Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Acting Childish AND Holding Parents Accountable

I watched most of the President's speech last night knowing things would bug me a bit. I can't help but point out how childish the two parties act while the whole nation is watching. Most things the president would bring up brought clapping and sometimes standing ovations from the Republicans while the Democrats just stared basically sitting on their hands. There was the occasional smirk of a Democratic candidate caught on camera. I know the response would be the same if it were a Democratic President giving a speech. No wonder today's new generation of voters could care less. Grow up!

As a teacher I perked up a bit when Bush brought up the No Child Left Behind program. Indeed schools are getting better being held more accountable, as well as the scores of all children, especially minority students have gotten better. When Bush said the line about holding teachers accountable I really wish somewhere in the NCLB program parents could be held accountable as well. It really isn't "fair" for a teacher to be held accountable for a child's state test scores when he/she has been absent more than 20 days this year, 30+ last year and was home school the year before that(this in no way portrays a real student and was just a hypothetical situation).

It is my understanding that Congress is being sued by some the largest teachers union along with Texas, Michigan and Vermont for holding states accountable to the NCLB guidelines when Congress has failed to fully fund the program. The Supreme Court reviewed the lawsuit and last I heard they have given it the okay to proceed.

You are welcome to read about it: January 8, 2008 article.

How about you?

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Around 5:30pm I hopped on the local highway on my way to the high school basketball games that I was going to announce. The following is an account of what happened that evening.

Friday was a gloomy day with off and on mist that occupied most of the day. By evening it had stopped raining, but there was a sense of wetness still in the air. As I neared my exit the multiple flashes of brake lights caught my eye. I then noticed a truck about 10 car lengths in front of me the finally hit his brakes a little late and after swerving a little left he brought it back to the right towards the shoulder to avoid what I thought was stopped traffic. I was far enough back that I was probably doing about 20mph at this time I saw everything. That's when I noticed a parked car on the shoulder and the truck in front of me smashed the rear end of this car knocking it off the shoulder and on to the grassy area.

I had plenty of time to maintain my speed and check to see if anyone was in the parked car. I glanced at the truck as it came to rest, but my focus was on the parked car. I eased by and did not see anyone in the parked car so I went on. I thought, "Wow, that was a crazy accident."

After I got to the basketball game I realized that my emotions or anxiety level barely went up. My anxiety level had been tested earlier in the day at school with my last class and this event didn't even rival the blood pressure elevation from class. I told my colleagues at the scorer's table that I had just seen an accident.

This weekend I have reflected back and wonder how I should have responded. Should my heart have raced more quickly after having seen such a violent event? Should I have stopped to assist the driver of the truck? I didn't have a cell phone so I couldn't call police. It really seemed surreal.

I wonder what caused all the brake checks that led to this last minute costly reaction of this driver? I did see a guy about 100 yards up the road driving his 90's model Cutlass Cierra backwards on the shoulder. Or there was one of those orange roadside information deals. It could have been a car that entered the highway that may have cut someone else off. I guess I'll never know.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bad Weather Days

I remember growing up in St. Louis and my first 4 years of school we were just outside St. Louis in a very hilly area so the district had a significant number of bad weather days built in. 90% of the kids rode buses so when it snowed school was cancelled regularly. I'm talking 6-12 inches of snow at a time. I looked forward to these days because I was able to make some cash shoveling snow.

Now that I am a teacher I still get caught up in the excitement of possible bad weather days. But since I live in Texas we might have 1 day a year that it MAY ice up.

We came home Thursday night just knowing that Friday would be the day. Rain overnight and temperatures dipping below 32 just before 5am. Right in the heart of rush hour. In a way I went to sleep Thursday night with the TV remote and 2 phones on my bedside just knowing school would at least be delayed til 10am. I went to bed even thinking I'll get to sleep in.

I woke about 4:30am for a normal trip to the bathroom. I did see that it was raining a bit and even turned on the TV. No school closings at this time. The weather had not dipped below 32 so it wasn't turning to sleet or ice.

I think that really affected my overall attitude at school. I became so grumpy by my last class that I was so glad to see the kids leave.

So much for bad weather days in Texas.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tax Rebates

It looks like my family would stand to gain about $1800 if indeed the recently talked about tax rebates pass in congress. I am sure 90% of the people who will get this money have it spent already. My wife has earmarked it for paying down debt. I immediately thought about paying cash for our first REAL family vacation. That would easily cover a 3-4 day trip to San Antonio and Sea World. I'm even sure we'd have a bit left over for the Nintendo Wii. That is if I don't get one for my birthday in February. Our regular tax refund should be in our account by then.

Speaking of birthday gifts I really never seem to want anything special. This would indeed be something special. The whole family could enjoy the Nintendo Wii.

Have you already spent your potential tax rebate?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


After 2 months of being concerned about my heart the doctor gave me the all clear tonight. He said I had the best possible score on my Calcium score which tests for calcium and blockage. The ECHO(sonogram) was fine as well. All he said I need to do is bring my weight down which should lower my moderately high blood pressure. I checked in at 150/100 today and the bottom number should be closer to 80. My cholesteral is fine as well.

Basic plan involves monitoring what I eat: only diet drinks, substantially reduce the fried foods, try to mix in more fruit, drink more water, work out 4 times a week.

Thanks for your prayers and concerns. It was a 2 month process and I'm glad I have nothing major to worry about.

I did post on my Cravetheword blogsite for any of you wanting a biblical feeding. I challenge you to keep me accountable with this website. I've read the bible 2 days in a row! I'm trying to draw closer to God!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Paying Cash

My wife and I have started a new system where we only pay cash for things other than gas and groceries. We did this back in September wish some success, but for some reason failed to continue it in October. This somewhat mirrors the Dave Ramsey get out of debt plan. The main goal is to know where all your money goes. Even if we pay heavily on our bit of debt we should have a lot of money left over each month. We don't! I'm counting on this to help us track our careless spending and hopefully eliminate our debt within a year, outside a house payment.

By the summer of 2009 I want to pay cash for a big vacation. My son will be 5 then and ready for kindergarten and my daughter will be 8. Possibly Disney World or Sea World. Not sure.

One thing I notice is I know not to leave coins laying around or my wife will scoop them up. I basically have an allowance right now of $150 a month which includes 25 each week for my Friday lunch and a few other incidentals. I've planned in $50 for going to the movies and playing cards. I know I won't be buying the $11 large popcorn and soda anymore. I'll just sneak in a small bag of my own.

Last night I stopped by Walgreens and picked up a $2 bag of licorice for us to munch on as we played Sequence. When I mentioned how much it cost my wife gave me $1.

Will keep you posted of our successes!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Thankful For Much

One night at camp this week I was having a hard time falling asleep so I began thanking God for all that I have. I came to realize that I have been given much. I have been blessed beyond measure and know that God has given me more than I feel that I deserve.

What I am thankful for:

2 healthy, unique, fun kids
1 extremely complimentive and compatible wife
41 years of good health-I see heart Dr. next Wednesday
2 parents who are still living into their 60's
parents who gave me much more than they had growing up
parents who sent me to college at no expense to me
my career path: insurance, pizza, Jeeps, movie theatre, teaching
my current teaching position-WOW
new friends I've made at my school-BH, AG and many others
my daughter's one special friend from school
the handful of students who are ALWAYS awesome
a classroom with good, hands off, parents
2 reliable cars and 1 cheap payment
a giving older brother
church friendships from MBC that God continues to strengthen
my poker buddies
my church family at SSCM
great neighbors
the joy and peace I have in believing in Christ as my savior

I wonder how much more I would be blessed if I could only spend time with God on a consistent, first thing in the morning basis. Hmm?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wow, I'm Exhausted

I'm being a little bit sarcastic with my title. I finally had to teach students today. I didn't do much teaching other than give the instruction to make a poster about our 5th grade camp. It's called "A One Pager" and all the student has to do is to write, draw, illustrate, create diagrams about all they learned at camp. Much of it was science based. I gave 90 minutes for this project and out of 60 students, maybe 3 finished. Now my problem is when do I let them finish?

The students will have completed at least 30 days without structured instruction. We really lose 1 week before our "Holiday" break. Then 2 weeks. When we came back we gave 4 straight days of assessments, kind of like finals for elementary. Then this week we had camp the first three days and then today was the only real day. I created an easy lesson.

The students have a 4 day weekend and then it's back to serious business. Now is the time we really gear up for the state assessments. I think reading is first, then math followed by science in May. I'll identify students tomorrow who need a heavy dose of tutoring and start that soon.

Friday is a teacher workday so I hope to get my plans together for the next 2-3 weeks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

5th Grade Camp

Made it back this afternoon from 5th grade camp at Possum Kingdom Lake just west of the DFW metroplex. As usual 90% of the students did great, 5% did as well as expected, and 5% disappointed. I really can't talk about students, but I can talk about my experience.

The 4-fifth grade teachers stayed in the clinic with the assistant principal, school counselor and school nurse. The 2 male teachers stayed in the south wing. We had 5 beds in our wing so we were able to double up on our paper thin mattresses. I felt like I was sleeping in a bowl though. On a positive note we had electricity, indoor plumbing and a refrigerator. The weather was AWESOME(60's) as well. On a downside we had concrete floors, no window treatment and third world country bedding. We also had a few food items that were truly inedible. I PASSED ON FRENCH FRIES!

This camp was heavily geared towards teaching and reinforcing science concepts that the students learn in 4th and 5th grade. I was really satisfied with the curriculum. Our "naturalists", or camp guides, were spectacular and probably tilted our experience into an area that we have already tentatively scheduled a timeframe for next year.

I am fortunate that my homeroom parents, or chaperones, are really low key and did a great job. Our nurse should have gotten paid extra with all that she had to deal with. On top of dealing with medications she had other things to deal with. One non-staff person really put a damper on her trip.

I am glad to be home. I've showered and shaved and really look forward to getting more than 2 hours of sleep tonight! That is, if my wife can keep her hands off of me :) .

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Heart Update

I went Tuesday for the first round of tests on my heart. The first thing I did was lay on a platform that pulled me into a machine that took 640 sliced pictures of my heart. This was called a Calcium Score. This will detect any blockage that I may have in my heart. It took about 10 minutes and was pretty easy.

The second thing on Tuesday was the Nuclear stress test. I got hooked up to the EKG, had my blood pressure checked and then got to walk on the treadmill. The goal was to get my heartbeat up over 152 per minute. I was hooked up to an IV so once my rate got high I was injected with some dye. After this I was placed on another machine that took pictures of my heart for 15 minutes.

My first day took about 2 hours.

On Wednesday I had an echo cardiogram of my heart. Kind of like a sonogram. It was neat to see the little valves opening and closing on a regular basis. I joked that the lady didn't say something like, "OH MY!" She didn't find a baby either. This only took about 15 minutes and my next appointment wasn't for 2 1/2 hours. This technician hooked my up with my next step and saved me 3 hours.

I went for part 2 of the Nuclear Stress test. I was injected with some dye and sent off to eat a fatty meal. After reading a paper and having my Subway meal I got to lay on the machine that took 15 minutes to take images of my heart. I guess the dye shows up in some way.

All told it was pretty easy to do. I was finished on day 2 by noon. My toughest decision on the day was whether to go see a movie or come home and do housework. It was cheaper to just come home. Payday isn't until Monday.

Well, it is what it is. You can still pray for me, I appreciate it. I go on the 23rd to sit down with the doctor to see if anything is wrong.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Bowling Butt

Sure, I got your attention with that title. After bowling 4 times in 9 days I think my right buttocks is a little tight.

Made it home in 10 hours. The kids did GREAT. Just one potty break. Promised the kids a PLAYLAND in Joplin MO and after cruising by 3 McDonalds and NO playlands we got back in the truck and headed out for our last 5 hours. REALLY, the kids did great. We left STL at 11:30 and arrived around 9:30pm.

I got a great nights sleep in my own bed. No bed that cranked my back and no couches either. I slept well!

I worked out today and tried to regain some sense of normalcy.

We played cards tonight and even though it was P O K E R we have a great group of guys who go to church regularly. I ask that you pray for my friend J who is on his second bout of leukemia treatments and he is undergoing his 2nd transplant. This guy is GREAT and he never complains. I appreciate him very much. I also ask that you pray for me as I go for deeper tests on my heart Tuesday and Wednesday to find out what the little "quirk" is on my EKG. Everyone who played cards tonight is a "prayer".

It is good to be back and I hope to get control of things in my life. First spiritually, then become a better husband to my wife. Then a father to my kids. The "spiritually" thing MUST happen before the others can play out. After that I really want to step it up physically with my work outs and dining habits. After that I pray that 2008 is the year that we become DEBT free. It all revolves around DISCIPLINE!

Week ONE of 2008!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tour St. Louis

My trip to St. Louis is soon coming to an end. Plans were to leave Saturday early, but I think I'll head out by noon on Friday. I've been here 9 days and I'm just about ready to get back home.

I went bowling 4 times. I think I ended up 6 wins 2 losses to my brother. His ball broke my last trip here. I bowled 3 games with my wife and didn't strike....that's horrible. Yesterday BillyV bowled with a 10 pound ball and had high game of my trip, 203. Then he bowled less than 1/2 that the last game. At least his 10 pound ball wasn't pink. We bowled 12 games with 2 shoe rentals and were only charged $13. What a DEAL!

They shut down a major highway in St. Louis on the 2nd. I drove this hwy everyday for about 6 years. Glad that isn't my route anymore.

I took my wife to the airport 5:30am on Wednesday and she nearly missed her 6:30am flight. They held the plane for her and a few others. There were people EVERYWHERE!

Traffic light cameras. My friend Jon informed me that the light right by his house has a camera that will tape you as you enter the intersection. This is a light which would be easy to coast thru as it seems as if you should just yeild before turning. I warned my mom that she might receive a ticket in the mail since I drove her car New Years Eve.

Food. White Castles 3 times, Cecil Whittakers pizza twice, Lion's Choice twice. No trips to Ted Drewes or Gus' Pretzels. Remember my physical report told me not to change a thing about my diet. I wonder what my thorough heart exam next week will tell me. Start PRAYING!

Most likely driving back Friday, possibly Saturday.