Adios 2009!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years, but I am glad to see it go!

Since I last blogged, my niece came to visit and I really enjoyed it. The coolest thing we did was go to the Ice exhibit at the Gaylord in Grapevine. I do recommend it, but try to go in a non-peak time, I'd say midday on a weekday, NOT the week of Christmas like we did. It was so crowded! And we waited in like a 20 minute line just to go down the ice slide once. I thought it was a lot of fun though, and I think Miranda enjoyed it.

Today, we're snacking on stuffed jalapenos, cheese fondue, chips, salsa, and guacamole, and sangria. I'm making cream cheese squares, which are just the worst thing you can possibly eat if you want to avoid junk, but they are AMAZING. It's essentially this recipe, although this isn't where I got it originally. The difference is, the original recipe I used called for a stick of melted butter to be poured over the top before sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar and baking it. It. is. so. good.

Greg is coming over tonight, and we'll crack open a bottle of bubbly for midnight. Greg's year was even worse than ours - not only did he have to deal with Tom's accident, but his dad in Florida suffered a terrible stroke Father's Day weekend and wasn't found for a couple of days. He went to Florida to help him out and is in the process now of fighting for his dad's Medicare, which was declined for some reason (I don't know all the details), so he can move him to a facility in Texas. Unfortunately, it looks like he will need 24/7 care for the rest of his life. So, I know Greg's ready for a new year as well and I'm glad he's coming over. :-(

It was like rush hour traffic at noon today when I went out for groceries, so I'm glad to be staying in tonight. I would like to do that Big D NYE thing at Victory Park someday, but not until I can get a night at the W hotel, which was $500 for NYE when I checked. Another year!

My New Year's resolution is to keep a journal. This blog is great but it doesn't really provide much in the way of self-reflection. I am careful about how much of my guts I spill. I used to journal ALL the time, up until a few years ago. So I picked up a spiral notebook yesterday and I'm going to try again. Of course, eating better and exercising more are always on my mind, so I won't really call it new. :-)

I hope everyone has a safe, happy new year's eve!!!

Whew it's over!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My parents came in Friday night. We put Goku in our bedroom so he wouldn't harass my dad on the pull-out sofa. That stinkin' cat kept us up all night. Tom flung him off the bed at 4:30am and he landed on Sasha, and Sasha yelped. That was the end of sleeping for me! I got up, turned on the coffee pot, and played on the PC for a bit until my dad finally woke up.

We left at 7:30 so I could be there by 8am. It was a long hour before the 9am ceremony started. Once we all lined up, we just stood around waiting. Bleh.

And here are the pictures. This one would've been great if it weren't fuzzy! This is me getting my flower - apparently they don't want to shake hands during flu season.

I am really focused on NOT falling. LOL

Me and Jessica - finally done!!

Me and Danyelle

Me and Jessica again!

Tom taking a picture of us while my mom is taking a picture.

Me and my parents.

So, after graduation, we put my enchiladas in the oven and had a delicious tex-mex lunch before exchanging some Christmas gifts. My mom brought me a graduation cake and a beautiful dozen red roses. :-) I'll post more pictures when I get them!

It was a good time! I slept like a baby last night, and now my niece and I are off to spend a little of my graduation and Christmas gift cards.

Oh the places you’ll go

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oh wow, I haven't read this since high school, but I just looked it up. Isn't it great?,_the_Places_You%27ll_Go!

Got a wonderful week lined up.

Tomorrow: Work and study. Tom starts school again taking a wintermester class at NCTC. I need to wrap SOME presents and get my Christmas cards ready to be sent.

Tuesday: 1st final exam. Work on a final report for another class, and buy groceries

Wednesday: Work and study.

Thursday: 2nd and final final exam. Turn in report for the other classes. Get my hair cut, and finish cleaning!

Friday: Cook in preparation for family’s early Christmas party on Saturday. Parents coming to spend the night.

Saturday: Graduation. Lunch and Christmas shindig with my immediate family.

Miranda is staying with us starting Saturday thru Christmas eve. I am so excited about graduation, having my family over for a reason that has nothing to do with hospitals and surgeries, and having my niece visit without me having to go to work! That’s right, I’m off starting Thursday and not going back til January 13th. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??

We have been cleaning like maniacs, even wiping down the baseboards, steam cleaning the couch, and scrubbing the blades on the blinds, stuff that never makes it into our typical “vacuum and do the dishes” housecleaning routine. I had planned to do a deep cleaning on the house during my time off work, but since we decided to do our Christmas shindig at our house since everyone will already be at my house anyway, the cleaning will be done early and I will be free to tackle some serious organization projects. The early cleaning would not have been possible without Tom, who has spent at least part of every weekday since Thanksgiving scrubbing on something. You should see our guest bathroom. I thought it looked good already, but Tom made it sparkle. I am going to take a huge load of books to donate, or to Half Price Books and be free of them. I also need to reorganize our pantry and kitchen cabinets. I haven’t had this much (voluntary) time off since I can’t remember, and I can’t wait!

I was accepted this week into the Educational Research doctoral program at UNT starting next spring, which is sweet. One weird example of why it’s awesome that may only make sense to me: I can FINALLY tell people I’m working on my Ph.D. This is so much simpler than telling people I am applying for this or that, or waiting to hear, or wanting to get my Ph.D. but may be getting into a masters degree program first, or whatever. There aren’t any ifs, ands, or buts about this. I AM a grad student. That is a big relief! It is officially much easier to answer that question I always get when people find out I’m graduating, “What are you going to do now?” Well, I’m going to grad school! LOL

So, I hope everyone enjoys their THIRD week in December. I’m sure I’ll make time to post graduation pictures soon. If not, please enjoy your Christmas as best as you can!!

Trying out Windows Live Writer

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Upgraded to Windows 7 today, and haven’t noticed a whole lot new except for this neato program, Live Writer.  Supposedly, I can use this program to compose blogs that will publish to my existing blog site.  If it works, it will be awesome!  Already, I notice that adding a picture is much easier.  This is a picture from a tour bus in Valencia.


So, I’ll tell you what we’ve done this weekend using some of the features I see on Live Writer.  Here is where live.  Weird, huh?  I just clicked on “add a map”, and there you have it.

Map picture


I rearranged my classroom observation hours so I could have Friday off.  It was a good time to take off because we had a grantALeqM5i7pRIoWJaSCRINOP9VeHo2ZrSDfQ due Thursday.  I stayed up late finishing up some grading Wednesday, got up early to work on grant stuff Thursday, then went to the Stars game Thursday night.  And since it’s so easy to add a picture, here is a picture!   The picture links to an article.  Neato.

It was good to have Friday off because we undertook a little renovation project this weekend.  We decided to merge our offices so we’d have an extra bedroom to put the old bedroom furniture that has been in our dining room for (seriously) since last January.  So, Friday, we slept in a bit since we were out late for the Stars game, went to wal-mart to get supplies and groceries, then moved all the furniture out of Tom’s office and prepped the room for painting (tape, newspaper, dropcloth, etc). 

Saturday morning, we primed the room with Kilz.  OK, that stuff is serious!  Tom was laughing saying, “I’m starting to get high!” and I thought he was just being silly until the room started spinning for me (who had been with the Kilz for 45 minutes longer than Tom) and I started stumbling backwards.  I decided it was time for a break!  We had the window open and the fan running, but it wasn’t enough.  We decided to stop and eat for a minute, enjoyed our 30 minutes worth of giggles (Tom walked in when Ina Garten said “doughball” on TV, and he thought it was hilarious), then got back to work. 

Long story short about Kilz – it gets on your skin, and it stays on your skin until your skin comes off.  For real.  I had it all over my hands from trying to clean off our equipment, and I had to scrape my skin raw to get it off.  Whew.

Use Kilz, get stoned and end up with super soft exfoliated skin!

chicken enchiladas Painted the room a warm, darkish beige called Gaucho.  Then, we left for Danyelle and Reade’s house to watch the UFC fights.  What a great set of fights!  Each one was exciting.  I made Pioneer Woman’s chicken enchiladas, and they were to-die-for. 

Today, we slept in since we didn’t get home til 1am, then we discovered that we really needed to touch up our paint job (unexpectedly), so out came the rollers again.  It was worth the extra hour’s worth of work, though.  Here are some pics of the finished product.  It’s hard to get a good picture since the room is teeny tiny, but you can get the idea.  And if you have seen this room BEFORE, prepare to be shocked.  It’s nothing special, but a tremendous accomplishment based on how it was!

IMG_0130[1] Look past the computer chair, and it’s my glider (minus the ottoman, which I’ve been using at my desk…LOL) and my bookcase.







IMG_0131[1] Here is my desk corner, complete with tools of the day.  We put our robots on a shelf…love it!









Tom’s computer desk with the TV.  Anyway, nothing special, but if only you knew what an improvement.  I love the wall color, all warm instead of the cold stark WHITE that was in here before (and still lurks all throughout the house.)


And now we are relaxing, celebrating our accomplishment with some Shiner Holiday Cheer.


Got a busy few weeks ahead.  We are going to see Christmas Carol in 3D tomorrow night (finally!), then to see the One O’Clock Jazz band Tuesday night, then of course lots of baking in preparation for Thanksgiving on Thursday, then a little light Black Friday shopping (Tom wants a toolbox from Sears, and there is a comforter there I will pick up, but nothing crazy like years past!)  Saturday, I’ll put up the Christmas tree.  The following Thursday and Friday, I have a conference in Houston to attend.  Then I gotta grade the rest of the weekend, then it’s the last week of classes.  Officially less than 1 month from graduation!

And now, I’ll try to submit this blog.  If you are reading this, it has worked, and I call it a glowing success.

Sunday morning blog

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Well, I have been fighting this allergy stuff for a couple of weeks and it has been NO fun. Finally, I I resigned myself to my snotty, eye running fate, and I have been feeling better all week! I attributed it to my new antihistamine eye drops, my 24 hour zyrtec, and good ol' time. Yesterday, my throat started hurting a little but got much worse REALLY fast, like by the time I got home from watching the fights at Danyelle's house, I was achy and pretty sure I was dying. Took some ibuprofen, slept pretty good, feel awful this morning. Fever and sore throat with occasional coughing attack. And naturally, it's the worst timing ever. My niece and nephew have their joint birthday party today, next week is a big week at work with a grant due on Thursday, and I have a TON of grading to do (which I will try to tackle today from bed!)

But alas, I'm going to the doctor tomorrow, and I guess I'll try a new family doctor. I haven't picked one out - been going to the health center at school when I'm sick ever since I've been at UNT, but I want to pick one of the family doctors here in Corinth or Lake Dallas. Plus, I'm a little leery of the health center ever since they diagnosed me with flu last March and gave me antibiotics.

We went to St. Louis last weekend for the NAGC Conference. I had a wonderful time! I enjoyed the conference, my presentation Saturday morning was really good, and Tom and I got to see some of the sights and eat some really good barbecue. Here are a few of the highlights:

From outside our hotel, we had a good view of the courthouse and the Arch.

We went to the St. Louis zoo one evening - here are the tigers.

Here's a big ol' grizzly bear.

To get to the top of the arch, you have to get into this little pod elevator that supposedly holds 5 people.

One view from the arch, overlooking the park below. :-)

My favorite thing about St. Louis was Forest Park. I guess it was like NYC's Central Park, although I have never been! Forest Park had a free art museum, history museum, science center, and zoo, among several other things. We got to peek inside the history museum and spend a little time at the zoo, but we could've spent a few days just exploring the museums. I think St. Louis would be a great place for a family vacation. We used their rail system to get around town with no problem.

Coming up after I get better is THANKSGIVING next week! I can't believe it. Then, another conference the following week, this time in Houston. We're doing some work around the house this week and next weekend, too. Everyone, have a great week!

I smell a new blog header coming...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things are calming down a bit over here. I have a good handle on my to-do list (or so I think!)

Last Friday, I surprised Tom with tickets to see Star Wars in Concert at the new Cowboys Stadium. We also went with my SIL Amanda. My car broke down on the way to pick her up, which kinda put a damper on the evening, but we still had a good time!

OK, this picture will not upload correctly. So pick up your monitor and lay it on its side.

Sunday, my friend Jessica and I went to have some "graduation pictures" done around campus. It was a lot of fun! Funny story of the day, though. I got what I thought was some pretty lip gloss at the store, a little brighter than what I normally wear, and put it on. Turns out it was like super stick never go away lipstick, so when I wasn't really comfortable with the BRIGHTNESS, I tried to wipe it off, and nothing. I tried scrubbing it with soap and water, and nothing! I was stuck with my ruby red lips all day. And it turned out OK even though NOT in my comfort zone...LOL! It took using my eye makeup remover at home before it finally came off!

Oh what am I going to do without Jessica? I mean, I know I'll still see her here and there. We don't have any classes together this semester, but I still see her every couple of weeks or more. I hope she ends up back at UNT for grad school! That would be convenient for me, and it's all about me, you know.

Then Tuesday, we had our "family" pictures taken. Oh yeah, all of them are by Jessica's husband at :-) There are more pictures there, but I'll post all my favs once I get the DVD!

Made it through the week, even took Friday off and got a TON done at the house. Cleaned out the closet and did a ton of laundry. I have been fighting allergies all week. :-(

Yesterday was Halloween at Amanda's house. We relocated the shenanigans this year thinking there would be more trick or treaters. And there were, but they weren't as fun as our trick or treaters. Some of them wouldn't even say trick or treat! :-(

Amanda's scrubbed in to finish the chili pie.

He doesn't believe a word I'm saying.

Emma and Alex...LOL

I'd like to see YOU get 3 costumed kids to stand still for a picture. Emma tried. Thanks Emma!

The Ellisons. Did my in-laws take the cake with costumes or what? Emma can't even tear her eyes away from Don. LOL

It was a good time. And now it's November and time for it to get dark at 5pm! :-( We're headed to St. Louis next weekend, but not before I tackle 2 exams. Should be a good week, and the weather is looking awesome!! Hope everyone's enjoying this gorgeous fall weekend!

A year ago today

Friday, October 23, 2009

I should bring back Clutter...Exposed! LOL

Contemplating busyness

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I struggle a bit wondering if my investment in school will be worth it. It's a BIG investment. It's short term (i.e., being super busy) and long term (i.e., takes several more years). This semester has been the worst yet, and I will have to figure out a way to NOT repeat this for another 5 years. Maybe once every few semesters, but not EVERY single one.

I do feel like I'm "working my life away" sometimes. I know there is more to life than school even if there isn't much more to MY life lately than school. The things that keep me trucking are, in no particular order:

I think it will be cool to have a Ph.D. someday, even if it's only my family who is impressed.

In an ideal situation, being a professor is a pretty cool job. The flexibility is good. On the other hand, I read a quote last week, "Yes, it's flexible, you can work any 80 hours a week you want." LOL But the investment in having a cool professor job goes so long beyond graduate school into the first several years of your assistant professor job. That's if you can get a tenure-track position to begin with. I definitely won't get one at UNT since I'm getting all my degrees there. Plenty of universities around to work for. A one-year post-doc appointment somewhere would probably help, too.

But even with all that uncertainty, the degree I'm aiming for is based in statistics and measurement, not educational theory, and I think there is sufficient "real world" opportunity available should I not go right into a university, whether or not by choice. And would it really be the end of the world if I finished school and taught K-12 or community college? Point is, there are options. The options are fewer without the Ph.D., though.

Wouldn't Tom love it if I came home one day and said, "Hey, I don't have homework anymore, so I won't have to work on the weekends!" Sure. But not at the expense of me leaving school. It's as much an investment in me as in our future. He knows that. He doesn't give me a hard time, but I know he'd love more leisurely Amber time. I have HARDLY been leisurely all semester.

The gray hair makes me look distinguished. LOL

I'm a little bummed because after the conference in Saint Louis November 5-8, I was hoping for some calm. But we had a meeting yesterday, and my boss asked me to help her rewrite a chapter - authorship on a chapter is worth a few more weeks of crazy, I think. It's due December 1st, so it can't last forever. Something new will come up by then, though. *sigh*

But how do you eat a big pie? One bite at a time.

(Note to self: work on SITE conference proposals and grading this morning, then on paper due Thursday this afternoon, then put together NAGC presentation Wednesday, finish paper Wednesday night into Thursday, turn it in Thursday, upload NAGC presentation Friday, and enjoy the Alliance Airshow on Saturday. You can do it!)

Nothing bad to say

Sunday, October 18, 2009

About this weekend! The weather is beautiful. My house smells like clean laundry and fresh air. Friday, we went bowling with people from school and had a great time. Yesterday, I got my hair cut and went shopping. Today, Amanda dropped by for an unexpected visit, and that was nice. Haven't seen her in forever, it seems like. Tom is out helping Clint move into his new place. I'm about to head to the store for a few groceries and laundry detergent before I do a bit more cleaning, make some tea, and finish grading papers. This week will be pretty hectic, but I'm ready for it after a weekend like this!

This month, I bought groceries for the whole month, so we only need perishables every week. I know what we're having every day. It is awesome! And it's not nearly as hard as I thought. It's not like I came up with 30 different dinner ideas. It's pretty much 2 weeks worth of meals x 2, and about 10-12 of those days are "throw something on the grill" days. It's working really well. I might take the next step and start doing some prep work once a month. I have that "Once a month mom" blog in my blog list, and they make freezer meals every month. I don't think I'm ready for that, plus their meals aren't quite the same kind of healthy I'm after lately, but some of tips for what you can do in advance are pretty cool, like browning meat and throwing it in the freezer. Made meatballs a couple of weeks ago, threw half of those in the freezer, and now we're having them again this week. I can't jump into something like that and stick to it, but I can handle small changes here and there.

Coming soon...

Friday, October 16, 2009

In 10 minutes - I do something productive.
In 7 hours - Tom and I go out to eat, then bowling with McNair people.
In 1 day - I get my hair cut and spend the day shopping.
In 2 days - I finish this latest batch of grading and work around the house.
In 3 days - I work, work, work!
In 5 days - I finish a presentation 2 weeks early, and turn in a proposal for another conference.
In 6 days - I have a paper due.
In 8 days - we go to the Alliance Air Show
In 9 days - Pictures
In 10 days - Amanda's birthday
In 11 days - more pictures
In 15 days - Halloween
In 20 days - Leave for St. Louis conference fun
In 24 days - Calmness comes to town.

Most importantly, 64 days til graduation!

Hanging out in Central Park.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In Frisco, of course!

Well, Team TnA are having some new portraits done at the end of the month with my friend Jessica's husband, Colton @ He started getting serious about his photography this year, and it didn't take him long to book up every weekend for the rest of the year. He does a great job. Jessica and I are getting some graduation pictures done later this month, too, and that should be a lot of fun! Tom and I are going to take Sasha (and a lot of doggie treats) with us on our shoot and hopefully get a good "family" shot.

So, we scouted out two possible locations yesterday in Frisco. First one was the Commons park. It was kinda cool. All the structures seemed whatasized, but the trees were new and miniature. Eh.

This dead tarantula should have been our first sign that this wasn't the place for us.

They do have this little pond with fountains.

This is an armed forces memorial.

Hi Tom!

I did like the greenery here. But, this park felt so new and McMansiony. Nice but not for us.

So we headed to Central Park, which is very close to Stonebriar mall. Tom is all serious about reading the history.

Here are a couple of fountains and some bronze art stuff that depicts cattle drives.

But that's not all - here are a ton of bronze statues. LOL

Bustin' out! Longhorns gone wild! hahaha

That's a nice park bench area. I hope the trees look more like fall by the time we do this. I like the light poles, too.


Waterfall thingie.

But this is what sold me. Pretty willow trees.

Cute bridge.

So, Central Park it is!

Also went to half price books - the Frisco location is really nice! I found four books, but not the one I went in there for, of course. It's almost not worth it, driving around in Frisco. Everything is so dense, and the traffic stinks. Trying to find stores there is a nightmare. You'll see the sign, but have to drive really far into the shopping area before you see the store. I guess you could get used to it, but we don't go often enough. Bleh!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This semester is out of control!!

First of all, we have this flu situation. I feel like I'm tiptoeing around landmines. I know so many people who have had some kind of flu. I have been feeling great, but what am I going to do if I get knocked out for a week? It will be terrible! I feel for everyone who's been dealing with it. Two babies in my family and my uncle have H1N1, and I am a bit worried about them. :-( They're in the "at risk" groups for either type of flu. Odds are in their favor, but still, our good friend Murphy's Law seems to have a hold of 2009.

I'm taking 2 independent study classes and 2 difficult psychology classes this semester. The 2 psych classes are kicking my butt! Well, let me explain...

We went to Sharkathon last weekend. Left early Thursday, got back late Sunday. This is not the first mid-semester weekend trip I've gone on, but it's the first one that got me so behind. I do NOT have 4 days to give up. In fact, I've learned that I do not have 1 day to give up!

But it truly was a wonderful 4 days - I read 3 non-textbooks, and enjoyed wonderful weather and lots of wildlife. Here are some pics.

Our camp. Note the two tent-cots on the left, John's and Clint's. Cool huh??

Sunrises and sunsets were a treat the whole weekend. (Sunset here)

I have never seen prettier dunes, or whatever they're called.

Sunrise. It was so cool seeing that deer hanging out in the surf. He was right in front of our camp! When I got closer, I realized he was badly injured. I felt guilty for taking pictures, then I had this whole scenario playing out in my head where this poor deer had been traveling miles up the beach, stopping at every campsite along the way, waiting for someone to help him. I was so sad. :-( Then I thought, even if I could call the national park office (no cell signal), what would they do? We are all too eager to keep ourselves alive, and here I am trying to help this deer avoid the inevitability of the circle of life. Once I made peace with the fact that the deer succumbs to the coyote, by design, I started feeling better and just wished the deer a peaceful death. I'm glad he went back to the other side of the sand dunes though - I don't think I could've beared to see him lie down. I know it's kind of depressing, and if I were a different sort of person, I might have just left it at, "Look! Deer in the surf! SWEET!!" That would be a disservice to you, "deer" readers.

More wildlife. Clint in the sunrise.

So, that's just a few, but the rest are here if you're interested:

Then, I got back and had to take an exam on Tuesday. PRETTY sure that's a C. It was in psychophysiology, and I barely studied for it because of the trip. And thus began the downward spiral. I can't be flying by the seat of my pants in these classes!

We had a grant due Thursday, which I worked a little bit on, mostly on the reference list (a worthy contribution). I really hope it gets funded because it's a cool project, definitely worthwhile. It addresses science education for students with special needs.

But where I seriously messed up this semester is in my grading job. I am in a graduate class this time, where I've been grading in undergraduate classes before. IT IS SO MUCH MORE WORK. And that's one thing if I'd been prepared for it, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. It's 27 students who submit 20ish assignments each 4 times in the semester. That. is. a. lot. If I spend 2 minutes on each one, it's about 18-20 hours. Well, I will NOT put that off this time. I finished grading the first batch yesterday, and the next batch is due Saturday. I am not complaining - I am so grateful to have the extra job, but I will have to manage my time better.

We had a presentation at the Council for Learning Disabilities conference on Saturday. I thought it went really well. I was having an "on" day. Here we are looking all professional. I miss Rebekah (to my left). She took a teaching job at Aledo ISD while she finishes her dissertation. Her proposal is Monday, and I'm excited to go check it out. Getting to see all the dissertation steps along the way will be interesting.

Then I worked on grading all day Sunday.

After being asked if I was pregnant about a month ago, we have decided to start the South Beach diet again. We started last Wednesday or Thursday - can't remember. I really do love this diet. I spent some time Sunday doing some menu planning, and with that investment of time, it will be pretty easy to stick to the diet.

This week, I'm getting ready for another difficult exam on Thursday, then I need to finish compiling the materials for my grad school application. My personal statement needs to be pruned to 2 pages, I need to write a critical response to an article, and I need to pick out some "scholarly writing" samples. My letters of recommendation are in, so that's all that's left. I need to finish that this weekend, along with grading that 2nd batch of assignments.

And then, it's a mad dash to the NAGC conference in November. I need to analyze this semester's data, and I need to get my presentation ready before the 23rd (when they want it uploaded to their system). This is a big one, and since the project is sort of "mine", at least more than other things I work on, it is me on the line!

I foresee a window of calm coming in November, and I am seriously looking forward to it!

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