August back in the desert seems like eons ago and a whole world away at this point, but I still want to keep track of all the stuff that happened there before we packed up to make this move.  I have to admit, these pictures make me a tad-bit homesick!

I enjoyed August this year more than ever before.  It was stressful because we were making the decision of whether or not to take this giant leap of faith called “China.” We were trying to finish up as many house projects as we could and cram in every doctor and dentist appointment under the sun as we agonized over the best route for our family as a whole as well as each member individually.

BUT in a way time seemed to slow down.  My kids were signed up for nothing.  I couldn’t help but have a big smile stretched across my face whenever carpool group texts came through or when my kids came home with big school assignments because none of it really mattered for us right then and there.  The kids, although some were worried sick about China and being torn away from friends also had this alleviated sense of liberation.  It was this weird little alter-world of freedom.  I could take them out of school and who cared?

No one.

All the teachers knew we were leaving and were totally supportive, some giving them a few assignments and tricks to keep up with what they were going to be doing while we’re away.  It was like I was removed from life for a moment in time and could look at it from a different vantage point which was kind of fascinating to me.

Sure, we knew what was coming would be rigorous and difficult.  That’s why those couple weeks were extra sweet while they lasted.  You don’t get many snippets of life like that.  I knew China would give us plenty of challenges and that it would take a great deal of mental, emotional and spiritual energy from all of us in such a unique and different place (and boy howdy does it ever!).  So we just let the simplicity of that moment in time wash over us.

And in the midst of that juxtaposition of feelings I found myself appreciating every aspect of little things like the grocery store (I knew the unfamiliarity of Chinese grocery stores from our last trip) and soaking up conversations with friends I wouldn’t be able to talk to for a while.  I cherished how comfortable our bed was and how the moonlight looked flooding into our room at night.  I said little prayers of thanks when I hopped in my suburban two steps away from my house and could go anywhere I wanted knowing how difficult transportation would be to maneuver here.

Once that agonizing China decision was finally made everything started working like clockwork to make it happen.  And I totally believe it was help from above that we are now here, missing life back at home terribly at times, but living so intentionally aware of the sharp learning curve that is bringing us together more than ever.

Those are my thoughts on a muggy, hot day here in Shanghai as I head out for my day.  I will walk past the school where my children are learning hard things in a way they couldn’t even imagine back home.  I will have a moment of silence to marvel at their courage and be thankful for the comfort they feel from having each other.  I will ponder my husband’s vision to make this work, who is working hard in his own learning curve here.  My nerves will be on alert as I brave the metro again on my own, hoping I remember the way since I still have not a lick of Chinese under my belt (yet) to ask for directions if I get lost.  I will get everything situated so that I can give myself to my children when they come home, hungry for something to eat and for unconditional love and acceptance from someone they trust.

So, with that lengthy introduction, here are some pictures from that unique, transitional month of August (the part before school started is back HERE).

The kids came home hot and sweaty from school each day (just like they do here).  This was our traditional first day of school “cookie chat” I forgot to put in the first day of school post back HERE.

(I also forgot to take pictures of our “cookie chat” Chinese-style on our first day here…mashed together doughy cookies from a mix I slipped into one of our suitcases, but boy did they ever taste good to us!)

We experimented with some new hair-dos and then of course had to take pictures:

Whoops, looks like I forgot to swoop that one last piece of hair into the bun…

Lots of extra backpacks from lots of extra kids:
One of these girls’ best friends (who used to live by us and also who came to South Carolina with us) came to visit.  It was so fun to see the old gang back together.  
These girls were all smiles all summer, but this is how they felt the next day after school started:
I guess it’s not just China where she feels that way but don’t let it fool you because she really likes school.
She snuggled right down for a nap after that exhausting day of school.
Some of grace’s crew:

(I think that one’s from Instagram.)

My brother Josh started school at his new school a couple days after we did.  He had to move everything to his new classroom and we were able to help a little amidst our own school hoopla.

We sure love this guy!  And so do his school kids.  Boy oh boy they are lucky to get him.

I wish we had had a chance to get back to see the finished product but everything swirled into lightening speed the week we left.  I’m sure it looks amazing!

Sometimes I just have to snap pictures of my kids before they go out the door for school.

I just can’t help myself!

Lucy kept busy with her “stuff.”

Claire made her favorite dinner of all time: Japanese curry.

Max started off the school year up at BYU volleyball camp.

It was the only way he could do it with China mixed into his summer.
So here’s his own special first day of school picture on the second day:
He was so happy about that since he loves pictures so much.
I got to sneak into high school with these two because a parent had to give the nurse Elle’s special eye drops (more on that in a sec. below).  I also had to talk to the high school registrar and counselor again with more questions for transferring credits.   

After four months of no bedroom window coverings (Dave taped up one of my photography backdrops for a little while in the heat of the summer), we finally got our drapes installed:

Sometimes, if you agonize over decisions for long enough, when you finally get the finished product and it’s just perfect it makes you that much more grateful.  I am in love those things!
We also finally got plants and grass in front of our house.  
And once again, if you wait long enough for those things it makes them extra, extra sweet.
And, after months of pondering and searching websites like nobody’s business, I finally settled on a family room rug that I love:


Lots more house stuff but I’ll update it on the house blog some day…

Elle and I listened to and read the Book of Mormon a lot in August.  She was reading it to finish her personal progress before she got her license and I figured it would be a good time to jump start my reading too.  So my phone looked like this a LOT in August:

I finished four days after she did.  
I had to whoop and holler a little bit about that one.  I love the influence the scriptures have on me when I am in a regular reading routine.   This particular time around I was extra grateful for the scriptures because they really, really helped me with the final validation of this China decision (more on that near the end of THIS post).
Isn’t this an awesome picture?

Ha!  But I took it to remember dropping off Dave at the airport when he went to China to finalize things for our family to live there.

One of many doctor appointments:

We filled up the room at the pediatrician’s office a few times.

We also visited the orthopedic doctor, the urologist, the dentist, the orthodontist, the cardiologist, the family practitioner, the gynecologist and ophthalmologist, the cornea specialist, you name it, we were probably there.

When you’re numb and you get your teeth pulled that you have been freaked out about for months, you should always come home and take a selfie:

Post-dentist-numb girls:

Speaking of doctors, amidst all this flury of activity Elle had been dying with sensitive eyes all summer.  We finally took her in to a specialist when she couldn’t even open her eyes on the second day of school (I know, great parents!) and found that she had an ulcer in her eye.

An ulcer!  I had never heard of that before.

We had to get some serious medication for that thing (both eyes) and she had to put the drops in from two different medications every two hours around the clock for a few days (even through the night). So grateful for how on-top-of-it she was.  I don’t think she ever missed for three days straight.

We had all kinds of medicine sitting around to remember to take.

Here are the natural remedies we’re trying thanks to some great suggestions from blog readers:

Grace’s friend taught her how to make delicious potatoes:

And one day, out of the goodness of her own little heart, Claire made me a delicious breakfast.

Claire and Grace also helped make red and white pasta (the stuff I made for the volleyball team with recipe back HERE).

Elle and I went and practiced in the 3-point-turn cones for her upcoming driving test.

The girls got a really, really nice package from a family of blog readers who are our new pen pals (except that we haven’t done our part back yet…we are not so hot at that stuff!).

We need to get on it though because these girls were purely delighted.

Claire carried around that “flubber” stuff for days and was so mesmerized by it.

Elle went ahead and got that license of hers.

More about her birthday soon…

Max vigorously took on skateboarding.  He was doing it every spare second he could.

Elle was smart enough to go take some pictures one day.

He’s been skateboarding a bunch here in China too.  Love it.

Another hot girl home from school:

And some more hair-do experiments:

We took up riding bikes to the bus stop (a block away) to help Lucy feel more secure with her riding abilities.

She can do it but man oh man that is a tricky thing for her!  The first couple times she yelled at the top of her lungs the whole time that she did NOT want to do it after she got going but didn’t know how to stop!  (and her mean mom just ran alongside her and told her she could do it!…and she did).  The couple times Claire went with her (see her up there?) she did great.  We’ll need to work on that a bunch more when we get home.

We finally got our new zone chart (back HERE) laminated and put to use…for two weeks…

Lots of friend time…more on that later.

 Grace got her braces off!

We went to so many farewells!!  Here we are walking into our second for the day, Max’s third.

Don’t let Grace’s face fool you.  She broke into a laugh right after the picture.

And that’s a wrap for now…gotta run.
If you made it through all that you are a champ.  
Now I’m really going to the metro…

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  1. shawn, i had an ulcer on my eyeball! i'm sure we talked about it…but i'm so sorry for elle! it was awful.

    this does seem like worlds away! crazy.

    let's talk soon!

  2. nice update.
    i didn't know you could have an ulcer in your eyes… i'll pay more attention to it because i have some sensitive issues sometimes with my eyes, but nothing serious fortunately!
    and so fun to have a family as pen pals! how does it really work? do you write letters from kids to kids or it's just a general gift package? it's actually a good idea 🙂

  3. Man that ulcer may have started when she was struggling with her eyes at Bear Lake. Darn! So glad you figured it out AND so happy to see all these things we missed in the the run up to the end!

  4. I asked on your home blog, but not sure you've seen it… (I hope I am not annoying you on this!!!!)… But I'd love love to know where you got your master bed!! It's so perfect, and we are needing a change. I have enjoyed these updates from China so much!!! So exciting that your family took the leap! 🙂

  5. In love with your new home! My husband served his mission in china so he reads writes and speaks Chinese. We moved out of Las Vegas to San Fran in hopes to find jobs putting his Chinese to use. What a great adventure for you guys! You are amazing

  6. Thank you for the reminder that my children still need some lessons in appropriate social media! There is no doubt that this is tough for them. I sure hope I haven't led anyone to believe otherwise. I sent three of them out the door this morning in tears. It is rough and my heart aches for them every day because they are doing it anyway and doing it with a great attitude (most of the time). They still need help figuring out how to express their mixed feelings, whether sad or happy or scared appropriately so I appreciate the heads up.

  7. Wow so many crazy things! I don't know why I thought of it, but you guys–probably Elle especially– might like this girl's videos. I think her family is living in China and she makes videos of a bunch of it. They are really creative and fun and I think you're both in similar situations so I thought you might like it. 🙂

  8. I am loving all your China updates-it is amazing to see how these trials can bring you all closer together as a family. I am in LOVE with that family room rug you found-I'd love to know where you scored that.I love all the little pops of navy that are showing up in your new house too.

  9. I love this post and how you describe the calm before the storm! I'm so happy for your family to have this wild adventure together. I'd jump at the chance to do the same. Hang in there and keep us posted!!!!

  10. Love you Shawni! Love your bravery! Love your purposeful choices. Most kids cry over piano practicing or homework in America. Ha! What an amazing opportunity you are giving them.

  11. Just an attempt at a kind reminder for those leaving a comment…please speak (write) with good purpose. It's ok to disagree with others (as I am sure I disagree with Shawni on many things) but think about your intent before writing things and then also think about how you are making others feel. If there is no good purpose, please don't say it or write it!

    Bringing your kids to China for half a year is an amazing experience for you and for them Shawni. Yes, it is hard. But you will all get through it and will benefit so much from this experience…I know you know that already or you wouldn't be over there but I feel the need to remind you as some comments make me feel a bit sad 😉

  12. Is Elle okay? The main concern isn't what they publish, but whether the sign means something about how she feels.

    I think it's great the girls know how to cook.

  13. ''None of them wanted to go and are miserable.''

    You don't know that. They might not have even been sad for the rest of the day. Just because you think you know them, given the tiniest snapshot into their thoughts and lives, doesn't mean you do.

    If someone judged me based solely on what I post on twitter, they'd probably call a suicide hotline.

    It's ok to cry and write your feelings when you're angry. It's healthy. If you don't, you just end up with repressed anger and sadness.

    Shawni is just keeping it real.

    Also, just because you CAN comment, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Was is worth it?

  14. Internet is very unreliable here and a lot of crazy things are going on so I just came back to find some more mean-spirited comments which I just can't have tolerance for. I just don't have the time. I am totally great with people disagreeing with that I say and thinking I'm crazy, but comments intentionally trying to pick a fight will always get deleted. That's simply not the spirit I want to have on this blog. Not sure how someone has enough time to look at our family with a harsh magnifying glass all the time, but I hope they can find something to do with their time that will make them happy. I really do.

    kms, thank you for the genuine concern for Elle. All the kids have gone through rough patches. It's probably toughest for Max and Elle because they are the ages they are. But Lucy cried herself to sleep the other night too missing her friends. We all miss our friends. We all miss the ease of life back in the desert. We were very well aware that would be the case when we made the decision to be here. We certainly didn't come here thinking it would all be butterflies and rainbows. What has been cool is that I also knew we would bond as a family and there would be a ton of great things along with the tough things. And that part has exceeded our expectations already. I didn't imagine in my wildest dreams that the kids would be as brave as they have been and that there would already be as much good that they have noticed and loved.

    Again, I sure hope that it hasn't sounded like it's all a cakewalk because it's far from that. But that doesn't mean we regret being here! It means we are teaching our kids (and ourselves!) how to do things that are out of their comfort zone. We are teaching them things that they are going to lean on forever when life gets tough (because there's no doubt that it will). And most of all, we are all learning that family love is a powerful force and can get you through anything.

  15. You are truly a class-act, Shawni! Thanks for being such an inspiration to me (and countless others). I am a new mom and I have learned SO much from you about how I want to mother. Praying for you and your sweet family while in China – what a life-changing adventure!

  16. To change the subject from what sounds like some negative energy… A few people have been asking about some of your cool home items, I LOVE, LOVE your family room couches!! If you have time and are willing, would you PLEASE share? BTW I am enjoying reading about your fantastic journey.

  17. One of the important lessons I've learned in life is that the start of something worthwhile is usually scary!!! I suspect in the near future, your kids will look back on the challenging moments from now, the beginning of the China journey, and realize how incredibly distant those scary moments feel. Also, I don't know if this was a factor in the decision to move, but I think it was an understandable move to take the kids away from all the busy-ness of life so you all can re-connect and focus on the family unit before everyone grows up and heads in different directions. 🙂

  18. I just have a few thoughts reading your post today:

    #1, I LOVE your blog and love that you're having this adventure in China. I have a bad case of wanderlust without being in a situation to satisfy it (yet!), so I'm loving being able to read about your trials and adventures with your family. Maybe someday we'll be able to do something similar.

    #2, I think my 10 year old daughter would be great friends with Claire if we lived nearby. 😉

    #3, Could Grace be any more gorgeous?! I think not.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles and successes and adventures and testimony with all of us crazy people you've never met!

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