Saturday, May 29, 2010

Show a Little Love!

Hey blog friends! I have a favor to ask. My school, YES Prep, launched a blog this year called "The Answer". A group of teachers and administrators posts on the blog about anything related to YES. The goal of the blog is to generate traffic to our website, attract great teachers, and get the word out about YES! We're trying to position ourselves as "thought leaders" in the world of education reform.

Also, there may or may not be a little contest to see who can get the most comments on a YES blog post. I will be publishing at least 12 posts over the next year as a writer for the blog, and I just posted my first story about some super cute reading goals my kids made this week. If you are a reader of my blog, would you please head on over to the YES Prep blog and leave a little comment love? I'd appreciate it! .... and so would the kids, of course :-)

Just click here to read and comment!! Thanks!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Change Is In The Air

Because I'm a teacher, I live my life in the cycle of a school year. I absolutely love the rhythm of it. There is a clear beginning, a clear ending, and some nice little breaks in between. There are many opportunities for a fresh start, and each school year is like starting all over again! While new starts are a good feeling, they often mean change (dreaded change) and I'm currently in the middle of change. Right now I'm at the end of a school year cycle. May always has a weird feeling to me - schedules are different, kids are restless (read: irritating), yet I want to hang on every moment because next year I will have a whole new group of kids, and I will miss the ones I have now. It's kind of exhausting to think about starting all over again. Also, many of my best teacher friends at school are leaving next year. I am going to miss them so very much.

To add to the change, there are some definite changes going on in my career and personal life! In anticipation of starting a family in the relatively, possibly, not-so-distant, yet not-so-immediate future (was that vague enough for you??), I have decided to scale down my work just a bit and begin transitioning into new roles. Instead of teaching a full load, I will only teach two classes. Instead of serving on my school admin team, I will now be the school librarian and possibly the literacy specialist. For the meantime, I will also keep my job as district English content specialist. I know, this doesn't sound scaled down, but believe me, it is!! I'm very excited about becoming the librarian. I mean, who gets to recommend books to kids all day? Also it will be the perfect flexible job once we do decide to add a baby to our family. But all this change is a little scary... I have always taught full time, so it was really, really weird to see the new schedule with my name on only two classes. I'm having to give up 7th grade English to other people. However, I know it is a necessary change.

And now for the biggest change of all... I have decided to go to grad school. I know: this is insane. I thought so myself for a very long time. However, about a year ago, God began speaking to me quietly with the idea of going back to grad school. I NEVER thought I would want or need to get my masters, but now I think God is very clearly leading me in this way. I'm frustrated that I did not get my masters earlier, but I trust that God's timing is perfect, and he has put it on my heart now, so I believe this is the right time. I spent all year studying for the GRE, applying to schools, and trying to figure out what is best. In God's infinite faithfulness, everything has fallen into place, and I have been accepted into what I think is the absolute most perfect masters program for me. This summer, I will begin attending school here:

Columbia University! I'm going to be getting a Masters in the Teaching of English at Teachers College (the education grad school at Columbia). Teachers College has played a huge part in my development as a teacher. I have attended three teaching institutes there that took my teaching to the next level. I always dreamed of getting a masters at Columbia, but never thought it would actually happen. Don't worry... I'm not moving to NYC permanently! I'm going to be getting my masters through a program for practicing teachers. The classes are three weeks in the summer in NYC for three summers. Then I will take one online class each semester back in Houston. It's actually a great deal... I get to live in NYC for 3 weeks each summer, but I don't have to attend any face-to-face classes during the busy school year.

I am elated that I found a program that meets my needs so perfectly. And to have a masters from Columbia will be not only a personal dream come true, but hopefully an asset in the future as I seek to have more flexibility in my job. I hope that it will open up opportunities to work in education for a long time without being a full time teacher. So... want to come visit me in NYC? I will be there for the entire month of July! I am very excited but also very nervous. Do I still have what it takes to be a student? Can I be away from Brent & Blazer for that long? Can we even pay for this? Am I crazy? Definitely not sure, but I trust God's provision and can not deny that things have fallen into place in a supernatural way. Also, Brent plans to come visit, so I won't have to be without him... which will help lots :-)

As much as I hate change, the thing I love most about change is that it always drives me to the Lord. When I would fret for hours about grad school decisions, I would involuntarily begin to say a prayer for wisdom. When I saw the new schedule with me teaching only two periods, I immediately prayed, "Lord, remind me how you are unchanging." God uses these moments of change and uncertainty to force us to rely on him. This is where I always want to be, so I'm learning to savor these moments of change rather than dread them.

So here's to the next year and whatever other changes may come our way!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Supper Club Sneak Preview

The time has arrived! It's my turn to host the neighborhood supper club. On a recent drive to College Station, Brent and I brainstormed lots of theme ideas. This time, our supper club falls on Memorial Day, so I wanted to do something summery. Since my good friend Cassie already did a burger bash, I decided on a summery flavor: Lemon.

So the theme of our supper club is all things lemon. I'm super excited about it. I'm already envisioning fun decorations. We're going to serve lemon drop martinis, crab, tomato, and corn salad with lemon basil vinaigrette, lemon chicken piccata with linguine, and lemon roasted asparagus. This weekend I made it my mission to make a cute invitation to hand out to our supper club members. You may remember that Cassie set the bar pretty high with her invitations a while ago. I shamelessly stole a few of her ideas for mine. I thought I'd post them here as a supper club sneak preview. Enjoy!

Step 1: I created an invitation using Microsoft word, my printer, and scrapbook paper from WalMart. I LOVE downloading fun new fonts like this font I used for "lemon". Have you been to It's amazing!

Step 2: I browsed the summer section at Hobby Lobby and found these adorable lemon slice plates for $1.50 each!

Step 3: I baked up a batch of Emeril Lagasse's lemon squares. I was nervous because I haven't made lemon squares in ages, but they turned out perfectly! My two tips are to use parchment paper so you can get them out of the pan easily. Then, let them cool completely and cut them with a very sharp knife.

Step 4: I placed 4 lemon bars on each plate for each couple. Then I wrapped each plate with clear cellophane and tied it with a yellow polka dot ribbon.

Step 4: I slipped a clothes pin into the back of each tied ribbon.

Step 5: I attached the invitations to the clothes pin so they stuck up and looked super cute behind the lemon bars!

Here's the final product! I almost didn't want to deliver them because they looked so darn cute on my buffet.

I'll be sure to post pictures of the actual supper club after it happens!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

A House of Many Colors

I grew up in a white house. Not THE White House, but definitely a white house. I love my mom and dad dearly, and they have since ventured into the world of color, but growing up, the walls were to remain white. I think it was probably just the trend in the late 80s/early 90s. Now that I think of it, I don't remember having any friends with colorful painted homes either. You mostly had wallpaper or white.

In my childhood room, one wall was wallpapered with pink ribbons and the others were white. My sister had one wall of wallpapered bears, and the others were white. I bet my mom could tell early on that I had a penchant for color when I used to beg her to let me paint the outside of our house. The idea that my mom would ever even consider letting me paint the outside of the house is of course laughable, but I asked a lot. To appease me, she gave me large painter's brushes and a bowl of water and told me to go at it. It's embarrassing to admit, but I painted the front of our house with water multiple times in my childhood. I liked how it made the bricks a little darker for a moment. My mom liked how I was cleaning the outside of the house for free. Well played, mom... well played.

When I was in high school, I earned all of my extra money by babysitting. There was one family who had me as a nanny all summer. I took care of their son Timothy. Boy that kid loved to play sports outside in the 100 degree summer weather. But the point is that Timothy had the coolest house. Timothy's mom also loved color, and she had boldly painted every single room a different color. The colors were not loud or tacky. They all worked together to make the house welcoming and warm. As I walked through those rooms while babysitting, I would think to myself: SOMEDAY, I will have a house and every room will be painted a different color.

Well, my someday was finally realized last weekend when the last of the paining was done in our house. I now have a room for every color of the rainbow except orange, because let's be serious, Brent would never allow that. I have rooms that are red, yellow, green, blue, purple, and brown. OK brown is not in the rainbow, but it's still a color! I give you: The House of Many Colors:

Bedroom: Glidden Cafe Latte and Behr Briquette

Kitchen / Breakfast / Living Room: Behr Grass Cloth

Dining Room: Behr Blue Fox

Study: Behr Grape Haze

Guest Bedroom: Behr Torchlight
If you're contemplating white or color... pick color!!!! It's just paint! Be fearless! My top three painting tips are:
  1. Always use flat paint. It looks much more sophisticated.
  2. Take home lots of chips from the store and tape them up on the wall. Use samples if they sell them. You want to pick just the right shade, so look at the colors in lots of different light before you pick one.
  3. Be really nice to your husband so he will hire you a painter. This is key. If you think I painted all that... you are out of your mind.
Happy color-picking!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just Call Me the Pied Piper

A few months ago, I posted about my adventures saving my first stray dog. My friend Tiffany, also a dog lover, told me that once you save a stray dog, you become a stray dog magnet. Turns out, she might be right.

Tonight my grocery store planning failed me. I don't like Thursdays, because whatever I bought on Sunday usually doesn't sound good to me five days later. It's hard to plan that far ahead. Tonight we were going to have baked potatoes, but the potatoes were sprouting eyes, so we decided against it. I decided to go out to Wal-Mart in a last ditch effort to salvage my CFO (chief food officer) status and get the makings of tacos.

On the way to the store, I saw an adorable little puppy that looked quite like Blazer RUN across a busy street. It was like sprinting, frolicking, having a great time in the middle of the road. There were tons of cars passing the dog, but none stopped. The dog kept running and I (of course) immediately turned the car around and went after it. I jumped out calling for the dog and (of course) it came bounding towards me and into my arms. I scooped it up, put it in my lap in the car, and started driving back home. At this point, I was literally laughing out loud. I tried calling Brent to warn him what I was bringing home, but he didn't answer. So I opened the back door of our house and yelled, "Um, honey, can you come here for a second please?" haha... and there I was holding a dog that's not ours.

The dog had a collar but no tags. We immediately came up with a 6-pronged plan:

(1) Drive around the neighborhood and look for people looking for a dog
and if that doesn't work,
(2) Call the neighborhood "lost dogs" line and see if someone is looking for a lost dog
and if that doesn't work,
(3) Give the dog a bath and
(4) Keep it for the night and
(5) Find a vet in the morning that will scan it for a microchip
and if that doesn't work,
(6) Find a home for the dog by shamelessly emailing cute photos to my entire school district

Well, luckily we didn't have to get past step #1.

We drove around the neighborhood for five minutes and came across a minivan stopping and asking every jogger if they had seen a dog. Success. We held up the dog and the lady squealed, "That's him!" And here's where my dream really came true: The minivan was full of kids screaming, "THANK YOU!!!" They were so happy to have their dog back.

As we were driving home, I said, "Honey, I'm sorry. I know I'm crazy. But that was kind of fun, right??" Brent answered, "Yes. But why don't you just tie strings of tin cans behind your car so all the dogs in the neighborhood will follow you home?!"

And what about our dinner, you might ask? Well, we're currently waiting for our pizza to be delivered. Becasue let's be honest: A girl can only do so much in one day.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Answer is YES

As you drive around Houston these days, you will see cars (minivans usually) with a large blue and white bumper sticker that says: "Will my child go to college? The answer is YES!" When I'm driving down the freeway and I see one of those stickers, my heart leaps a little bit. What started out as a ramshackle school in a parking lot is now a driving force in education reform in Houston, Texas, and (I'd like to think) the country. I never get as many comments on my YES posts as my other posts, but I couldn't let this week go by without letting everyone know about the amazing students at YES Prep in Houston, Texas.

The long and short of my school is this: 100% of our kids go to college. We guarantee that any student who enters our doors and sticks with our program WILL be accepted to and matriculate to a 4 year college or university. In fact, it is written into our charter. In order to graduate from our high school and receive a diploma, students MUST go to college. The high school graduation rate around these parts hovers around 60% and the number going to college after graduating is much smaller. For Hispanics and African Americans, it is around 20%. Only ONE out of SIX Hispanic students in HISD will graduate from high school. At our school, 90% of the students will be first generation college students. Many have parents who do not have a middle or high school education. Yet they will break the cycle and go to college.

So at YES, going to college is a BIG DEAL. We basically hype it up for 6 years. Every May, we have something called "Senior Signing Day". Maybe you're a football fan and you watch on TV when high school seniors across the country sign their letters of intent to join a college sports team. Our is like that, but instead of celebrating sports, we celebrate college acceptance. It is on this day that every student and teacher in the district gathers (about 4,000 people) to watch each senior jubilantly reveal the college they will attend. You might think you had stumbled into a Lady GaGa concert with the amount of noise, craziness, and excitement that goes on at this event. It is so fun to see even little kids excited about college.

Just to give you a taste of how big of a deal this was for us, the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was the keynote speaker.
The cool thing about this particular Senior Signing Day is that it is our campus's first year to graduate seniors. We have been growing by one grade a year, and now we're sending our first class off to college. Even cooler, I taught these seniors in 7th grade during my first year of teaching. So it was neat for me to see them make it all the way! Apparently I didn't mess them up too badly back when I didn't know what I was doing :-) Not every senior is going to the Ivy League, but there were some pretty impressive colleges! Here are a few of my favorites:

This is Leo. He is an extremely talented artist and super smart. He will be attending A&M. Whoop! This is Noe. Super quiet, super sweet. And, oh yeah... he's going to Vanderbilt. This is Eddie. The charmer. Prom court. First generation college student. Yep, that's Dartmouth. It gives me chills to think how proud his parents must be. Here is a big group of them, all showing off their new college pride. Here is a a video taken by a local news station. I think it does a good job of capturing the event!

Finally, I will leave you with a video of the "YES Prep Yell". Aggies are taking over YES, and now we have a new tradition of yells, just like at A&M. Each campus has their own yell, and we have an all-YES yell. There is even a pass-back!


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