey, you can see a previous post here. I can't go into specifics about what the promise was because, well, it's ILLEGAL. Just be assured that it was a promise that I had to keep to my late wife, and it didn't hurt anyone including Bailey. I'd love to elaborate, but unfortunately can't. It did have a "cloak and dagger" element to it though, so that was a little excitement for me.

I'm normally not a New Year's Eve kind of guy. I just as happy to sit home and watch Dick Clark and his New Year's Rockin' Eve. This year, my wife and I had dinner with friends and went bowling. I had a great time, and stayed up until midnight for the first time in years.

On New Year's Day, we had to travel about three hours to meet my step-son's girlfriend's parents. They were having a get-to-together and had invited us. Despite getting lost two or three times on the way there, and being in the same place with my wife's ex-husband for about three hours, I had a very enjoyable time.

Yesterday we had our new appliances delivered, so things got a little dicey again. It was a definite chore to get the old fridge out, and the new one in. We basically had to dismantle both of them as much as possible and take them out the back door and over the rickety steps of our second story deck. Still, I find it amazing how nice a kitchen can look with stainless steel everywhere. Heck, if I could, I'd buy stainless steel clothes. I'd have stain protection and shine all in one.

That brings me to today, where things have gone from dicey to worse. It seems the installer of my dishwasher didn't tighten a water line like he should have. So, we had a drip, drip, drip going on under our sink for 24 hours. When it was discovered, water had seeped down into our lower-level laundry room. I thought it was seepage from outside, but my wife came up with the idea that maybe it had something to do with the new dishwasher. Sure enough, when I checked underneath the kitchen sink where the water line runs we had a new swimming pool installed. Lots of cussing, calling and $174 later, all is well (I'm crossing my fingers right now).

So there you have it- my enjoyable Winter break. Despite the lows, I'd still give it an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. So, when I look at this next winter in the throws of another colonoscopy prep, I'm sure it will look like a solid 10+ in my eyes.


I Wonder If They Saw the Gears Turning?
by: Speced9, 12-20-2008

I had to go in for another MRI today. This was my second one in eight months. Since I was familiar with the process this go around, it gave me time to ponder what a weird medical test it is.

I had to have an MRI in April because of headaches. The results of that test showed that I had some changes going on in the brain. Well, personally, there's no shocking news there. I've been claiming to lose fifteen IQ points a year from teaching anyway. So, take that fifteen points a year times twenty-plus years of teaching, and you can see that I'm maybe a couple places higher than a house plant in the scheme of things.

Recently, I've been having some memory problems. Mostly short-term, but I've been forgetting some long-term things too. Let me tell you, there's nothing more humbling than having kindergarten children with cognitive delays finishing your sentences for you. So, my dear doctor scheduled another MRI for me. I was actually looking forward to it because I was so entertained by it the last time. So, I had to take a half-day off this morning to have it done (i.e. They don't schedule those tests at 4:00 after school like a dentist does.).

The first thing they have me do is go into a dressing room that is more like a dressing closet and change into scrubs. The nurse told me I could leave my underwear on (I felt like saying to her, "But I'm not wearing any!") and my shoes and socks. The shoes and socks things confused me. I had to take off the shoes to get my pants off to begin with, so why would I want to put them back on for the test?

Once I had the scrubs on, I looked in the mirror (Yes, this dress closet had a mirror. Why? I don't know). I decided right then and there that I would make a great background stand-in for ER or Gray's Anatomy. Some people look good in all different types of clothes. I just happen to look good in dark blue, tie-up pants and a v-neck. If I had been wearing shoes, I bet someone would have asked me for a diagnosis. Just call me McTeachy.

Before my test, I had to answer all kinds of questions. All of them had something to do with electronics and metal being in my body. I really wanted to answer, "I don't know" to some of them because I kept thinking that there might be the remote possibility that I had been abducted by aliens at some time in my past. You know those crazy aliens- they like to implant metal beacons in humans. I could just see me flying across the room and becoming magnetically attached to the MRI machine because I had some kind of alien implant I didn't know about.

After the interrogation, I was led into the EXAM ROOM, which must be a very important place, or they wouldn't have a sign made up with all caps above the door. They had me lay down on the exam table, and gave me some ear plugs to drown out the crazy noises this machine makes. Here's the part I don't get though (The same can be said of dentists and their saliva sucking machines), they give me earplugs so I can't hear, then they want to have conversations!

"I see you're a teacher. Where do you teach?"
"Oh, my brother is a teacher. He (muffled, muffled, muffled)"
" You must have a lot of patience (muffled, muffled, muffled)"

I'm just laying there responding the best I can at this point. My theory is that they're asking me if I want to be on the Friends of MRI mailing list at this point, and here I am with this confused, goofy grin on my face answering "yes" to everything they say.

"Can we count on your support this year? A simple donation of $50 entitles you to our free monthly newsletter!"

Me: (grinning like an idiot) "Um, uh huh?"

Finally, the testing begins. If you've never had an MRI, I can explain it to you very simply. Imagine having your eyes covered, put into a big pipe and then have bad, electronic, 80s new wave music pumped in at loud decibels. Then, every two minutes, the DJ (or technician rather) cuts in and says,"ARE YOU OKAY?"

Me: (wondering if I actually heard them asking me a question to begin with) "Uh.......yes?"


If you don't answer to that, they yell,

At some point during the concert, they tell me that they are going to inject some contrast for the last two tests. So, without removing the eye flaps, they wheel me out of the tube a little, take my right arm and shoot me up. I'm guessing that they leave the vision obscured for a reason. I'm betting that that needle must look like a crochet hook, so they keep the eyes covered to reduce the incidence of run away patients.

After many, many tests, I was done. They sent me back to my dressing closet to change back into my street clothes. I must admit. I did think about taking the scrubs with me, but I figure they must deal with that like hotels do towels. I'd get my medical bill and down at the bottom will be a thousand dollar charge for scrubs.

I guess I could have claimed that I forgot to take them off before I put my street clothes on. They might have bought that one.


If Only I Had Attended the School of Mime
by: Speced9, 12-09-2008

There are certain ailments that just don't go very well with one's profession. An Olympic marathon runner is all but finished with a sprained ankle. A magician with broken fingers is up the river. A brain surgeon with the chills is a malpractice suit waiting to happen. In my case, I'm a teacher with a chest cold.

You know, we just don't give children enough credit. Something in their little minds has to register that a teacher with a cold will become a teacher with laryngitis if they are forced into excessive talking and/or yelling. Such is the case with my class.

Yesterday, with a deep baritone in my voice, they must have begun plotting and planning-

"Okay, Johnny, you make sure to idly walk around the room when it's time to line up. Suzy... when computer time is over, act like the volume is up really loud and you can't hear him through the headphones. Billy... you have the most important role. Make sure you keep interrupting him which will force him to talk louder over you! His throat will be a bloody, useless piece of meat when we're through with him! ALBA GU BRA! ALBA GU BRA! ALBA GU BRA!"

By 2:30, my voice was cashed. I decided to play the Leap Frog Talking Words Factory DVD (which I highly recommend I might add) instead of 20 minutes of phonological awareness activities. As the DVD began, I realized their plot had succeeded. RATS!

Now, here's where you know they intentionally knocked my vocal chords out. I come in today with a whisper of a voice. I sound like a mouse. No, wait. I sound like a shy mouse. Do you think they followed directions today? You bet they did! They followed them to a "T". Those little conspirators! They knew this meant a second day of Leap Frog DVDs instead of P.A. activities! Where's Oliver Stone when you need him?


Third Time's a Charm
by: Speced9, 11-28-2008

I just had to post this latest quote from my weird neighbor, Gary. He caught me outside as I was finishing up with Christmas lights last night.

In the course of our conversation, he told me this THREE TIMES:

"I got some blue icicle-type lights to put up. Then I went a bought a pole to put them up with, but then I couldn't find where I put the lights."

Personally, I don't think it matters. Gary probably wouldn't be able to figure out how to plug them in anyway.


That's CHIEF Inspector Speced9 to You
by: Speced9, 11-29-2008

I have worked with the same special needs attendant for the last 10+ years. I'd like to say that we're like brother and sister, but we're not. I'd like to say that we know what the other is thinking at all times, but I can't. All I can really say is that there's a forced friendliness between us, but I'm not so sure I can keep that going for many years longer.

You see, I figured something out this weekend. My attendant is Inspector Clouseau, and I am Chief Inspector Dreyfus. In case you're not familiar with the Pink Panther movies, Clouseau is a bumbling idiot of the law, and his boss, Dreyfus ends up crazier than a loon. As a matter of fact, by the end of the Pink Panther movie franchise, ol' Dreyfus is going out of his way to try to kill Clouseau. That's where I am going, I fear.

What set this thought off was a call from my attendant at home. She was calling me to ask about our school's holiday party. You see, someone on the social committee put her in charge of calling places to have the party. What were they thinking? My attendant was calling me to ask what the date of the party was. WHAT WAS THE DATE? Shouldn't you know what the date is BEFORE you start calling places to have the party? The thing is, she told me she had already contacted a few places before she realized that she didn't know the date we were having our party.


With that in mind, I decided to document some of the more interesting Clouseau moments in my relationship with my attendant. I figure if I finally get to the point where I place a bomb (the big, round, cannon ball type with a brightly lit fuse and the word BOMB on the side of it) underneath her desk, the jury can read this blog post and say, "Geez, no wonder he did it. Let's give him time in the nut ward instead of life in prison, shall we?"

My First Inclination That Something Was Amiss
It's the first day with my attendant, September, 1995. I'm teaching up a storm. I have the children's full attention. I'm like Caesar before the Ides of March. Out of the blue, my attendant walks up in front of me, grabs my arm, and starts wiping away at my elbow.

"What are you doing?", I ask.
"You have chalk dust on your shirt!", she replies.
"I don't care!", I counteract.


You Thought the Social Committee Would Have Learned the First Time

About five years ago, the social committee put her in charge of buying items for parties. One Monday, I find my classroom overrun with boxes and boxes of garage sale nicknacks. This was stuff that an elderly person with no taste would have in their living room. She thought they could give them away as door prizes.


Little Johnny Gets It, Why Don't You?
I'm a good ignorer. When they say to ignore inappropriate behavior, I do just that.

A little boy by the name of Dominick is a classic non-hand-raiser. He calls out my name incessantly when in need of assistance. On this particular day he even went so far as to get up from his seat, come over to me at my table where I had a group going, and begin to call my name and tug on the sleeve of my shirt. I continued to ignore him.

After 30 seconds of this, my attendant comes up on the other side of me and whispers, "I think Dominick needs you!"

"I KNOW.", I whispered in a forceful tone, "I'M IGNORING HIM."

"Oh...OH!.....", she says and goes back to work.


There's a First Time for Everything and a LAST

I was going to be out for a meeting one morning. Knowing that the children take change hard, I put in the sub plans that my attendant would take over the opening exercises part of the morning. This consisted of doing things like writing the day and date on the whiteboard, going over the schedule and writing the number of days on sentence strip.

When I return at lunch, I found my white board written on with a Sharpie and the number 48 written after 46 on the sentence strip.


My Dad is a TV Repairman. He Has This Ultimate Set of Tools.
I Can Fix It!

I asked my attendant to make some copies for me. Unfortunately for her, they were to be double-sided. Our copier wasn't doing that great with double-sided copies. It was paper jam waiting to happen. So, you had to go for the alternative and put paper in the side of the thing to copy one side, then turn the paper over and do the same for the other side. Somehow, she must have gotten confused over which side of the paper went up, as well as got my original (with no back ups I might add. these were the days of worksheets from Teacher's Helper magazine) mixed up in the paper feeding. The result was an upside down double image on my original copy. She didn't stop there though. She thought she could fix it......with White Out. She literally went and tried to white out the upside down, double image on the page. Without a word to me she gave me back my original which now looked like a paint by numbers portrait painted by a two-year old wearing a blindfold.

"What happened to the original?", I asked

"Uh, I don't know. The machine must have printed on it, so I tried to fix it."


Was Kramer My Substitute?
We had two students who wore glasses in our class. They both kept a spare pair in the classroom in case they forgot theirs. Johnny had a very mild prescription while Billy had a pair of Coke bottle bottoms. Both had their glasses in cases that were clearly marked.

I had a sub that morning for a reading meeting. When I returned just before lunch, Johnny was sitting at his desk looking like Seinfeld in that episode where Kramer gets him a deal on new glasses.

"What's Johnny doing with Billy's glasses on?", I asked.

"I wondered by the way he was acting if I had given him the right ones.", she answers.

Poor Billy. No telling what the kid could, or could not see that morning.


(BANG! BANG! POW!) Eek! What Do I Do? Where Did I Put That Note?!

In the aftermath of Columbine, our staff was in a meeting discussing what we should do in the case of an armed intruder. One of the basic things our administrator of security said was that upon hearing gun fire, we should immediately have our students get down on the floor, preferably underneath their desks.

My attendant was feverishly writing notes as the security guy talked. Interested, I looked over to see what she was writing. It said:

"When you hear guns, have students lie down on floor under desks."


If I Had A Nickel For Every Time....

1. I hear on her craft with the kids day, "Okay, for craft we're gonna color this picture."
2. I've had to remind her that "doody-head", "booty" and "stupid" are not violations that require an office referral. We teach our kids respectful language and to ignore those who don't.
3. I've had to remind her to get the kids to specials on time. She doesn't seem to want to carry a watch. I've bought her one three different times for Christmas. Where they go, I have no idea.
4. I've had children with every answer wrong on a kindergarten level math paper that she helped one-on-one.
5. She's tried to relay some family-oriented story to me while I'm typing an email, IEP or other important document.


Uh, No, That Was Jack the Ripper

For lunch, she had brought a large kitchen knife to school to cut something or other. I commented that she should make sure to not leave it where one of the children might get a hold of it.

"Yeah,", she says, "If someone sees me with this, they might think I'm the Boston Strangler!"


Master of Disguises

1. A tooth from her front partial came out one morning before work. Instead of calling in, she affixed a piece of Chicklets gum in the gap. It hung down a good eighth inch or so past her other front teeth. When she arrived she said, "In case you're wondering why my teeth look weird, a part of my dentures fell out this morning."

2. One Halloween she came to school dressed like a baby girl. The only way I can describe it is to say, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"


I could go on, but I won't. My blood pressure alarm has been going off steadily for the last half hour. To sum it up, I guess you could say we're like an old married couple- we're staying together for the children's sake, but when they leave the nest, watch out!



Gary's Parent Conference
by: Speced9, 11-17-2008

Here we go...another episode of MY WEIRD NEIGHBOR GARY, or more precisely, MY WEIRD NEIGHBOR GARY'S FATHER. Don't touch that dial!

My own front yard. Leaves are blowing this way and that as I try to tame the piles with my BLACK AND DECKER LEAF HOG sucker machine. (By the way, I'm a firm believer that any good, manly machine must be orange.)


Me: (thinking to myself): "Okay, who's this?"


Old Guy: "How ya doing?"

Me: "Fine."

Me: (thinking to myself): "Am I going to get whacked?"

Old Guy: "I'm Gary's father. I'm waiting for him to come home."

Me: (thinking to myself): "HOLY SH**!"

Me: "Nice to meet you."


Gary's Dad (formerly known as "Old Guy"): "It must be something living next to the junky neighbor."

Me (thinking to myself):: " he talking about Gary?"

Gary's Dad: "I'm ashamed that his house looks this way. I'm sure you've got reason to complain."

Here's the parent of the worst kid in the class admitting that his boy is everything you've complained about for over a year, and I blow my chance to say something!

Me: "Oh, there's other neighbors for that."

Me (thinking to myself): "What the hell was that? You dork! You're blowing a great opportunity!"

Gary's Dad: "I've tried to tell him that you can't have a house this way. I feel like I need to beat him over the head with a sledge hammer."

Me (thinking to myself): "Sledge hammer? I think there's one somewhere in his backyard."

Me (still sugar coating the conference like an idiot): "Well, being a neighbor is an art. He just hasn't learned that yet."

Me (thinking to myself): "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? OH, YOU MORON!"


Gary's Dad: "Nice talking to you. Have fun with your yard work."

Me: "Yeah, I actually enjoy it."

Gary's Dad: "Me too."

Me (thinking to myself): "Well, so much for the apple and the tree bit. I think Gary's one apple that must have grown on an orange tree."


Best Things Since Sliced Bread
by: Speced9, 10-30-2008

Like many, I just love teacher-related things that make my job exciting. You know, when my dad really liked something, he'd say, "That's slicker than crap!" (Only he wouldn't say "crap".) That's pretty much how I feel about this list of odds and ends in the world of education.


10. Reading A-Z DOT COM
What's not to love here? Oh, yeah- the price. Once you get past that though, it's worth every bit of money you, your PTO or (Insert your own education grant provider) pay for it. It has everything a teacher could need for guided reading and assessment. The best part is not having to worry about books returning from a trip home with students. After all, it's just copy paper.

9. My Teacher Voice (and other acting abilities)
Someone (and I can't remember who) once said to me that a teacher needs to be patient, love children and have a hell of an acting ability. Sure, I'll go ahead and say it- I'M THE ROBERT DENIRO OF TEACHER ACTORS!

You will never see such smooth and natural acting ability as you will in my classroom. I can do them all- mock disappointment, shock, anger, surprise, curiosity, stupidity- even confidence. Please note that kindness, dedication and determination are not on that list. Those come naturally. If you're faking those, get out of the profession!

8. ProTeacher
Yes, it might be a shameless, brown-nosing plug, but I have to give credit where credit is due. This is a great place. Where else can you debate educational philosophy, get an idea for a bulletin board, hear about your favorite TV show spoilers and get TMI about an assortment of physical ailments? That's right! Right here! (By the way, I'm all phlegmed up this week.)

7. Classroom Themes That Linger On And On And On.....
Once I decided to stop the madness of a yearly theme and decide on one to last a while, I was in heaven. I see it this way- it's better that I have put years of thought and money into my classroom theme to make it what it is today as opposed to some crappy, half-hearted attempt each year. I love my classroom theme (towns and cities) and how it has developed over the years. My classroom is just as fun for me to teach in as it is for my students to learn in.

6. The Talking Stick
I'm not sure where this idea came from, but I've used it in my classroom for a couple of years. Basically, it's a reminder tool for students to raise their hands and listen when others are talking. When a student raises their hand during a discussion time, they are handed the talking stick. My first talking stick was a picture of a mouth stapled on to a paint stir stick. This year, I used a Word Wand from Lakeshore and wrote the words, "talking stick" on it. It works like a charm. Now if I can only get the kids not to whack each other in the head while they pass it around....

5. Todd Parr
If you teach K-3 and aren't familiar with Todd Parr's books, SHAME ON YOU! You're missing out on a great children's author. His books are simple in text and illustrations, but filled with thoughts of love, acceptance and peace. I have a majority of his books and use them throughout the year. If I had to recommend the must-haves of his works, I'd have to go with The Okay Book, It's Okay to be Different, The Peace Book and We Belong Together. They are pure magic. He is also a very friendly author (I've blogged on this before.). He enjoys hearing from classrooms and seeing what his books inspire us to do.

4. ToddWorld
Yep, it's a double-dose of Parr here. Toddworld is a children's animated program based on Todd Parr's books. It has the same great look and silliness of his books, along with the great messages. I believe there are seven different DVDs of episodes (Each episode is 11 minutes long) available, though many of them are out of production. Still, I was able to get all of them through Amazon and Ebay. Besides using the videos for specific units, they are also my rainy day recess entertainment. The kids love them, and I must admit, I think they're pretty darn funny too.

3. SRA Reading Mastery
Even though there are some cons to this reading program, SRA is the only program I have found that actually helps my special needs students learn decoding. I struggled for years with minimal results until my district purchased this program for us. Like anything in special ed., you have to modify the program and make it yours, so as a resource in my literacy arsenal, it's a great ally.

2. Michael Heggerty and Phonemic Awareness
Michael Heggerty makes the list for compiling all of those phonemic awareness activities into a spiral-bound, once-a-day resource that is easy to follow. I'm able to hit all areas of need every day in fifteen minutes time. The gains I have seen my students make in the last two years is unbelievable. They are gaining skills at a rate that blows my mind. All hail The Heggerty!

1.5. DIBELS and Other Progress Monitoring Devices
I can't say enough how progress monitoring has changed my teaching. As a special educator, most standardized testing is a waste of time when used on children who are so far away from grade level. The beauty of DIBELS is that no matter what the progress, I can see and record the gains that my students have made throughout the year. Then, I can use that data to see exactly what skills need to be focused on. The same goes with AimsWeb, the assessments I use for math. I've never felt so successful as a teacher.

1. The Palm Pilot
Reading First gave us palm pilots with DIBELS software on them. What's so special about that? Well, it makes it possible to cut the time it takes to progress monitor my students in half. It also makes graphs of their progress automatically. Now if I could only get it to do my taxes. Oh, accountant wife does those. No worries, then!

So, to all of those who made the list, I must say in memory of my father, "You're slicker than crap!" (Only I'm not saying "crap"!)


So What's His Net Worth?
by: Speced9, 10-13-2008

Yesterday, a reader sent me a message asking how my weird neighbor Gary was. I've been keeping a low profile with Gary since I found out we were at the same high school in the early eighties. It's just too painful to have something in common with him. So, I haven't really had anything to blog concerning Gary lately.

The blog gods must be influencing my wife it seems. This morning, as we were out in the backyard, she starting commenting on all of the things that Gary has in his backyard. She's an accountant, and much more aggressive when talking about Gary. While she sees plummeting home values and repair costs, I take it more as sheer entertainment.

So, I decided to take a few minutes this morning to take a little inventory of Gary's back yard to see if it had changed since the last time I took note of what's back there.

Here's the last inventory I took this past June if you're interested:


1 Chevy tail gate, passenger side door and topper. The tail gate is leaning against the house, the door against the deck and the topper's in the yard. (That was one helluva crash, officer!)

2 milk crates (Is there a dead milkman out there somewhere?)

2 wooden pallets (Maybe something sat on those before they were thrown in the yard?)

1 lawn mower (The grass is too high to see if it has any wheels yet.)

1 pile of red bricks (I'm now searching the front of my house to see if any are missing. If there are, I know who took them.)

1 gas can (Either for the lawn mower, or to eventually burn the contents of the backyard I'm sure.)

3 wood burners (Why three? Are the pallets future material to burn in the three wood burners? Is that what the lost milkman uses to keep warm at night?)

3 concrete cylinders (The truck used to sit on these. Now, I guess an invisible truck is sitting on them.)

1 stack of concrete slabs (Again, if the sidewalk in front of my house is missing, I know where it went.)

1 large stack of unused shingles (Seems that Gary over purchased when he had his house shingled. I'm wondering if he's keeping those for when he needs to do it again in twenty-five years, or maybe there's a guest house back there I just haven't seen yet.)

1 extension cord (unwound)
1 extension cord holder (unused- DUH!)
(Hey! What do say we get these two kids together, huh?)

1 metal garbage can filled with cans (The last time they were filled with water bottles. When is this guy drinking so much in his backyard? Ah! It must be the lost milkman again! Finding your way out of a jungle is thirsty business! I guess that means there's also a plugged in refrigerator out there too! That would explain the unwound extension cord!)

1 dead tree in a pot (RIP)
2 dead evergreens in pots (RIP, RIP)

16 empty buckets (What are these for? Rain water? Is Gary psychic and knows that a drought is a comin'?)

If I was a crime scene investigator, I'd probably have to come up with this scenario:

A subject driving a late 80s blue Chevy pickup truck drove at a high rate of speed into Gary's backyard. The pickup was carrying a pallet of buckets, three wood burners and another pallet of stolen concrete and brick. The subject hit and injured a milkman delivering two crates of milk before striking three trees in pots and scattering the contents of the truck bed all over the yard. The milkman was never seen again, though there is evidence of his continued existence in the wilds of Gary's backyard. A search team has been dispatched, but they too have come up missing. It's thought that they are surviving on the twelve cases of canned soda they had with them when the search began.


A Shout Out to General Mills
by: Speced9, 10-13-2008

This post goes out to the Marketing Department of General Mills Foods! Why? Because they gave me a laugh during mass today, and we all know there's nothing better than suppressed laughter in church.

So here's the scene-
In the pew in front of me is a mother and her toddler son. Toddler son starts to get squirmy, so mommy gets out the bag of Cheerios. You know, CHEERIOS! EAT 'EM ANYTIME! BABIES LOVE 'EM! KEEPS 'EM QUIET! USE CHEERIOS AS A BABYSITTER!

So, Cheerio-boy starts munching down on the cereal. Of course, he gets Cheerios everywhere. This is where it gets interesting....

Somewhere in between stands and kneels, mommy has managed to sit on a few of junior's kibble. She's wearing a dark blue skirt, so when she stands up, she has a great circle pattern happening on her backside.

I know what you're thinking.....
"Why didn't you let that poor woman know she had Cheerios on her bum?"

Here's my answer-
1. Telling her comes with the assumption that I was looking at her backside to begin with, and I'm not about to admit to looking at a hiney while in church. Heck, just thinking of a hiney is a sin! Are you nuts?

2. It was too funny, and I didn't want to spoil it for the others.

So, the Cheerios skirt continues. At some point, mommy realizes that she has sat in junior's snack and removes a few herself. This sets up the finale
.......DRUM ROLL PLEASE...............

Cheerio-boy spies the last Cheerio hanging on for dear life on mommy's skirt. He grabs it, and eats it!


So, thank you, General Mills Marketing Department for convincing mothers all over the world that Cheerios is an eat-it-anywhere kind of snack!

I wonder if blogging this is a sin?


by: Speced9, 10-12-2008

Hi, I'm a long time listener, first time user. My wife has been in THE ZONE many times, so I know the physical and emotional toll this stuff has had on her before. Here's my thoughts about being on THE ZONE.

Okay, first off, let's delve into the reason why I'm on this stuff. I have been the poster child for sinusitis for years. I think I'm also the oldest person ever to see my doctor with an ear infection. As a matter of fact, I can quote him directly- "You're a little old for ear infections."

Well, doc, obviously not!

So, like clockwork, the weather has changed to air that is crisp and cool which tells my body it's time to produce pain, pressure and phlegm (and by the way, it also ticks me off that the "ph" sound totally screws up a possibly great alliteration). This fall is no different.

Now, cue my doctor's new quest to keep the use of antibiotics to a minimum. Actually, I see his point on this. It's a very valid one. Antibiotics are way over used, and thus, bacteria is getting stronger. I'm sure that in a few years one of the symptoms of sinus infections will be your sinuses falling completely out of your head if the trend continues. So, no antibiotics yet for this guy, so proclaims my doctor.

Instead, he wanted to put me in THE ZONE to see if my sinus problems are allergy induced. Okay, I'm game. Why not. Of course, he doesn't fill me in on how I'm going to feel after taking it.

Here's the low down-

1. Hey! My sinuses are beginning to feel clearer!
2. Hey! My headache is gone!
3. Hey! I have more freakin' energy than I've had in years! Geez! I wish I would have had this stuff while I was doing the home improvement stuff this past summer! I would have perfected speed staining.

1. Uh, are my hands supposed to shake like this?
2. Hey! Did you see that? What? That thing that just zipped by the corner of my eye going at super sonic speed! Oh, you didn't?
3. Why am I feeling anxious just pouring a bowl of cereal? Oh, geez....I'M SCARED OF FLAKES!

I can just see myself now come Tuesday morning with the kids-


Wish me luck. No, better wish them luck.


Bailey's Wonderful Life
by: Speced9, 10-13-2008

Today, I lost a friend. I lost a friend that I thought I would never, ever feel a loss for. Some people don't understand how a pet can become a part of the family. I was one of those people, but I'm not any longer. I've lost a friend and she will never know how much she did for me. I'd like to share her wonderful life with you.

I first met Bailey in January 1997. That's when I first began dating a beautiful woman named Angela. My first impression was that she was your typical toy poodle- hyper, yippy and she licked entirely too much. Still, she was leading a wonderful life with Angela and her parents. She was especially attached to Angela's father who liked to have her sit on the arm of his recliner and feed her popcorn. At an early age, Bailey showed that she wasn't a typical dog. She was like Houdini. She could get into anything. She had the smarts and a pair of front paws that worked like little hands. Using her "monkey paws" as Angela called them, she was able to open a jar of Hershey Kisses one night. Then she was able to unwrap quite a few and eat them. You'd figure your average dog would eat the tin foil and all, but not Bailey. Sure, she was a scrounger, but she was refined.

I never really had a chance to get to know her during the period of time her "mamma" (Angela) and I were dating. She did have some transition to go through when Angela's father was killed in a motorcycle accident in October of that year. I guess the first twinkle of the love I saw this dog had to offer was when I found her under Angela's father's bed curled up on one of his undershirts he had left on the floor. She seemed so sad and lost ,yet devoted and loyal to his memory in that one instance. It blew me away.

Skipping ahead four years (yes, it took me four years to get with it) when Angela and I were married, Bailey became sort of a pain to me. I had never spent more than an hour around her before, so living with her 24/7 was quite a bit of change for me. It was during this time that I realized that Bailey was a dog of many needs and quirks. She had terrible allergies, so she could only eat a certain kind of food (table scraps were a BIG no-no). She had to take daily medication and got frequent ear infections which were pretty nasty. I also came to realize that she licked entirely too much. She was a lick monster. She never stopped. A friend of mine dubbed her "Sir Lix-a-Lot". Another dubbed her "Busta Tongue". She also had a bad case of separation anxiety like no other dog I had ever seen before. When we would leave the house, you could hear her yelping and scratching at the door all the way into the street. It was really irritating. Still, she was Angela's baby, so I lived in a state of force acceptance.

Actually, it's understandable how she became so dependent on Angela. You see, Angela was born with heart and lung defects, so she literally spent time with Bailey 24/7. She originally got Bailey to keep her company during the day. I think their relationship was one of those made possible by God. Here you have this woman who has limited physical abilities and must stay in a lot, coupled with a dog with a lot of special needs herself, so it makes it easy to assume theirs was a match made in heaven. They were each other's company. Angela would have to go to the hospital every now and again when her health would get bad. The sadness both of them showed when apart and the joy that came out when they reunited was unbelievable.

So, I lived with Bailey in an unattached way for a little over two years. Bailey, on the other hand, became a fan of mine. She would jump up on the couch and look out the window around 4:15 each day to watch for my car when I came home from school. When I came in the house it was a barrage of jumping and licking. I'm always reminded of a Jerry Seinfield sketch when thinking about it.

"It's that guy! Hey! It's that guy! He was gone for a while, but now he's back! It's that guy!"

She had some cool quirks that I found amusing though. First off, she had this thing for baskets and shoes. She was constantly putting her dog toys into one. Folding laundry was a chore because you had to constantly pull a ball or stuff animal out of the basket for her. She was also the only dog I've ever seen who could use a pull toy. She had a baby toy car that shook when you pulled the cord. She didn't need us to pull it because she could do it herself by holding it with those paws and pulling the cord with her teeth.

I should note during this time that Monkey Paws performed two other amazing feats in response to being left alone. The first was the infamous spaghetti lunch incident. I had spaghetti for lunch one day and forgot to take it out of my briefcase when I got home.The trick is that she was able to unzip my briefcase, pull out my lunch bag, unzip that, then pry the lid off of the Tupperware dish. Unbelievable. Then there was the time she opened a new can of coffee. It was one of those that had the peel back seal, but it wouldn't have surprised me if she had somehow found the can opener in the kitchen and used it. Luckily for her, she threw up the small amount of coffee she ate on that one. It could have easily killed her. That was Bailey. Always in it for the thrill.

My real relationship with Bailey began on June 21, 2003. That's the date that my beloved Angela passed away. We had to airlift Angela to another city, so Bailey stayed with my brother for a night. Coming home from the hospital, despite the numbness of losing my wife, all I had on my mind was to get back to that dog. Many times before she died, Angela asked me to take care of Bailey. My brother even offered to keep her longer, but I wouldn't consider it for a minute. I needed to be with that dog.

During the months and years after Angela passed, Bailey became my friend. You wouldn't believe all of the insights that dog gave me into my grief. At first, it was very tough because every time I came home, she'd stand at the door waiting for Angela to come in after me. I can definitely tell you the exact time when Bailey understood that Angela wasn't coming back. I totally lost it one night and was sobbing on the bed. She came to me and laid down beside me-no licks, no pawing, no nudges- while I cried. When it was over, I looked into her eyes and saw that she understood.

Like many, I had a lot of little things happen that let me know Angela was on the Other Side and was okay. Bailey came into play on a couple of those. First, I kept finding a shoe of Angela's that would move from the staircase to the kitchen at certain times. I never suspected Bailey because she had never moved shoes before, only put balls and dog toys in them. Even though I eventually caught her in the act, I felt like it was Angela's way of letting me know she was okay through Bailey, and that I should embrace my "dog"-ter, as Angela called her.

Another time was much more significant to me. As I slept one night, I had a very vivid dream of Angela. In the dream, I held out my hand to her and she put her hand in mine. At that point I was startled awake because I actually felt her hand land in mine. When I woke up, I found my hand outstretched with Bailey's paw in my hand. She was laying next to me.

As the years have gone on, Bailey has been the constant between Angela and I. I've always gone with the assumption that in talking to Bailey, I am also speaking with Angela. That dog has heard many things I wouldn't share with others. What a great thing to have. When I felt grief come to me, I was able to share it with a little toy poodle and know that she understood.

When I began dating again, I took the approach that a single mom would take. I was a package deal. Anyone who wanted to be with me would have to be able to accept Bailey and all her quirks. I'm a firm believer in God's will. Nothing happens by mistake. It is with that in mind that I believe my current wife, Chris came into my life.

The day Chris and Bailey met is a funny one in my book. Here's this new woman coming into our house and I think Bailey wasn't sure what to think. Sure, she gave Chris the usual routine she gave everyone who entered our abode- she licked her to death- but it was the peeing on the chair where Chris sat after she left that gave me a clue as to what she really thought at the time. Some might take that as an omen, but for some reason I didn't. I thought it was hilarious.

As time went on, I began to realize something though. I had seen many people deal with Bailey, but Chris was exceptional. Truly, the only other person I ever saw treat that dog the way she did was Angela herself. I kind of had a sense from Angela that yes, this was the right one. Keep her.

So, Bailey has been living a wonderful life with Chris, my step-daughter and I for the last two years. Sadly, time and genetics caught up with my little friend. She had been eating very little for the last few months. At first, the vet thought she was just getting old and persnickety. We tried every food in the book. No luck. Finally, we had some blood tests done. They were normal. So, the great food debate went on for a month longer. Finally, I insisted that they give Bailey another set of blood tests. I knew something was wrong. Call it a mother's intuition. Well, unfortunately, my intuition was right. Bailey's kidneys were failing.

For the past week, my friend went downhill fast. I thank God that I had that time with her. We spent a lot of time laying together on the couch. I think it was our way of having our last hurrah of bonding.

Last night was a tough one for her. I knew in my heart that today was the day and that her suffering must end. I also knew that I had to be there with her when she took her last breath. I was there by Angela's side when she passed away. I knew that I owed that to her to do the same with Bailey.

Those last moments weren't wasted on my little poodle friend. Nope. You just had to know that she would do something that would live in my memories for the rest of my life. Just before she passed, she lifted her head, looked me in the eyes and licked my chin a couple of times. I took it as a "thank you", "I love you" or "goodbye, my friend". Who knows, maybe it was all three in two swipes of the tongue.

Even though I said it then, I'm going to say it again here-
Thank you, Bailey. You gave me so much more than I ever bargained for. I will see you again some day. You were and are the coolest poodle ever I met. I love you.

I decided to include a video for those of you interested in watching it. It was taken in May 2002. Angela was in the hospital and missing Bailey terribly. Instead of risking an escort out of the hospital by smuggling Bailey to Angela's room, I decided to film her one morning and bring the tape to Angela in the hospital.

I hope it gives you a little more insight into Bailey's Wonderful Life. By the way, that is Bailey's full pedigree name. Fitting, isn't it?



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