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.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hobby Lobby is My Homeland

I can let this blog go no further without declaring my undying love for Hobby Lobby. I've always been a crafts person. I was the kid who wanted to color instead of play sports. I owned every craft kit produced by Michaels. I loved cross stitch and those little beads you ironed to melt together. (Does anybody else remember those?)

When I discovered Hobby Lobby in high school, the sky opened up and the angels sang. This was my kind of place! In college, I lived one block from a Hobby Lobby. Ask my roommates - our apartment was almost entirely furnished and decorated with items purchased at Hobby Lobby. Plus, everyone knows that being in a sorority necessitates at the very least a weekly trip to Hobby Lobby because you're always painting or scrapbooking something! Hobby Lobby comforts me. If I had a bad day in college, I would go walk around Hobby Lobby. I can spend hours just looking. And it always smells faintly of Christmas. Yes, please.

Now I live farther from a Hobby Lobby, so my visits are fewer but just as wonderful. Last week I was contemplating the large white wall above our tub in the bathroom that is just begging for a piece of art. I don't like to create art until I'm inspired, so I patiently waited. And then it came to me - I'd do a weaving using ribbons!! Happily, ribbon was 50% off at Hobby Lobby. With 10 rolls of ribbon and a canvas purchased, I got to work on my "weaving"....and that began what I will further refer to as the "ribbon catastrophe of 2008". I had only hot-glued four ribbons when I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. What I was creating looked like some sort of cheesy Hannah Montana piece of art that would only look good over an infant's crib. I try to decorate with pieces that are modern and sophisticated. Apparently, blue polka dots and leopard are neither modern nor sophisticated. Below is what's left of the ribbon catastrophe of 2008. Don't judge. At least I had the good sense to stop before it was too late.

Since the ribbon catastrophe, I have been discouraged. Today, Brent is in College Station for the A&M game. With the prospect of an entire free afternoon, I decided to trek back to Hobby Lobby to return the stupid ribbon. I wanted to work on art this afternoon, so I hoped Hobby Lobby would be my muse. She did not disappoint! When I walked in the store, there was a special display of sale scrapbook paper. I think scrapbooking is kind of out of style at this point, but seeing those papers made me wish it was cool again! They have the most fabulous papers! People probably thought I was crazy because I definitely picked up a few pieces of paper and said (out loud), "This is the most beautiful paper I've ever seen!" Suddenly, I had the perfect idea. I can't tell you exactly what it is because it will have to be a surprise. I'll post the final result on the off-chance that it's not a disaster. If it is a disaster, let's just pretend that none of this ever happened. All I can tell you is that it involves scrapbook paper, paint, canvas, and stencils. No ribbon or hot glue, thank God.

I can hardly wait!


Friday, September 19, 2008

Ike: 1, Yes Prep: 0

So I went up to school today and saw...

the teacher's lounge,
the main office,
the auditorium,
all our teachers' things,
and the parking lot.
Our other buildings (not shown) are just fine. I'm so happy for that! Teachers go back Monday and students go back Tuesday, for better or worse!

"Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and blaze a trail."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Refugees and Rebuliding

Most of our refugees have either returned to their homes when the power finally came back or traveled to another city to wait it out. We miss them! Although it was probably not tons of fun for them to be refugees, we hope they had a good time at our luxury-themed camp. At least we made some memories! Here are some of the highlights:
Katie & Robert checking email at the internet & cell phone cafe

Mark & Erica having a glass (or two) of wine

One of the hardships we endured was running out of wine. Just kidding. We had plenty. A bottle of wine was the price of admission to the camp.

Another hardship we endured was losing our HD TV for days. Rachael Ray was frozen in this rather unflattering position for the duration.

Emie enjoyed sleeping with air conditioning.
All kidding aside, we were REALLY lucky and happy to help our uncomfortable friends. If you want to see some really crazy pictures of the damage in South Texas, click here.
On another sad note, my school, YES Prep North Central for you new readers of the blog, was severely damaged in the storm. We have three buildings on our campus - middle school, high school, and gym. The high school building was completely flooded and 2/3 of the roof was ripped off and/or caved in. We lost about 10 classrooms, 5 offices, our cafeteria, our library, and our auditorium. The damage will take about a semester to repair and rebuild. Our school leaders are currently determining what to do. We will most likely have to move half of our campus to another location, which causes all kinds of logistical nightmares. My classroom is in the middle school building, but my heart goes out to those teachers whose classrooms are no more. So please keep our school in your prayers as we determine how to press on with almost 700 kids who deserve a great education, no matter the physical circumstances. As I get more updates, I'll post ways you can help if you'd like. I'm sure we will be in need of many things. Thanks for your concern over the last few days!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Norwood Refugee Camp Open For Business

Although Ike has gone, his presence is very much still here! I continue to be very, very grateful for the fact that we have power and water here at our building. We seem to be in an extremely small minority! We have talked to no one else who has electricity or even water! We are basically running a mini refugee camp here in our apartment. My cousin Melissa and her husband Robert stayed with us last night. It was fun to have guests! We're getting a little stir crazy here! Today we are expecting a lot more people (possibly 20 or more!) to come over to eat, shower, or spend the night.

To prepare for all our guests, we decided to scope out an open grocery store since we are running a bit low. We heard rumors about the Whole Foods opening this morning at 11am, so we dutifully drove out and got in line. The line wrapped nearly around the block! Above is a picture I took with my phone while we waited. After waiting patiently for an hour, we got to go in and get a few items. They had hardly any produce or meat, but we were able to pick up pasta, frozen pizza, and chicken. We're going to do some creative cooking!

School is cancelled for Monday and possibly more days after that. I never thought I'd say it, but I kind of want to just go back to work and return to normalcy! I feel guilty right now that we have power and water and no one else does, but we've extended an open invitation to pretty much everyone we know.

Below are pictures of the trees outside our building - every single one ripped up from the roots! More to come later!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Don't Like Ike, Part II

It’s 7:40 am on Saturday. I’ve been asleep since approximately 4:00 am on Saturday. I’m up because both Brent & I have received frantic calls from parents wondering if we’re safe. They turned on the news this morning and were worried. And with good reason…

Last night was one of the scariest I’ve ever experienced. We lived through a major hurricane slamming it’s way (for 10 hours straight, and still counting) through downtown Houston. It was truly crazy, and I’m having a hard time explaining it properly.

After my last post, we watched a few minutes of TV to get our minds off things and enjoy a few minutes of power. (It’s funny what you become grateful for – I’m so glad we have electricity! I’m so glad we have water! I’m so glad we have a room with no windows!) We finally decided to just go and lie in bed, since there was nothing else to do. We got all our flashlights, laptops, and cell phones in the guest bedroom. As soon as we lay down, the power began to go on and off about 10 times. Worried about fire, Brent got up and unplugged everything in the apartment. Finally, the power went off for good. It was so eerie to hear the dead silent apartment – no AC or appliance sounds. Just the hurricane.

I could not sleep because I was so scared – my heart was beating fast and my stomach was in a knot. The sound outside the window was horrifying – it was so loud that we couldn’t sleep down the hall in our windowless room. It was definitely the fury of nature. The wind and rain was SLAMMING into our apartment and howling with a relentless sound. Now that I’m able to see news, we’re seeing that those wind gusts on our windows were over 110 mph. I was SURE that either our windows were going to break or water was going to come in the apartment. Luckily, the windows did NOT break, but this morning, I did see that water had come in. The water was blowing at 100 mph at 90 degrees, so it just blew right through the window caulking. The floor is wet in our bedroom and living room, but no huge damage is done. We just found out from the building management that one window did break on the 15th floor. It was so scary on the 7th floor, I do not want to imagine what it was like on the 15th.

I’m not going to include any pictures on this post. You need only tune into the news to see for yourself. There’s nothing to see here except a few exhausted, bedraggled people. Out our window, we see gutters wrapped around chimneys, downed trees, scrap metal strewn all over the street, no cars or people, and a wall of wind and water. It is expected to rain like this all day. There is grass and leaves stuck to our windows seven floors up! Any buildings more than 100 feet away are completely invisible.

Right now we have water and power including TV and internet. We are on the same power grid as the Houston Med Center, which is why we now have power. I am completely grateful for that!

We're thinking of all our friends and hoping they are safe. I'm especially worried about my students and hoping they were protected. Hopefully we'll get some updates soon. Right now at school, we’re teaching a unit about how environments affect your life and your identity. I think I’ve got some lesson ideas…..!


Friday, September 12, 2008

I Don't Like Ike!

OK, OK!!! I take back what I said about Tropical Storm Edouard. Turns out, Hurricane Ike is for real. I especially enjoy how the hurricane takes up the ENTIRE Gulf of Mexico in the satellite to the left. Nice.

I wasn't scared until today. I have been so busy with school that I seriously don't watch TV anymore. I did not even KNOW that there was a hurricane coming until Thursday morning as I drove to work and listened to the radio! I'm grateful that the kids and I were shielded from the chaos that was Thursday. I heard there were two hour lines at the grocery and the gas stations. School went on as usual. We found out around noon that school was cancelled for Friday. An immense cheer went up from the kids(YAY! Devastation!) Oh well, I can't blame them. I was secretly excited, too. I kind of like drama.

So... Brent and I decided to stay in Houston for a number of reasons... we live in a concrete and brick high rise on the 7th floor and our cars are on the 5th floor. Not worried about flooding. We do have floor to ceiling windows, but they face North. Also, the windows are "tempered" and the building assured us there was no risk. We took everything off our patio. To be safe, we are sleeping in our guest bedroom tonight because our master bedroom has the aforementioned floor to ceiling windows. As much as I'd like to wake up with shards of glass in my bed, I decided the windowless guest room is where I'd rather be.

Like I said, I really wasn't scared until today. I was busy yesterday, and Brent and I decided to go out to dinner since we knew we wouldn't have THAT luxury for a while. So this morning (which was beautiful, by the way!), I decided to venture out to the grocery store that I knew would be open. Guess again. As I drove to the store, I was like, "Oh crap!" Every store along the way was boarded up and deserted. I was, of course, planning on going to Whole Foods to buy shrimp, steak, and maybe some almond butter. We might as well eat well!!! Whole Foods was CLOSED. At that point, I admit, I started to panic a bit. Every single gas station was out of gas and NOTHING was open. So I decided to check out my tried and true - Kroger. Thank God Kroger was open!! At least they learned their lesson from Rita and they had plenty of water, bread, and peanut butter. But everything else was pretty slim pickings. The store was packed, and everyone was very hurried and stressed. At that point, I started shaking. Seriously! I was really like, "What is going on?!" It was a bit surreal. Julia called me to check up, and I was just about to freak out!

Thankfully, I got some food, and headed home. We have been "hunkered down" for the day. I can only watch news for 5 minutes at a time. It's too much. I told Brent that it's just hard to know what's real and what's hype. The newscasters LOVE hype. It's like "the boy who cried wolf". What is really dangerous and what is not? Apparently, people in Galveston face "certain death". That's some strong word choice! The highlight of my day was finishing a whole book (to take my mind off the weirdness) and doing 3 loads of laundry.

Here is a picture of downtown from our living room about 30 minutes ago. And a picture of Blazer tracking the storm and protecting us.

Update: While I was writing this blog post.... Brent decided to take Blazer out for the last time. While he was gone, THE POWER WENT OFF! I temporarily lost my mind. I was just envisioning them stuck in an elevator!! I grabbed a flashlight and ran down the hall yelling "Brent!" like a crazy person. I ran to the elevators and yelled to the crack, "BRENT!" I was seriously freaking out. Of all the times to go in the elevator!!! A minute later, the power came back on. The elevators started working again. I stood by the elevators, crying, waiting for them to come back. Finally, they did. They were outside when the power went out. I don't like this!

So I'm going to cook dinner quickly before the power goes out again. We're pretty certain the power will be out for most of the night. Awesome. So, we're OK. Don't freak (like me) if you can't reach us. We're in a safe place. We may not have Internet, so I'll update you as soon as I can.

I heart you , Houston... I think.


Sunday, September 7, 2008


My calling in life is a tie between being a teacher and being a housewife. Since my life has been disproportionally "teacher" lately, I decided this weekend would be a "housewife" weekend. OK, I still did some school work, but I did it in between loads of laundry. When it really comes down to it, I love to cook, clean, organize, and decorate. If it weren't for that pesky desire to work, I think I'd be perfectly content at home. If your home is anything like mine, chores pile up during the week, and by Friday, there's plenty to be done in the Norwood Nest. Before you judge, read Thoughts on Superwoman. Here are the fruits of my labor, along with my thoughts on some of the domestic tasks I completed this weekend.

I had a little help doing laundry.
Blazer also helped unload the dishwasher!

I made my grocery list and went grocery shopping. Every Sunday at approximately 3:00, you will find me at Kroger. I am not messing around at Kroger. You get in my way - you will be run over by my cart. I have no time for people who don't know their way around a grocery store. Do your homework, people! And don't even get me started on the grandmas in the scooters taking up the whole aisle. Or the people who go the wrong way down the aisle! Grocery shopping is a science and I have a PhD. I know that I have a problem. On Sundays, I plan my weekly menu - breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then I make a grocery list using my recipes. My recipes are in a binder in sheet protectors filed by category. My mom taught me the BEST way to grocery shop. It's very simple, really. You divide your grocery store into 4 quadrants and make your list using those 4 quadrants. Mine are produce, dairy, middle aisles, and meat/frozen food. That way you don't waste time wandering around the store. Thanks, mom! Above is a picture of my list for today and my recipe binder.

To round out my domestic weekend, I decided that I needed to bake. So, I made the following:
Pumpkin muffins - I had a pumpkin scone at Starbucks last week, so to me, it is officially fall. I have never made these pumpkin muffins before, but they are ridiculously good. The smell of pumpkin bread coming from the oven and football on the TV was enough to make everything right with my world. Fall is the BEST season. Good thing that's the season we don't have in Texas. Oh well, I can pretend. Thanks, Cooking Light!

Chocolate chip cookies - This is a Cooking Light version with half the fat and calories.
Yes, please. I love how they got those little cracks on top.

So there you have it. I'm a domestic diva in training. I'm on a roll, so I'm going to go make chicken salad for my lunch this week!


Monday, September 1, 2008

There's a Spirit...

I love long weekends! Maybe it's because I've been working so hard, but this weekend has felt like an eternity. (I'm not complaining!) The weekend was so great mostly because we got to go to College Station! I'm definitely a city girl, but nothing gets me excited like College Station. When things get busy, I just CRAVE it! Obviously I do not crave the food or the lovely scenery, but I just crave the feeling of that wonderful town.

It's hard to describe - but if you're an Aggie, you know what I'm talking about. Despite the college craziness, the town has a feeling of peace, calm, and a slower pace somehow. Some people criticize College Station by staying is a "bubble" and I have no problem with that! That's why I love it! The bubble in College Station is one of friendliness and values. God's presence exists in a way that is supernatural. God has special plans for A&M, and you can feel it the minute you see Texas Avenue from Highway 6. Being in College Station makes me feel close to God.

When I go back, I get so hopelessly sentimental. Brent thinks I'm crazy, but I'll ask him to drive by all the places that are full of memories. I want to drive by the Pi Phi house, the Midtown house, the business school, the MSC, even Northgate! I just like to see those places and think about how much fun we had. I love to walk across campus and pretend like I'm a student. I love to drive around town and exclaim, "THAT wasn't here when we were here!!" (I'm definitely old.)
This weekend was no exception! College Station delivered again - we had a wonderful break from the real world! We arrived Friday afternoon and checked into the Hyatt Place (nice - you should check it out). We then went to Christopher's where we had a really delicious dinner. We could never afford it in college, but it feels so special to go there now! We had a bottle of wine and desert and everything! It was a fun date. Then we went to see Bill Cosby at First Yell. We also saw the Aggie Wranglers, Singing Cadets, Percussion Studio, and Fade to Black. They were all great! Bill Cosby was also funny, although I almost fell asleep at the end. Being a teacher makes you a lousy Friday night partier. Friday night at 11:00 is WAY past my bedtime.
On Saturday, we got to go to the Business school and hang out with some current students who Brent is mentoring. Brent gave a presentation on investment banking and had a small group session with his mentees. I was lucky to tag along. I feel so far removed from those business school people! I was so pathetic. People were like, "Oh and you are...?" I said, "I'm Brent's wife. I was in in the business school. Now I'm a teacher.... I'm going to go sit in the back." haha -But I love it, so it's OK. Saturday afternoon we met up with Brent's friend from Highland Capital, Terry, and his wife Michelle. We went over to the MSC, checked out the pre-game festivities, and ate dinner at the stadium.
The actual game was a lot of fun (for me) because I don't so much care if we win or lose. I just LOVE to watch the student section, listen to the yells, watch the band, and sometimes watch the game. I got choked up a few times just taking it all in and feeling happy to be an Aggie. Brent, on the other hand, did not have quite as much fun. If you didn't hear about the game, I'll spare you the details. But I had fun anyway!
Sunday we came home and we've been relaxing ever since then. We just got back from Brent's parents' house in SugarLand for an awesome Labor Day dinner. Now it's time to get some rest, wake up tomorrow, and close the achievement gap! ....Or just have some coffee, teach the children, and make it through another day! :-) The kids will be happy because I got them some Aggie t-shirts! Can't start recruiting too young!


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