Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Quest for Hamilton Vanguard

As the 2014-2015 school year came to an end each child was accepted into a Magnet program/school and I thought we were done. Miranda was accepted into DeBakey, the High School of Health Professions and Seth was accepted into the STEM program at Hogg Middle School. However, Seth was not completely happy with that and he asked that I still try to get him into Hamilton. I spoke to the Vanguard Coordinator and found out that there is a Phase 2 application process.

Hamilton Middle School

This is how that works for you parents out there wondering about this. If you applied to Vanguard and your child didn’t get accepted based on his last year test scores or testing you can reapply in the summer. Let me use Seth as the example so you understand exactly what I mean because when I say “last year” it can be confusing.

So when we applied to Vanguard for 6th grade this past school year, Seth was in the 5th grade. The application asked for his test scores from his 4th grade year. Seth didn’t have the best year that year but his 5th grade teacher wrote him a great recommendation and I had high hopes. We also applied to magnet school programs. When we received the results he had been accepted into two magnet programs but not into the Vanguard program at Lanier, where I initially applied.
Important lesson to note here. Now that the application is done online you MUST apply to every Vanguard school you are interested in attending, not just one. In the past it was only one application and you chose the three schools you wanted in order. This year it was different because it was online. I didn’t know that and I applied to Hamilton late.

However, since he didn’t qualify for Vanguard all together he still wasn’t accepted into Hamilton. So the Vanguard coordinator told me this. You can reapply this summer with his last report card of 5th grade and his Iowa test scores from 5th grade. It took FOREVER for them to send us the Iowa test scores but last week they made them available and I dropped off a copy of Seth’s report card. I was thrilled when I received the news that he had been accepted to Hamilton into the Vanguard program.
I think this is important to know because there are so many parents out there that have no idea that they can still apply to the Vanguard program or Magnet schools, that still have space available, as late as the summer. It was a learning experience for us too and I thought I knew everything there was to know about applying to Magnet and Vanguard schools, but everything is a learning experience.

Hard to believe that this fall I’ll be the mom of a high school and middle school student! I have to cherish these next 4 years because in 3 years we’ll be dealing with college applications and more.
In additional good news, Miranda was invited to go back to Kinkaid next summer so I have 4 busy years ahead of me, between high school, middle school for Seth and summer programs for Miranda at Kinkaid. Hopefully Seth can also attend Kinkaid and his first summer will be Miranda’s last summer in the program.
I don’t even want to think that far ahead. I want them to stay exactly the same age they are right now. They aren’t babies any more but they are still young kids. In four years all of that is going to change.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monsters, Zombies + Addicts by Gwendolyn Zepeda

The first thing that attracted me to Gwendolyn Zepeda’s first published book was the hilarious title, To The Last Man I Slept With and All the Jerks Just Like Him. (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2004) It’s a great collection of short stories that are candid and comical observations on life.

I’ve always loved the titles of her books. When she was recently named Poet Laureate for the City of Houston she published Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners, (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2013) another great title. In her second book of poetry, Monsters, Zombies + Addicts (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2015) Zepeda has written an exceptional collection of musings about life in the big city.
She writes about the mundane activities of life but adds an interesting point of view to things as common as going to the dentist in “New Teeth.” She shares her experiences as a working woman and the challenges we sometimes face with our identity as a woman in a male dominated profession. We also get to know more her Aunt Sylvia, whom Zepeda obviously loved very much.

The “Ringmaster’s Daughter” is written in a wonderful lyrical verse that is both intriguing and haunting. I had to read it a few times and it left me wondering who is the true Ringmaster of her poem. This was one of my top favorites.

Her “No Title” poem about the dog in a yard, dumb, drooling and flea bit, is a sad contemplation on life.  The last two lines evoke so many thoughts and feelings, “blocked by fences that nobody else can see.”  This reminded me of the saying that sometimes we are our own biggest obstacle.

Houston is a big city and a lot of things happen. We encounter so many different characters day to day and sad experiences. A few years ago a co-worker who worked in the office across the hall from me didn’t come to work. Later in the day his boss got a call from his wife that he had died. We learned that he’d taken his own life. “Sad Shock” reminded me of that experience and how we all felt that day and it made me wonder how many people have had a similar experience.

The book ends with “Aunt Sylvia’ almost as if Zepeda put it there as a tribute to her beloved aunt. It made me laugh out loud when I read it because I fondly remembered Westheimer near Montrose.

My daughter went to middle school down the street from that main drag area and I’ve told her, “Kids used to cruise this street on the weekends.” She looks around unimpressed, with no idea why we would have done that. Now trendy restaurants line the street right in that area where kids used to hang out of their cars having conversations with kids in other cars that passed them, blocking the street and slowing down traffic to a crawl. I think the city finally cracked down and prohibited that past time. It was the place to go and see “marvelous things” like Zepeda says. It was a rite of passage for many Houstonians in the 80s. It was part of our city's history.

That is why I love Monsters, Zombies + Addicts. It reminds me of Houston and all of our eclectic experiences, from going to the dentist, to our neighborhoods with flea bitten dogs, our work place where we struggle with our feminine identity and to the memories of growing up here. It covers all of this and more. I can't wait to see what else Zepeda has in store for us in her next book.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Social Media, Great for Procrastinators

I woke up today thinking about a lot of things. First of all I woke up thinking about how I have to clean out a broken refrigerator and also around it. That is enough to make me want to procrastinate and think of something else that I’d rather do. But the truth is, I have to do it. It’s one of those things that just has to be done and I’m the only one who can do it. Social media is always a great excuse to procrastinate so here I am.
My Pinterest Page that I'll talk about more here.
The other thing I thought about writing about is my recent deeper foray into social media. I’ve always blogged on here for fun. I’ve never done a lot to promote my blog or to sell advertising on this space. In other words, I’ve never made a business of this. I’ve also never really written about shoes, even though I do love shoes and that is the title. I’m more of a lifestyle blogger that blogs about being a mom, working and the many adventures I’ve had over these 11 years since I started this blog.
I blog a lot about education and the Magnet School program in the Houston Independent School District a lot. In the last three years since I’ve been divorced I blog about co-parenting. As a native Houstonian that loves her city, I blog about Houston, and here lately about caring for my elderly dad. I have a project I’m working on with my dad called Dicho a Day. We record these videos where he says a dicho in Spanish and then I give it its best Spanish translation. Those can be found on my YouTube channel. I also started writing about caring for my dad on Latina Lista in a column called Padre Care.
I finally decided to change my social media descriptions on all my profiles with one uniform theme. So if you go here on my blog, to my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, YouTube and Pinterest you see six main hashtags. #shoegirlcorner, #dichoaday, #loveHipHouston, #workingMama, #coparenting and most recently, #PadreCare in my profile description. These are my six main themes on social media, whether it’s me posting a photo of the Houston skyline on Instagram or directing people over to something about my dad.
Here recently I’ve learned a couple of new things. One is that my Pinterest page gets a lot more traffic than any of my other social media channels. Like a crazy amount of page views for just a regular me. The board that gets the most action is my Someecards board. Coincidentally, or not, that’s another one of my obsessions. I love writing and making Someecards under the User Cards. I’ve created a bunch on their site and then I pin them over to my board. I have a few of my own creations that have been re-pinned quite a few times. As well as some of the ones created by others that I just share. It turns out a lot of people have my same my wacky sense of humor.
So my new idea is to try and leverage some of that Pinterest traffic over to my other channels and especially to my blog. My poor little blog that has been getting the least attention from me lately. This is the same blog that has its own URL, but that I haven’t done anything with that. My designer friend has given me three layouts to choose from and I still need to get back to him on which design I prefer so he can help me launch my blog on my own platform.
Another social media channel that I recently joined and that I really need to learn more about it Periscope. It’s owned by Twitter, it allows you to video live and the video goes down after 24 hours. I really tried it for the first time last night with Dicho a Day.
I learn so much about social media from the Blog Elevated group. This is a group of fantastic women who have so much information to share and they will be hosting their third conference this year. It’s lead by Lisa Stauber and Bobbie Byrd. I’ve participated in their Twitter chat on Tuesday evenings and I’m trying to do it more consistently so I can learn even more. The more I learn the better I will hopefully get at promoting all my writing and creative efforts. That is my goal!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Return of the Lost Blogger

Here I am squeezing one blog in before the end of June just so I can't say I didn't blog at all this month. May was the last time I wrote anything and that's very bad. Especially since I've read Gwendolyn Zepeda's newest book of poetry, "Monsters, Zombies + Addicts" and I need to review it on this site. Next! I promise! Here are some of the shenanigans that I've been up to...

So Rey has this crazy app on his phone that can scan your face and it gives you an approximate age. I loved what it had to say about me. Thus the reason why I say I'll be 29 forever. Just kidding, I'm not going to be on of those women who does THAT. I will be proud of my 45 years and tell everyone so they can tell me I look 30. Win-win!

The kids are well into the summer. Miranda is loving the Kinkaid program and I love that she loves it. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful program for public school students. This year she's taking electricity, robotics, drafting, biology, marine science and math.

The boy is hanging out with his best friend this summer until his sister finished with summer school. He has a summer reading list that we still have to tackle. The main book is the Malala book.

In other mundane news, my refrigerator died. I came home Thursday night from an event and it had just died at some point that day. It was totally defrosted and dead. Now I have to buy a new refrigerator. An expense I did not need but life is like that sometimes, just trying to teach us more and more lessons, like I need any more. Thanks Life! I'm good!

If you want to see what else I've been up to check out my PadreCare column on Latina Lista and I'm revamping my Pinterest page to cross-promote my projects more.

Next up will be that review of Gwen's new book of poetry.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Update on Schools and Kinkaid EMSI

Update on the schools:
Great news! Miranda was accepted into DeBakey High School for Health Professions and Seth was accepted into the STEM program at Hogg Middle School. My babies are growing up!

Miranda's first day of Kinder and Seth trying to get into the picture.
Kinkaid EMSI:
When I was in elementary school I thought I was really smart. I was chosen by my principal to take a test to attend a Vanguard middle school and I passed and was accepted. When I arrived at Hamilton Middle School in the Heights I quickly found out that I wasn’t as smart as I thought. I found out that I never really learned the seven continents, where the Tropic of Cancer or Tropic of Capricorn were and other important geography lessons I should have learned in elementary school. Thank goodness I at least knew about the equator!  So although, yes I probably was the smartest kid in my class in elementary school, I learned that other kids at other schools had received a better education than I had.  That was the first time I really understood that different schools received different funding and different resources and that this affected the quality of education that kids receive. (A topic I have written about in the past.)

I struggled in the Vanguard program but I never gave up. I worked hard until the very last 9 weeks of the 8th grade when I finally made honor roll for the very first time in my three years in middle school.  Also in 8th grade other kids who were taking Algebra, and had probably made good grades all along, were invited to apply to a summer program. I first heard about Kinkaid when I was in 8th grade and only 14 years old. Before the school year was over we knew what students had been accepted so I had an idea of who was going. I remember feeling a little jealous but I also realized and accepted that my strengths did not lie in math and science.

I forgot about Kinkaid but later throughout the four years of high school I would hear about it now and then from some friends who were attending the program each summer. All I knew was that Kinkaid was a very prestigious private high school in Memorial and that every summer they had a math and science program for public school students.

Around 15 years later when my step-daughter was living with us and attending middle school she was invited to apply to Kinkaid and she was accepted. This was a wonderful opportunity for her and she thrived that summer. She was accepted to return but sadly she decided to return to Louisiana to live with her mother so she didn’t get to complete the program.
In the years since Facebook became a place to reconnect with old friends I have been back in touch with middle school friends. I quickly noticed something interesting.  All of my middle school friends who attended the summer program at Kinkaid are successful adults. At least two are attorneys and one is an aerospace engineer. Others are HR executives and sales managers.  I found that trend interesting.

Now my daughter is 14. Unlike me, she’s very good at math and science and she attends a Vanguard middle school like I did. I hadn’t heard about Kinkaid in a long time but I assumed the program still did exist so I decide to Google it. It does and I was very interested to learn the history. The summer program is called the EMSI- The Kinkaid Engineering, Math and Science Institute and it was founded in 1975. It is completely underwritten by Houston companies, foundations and generous donors.
I told Miranda about it and she was very interested.. She applied and we were so excited for her when she was accepted. I’m so proud of all of the things that she’s accomplished thus far and I hope that she builds on that foundation this summer at Kinkaid.

When she was accepted, and I checked to make sure that they had received our postcard, I told the program’s director the trend I had noticed in friends who attended Kinkaid. She thanked me for sharing that note and she said she would share this with their donors. I’m glad because I think it’s important for organizations and individuals who give to educational programs like this to know that they truly do make a difference and that they'll make a difference in this little girl's life.

I can not stress enough how the quality of education that our children receive makes such a difference in their future. I didn't attend an elementary school with a lot of funding but thank goodness I attended a better middle school and high school. Thank goodness I was a part of the Magnet programs at these schools and I received an even better education because of the Vanguard and IB programs.

Now that I'm a mother I understand how these programs shaped my life and I want even more for my children. That's why I've worked so hard to make sure that my kids also attend magnet schools and that they have the best education available to them. I want them to do more and to be more than I was. I want for them what every parent wants for their child.