Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Traveler I’ve Become- SOL

As I embark on yet another adventure today, I thought it apropos to reflect on how I’ve changed as a traveler.

I used to be the kind of traveler who…
*planned extensive itineraries, printed out maps, made reservations for hotels and tours way in advance
*was a typical tourist (sans fanny pack, of course), visiting all the major tourist traps…ahem…attractions
*only ate familiar foods
*collected evidence to prove to my friends and family that I’d had a great time on my vacation…photos galore, stubs from every attraction I visited, pamphlets about this or that, postcards, (tacky) souvenirs…you name it, I collected it
*sought out McDonald’s familiar golden arches wherever I went, even though I rarely ate it when I was at home
*stayed in my comfort zone

But now, I’m the kind of traveler who…
*goes with the flow
*lets adventure come naturally
*explores without a plan, or with only a sketch of a plan that I am able to mold to suit my whims 
*enjoys seeing how people in that particular culture live *photographs real life, not just the touristy stuff
*goes off the beaten path
*tries new foods whenever possible (within reason, of course!) *avoids those golden arches at all costs
*is purposeful in what I buy
*handpicks the memories I want to preserve
*lives in the moment, stepping out of my comfort zone as much as possible

As much as I’ve grown as a traveler, I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of traveler I am in a year’s time. I love my happy little world-traveling life! For now, I’m off to Seoul on another adventure! 🙂 

Where I Was Two Years Ago- SOL

A fellow slicer gave me this idea…reflecting on where you were 2 years ago and how life has changed since then. Here goes!

Two short years ago, I made a decision that would forever change who I am. I had been teaching in the same district in suburban Texas for 6 years, and while I loved the life I had created for myself, something was missing. I’ve always been a traveler at heart, and the constant whisper in the back of my head to become an international teacher was continuously getting louder. I tried to ignore it, reassuring myself that I was where I needed to be. I had a great job, amazingly supportive and loving friends and family, a house to call my own…a comfortable life. Yet something was missing. I wasn’t fulfilled. So I decided to follow my whisper.

On a whim, I applied to a handful of international schools in Europe and one in China. I didn’t tell anyone about my applications. I knew I wouldn’t get a job, so what was the point, right? Well, a few weeks later, I received an email that the school in China would like to interview me via Skype. Uh oh! That was the country I wasn’t sure about. I was prepared for Europe, but China?!? I can’t live in China! But, that ever-present whisper nudged me to go ahead with the interview. It can’t hurt, right? I need the interview practice anyway.

Sitting at my dining room table after work one day, I logged into Skype and waited for the call. After a lengthy discussion with the principal interrupted by a few lost connections (the joys of Chinese internet that I had yet to discover), I got off the call actually hoping I would be offered the job. At this point, I still hadn’t told anyone and wasn’t planning on it. Why worry them that I might move halfway around the world if it was still only a distant possibility? I’ll tell them if I get the offer.

Well, I got the offer. I received an email about 2 weeks following the interview offering me a two year contract teaching third grade in China. Oh, and they wanted an answer by the end of the week…did I mention I received the email on a Tuesday? Whoa! I was not prepared for this. I had followed my whisper, followed my excitement, but was I really ready to step into the unknown? What was I going to tell my parents? They’re going to kill me! I immediately called my closest friends to tell them the news and seek their advice. I received mixed reactions from complete and utter joy for this opportunity that lay in front of me to complete resistance to this new idea, but I knew that ultimately it was my decision. After a couple of sleepless nights, I had made my decision. I was going to accept the job. I was going to move to China. Now all I had to do was tell my parents. That’s when the fear set in.

I phoned my mom on Thursday afternoon. “Hey mom, is dad with you?” I asked.
“No, he’s out. What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing. I just wanted to talk to the two of you together.” “Well, why don’t you just tell me whatever it is.”
“Nah…I’d rather you both be on the line.”
“Jennifer, you’re worrying me. Just tell me.”
“Mom, just call me back when dad’s with you, OK? I’ve gotta go! Love you!”

Several hours later… “Hey, it’s me,” mom says on the other end. “And me!” dad chimes in.
Great, I grumble. It’s go time. “Well, I have something to tell you…there’s this really great opportunity…I know you’ve been saying I should go for things…I have been offered a job…It’s at this really great school…AndI’vedecidedtoaccept thejobandI’mmovingtoChina.” I said, fumbling through my words like an idiot.

Dead silence.
Dad spoke first. “Is that all?”
“Is that all?!?! Didn’t you hear me? I’m MOVING to CHINA!” “Well, you had your mom and I so worked up that you wanted us to call you at the same time, so we figured you were going to say you were pregnant. This is actually a relief.”
“Dad, I’m not even dating anyone!”
“I know, that’s why it was so scary.”

The hard part was over. The decision was made. Now I just had to figure out what to do with all my stuff (and house), but that’s another slice for another day. 

Toddlers are Tiring!- SOL

Today when I came to school, I was asked to sub in the Toddler’s class because a few assistants were out. Oh my gosh are those little guys tiring! I didn’t sleep much last night and felt like a walking zombie, so I was looking forward to an “easy” day. Working with toddlers is not my definition of an easy day. Wow…I have so much respect for those teachers who are in the toddler trenches every day. I would have to go to sleep by eight every night just to have enough energy to function at school! Luckily, I only had to work half the day in there, but now I need a nap. I’ll have to wait until tonight. 

Stuck- SOL

Writing today is tough. I’m staring at the clock, watching it count down, getting closer and closer to deadline time. If I wasn’t part of the SOLC, I wouldn’t write a post today. But I am a part of this challenge. I’ve committed to writing everyday. Even when it’s tough. Even when my mind is blank. Even when I don’t feel like it.

It’s odd that I feel this way today. Just yesterday I had an incredible conversation with Franco and Linnea about slicing. I talked about my struggles and triumphs during the past 27 days. I told them about how I felt energized and empowered as I watched myself becoming a writer. I even shared my sadness that the month is almost over and there are only 4 more days of slicing left. So why am I stuck today?

Sure, I’ve got ideas for possible slices, but they all seem inadequate. I want to write a post that will make someone smile, make a connection, cringe, laugh….react. But everything I try falls short of the mark. It’s interesting how I began this challenge writing for ME, but now I write for YOU. Franco reminded me that the point is to write for me, and if others react to it, great, and if not, that’s okay, too. Ugh, I’m talking in circles. For now, this is enough. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow I’ll have something to say….I hope! 

Student Bloggers- SOL

This week began fourth grade’s Blogging and Digital Citizenship Unit. I am fortunate enough to be a co-teacher during this unit, along with Melissa, our technology specialist, and Bill, the head teacher. Our purpose during this unit is for the students to contribute positively to an online community whilst documenting and sharing their learning and reflections with others.

Their Unit of Inquiry is “Where We Are in Place and Time” and their Central Idea is “Ancient civilizations have paved the way for present societies.” Throughout this Unit of Inquiry, their focus will be on the “Silk Road.” I am so excited to read all of the students’ posts and comments about their Unit of Inquiry! Many of them are are sharing their reflections and asking good questions. Some of them are still developing their understandings about the unit and about how to express their ideas on the blog, but I’m confident that they’ll get there soon enough.

Our discussion today centered around commenting, and how comments are essential to driving the conversation forward and deepening our understanding of the Unit of Inquiry. We had the students read and comment on their classmates’ initial posts. We then reviewed those comments and used them to share our expectations for commenting. Rich conversations about the effectiveness of the comments ensued. Some comments were superficial– I liked your post! Good job!. Some were critical– Good ideas, but you made some spelling mistakes. And some were spot on– I agree with what you’re saying about trade and commerce, but have you thought about how and why trade has changed over time? I can’t wait to check the blog and see what types of comments they made last night. I hope they’re less superficial and critical and more thought-provoking!

I’m excited to go on this journey with the fourth graders, and I’m looking forward to sharing my insights about blogging on the SOLC with them. 

Miles- SOL


Don’t you just love toddlers? Their natural curiosity and enthusiasm about the world around them astounds me. When did we lose that? When did things suddenly become less awe-inspiring? When did that need to find out “everything about everything” dwindle down to just finding out “something about something”? I’m not sure when, but I want to capture that feeling again. I want to wake up everyday filled with enthusiasm, happiness, and wonder. I want to live in the moment and follow my desires. I want to live like a toddler again!

Miles, the adorable toddler in the photo, is the epitome of cuteness! Don’t you just wish you could pick him up and snuggle him? 😉 Miles belongs to my friends Bill and Carissa, and he is my favorite little guy around! Whenever I see Miles, I light up and turn into one of those babbling, googley-eyed people who suddenly revert to baby talk when a baby is within 50 feet of them. I’m sure I look ridiculous, but I really can’t help myself.

My favorite thing is when Miles sees me and runs over to give me a hug and a kiss. I just melt! It’s so bad…he knows he’s got me wrapped around his little finger. He knows that all he has to do it give me that sweet little smile of his or bat his eyelashes, and I’m going to give into whatever he wants. When he says, “I lub you,” it’s all over! Oh, you want a cookie? Here, have three! 😉

Miles is incredibly smart, too. And I’m not just saying that. Really. His understanding, recognition, and vocabulary are through the roof! I can’t believe just how fast he picks things up! He is curious about everything right now. I love how he will point to new things, ask questions, and “read” books. His two favorite things to do right now are “drive the car” and sweep. Almost every morning I’m greeted with, “Miles drive the car?” which means he wants to pretend to drive the school’s golf cart that sits in the courtyard. As he drives, his hands are on the steering wheel as he says “Brrrrmmmm… Beep! Beep!” I laugh every time! And his obsession with sweeping is over the top! Every time he sees a broom, he says,

“Miles sweep!” Heaven forbid you tell him “no.” His lip puckers out, and in his most pitiful voice he whimpers, “Miles sweeeeepppp.” Who can say “no” to that? Not me! See what I mean about the wrapped around the finger thing?

In June, Miles, Bill, and Carissa are moving back to the States. I can’t imagine not seeing this little guy every morning, but I’m happy for them. I’m just going to have to savor every moment left with him! I lub you, Miles! 

This Magical Life- SOL

You know what? I love my beautiful, magical little life! Today I have a spring in my step and am truly loving life! My mind is going a mile a minute right now with all the things I love, and I can’t seem to even form cohesive sentences or paragraphs, so here’s my list:

*I love being surrounded by people who make me laugh, encourage me, and make me think.
*I love it when I can have conversations about my reading life with others.
*I love the sunshine today!

*I love that I got to talk to Jody for 3 hours this afternoon, and I cannot wait until she visits this summer! I get to show Jody what Shanghai’s all about, and then she and I are traveling to Hong Kong, Macau, and Cambodia together. I love her amazingly fun-loving spirit and I can’t wait to spend some time with her where a computer is not necessary for communication!
*I love writing. I love the changes that happen in my soul when I write. I love finding out more about me!
*I love reading and commenting on other Slices of Life! There are some amazingly talented writers out there.
*I love that in less than a week I’ll be going on my third international trip this year! Seoul, get ready for Jennifer and Linnea, ‘cause we’re on our way! 🙂
*I love celebrating others, whether it’s a birthday, a job well done, or that they’ve made a step in the right direction!
*I love cooking…and I love that I’ll be making brownies later.
*I love learning and boy have I done a lot of learning recently!
*I love where I’m at. I love that I am content with my current situation and that I’m able to live in and enjoy the moment!
*I love my family…immediate, extended, and friends that have become my family!
*I love that I get to meet a ton of new little people this summer…Mandi’s Jocelyn, Ashley’s Ivan, Katy’s Amelia, Andrew and Lisa’s Randi and several other yet-to-be-named babies!
*I love that my mom and I (and hopefully Jen) are taking a trip to New York together this summer! Neither of us have ever been, and we’re looking forward to it. “Wicked” on Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, and Ground Zero are on my to-see list!

I am excited to see what tomorrow will bring! 

Leisurely Sunday- SOL

Today was another sunshine-y day in the ‘hai, and tomorrow’s forecast promises the same (fingers crossed!). Tomorrow is already shaping up to be a great day! The only firm plans I have are a working breakfast with Mel at Element Fresh, where we are planning our 4th grade Blogging & Digital Citizenship unit. So fun…we are stoked to help teach it! After that, I plan on following whatever whimsical desires pop into my head. There will most certainly be some reading involved since I can’t wait to dive back into Reading with Meaning. I’m fairly certain that some aimless strolling will occur. Writing is a must– my slice and some work in my writer’s notebook. And from there…we’ll have to see what happens. I just love days where I get to choose what I’m going to do because the possibilities are endless! 

One More Week!- SOL

One week from today I’ll be boarding a plane bound for Seoul! Linner and I are heading to Seoul for Spring Break, and I couldn’t be more excited! She and I traveled to Malaysia last year on Spring Break, and she’s an awesome travel buddy and friend, so I’m looking forward to the fun and craziness that is bound to happen in Korea. The above photo was taken last Spring Break, and you can bet we’ll have lots more pictures from this trip. Here’s a list of things we are planning on doing:

*Touring Mt. Namsan
*Taking photos from the Seoul Tower
*Shopping and sightseeing on Insa-dong Street
*Taking a walking tour of lots of palaces…I love the architecture! *Visiting the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Contemporary Art
*Visiting Bugaksan Seonggwak-gil, a fortress with a great view of Seoul
*A Korean dance show
*Tasting some Korean street food, namely Hotteok
*Shopping…I want to bring back a little piece of Korean art *Nightlife! 🙂
*Visiting the 38th Parallel
*Eating at Outback Steakhouse…I am craving a Bloomin’ Onion! And yes, I do realize that this is pretty lame to travel to Korea to eat at an American chain restaurant, but since I’m living in Shanghai where I don’t have Outback, it’s allowed.

Any other suggestions for sites/must-do’s in Seoul are very welcome! 

Nana Puddin’- SOL

Yesterday I introduced China to my Mamaw’s Nana Puddin’ (AKA banana pudding). In my after school cooking class, we made cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches and Nana Puddin’, and while they loved both of the dishes, the pudding was by far their favorite! “Ms. Jennifer, this pudding is THIS GOOD!” they’d shout while giving me a two thumbs up. “Ms. Jennifer, you’re the best cooker in the world,” they’d say while looking up at me with those cute little faces. I love them! 🙂 While we were making the pudding, I shared this story about when my Mamaw and I would make Nana Puddin’ together…

Going to Mamaw’s house was my favorite thing to do growing up. Between the rides out to woods in the beat up old Dodge pick-up, picking dewberries from the vines that grew around the barbed wire fence, evenings spent listening to her tell us stories from her childhood, and shelling peas on the front porch swing, we always cooked. I remember so many meals we cooked together, but the one that stands out the most is Nana Puddin’.

Before I was tall enough to reach the kitchen counters, Mamaw would hoist me up on the black leather barstool that swiveled with even the slightest movement. I’d sit on my knees while Mamaw taught me how to make homemade vanilla pudding. One thing you need to know about my Mamaw is that she was the best cook in the whole wide world! She made everything from scratch– no box mixes for her. My job, according to Mamaw, was “official taste tester.” Once she had made the pudding just right, she’d spoon a little bit into my mouth, and anxiously await my verdict. “Well, how is it? Does it taste right?” she’d ask. “Hmmm…I think I need another taste to be sure, but I think it’s right,” I’d say grinning. Even though she was onto my tricks, she’d give me another taste. “Yep, just right!” I’d say.

Next came the part where I did most of the work. I’d slice the bananas at just the right thickness, usually all by myself. Next, I’d place a layer of Nilla Wafers in the bottom of the 9×13 glass pan, followed by a layer of sliced bananas. With Mamaw’s help, I’d pour half of the warm pudding on top of the bananas, and repeat the process– Nilla Wafers, bananas, and pudding. The last step, my personal favorite, was making the meringue. She and I would whip the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla until the perfect peaks began to form. After adding the meringue to the top of the pudding, we’d pop it into the oven, where I’d sit and watch until the top was a golden brown. “It’s ready, Mamaw!” I’d call, and she’d pull it out of the oven, placing it on the stovetop to cool. After a few minutes, my brother and Grandaddy, after smelling the pudding cooling on the stove, would gather in the kitchen and we’d all share in the first tastes of the warm, gooey Nana Puddin’…it was pure bliss!

I’m thankful for these memories, and I can’t wait to share them with my kids one day. I have and will always love you, Mamaw! I miss you!