Saturday, January 31, 2009

Norwoods for Hire

Brent and his good friend Tom have known each other since middle school. They have really been through a lot together and have kept a loyal, close friendship all these years. They still talk multiple times per week and will literally do anything for each other. Tom has taken me in as his friend since I'm married to Brent, so now he will do anything for me, too!

Tom asked Brent to help coordinate and pull off his proposal to his girlfriend, Gina, this Friday night. The proposal was to take place at The Grove restaurant at Discovery Green in downtown Houston. It was kind of exciting to be a part of a proposal, and I have to say it made me really nervous! This was someone's big moment, and I didn't want to mess it up! Brent says I'm really good at finding things to worry about, but if you're a girl, you know what I mean! This is big time! The catch was that the proposal was to take place at 11 pm, which as you know, is WAY past our bedtime, especially on a Friday. But we pounded down a few Diet Cokes and powered through. We rewarded ourselves with champagne when it was all over and felt really proud of ourselves for staying out past midnight. Anyway, here are some pictures of the engagement - it was really beautiful, if I do say so myself. And I do say so myself because I did the decorating. Congrats Tom & Gina!

If you're wondering how we got most of these shots, we were crouched in a corner like paparazzi. I'll leave you with that image in your mind.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Only Thing Constant Is Change

We have some news to share here at the Norwood Nest! We are moving! Yes, I know. You're thinking to yourself: Those Norwoods are always moving! And the answer is yes, we are. Brent & I have been married for three and a half years, and this will be our fourth time to move! You would have thought by now that I would just stop trying to plan my own life down to the minute and let God move me wherever He wants! I know from experience that God always puts me exactly where He wants me, and He has been faithful to bless me more than I could have ever imagined or planned.

We do love our apartment, but for a variety of reasons, we have decided to buy a house in Humble. Although the address is no longer "Houston", we will only be 15 minutes from downtown. We will also ironically be only 10 minutes from my school. This will be a welcome change since now I am driving 30 minutes one way to work each day. We decided to build a custom home in a neighborhood called "Fall Creek". We were not looking to move until April, so building a home is a perfect option. That's right! The high-rise city folk are moving to the suburbs!

Here is a picture of the lovely dirt we currently own. Isn't it beautiful? But really, in three short months it will be our house!
Here is a picture of another house in the neighborhood that looks very much like our completed house will look. It is a three bedroom, two bath house with a huge kitchen (yay), fireplace, patio, backyard (yay for Blazer), study, and jetted tub (yay).
The most fun part about building a custom home is that we get to pick out pretty much everything. One night last week, we went to the "design center" to pick out EVERYTHING in 4 hours. I'm not a very good decision maker, so the designer had to push me along, but I think we did it! We now have counters, a backsplash, cabinets, floors, paint, bathroom fixtures, tile, and lots of other stuff I can't think of now! Here is a shot of our table at the design center at one point so you can see how much is going on.

This is a picture of our future backsplash that I am totally in love with. It is really modern and almost Asian looking. Brent & I saw it at a restaurant once and decided we had to have it. Well, now's our chance, so we got it!So that's that! We're packing our bags come April! I'll keep you updated with pictures of our house as it materializes from nothing over the next months!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Can YOU Help One School Transform a City?

The Answer is YES!

Will you help me change the trajectory of a child's life?

If you're not familiar with my school, I'll give you the ten second overview. YES Prep is a charter school system that exists to provide a free college preparatory education to Houston's most under-served neighborhoods. We believe that a zip code should not determine educational opportunity and that every child can and will learn. We guarantee that students who graduate from our high school will be accepted to a four-year college or university, so we have a 100% college matriculation rate. The average rate in HISD is around 51%. By 2020, YES will send THREE TIMES more low income students to college than ALL of the Houston Independent School District. Our high school has been named one of the top 100 high schools in America by Newsweek three years in a row, so people are starting to notice what we're doing!

However, with our successes come challenges. We receive very little funding per student from the state and no funding for facilities. Though we have enough to get by, we have a very small budget for supplies and instructional materials such as books. For example, our English department has enough to purchase only one book per child per year. If we need more books beyond that, they are purchased by the teacher or the students.

Each year, I explore ways to get more books and resources. As the leader of my classroom, it's my responsibility to advocate for the things my students need. In order to have a thriving reading and writing workshop, we need enough books and supplies to keep kids engaged and challenged year-round. One book does not quite cut it. In fact, my students have made a goal that we will each read 50 books this year.

Last year, I decided to try a website I heard about called "Donors Choose" that matches teachers in need of supplies with donors who are interested in helping kids learn. I had a fantastic experience with Donors Choose last year, so I decided to post more projects with them this year. I currently have three project proposals posted on Donors Choose. Each of my three proposals are for books.

I'm wondering... do you know anyone who would be interested in our mission of changing the face of education in Houston? If so, I would be so very grateful if you would pass along this message or the links to my projects below. Donors can donate any amount of money to projects. Projects are usually not funded in full by one donor, so small donations are appreciated as much as large ones. Each and every donor will be personally thanked by the kids in my classroom. Donors will receive letters and pictures of their dollars in action. A donation to Donors Choose is tax deductible and all transactions are handled directly by Donors Choose.

I hope you'll check out a few of my projects and pass them on to anyone else who might be interested. Thanks for all you do to support me and my kids!

Please peruse my three proposals by clicking on the linked titles below:

Books of Hope : Later this year, we're partnering with an organization called "Books of Hope" to create picture books that will be sent to orphans in Uganda.

Hot!Hot!Hot!: My kids need hot new award winning titles!

It's a Tween, Tween World : We'd love some new "tween" books for ages 10-12 to add to our classroom library.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Celine Confession and Obsession

Yep. I admit it. I have watched The Parent Trap over 25 times, sometimes I go to bed at 8:00, I made crock pot roasts in college, Britney Spears was once my idol, I listen to Phil Collins regularly, and I LOVE CELINE DION!!!!!!!!! I have loved Celine Dion since I was in middle school and my dad gave me my first Celine Dion CD (the green one). I was like, "Who is this? She doesn't look very cool." Well, I was wrong. Celine Dion is actually very cool. I have loved her music ever since then. Lindsay Smith (now Loucks) and I used to be OBSESSED with her and sang her songs as loud as possible with the windows rolled down (Usually "God Bless Us Everyone" from the Christmas CD. In June.) It has been my dream to see her in concert. Her show in Vegas was sold out when we went there last year, but, lucky me, she is on a world tour and came to Houston! I was lucky enough to have tickets to the show last night. I went with my wonderful team teacher, Lora, and two of our other teacher friends from school, Lindsay and Rachael. We had the BEST time. And, as teachers, we were pretty impressed with ourselves for staying out until almost midnight on a Friday!

It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. First of all, I think Celine Dion is the best female voice in the world. She is flat out amazing. Second, the girl knows how to put on a show. Below is a picture of her on her stage complete with about a hundred moving parts. I was entertained and enthralled the whole time! Of course Celine Dion can not wear just one outfit for a concert. I think she wore a total of five or six outfits, and they were all fabulous. She's very dramatic with everything, which makes for a good show. I also just really like her. She has this quality that makes you feel as if you are friends, even though you're watching her in an arena with thousands and you know this is the five hundredth time she's done this show.

I really waned to bring my camera, but if you know me, you know that I'm a rule follower to a fault. It said in big letters on the ticket "NO CAMERAS". So I made all my friends leave them in the car. Of course, EVERYONE had a camera, so I was mad and they were mad at me, but oh well. So I don't have any pictures that I took, but I found pictures of most of her concert outfits that I wanted to share!

She didn't wear this exact dress last night, but it was the same style and a purple color with plenty of sequins. It was very, very short. I could never wear it. She's 40. But whatever.
This was maybe my favorite outfit. Who else but Celine could pull off these ridiculous thigh-high strappy white leather boots with 4" heels? I know I couldn't pull them off, but do I want some? Uh... YEAH! I could wear them to teach the children, right?
Next Celine came out in a cape. Yeah, she did!! She pranced around stage with the cape fluttering behind her, and then one of her dancers came behind her and unsnapped it to use it as a bullfighting cape. You had to be there. It was awesome. The rest of the outfit consisted of tight leather pants, boots, and a completely sequenced sheath dress.
I should have known that with someone as dramatic as Celine, she would have an encore. Oh, yes, did she have an encore. She actually had two. Each with a different outfit change, light show, dance routine, and maybe some lasers and fireworks. The picture below is of her first encore singing "River Deep, Mountain High". I love that song. At one point, she pulls her "diamond" encrusted mic stand out of the holder and uses it as a baton to give a little twirling show. Wow. Her second encore is not pictured here, but she came out in a flowy black evening gown and sang (I totally called this, by the way), "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic, complete with smoke, movie clips, etc.

If you get a chance to see her live, you just should. She's freaking awesome and I'm not afraid to admit it.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter Wonder

Although it doesn't photograph as well as many other recipes, this chicken sausage and bean casserole was perfection. I found this recipe in Everyday Food magazine (one of my four food magazine subscriptions!) It was touted as the perfect winter recipe to have with a glass of white wine. Although it was 77 degrees in Houston today, I decided to give it a try. It is January, after all!

For such a straightforward recipe, this one was a homerun. It was healthy, delicious, quick, and easy (remember, it's Thursday!) The ingredients are deceptively simple, but they work together beautifully. The recipe consists of sage, onions, garlic, white wine, chicken sausage, cannellini beans, and bread crumbs. The creamy beans worked perfectly with the sweet sausage and crispy bread crumbs. If you like things a bit spicy, I recommend you add about 1/2 a teaspoon of crushed red pepper instead of black pepper. It turned out savory with a spicy kick. We ate it with sauteed spinach. Brent was suspicious of the beans but ended up loving it. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Loving Dogs and Loving Jesus

It’s no secret that I am obsessed with my dog. If this is any indication of how I will feel about my children, watch out.

My views on dogs were further solidified a few days ago when I watched “Marley and Me” at the theater. If you know anything about me, you know that movies are not my thing. Maybe I have ADD or something, but I just have never enjoyed watching movies. If I do choose to watch a movie, I only like comedies and kid movies because I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would CHOOSE or even PAY to feel sad, scared, or depressed. Anyway, I haven’t been to a theater in about two years, but the family decided to go see “Marley and Me”. I was immediately suspicious – sure, it looked funny in the commercials, but I know that story, and I know the dog dies. Thinking about dogs dying is really upsetting to me. I can’t deal. Brent assured me that it would be funny. Not so much. I bawled my eyes out for about 45 minutes of the movie and even gave myself a headache from crying so much after the movie. It was super sad. You’ve been warned.

Anyway – although it was sad, the movie was a beautiful picture of how wonderful dogs are and how rich they can make our lives. I cannot adequately describe how much I love Blazer. Blazer makes me a happier, calmer person. I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone would be crazy to not want a dog. If you get the right kind for you, what’s NOT to love? The more I think about why I love Blazer so much, the more I think that loving a dog is a picture of loving Jesus and His love for us. Here’s why:

Dogs have ultimate trust in their masters.
When we tell Blazer we’re going somewhere, his reactions say: “Please take me and please let’s go right now!!” He follows us wherever we decide to take him. He loves some places we take him like Grammy’s, the park, and PetSmart to name a few. But he also does NOT like some of the places we take him like the groomer and the vet. But he goes anyway, and he trusts that we will not take him somewhere that would hurt him. And when we go to pick him up from one of those places he dislikes, he’s so happy to see us again. When we take a walk, we put Blazer on a leash just like any dog owner. We have to be in charge of Blazer so he doesn’t run in the middle of the street because he doesn’t know any better. So he submits and follows us. I’m wondering: are we not the dog and God the master? If God let us go wherever we wanted, wouldn’t we probably run in the middle of the street and hurt ourselves? God’s direction protects us. Maybe we like where he’s taking us, and maybe we don’t, but he’s in charge. Like Blazer, we should not only follow, but be excited about it.

Dogs love unconditionally.
Although I love Blazer a ton, I’m not always the world’s best owner. For example, I have to go to work for about 10 hours each day, and Blazer has to be blocked up in our guest bathroom. I’m sure he gets pretty annoyed by that. But he never holds it against me. When I get home, he is beside himself with excitement and he wants to press against me and lick my face for about ten minutes. He loves me no matter what. He is always glad to see me, always hates to leave me, and wakes up every day loving me just as much as yesterday. Even if I scold him, he loves me immediately after. Are there any people who can really love like a dog? Who can forget faults within seconds and have a constant love that never wavers? I know I don’t have that kind of love very often at all. But I think that is a picture of God’s love for us.

Dogs know how to rest.
According to my calculations, Blazer sleeps about 18 hours a day. He is unfettered by to-do lists, worries, goals to be efficient, and guilt from napping. Oh no – sleeping and resting come easy to him! Now I’m not advocating that Christians sleep 18 hours a day (although it might be nice), but can we learn something from dogs about how to let go? How to free our mind and relax? I constantly struggle to believe Matthew 11:29-30: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Dogs are easy to forgive.
Blazer is mostly perfect, but he does have his moments. Take, for example, the two times I have come home from work to find Blazer standing in a giant pile of wood chips in his bathroom. (One such time is pictured above.) He had decided to throw a fit for being left all day, and then tried to eat the door one bite at a time. Or maybe the many times when Brent and I suddenly realize we haven’t seen Blazer in a while. That usually means that he’s destroyed an entire roll of toilet paper and decorated our bathroom with the remnants. When this happens, I’m pretty annoyed, because I’m going to have to clean up that mess and pick the splinters out of his mouth. But, I can NOT scold him with a straight face! I seriously laugh in the middle of saying, “NO! Bad dog!” Then I always pick him up for hugs and kisses and tell him I’m sorry and he’s a good dog. I love him so much that I don’t like to be mad at him. He’s so easy to forgive! I wonder if that’s how God feels when he forgives me a million times a day. I can’t fathom that kind of love, but I think I see a small picture of it in my love for Blazer. Even when I do something really terrible, God is not only willing, but eager to forgive me, and it’s not hard for him. It makes him happy.

Dogs live in the moment.
Blazer really loves his Grammy Lemmon and Grammy Norwood. They are seriously two of his favorite people ever. When we know that Blazer will see one of his Grammys in, say, a week, we start getting him hyped up a good three days before. We’ll say things like “Blazer – do you want to see GRAMMY?” Of course Blazer has no sense of time so when we say that, he doesn’t understand that he’s going to see Grammy in a few days. Instead, he runs to the door because Grammy must be here right this very second. Sometimes I think this is more of what we should be like as Christians. Dogs don’t think about the past or fret about the future. They live in the NOW. Isn’t this a good picture of Philippians 3:13-14? Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Or maybe Matthew 6:27: Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

So if you have a dog (and you should), go give (and get) a hug right now. Maybe loving your dog can bring you closer to God.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

And a Happy New Year!

I used to buy into the whole Hollywood image of New Year's Eve. I needed to be wearing a beaded evening gown with a glass of champagne in my hand dancing with a bunch of beautiful people at a luxurious locale and celebrating midnight with my hair and makeup still looking perfect. Um, yeah. That never happened. But I held on to the dream for a while. Now I realize that New Year's Eve is MUCH better spent cocooned in your own home, safe from the crazies, free to do whatever you want! So we had a wonderful New Year's Eve last night - Norwood style.
First of all, in the afternoon, I made the horrifying discovery that I missed an ENTIRE SEASON of Project Runway. How is that possible? Why did no one tell me? Project Runway is one of my favorite shows of all time. Thankfully, the fashion gods were smiling upon me, and Bravo was running a Project Runway MARATHON yesterday! whoo hoo! At about 6:00 pm, I went to the apartment gym to work out. Big surprise - NO ONE was in the gym. Lights turned off, TVs off, everything shut down. So I flipped on the lights, turned up the volume on Project Runway, and enjoyed my workout. Beaded evening gown? Not so much. Next I donned my GAP body comfy clothes and Brent & I enjoyed some wine & cheese to kick off our New Year's festivities.

Blazer is saying, "Daddy, may I please have some expensive Whole Foods gourmet cheese? I've been a very good boy this year."

While we enjoyed our cheese, we watched Home Alone. Yes, I know it's not Christmas anymore. That's OK when you do New Years however you want to do New Years!

Brent cooked his famous steakhouse steaks we stole from Barefoot Contessa. I made roasted balsamic asparagus from Cooking Light and Sauteed Shrimp with a little Emeril's Essence. It was the best meal EVER. Forget the $150 a plate dinners elsewhere. These beautiful steaks were $12.99 a pound!!

For desert, we had homemade sticky toffee pudding. This is not from Cooking Light, people. It has lots of sugar, butter, and cream... and It's a once a year kind of treat.

Then I stayed up until 1am. No, not watching the ball drop and the pretty people party in NYC. Watching Project Runway, of course!! I had to see who won! Happy New Year!

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