Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Finally, A Winner!

It's been a while since I've added anything to the apartment! It was about time, and I had time, so yesterday and today I painted a canvas that's been in my closet for three months! Some of you may remember the ribbon catastrophe of 2008 or the scrapbook paper canvas debacle, but thankfully, none of these mishaps permanently damaged the canvas, so it sat blank for quite a while.

I just hung up the finished result, and I LOVE it! Yes, I realize it's in the bathroom so no one will ever really see it, but that's OK! I spend an inordinate amount of time it the bathtub, so I will certainly enjoy it! It's probably the only place in the house Brent would let me put something so bold! Hope you like it, too!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Back in the Nest

The Norwood Nest has been silent online lately... but not so silent in real life! Here’s a brief update of the last month and I promise to be better at blogging in the New Year!

Work: Stressful. Although I am SO glad to be back in Houston, this was one of the hardest semesters of work I’ve experienced. With Hurricane IKE and all the loveliness it brought to my school along with re-acquainting myself with YES culture, team teaching, integrating, and taking on a new administrative role, I’m EXHAUSTED. Add to that – several kids I really worked hard with (actually 7 kids) got kicked out this semester. I had 4 bring knives to school, 1 cut herself in the bathroom, and 2 more violently fight. So some days I’m like “WHAT exactly am I doing, again?” I’ve come to the conclusion that my school is crazy and I am crazy and the combination is what I like to call "crazy squared". The result of crazy squared has been me working way too much. And even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about working, and even when I’m not thinking about working, I’m stressed out about something. It is my top priority in the new year to work on my stress levels. I’m going to start by going to the spa next week (Thanks, Brent!). Then I’m going to work on getting my physical, emotional, and spiritual life into balance. Finally, I’m going to edit my mental monologue about work, myself, and life in general. And to make it all work, I'm going to do my best to stop trying to be perfect. We’ll see!!!!!!!!!!

Christmas Festivities: Since we are spending Christmas in Dallas, we decided to have a Christmas dinner with Brent’s side of the family. We hosted ten people for dinner – Brent’s parents, sister and brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandfather, and us! It was my first real Christmas dinner for that many people, so I was nervous! But it turned out well. I was so focused that I did not take a single picture, so unfortunately, there is nothing to document the evening. But, I can tell you what I made: Ginger marinated pork tenderloin, shallot mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, and baked apples. For desert everyone brought their favorite Christmas cookies. It was a lot of fun! We had to put a leaf in our table and even then, we were cozy. Brent and I also realized that we do not have ten of ANYTHING, so we had an eclectic mix of dinnerware, cups, and silverware. I like to call it shabby chic.

We are now enjoying Christmas at my parents’ house in Dallas. We were mostly entertained by my parent’s new 52” TV and Apple TV. Fun, fun! We spent the day opening presents, eating, and laying around. We're about to go over to my aunt's to see the rest of the family! Enjoy pictures below from Christmas so far!

Blazer is hyped about what Santa brought.

Here's a picture of me demonstrating my focus on what's important - I'm reaching for a glass of wine.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

25 Days of Christmas

I'm not sure where the "12 Days of Christmas" came from, but for me it's more like 25+ days of Christmas. I loooooooooooove Christmas. As far as I'm concerned, when October hits, Christmas music is fair game, and the day after Thanksgiving... well, it's ON! I dragged down all of the Christmas decorations on Friday and spent two days getting things just like I wanted them. I moved things around, I tried decorations in three or four different places, I spent two and a half hours at Hobby Lobby. Yes, I did. And I loved it.

As December continues, I'm sure I'll share many more things I love about Christmas. But for now.... "On the 25th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: A weekend full of decorating and an afternoon at Hobby Lobby."

(My favorite ornament - a glue/glitter yarn blob I made in preschool)


Friday, November 21, 2008

Nerd Alert!

I'm in nerd heaven!!! I'm in San Antonio at the National Council of Teachers of English Convention for four days! It's all teaching, all the time. I've only been here for a day and a half, but I've already had a few blog-worthy experiences. I've boiled down each experience into two words or less in case you're in a hurry. But if you've got the time, you will be rewarded with the full story!

Convention Overall: LOVE IT
I love learning about teaching more than the average person should. I walk around on a mission with my convention program all highlighted and dog-eared and I have pored over my schedule for hours to make sure I'm making the most of my time and attending every session possible. There are over 1,000 sessions available, so it's a bit overwhelming. But I love it. I mean, if they gave us homework, I'd probably do it.

San Antonio Riverwalk: OVER IT
Over it, over it, over it!!!!! ...And have been for quite some time. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I've been to San Antonio more than 10 times or the fact that ALL of the hotels (except mine - The Valencia) and restaurants SUCK, but San Antonio has definitely lost it's allure. As I was eating my tasteless shrimp fajitas with watery salsa on rubbery tortillas, I longed for REAL Mexican food in Houston. Yes, I'm a food snob, but seriously.... the food here is overpriced and not even remotely good. And by the way, there's only so many times one can hear "La Cucaracha" or "Guantanamera" sung by a cheezed-out mariachi band before wanting to harm oneself or others. And don't even get me started on the smell of the "river".

Traveling Solo: WEIRD / REFRESHING
I'm here in San Antonio all by myself. It's been a long time since I've been this by myself! No one from my school wanted to come, so I came anyway. The perks: a nice hotel room all to myself, eating wherever and whenever I want, some peace and quiet, and some time to disconnect. The downfalls: eating dinner by myself, not being able to sleep since I'm used to Brent, and getting a little lonely. Overall, it's been nice to get away and learn about what I love on my own terms. It's a little freeing. However, I've had two nights of eating alone at restaurants, and I'm a little over that. I may get room service tomorrow. On the bright side, since technically I've been on two dates with myself, I have to say that I am really cool.

Convention Friends: OVERRATED
Since I'm here by myself, I resolved to meet some people. At least we already have ONE thing in common. How hard can it be? Well, it's not hard to meet people, but it is hard to meet people I like. (again, I'm a snob) I'm constantly looking for young people to sit next to, but it's kind of slim pickings. Conventions attract large older women who wear fanny packs, orthopedic shoes, and bedazzled denim shirts. Anyway, I met this one lady the first night. She was old, but she was relatively cool. We talked for about 15 minutes. I felt good about myself. Today, I saw her in the exhibit hall. We recognized each other, and a short conversation ensued:

Me: Hi! We talked yesterday, remember? How is your day?
Her: Oh, it's great. Hey... I didn't notice yesterday that you are expecting! How exciting!
Me: I'm not expecting.
Her: Oh. Maybe it's just your clothes?
Me: Yeah, maybe. (I said some other things after "Yeah, maybe" to her in my head, but I will censor those comments since this is a family-friendly blog.)

Most Convention Sessions: STAR STRUCK
I'm obsessed with "famous" teachers. I've read all their books and use all their ideas. They are all at this convention! So far I've gone to sessions by Teri Lessene, Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Anderson, Carl Anderson, Amiee Buckner, Jacqueline Woodson, and Barry Lane! If you don't know who those people are, it's just because you are not as nerdy as me. I have loved hearing these people speak. They have reinforced that I'm headed in the right direction in my classroom and given me lots of good ideas.

One Convention Session: PAINFUL
All the sessions have been good except one. Oh. My. Gosh. Imagine a 70 year old lady talking in a monotone voice while writing on an overhead projector and talking about a ridiculously ancient reading strategy circa the early 1980s. Now, I'm no expert, but the stuff she was talking about was in my certification program before I even started teaching and it was useless, so I never applied it in an actual classroom. Painful. I sat through 30 minutes trying to tune her out and read something else, but finally a little piece of me died, and I could take it no more. In the middle of the presentation, I got up and walked out. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. But here's the funny part: When I got up and left, everyone else thought to themselves, "What?! We can leave?" and (no joke) 25 people got up and followed me out!! For a second, I felt bad for the old lady, but then I remembered the 30 minutes of my life that I could never get back. When we all got out of the conference room and into the hall, we shared a laugh and several "WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?" looks and went our separate ways. I felt strangely like a leader.

I still have 2 more days, so I'm sure I'll have more stories to come! You're my BFF if you just read this whole post. I guess I just needed someone to talk to! Back to my solitude...


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Spot of Tea

Yesterday we did a fun activity with our class. We had a "Character Tea Party". The kids just finished reading novels in literature circle groups, so they each chose one character to become for the tea party. At the tea party, students dressed like their character (or brought a prop), talked like the character, thought like the character, and acted like the character. They introduced themselves, asked questions, and discussed issues in the novel all while portraying their character. It was really fun! The kids had a great time and enjoyed seeing our classroom set up for the "party". The tea was lemonade and the scones were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The kids left our class hyped up on sugar, but at least they were doing some good practice with point of view and characterization! The only thing that wasn't fun was the fact that I was sick the whole time and went home right after it was over. I'm home sick today, but I thought I'd share some of the pictures of our party with you!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Brent's New Favorite

Tonight I made Brent's new fave: Spicy Shrimp Cakes with Corn and Avocado Salsa from Cooking Light. I made it over the summer and now he begs for it just about every week! I gotta admit it's a bit involved for a weeknight. It's not hard to make - just a lot of chopping. But... it's totally worth it. These babies are DELICIOUS! It's like a crab cake but with shrimp! You should try it!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

As If!

Today while standing in line (for a LONG time) at the grocery store, I noticed a few magazine headlines that caught my eye. The only magazines I subscribe to these days are food and cooking magazines since I am an old lady and became disillusioned with everything else a while ago. Today I found myself channeling Cher from Clueless and saying, "AS IF!" as I scanned the magazine racks. Here are the ridiculous headlines that I recorded on my grocery list since I had nothing better to do:

From "TV Guide"...
110 Shows You LOVE! (Does anyone really have time to watch 110 shows?!)

From a magazine called "Storage" (seriously)...
Store More, Stress Less - 263 Ways to Make Your Life Easier. (Here's a thought... throw all that crap away!!!)

From "Complete Woman"...
Jessica Simpson - Her Secret to TRUE Happiness (Please. Is Jessica Simpson really our happiness role model?)

From "OK"...
Jennifer Aniston Turns 40: Her exclusive to-do list (I finally know what to do with my life now that I have Jennifer Aniston's To-Do list!)

From "People"...
What Kind of Dog Should Malia and Sahsa Get? (Yes. All of our country's problems will be solved when Obama's children get the puppy of their dreams.)

You should try it next time you're standing in line. Quite amusing! Now I'm going to go read a book :-)


Sunday, November 2, 2008


Traditionally, Sunday is not my favorite day of the week. Yes, it is the day of the Lord, and I do love Sunday mornings, but inevitably, Sunday afternoon rolls around. Around 3 pm I feel a sense of dread set in as I remember everything I intentionally forgot about for the last two days - grading papers, writing lessons, doing laundry, and going to the grocery store. I've never really liked Sundays.

But, lately, I've found a redeeming quality of Sunday. Sunday evening is a great time to make a nice meal. There's no hurry, no rush, and no getting home late. There is something ridiculously comforting about a Sunday evening with football in the background and something cooking slowly in the oven. I get a little more ambitious with my cooking on Sundays since I feel like I have time to get creative. Today Brent & I were both craving comfort food. We settled on homemade macaroni & cheese, some sort of chicken involving bacon, and green beans.

What we ended up with was a winner. I found an amazing macaroni & cheese recipe in Real Simple and I improvised a pretty freaking delicious chicken. I butterflied chicken breasts, stuffed them with Stove Top stuffing, and wrapped them in bacon. Yum. It made Sunday a little bit better. And just in case you're wondering... no, I didn't finish my other work, and no, I'm not planning to. :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

From the Minds of Seventh Graders

At the end of each quarter at school, kids fill out a course evaluation for each class. They get to honestly critique their teachers, and they relish the opportunity. I actually LOVE this day and am obsessed with reading what kids think of my class. Today was the day. After poring over the results, I have some gems to share with you. I broke the best into two categories: "Hilarious" and "Precious". Don't worry - I also got some negative comments! They were all totally true. Kids can be very insightful! But for the sake of the blog, I'll just post the fun stuff. I copied these DIRECTLY off the surveys. You just can't make this stuff up. Spelling errors preserved for authenticity, as always :-)


  • I have learned alot. I almost think I could be an English teacher.
  • The thing I like best about this class is the carpet. (No rooms in our school have carpet. My team teacher & I bought carpet for our room to make it cozy!)
  • I learned that good readers do a lot of things.
  • She makes lessons seem important.
  • Mrs. Norwood is always on-task and does what she does.
  • I learned that reading can be fun but also very tiring.
  • I learned to pay attention in class and if you don't you will pay for it in quizzes, tests, and things like that.
  • She is very fun. She plays and teaches at the same time.
  • She makes it really clear that we are going to learn something.
  • What Mrs. Norwood taught me is how to read.
  • What Mrs. Norwood could do better is let us get out early and talk to other people. We could have free time to let out what you have on your mind. At least 5 min.


  • This teacher reads in a way that it makes is seem like we are at the movies.
  • She makes me want to read books that I have not read.
  • What Mrs. Norwood can do better is nothing. She is perfect.
  • I learned that studying makes me more smarter.
  • I learned that everyone can be good or grate at everything and to give 100% everyday.
  • I finally learned how to not be afraid of something you don't want to write.
  • I have seen how all of my classes tie together.
  • She is always excited to teach. I like that she's always in a good mood.
  • Mrs. Norwood is really specific and she takes the time to see if everybody knows what we are learning.
  • Mrs. Norwood is teaching me new things so I can go to college.
  • What Mrs. Norwood could do better is give us more time to read.
  • Mrs. Norwood doesn't have to do better.
  • She does everything so well and I love her.
  • She teaches and talks to me individual and that's what I like is that she talks to me alone.
  • I've learned that reading can relate to your life and that books seem more interesting when they're in your favorite genre.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and all the thinking remains kind of jumbled up in my head. I've been thinking about time, priorities, work, and home. I still really don't know how to explain everything (or anything) in my life, but I think what it all boils down to is my own imperfection. I'm a disciplined perfectionist to the point of being crazy. I can be relentlessly critical of myself and others. However, life lately has been a string of good intentions followed by the REALITY of life's imperfections. Here are some examples:

Intention: I'm not doing ANY more work at home.
Reality: I did it. I didn't work at home on Monday. Alas, I arrived at school on Tuesday late, hurried, unprepared, and a total mess.

Intention: I'm going to come home RIGHT after school gets out.
Reality: The copiers at school all broke down the day before midterms, and I cried at the self-service copier at Kinko's until 9:00 at night.

Intention: I'm going to fix lunch and dinner for my husband every day.
Reality: Didn't get to the grocery store on Sunday, so Brent only got two homemade lunches and dinners this week.

Intention: I'm not going to work at all on the weekend.
Reality: Grades are due Monday. Of course.

Intention: I'm going to have a fun weekend hanging out in College Station at the A&M game with Brent.
Reality: I'm flat on my back in bed, sick and miserable. Maybe God is saying, "ENOUGH"?

I wake up every day hoping to make good on at least some of my intentions, but it never quite seems to work out. I can not possibly please my God, my husband, my boss, my co-workers, my family, my students, and myself all at one time.

It's a good thing that I serve a loving, PERFECT God. His perfection is enough to cover all of my imperfections. Brent & I have been attending a "Growth Group" at our church for three weeks now. I'm encouraged by the name "Growth Group" because apparently I've got a lot of growing to do. In the first few weeks, we've been delving into what God says about his love for us and our salvation through him. I am encouraged that our God loved us enough to die for us even though we were yet sinners. We can never be perfect enough and God loves us anyway. I've been trying to rest in the freedom that my salvation offers. But, as an imperfect person, I constantly want to strive and do things on my own, exhausting myself in the process! As I lay here today, I'm going to watch Food Network, grade papers (have to!), and hopefully rest in God's love for me as an imperfect teacher, wife, and Christian.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Mean, Really??

If you're free on Thursdays at 7pm (and who isn't?!), I've got a show for you. It is so ridiculous that I can't believe no one I know has blogged about it yet! You can watch the commercials and be satisfied, but the show itself is really a treat. I'm not sure what our culture is coming to, but I do enjoy a good laugh at someone else's expense. And you're lying if you say you don't.

The show is called "Hole in the Wall" on Fox. It is a game show that originated in Japan, so you know it will involve painful injuries, people falling down, and water pits. It does not disappoint. There are no voice-overs like those other Japanese shows we know and love, but the real people are so funny, there's no need for translation. Basically, there is this giant foam wall with cutouts in crazy shapes. The players stand on the edge of a pool and watch the wall come towards them. They have to shape their bodies to match the hole in the wall. If they shape themselves correctly, the wall goes right through them. If they don't, they shatter the wall and fall in the water. I mean who doesn't like to watch people falling down? The clip below is my personal favorite. On YouTube it is entitled "Oh Crap Woman". You may have seen it since it's had well over 100,000 hits. Classic. I laugh every time. Enjoy.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wooden Apples and Overhead Transparencies

I used to think that being a teacher was mostly about wearing wooden apple necklaces and writing on overhead transparencies. I don't know if times have changed or what, but my school doesn't really use overheads anymore and I have yet to purchase wooden jewelery.

I now worry about kids who might fail, drop out, get pregnant, run away, get kidnapped, or do drugs. Lately, teaching has been weighing heavy on my heart. The other day I made a list of kids I'm worried about on a Word document entitled "My Babies", and I came up with 20 kids (out of 75). I'm worried about them for a variety of reasons: academic, social, emotional, family. I think about them, spend extra time with them in class, sometimes cry about them on the way home, make action plans for them, tutor them, give them second chances, have conversations with them, meet with other teachers about them, and get up every morning so I can help them. Basically, they consume a whole lot of my life.

I truly feel like for some of them, this is the end of the line. If we don't help them, they will turn 16, drop out, and then who knows what. I know it's not all on my shoulders because we have a great team, but I gotta admit that it's kind of scary to have the weight of so many troubled kids even partially on me. It's sometimes hard to smile and be patient when the very kids you are trying to help become defiant and disrespectful. Today I found out that one of my "babies" told another teacher, "Mrs. Norwood doesn't like me." I don't like you?? Are you serious?? That just crushed me, and I cried right there in my classroom.

But... sometimes... I get a reassurance that I'm doing something good. This week I got a wonderful letter from a student that I thought I'd share with you. Every two weeks, the kids write a letter to me about their reading. I then respond to each of their letters. It's enough to put me in the mental institution, but I think it's one of the best things I do as a teacher. The kids almost knock each other over to grab their notebooks and read what I have written back to them. Here is the letter (I took away the name). Even though I'm an English teacher and it pains me, I left the spelling and grammatical mistakes in all their glory because I think it adds an authentic charm. Things like this keep me going another day!

Dear Mrs. Norwood,

This is my first letter to you. I’m so excited to tell you about my book Flush, but what I think is beast is to tell you about the book Standing In the Light a book I didn’t finish.

I didn’t finish Standing In the Light because I felt that it was not a J.R.B. (Just Right Book) for me. The way I found out it wasn’t J.R. was I started seeing my reading log that every single night I read leas and leas every day. On the homework of reading and posted notes I coden’t remember what I had read and if you could see my post its it was only questions that the book answered. I wonder if I could read this book by the end of the year and it will be J.R. for me?

Mrs. Norwood, I would like to tell you thank you for not forsing me to read but helping me to love reading. What I mean is that the teachers last year only told me to read. What I like about that you give us for homework is that you make us do post its. Pleas don’t tell my teacher last year that I had fake read in her class because I was force to love reading but you helped me love it for real.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Crafting Update

It's been too long! Life after Ike has been crazy busy. Is it normal for a teacher to begin work at 5 am, get home after 7 pm, and cease working when they collapse into bed at 10:30 pm? Do I make over 100k a year for my investment banking-esqe hours? NO. I'm done venting. Thanks for listening.

I am flattered that so many of you wanted to see my crafting project from last week. But remember??? I told you that if the crafting session turned out badly, we would forget that any of this ever happened! You guys aren't good at forgetting. I guess I have to show you my crafting debacle in all it's glory so you will stop emailing me :-)

Well, here's the story people: My idea was to take these really cool pieces of scrapbook paper and re-create them using paint on cool square canvasses. Overly ambitious, I now realize! The scrapbook paper was perfectly fine, and I did think about just gluing it to the canvas and calling it a day. But... this art is going over the bath tub, so I reasoned that it would not last long if it was just paper glued down. I set about re-creating the scrapbook paper, and some of the canvasses turned out pretty good. (See two canvasses below), but some did NOT turn out so good. (You will not see these below.) Turns out, the scrapbook paper company has a useful little printing press that makes designs much better than my Hobby Lobby paint and paintbrush. Anyway... some of the designs turned out well, but then I had to add just one more thing. I should have stopped while I was (somewhat) ahead. But no....... I had to add words on each canvas. I think this made it look cheesy. It would have been more modern without the words. So... maybe my next step is to re-do the canvasses or do one big canvas with one design. I kind of like the circle designs below (minus the words.)
So there you have it: a half-done ribbon canvas and some scrapbook paper wannabes. Today is not my shining domestic moment. Believe me, I just ate a Papa John's pizza because I did not have enough time to make dinner for my husband since I got home from work at 7:15 and have not been to the grocery store in recent memory. Sad. I am glad I've inspired some of you to be domestic (seriously - I got emails!), but I'm not being a good example right now. I do promise to come back strong, though!! I might just say some of these papers I have to grade got soaked during Ike and go make cookies instead.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Why I'm Working To Close The Achievement Gap

This is for real, people! It is an HISD elementary school down the street from YES! Actually, I applied at this school and almost worked there four years ago! Amazing. That's all I have to say about this.


Site Design by Designer Blogs