Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thanks To Me!

Last April, we went apartment hunting in Houston. We looked at a ton of places, but finally narrowed it down to two. There was one place called 7 Riverway that was really nice, but my favorite thing about it was that they had a coffee bar in the lobby. That's right... I know what's important! Nice coffee, International Delight creamer, fancy sugars... and all for free! I was really hyped and had like two cups while we were taking the tour. (I really like coffee!)

Then there was one other place we liked - The Museum Tower (where we ended up living). When we were signing the lease at The Museum Tower, the leasing lady was asking us what other apartments we'd seen and what we liked about them. (Just using us for a little marketing research, I guess.) I'm not scared, so I said, "Well - there was this one place that had a great coffee bar. It was a really nice perk." She smiled and wrote something down.

So, we moved in, and a few months later, I noticed that they were doing some construction in a little nook in the lobby. I wondered what they were building- probably a new mail sorting room or something boring like that. So imagine my surprise when I went down yesterday and saw...
That's right... a coffee bar!!!! I was giddy with delight. I tried it out this morning. In fact, you can see my coffee brewing right there in the picture. Now, it's not Starbucks. But it's also not $2.33. It's free. And that made it delicious. They also did NOT have International Delight creamers, which is something I may have to speak to them about at a later date, but it will do for now. So, think about the series of events.... we move in, I suggest a coffee bar, and it suddenly appears right when school begins for me (when I need coffee the most!) Coincidence??? I think not.

I'm just waiting for them to hang a plaque above the coffee machine - "Enjoy this coffee machine with thanks to Katie Norwood".

Moral of the story: It never hurts to ask.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Thoughts on Superwoman

She doesn't exist.

I've been MIA this week because I've been living and breathing seventh grade. Summer is officially over and my life has been taken over. I know, I know... it doesn't have to be this way. One should strive to have BALANCE in life. Blah, blah, blah. I've come to the conclusion that you just can't have it all. For example, how EXACTLY am I supposed to fit all of this into one day?

Wake up at 5:00
Shower and get ready
Fix breakfast
Fix lunch for Brent & myself
Check email
Drive 30 min. to school
Make copies
Teach from 7:30 - 4:30 dealing with demanding kids (and adults) all day
Have meetings after school and during school
Leave around 6:00 and drive 30 minutes home
Go to the grocery
Cook dinner
Clean up dinner
Have a quiet time
Play with Blazer
Work out
Clean up the house
Grade papers
Plan Lessons
Answer phone calls from parents and students
Have quality time with my husband
And maybe, just maybe..... sit down and rest???

Answer: Not possible. I've tried.

The problem is that I REALLY like my work, and I feel like I have a few good years left before having kids of my own (and I realize my daily list will get even longer then!), so I sort of want to give it my all. Anyway, if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. :-)

On a related note, Brent sent me this article a few weeks ago and I thought it was interesting.
If you don't have time to read it, basically, it says that the new "status symbol" is a "stay at home wife". No kids, no job. The lady in the article says she does laundry, does errands, cooks, etc. At first I thought it was ridiculous. Who does that? But I have to say... some days it sounds good!

Here's to Friday. I survived the first week.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bouquets of Newly-Sharpened Pencils

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
~Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly in "You've Got Mail"

I used to think I’d NEVER be a teacher. I always went to the teacher supply store with my mom (also a teacher) as she prepared her classroom. I would just about have a panic attack around all those teachers snatching up rubber stamps, stickers, wooden hall passes, workbooks, and border. I thought… how dumb!! But of course… here I am… (Although I have yet to fight over border.)

School starts tomorrow! I love that my life at age 26 still follows the rhythm of a school year. August means a nervous stomach, a fresh start, blank notebooks, sharp pencils, and a few new outfits. October is kids excited about pumpkins and Halloween. When the first chill comes, we look forward to Thanksgiving break. Two weeks off for Christmas. Valentine’s Day at school. Field trips. TAKS testing. Spring Break. Off for the summer. Rest. Repeat. What’s not to love?

I have a strange obsession with schools. When I drive by a school, I have this urge to go in and see it. I want to peek in classroom windows. The beginning of school is just the best when everything is clean and new. I know this kind of contradicts my last post about things not mattering, but who can resist a new box of crayons and a brand new binder with blank dividers??? Please. Everyone loves Office Max as much as I do. Right?

So here’s to the first day of school. I’m going to go pack my lunch.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Living the Blue Orange

I have the best job in the world. I LOVE my school and the people I work with. Today was one of the most unlikely best days of my life. School starts on Monday. We've been doing staff in-service since last Wednesday. The leaders at our school have very clear priorities, and the way they communicate those priorities to the staff create the best school I could possibly imagine. At our school, we are not interested in nice things, fancy technology, or perfectly coordinated bulletin board borders. At most school districts, teachers are now fully engaged in decorating classrooms. At YES, we have been fully engaged in planning, building relationships, and learning how to be better teachers.

I started my teaching career in a warehouse. And it was AWESOME. We didn't need fancy things. Then I moved to Dallas where the school was REALLY fancy. (And incidentally... not very good.) So I've learned that you don't need things to give kids a good education. At YES, we have historically done a lot with a little.

Even though we don't value fancy things, God has blessed our school immeasurably as the word about YES has spread. YES was able to raise 5 million dollars for a brand new building to replace our 'portables' that were our only classrooms for the past two years. Coming into in-service, we knew that building was not going to be ready for us until today. (Remember, school starts Monday!) Last week we got our first glimpse of the new building. It is the most beautiful and amazing school I have ever seen. We are so lucky, and I am so grateful. Our kids deserve so much, and this building is more than I could have ever hoped for. I actually cried when I walked in. I talked to the construction foreman and told him how much the building meant to us. He assured us that he dreamed of the day when our students would sit in those classrooms. It was a sweet moment for hardworking teachers who have never taught in a "real" school.

Today, we all arrived at school ready (finally!) to move into our new building. First thing this morning, we were told that, due to inspection technicalities, the building would not be ready until Tuesday. (Remember, school starts Monday! 650 kids are coming... ready or not!) What happened next is what is so amazing.

No one complained. No one sighed and rolled eyes. No one freaked out or panicked. All 60 of our teachers asked, "What can we do?"

So we spent the entire day doing the following: Moving chairs and tables BACK into our portable buildings so we could accommodate kids on Monday, cleaning the entire administration building, beautifying the "great hall" common space, helping each other move boxes, moving furniture, organizing the library, and cleaning out closets. Here were 60 teachers working together as a team, not even worried about the fact that they hadn't seen or moved a THING into their personal classrooms. I was inspired and overwhelmed by watching the unselfish teamwork that took place and the positive attitude that every teacher showed. At our school, we call this "Living the Blue Orange". Our school colors are blue and orange, and we care so deeply about our mission that we strive to live out what our school stands for.

At the very end of the day, we found our that the amazing construction company who built our building (Linbeck) worked all day to get the inspector to come re-inspect. We were approved. Although we probably won't have class in the building on Monday, we'll be able to move our things in over the weekend.

We end weeks with "shout outs" where we recognize each other. Shout outs usually last 10 minutes. Today they lasted almost an hour. Everyone wanted to recognize everyone else for their unselfish acts of service. I get choked up just thinking about it. Most of us were brought to tears when we realized that the real reason we are here is for the kids and to work as a team to help them get to college. It was a powerful reminder that PEOPLE make a school, not things. I feel a deep gratitude to God for allowing me to come back to Houston so I can be a part of something I believe in and truly love with all my heart. What could have been a stressful, chaotic day turned into one of the most strangely enjoyable days of my life.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Nest

Since the title of my blog is "The Norwood Nest", I thought I'd share some pictures of our new (since May) nest in Houston! I love home!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


This is the number of kids on the waiting list for my school, Yes Prep North Central. This means that there are (at least) 416 kids in North Central Houston who want a good education, but it is not available to them. The other YES campuses have similar waiting lists, so there are about two thousand kids in Houston in this situation. Many of the local HISD schools have been rated “unacceptable” by the state. The local high school, Sam Houston, was recently closed due to “unacceptable” ratings for six years in a row! What seems “unacceptable” to me is that educators are not doing their jobs. Kids and parents are starting to realize that the school system here in Houston has done them a disservice and now they are forced to look for a good education elsewhere. Many cannot afford a private school like St. John’s or Kinkaid. While there are many successful free charter schools in Houston, they are all full and cannot accept more students with the space they have this year.

YES currently has five campuses in Houston and has a plan in place to grow to 13 campuses. When fully grown out, YES will send THREE TIMES more low income students to college than all of the HISD schools combined. It kills me to think of those students who know they are not getting what they need to succeed in life, but they have no options. Although it is depressing to think about the kids we are not reaching, it encourages me that we are doing the right thing with the kids we do have. So when you’re thinking about how to improve education or even how to vote in November, think of those 416 kids on our waiting list. High performing charter schools are the future of education. Kids and families deserve school choice when their local schools are not performing. We need high caliber people from other sectors to commit time, talents, and money to progressive education. If not, the big districts will continue to operate in a culture of low expectations for students who just want a better life.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Introducing the new "Nest"!

Thank you to Marina from Penny Lane Designs for my cute new blog! I totally love it and I hope you do, too! You should check her out for all your design needs!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Katie's First Rock Concert

Tonight, I walked Blazer, worked out, answered emails, cooked spaghetti, and went to a punk rock concert.

You might need a little background info: Brent has a childhood friend named Doug. They used to play together in Richmond when they were like 6. Doug then moved away to New Jersey and started a band. They haven't seen eachother in about 20 years. He is now a relatively well known rock artist in the band "Safetysuit". His band was coming through Houston as the opening act for a band called "Seether" (doesn't that just sound scary?!) Brent called me at 6:30 and said he would pick me up at 8:00 "to see a band". I was confused, but I agreed.

If you know Brent and I AT ALL, I hope you are already laughing at the thought of us at a punk rock concert. But it gets better. Let me paint you a mind movie. Gathered around a bar/theater/arena in downtown Houston is a group of apathetic looking teens/young adults wearing all black with lots of piercings and smoking. Up walk Brent & I, hand in hand. I'm wearing my "Seven" jeans, a sleeveless top from Express that I deemed the most "rocker" item in my closet, my pointy toe Nine West heels, and my Coach purse. Brent is also decked out in his rocker gear: fancy jeans, New Balance shoes, and a pink Brooks Brothers polo. To say we stuck out like a sore thumb is an understatement. I started laughing before we even went in.

There was a huge line of people waiting to get tickets. We had tickets at 'will call' (um, what?) so we went to the front of the line, laughing. Then we went through security. The security guard shined a flashlight in my Coach purse and ordered me to take out all of my pens (5 of them, and they were good ones, too.) She then made me throw them in the trash. Why? Because they could be used as weapons or for vandalism. At this point I told Brent I was kind of scared. We entered a pitch black room that could only be described as a warehouse with a bar where everyone was standing up and listening to a band that was shaking the floor, walls, and ceiling. At this point I was laughing uncontrollably and told Brent, "I am totally blogging about this!" It was hilarious. So we stood and listened to his friend's band (which was actually pretty good) and then wandered around. I was "people watching", but I'm pretty sure we were the one being watched!

As proof that I really was there, here's my favorite depiction of the fans at this concert. I'll let you use your imagination to decipher what this classy gentleman with the ponytail has on his shirt.
As further proof, here is a blurry picture of me taken on my I-phone with the lead singer of the band "Safetysuit" (Brent's friend Doug). I mean, we were like punk rock VIPs! To his credit, Doug was a VERY nice guy and I found out he's a strong Christian and has a wife back in Nashville. Who knew? Maybe we'll frequent punk rock concerts more often. Oh, I forgot to mention that my mother-in-law was also at the concert (hi Vicky!) and she looked way cooler than us. She nicely suggested that Brent and I "Get out more often". Point taken. I'm going to go download some punk rock on iTunes...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

So I Think I Can Dance

That’s right. I do. And it’s all because of one reality TV show. I’ve never taken a dance class in my life! But there is something inspiring about So You Think You Can Dance. The dancing on this show is beautiful and joyful. If I could do my life over, I would try to be a really good dancer. I honestly think that being a dancer would be so fun. I’m obsessed with movies like “Centerstage” and I have (way more than once) imagined myself attending Julliard and then performing in the NYC ballet or on Broadway.

That’s why I love So You Think You Can Dance. They make it look so easy like anyone can do it. After I watch an episode of SYTYCD, I’m just about ready to look up a dance studio on the internet and give it a try! I’m not gonna lie: when no one is looking, I do a leap or two down the hallway just to see how it feels. Or, I’ll do some elaborate hand/arm movement in an attempt to mimic one of their “contemporary” pieces. I never do it in front of a mirror, so it always looks really good in my head. This has been a problem of mine for a while. As a kid, I desperately wanted to be an Olympic gymnast. Ha! I would sit and stretch in front of the TV while I watched the Olympics. Like that would help me. Am I crazy or do other people have these delusions as well?

If you don’t watch the show, I can’t help you except to say go to and catch up, people! You can start watching tonight at 7:00. But if you do watch the show, here are my favorite dances of the season, and I hope you agree:

Will & Katee: Contemporary piece to "I’ll Never See Me Again" using the doorway as a prop
Joshua & Katee: Contemporary piece to "Hometown Glory"
Joshua & Katee: Contemporary piece to "All By Myself"
Joshua & Chelsea: Disco piece to "Everlasting Love" (SO FUN!!!)
Mark & Courtney: Contemporary piece to "The Garden" (the French burlesque)
Will & Jessica: Contemporary piece to "Silence" (the Garden of Eden piece)
Mark & Chelsea: Hip Hop piece to "Bleeding Love" (WOW!)
Summary: I love Joshua & Katee. I love contemporary.

Look these dances up on YouTube. You will not be disappointed.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite SYTYCD dances of all time. This was Hok and Jamie in season 3. It’s called “The Hummingbird and the Flower.” If it’s not art, I don’t know what is. Enjoy! (I could do this dance, right?)

Ode to Tropical Storm Edouard

You, Edouard, are a tropical storm like no other (OK... you're like every other, but play along).

We think your name is mis-spelled, but it's not.

You have stumped every local newscaster in your proper pronunciation.

As a public relations genius, you monopolized every local station for the last 24+ hours.

You even pre-empted Good Morning America, which is a feat about which I was not happy.

You caused long gas lines at every gas station.

You somehow convinced savvy Wal-Mart shoppers to purchase cases of water and cans of corn as if it were the end of the world.

You even convinced us to put all of our patio furniture inside the house! (And it does NOT match my decor just so you know.)

You fooled us for a while, Edouard.

But, I'm looking out the window at you... and you're not very scary.

You're actually quite pleasant since I enjoy a good rain.

So, hooray for you Edouard! You have Houston wrapped around your finger / eye.

But, best of all, you freaked out every school district in the area and granted me a day of working at home in my pajamas.

I appreciate that as much as the next person, so for that...

I thank you.
Come again soon.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Meet Nerdwood

"Nerdwood” is my nickname at school because my colleagues like to tease me about always reading a book. I love learning – mostly about teaching. (You read that right, Julia.) So… I probably think about books more than the average (normal) person. Recently at a workshop, we were asked to think about how reading has shaped our lives. I’ve thought about it before, but this time it really hit me how much reading has been a part of my life.

I vividly remember the routine of our summer days in elementary school. We would head out in the morning for errands with my mom (of course, fighting over who got the front seat) and then have lunch out (usually Taco Bueno). Then, the best part of the day – we went to the LIBRARY. But – only if we were good. That’s right. ONLY IF WE WERE GOOD. My mom, the teacher, in what might be the most brilliant parenting move of this century, had us believing that going to the library was a reward! We had a system – “Three strikes and you’re out”. If you got three “strikes” during the day, you were “OUT”. That meant – no library. Brilliant. Anyway – we’d go to the library and pick out a stack of books. The library always had a summer reading program where you would get a Chick-Fil-A coupon if you read ten books or something like that. Also very motivating to a third grader. We would then go home, decide what to read first, and cuddle up on the couch with our books until dinner. Those were good days.

It makes me sad that so many kids don’t have those same experiences. Those books and characters are a part of me now. I feel like I’m still friends with the Babysitter's club and I was definitely changed by the Bernstein Bears. Because I’m also a teacher and a dreamer, I have visions of me reading a chapter from a book every night to my (future) kids before they go to sleep. So, I’ve started collecting books that I loved and that I’d like to share with my kids someday. I’ve even got a box in my closet to collect them. So far, I’m collecting the following series:
Little House on the Prairie: There is something so comforting about these books to me. I love imagining what it would be like to live in the Ingalls family. I told my husband this the other day and he laughed uncontrollably. I think he was insinuating that I could never survive on the prairie - which is probably true, but I still like to imagine!
Nancy Drew: These books were (and still are) riveting to me. You can’t finish a chapter without wanting to keep going! I used to finish these in a single sitting on a Saturday morning.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle: If you’ve never read these, you should. I can still remember sitting in my elementary school library on a yellow vinyl “whistle chair” and diving into these books. Although they were written in the 50s, they still ring true today.

Here's to being a nerd!! What childhood books do you love?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hello World!

So... I'm behind the times. What can I say? I'm a young old person. I joined Facebook 7 months ago, and I just started my blog today. Clearly, I'm a few steps behind in my rascal scooter! Upon joining Facebook, I was shocked to discover that a whole world was going on of which I was completely unaware. As soon as I got the Facebook thing down, I discovered that everyone else had moved on to blogs!

I'm pretty sure I don't have time for a blog, but I'm also pretty sure that I have time to read a ridiculous number of other people's blogs each day, so I might have a problem with time management! So, here is my little blog.

I don't think I have an overly exciting life, nor do I walk around thinking philosophically, so all I can do is tell you what it's like over here at the Norwood Nest. I hope to document our married family life together: For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, loving and cherishing all the days of our life - till death do us part!
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