Yesterday I wanted to share the raw emotion of our China decision because it was a gut-wrenching one.  It is real, all that worry and concern and prayer.  I want to remember that this China thing is not happening on a whim.  It is something we have struggled over and prayed about for a long time.  It is something that has caused us to be more deliberate in life even just thinking about it.

We have mulled over more information and thought through more scenarios than I ever care to recount and have come to a decision we are apprehensive but excited about that I wanted to share.

But from the comments of worry and “what in the world are you doing to your family?!?!” I realize that maybe I left everyone with the raw emotion rather than the excitement.

I should have probably added in the part about how Claire now comes home with stars in her eyes and tells me how she simply CANNOT WAIT for China.  How Lucy is now making all kinds of funny guesses as to how things will be over there.  Max and Elle’s eyes have come back from shock to glistening again (although this is going to be hard, no doubt about it) and Grace just got her braces off so she pretty much couldn’t care less about anything else in the whole wide world because guess what?

Her braces are gone!!

There is a great deal of excitement mixed with stress in the air over here.  And as you can imagine there are lots of to-do lists, but I wanted to answer some questions before we go:

Why not wait until both Max and Elle have graduated and gone on to college, missions, whatever. Then take the younger kids with you?


Why not just serve a mission when Claire is out of the house and bring Lucy to serve with you?


Is there a way you can leave Max and Elle behind so they can enjoy the high school experience that they so badly want? 

The biggest reason we are taking on this China adventure (aside from the fact that it will be great for Dave’s work) is that we want to be TOGETHER.  That’s the whole point.  Sure, it is a little crazy.  But guess what?   I grew up in a “crazy” family.  And I thank my lucky stars about that every day.  This is certainly not for everyone.  There is so much living to do right where we are.  But we are grateful for this chance to “shift up our Boggle game” (I talked about that back HERE).

I do not know many teenagers who would choose any hard thing.  That’s not what most teenagers do (sure there are some, even some super cute ones who commented yesterday, but if you took a poll of modern-day teenagers I’m not sure many would say, “bring it on!”) .  There’s not a chance in the world I would have said, in high school, “Hey Mom and Dad, I think it would be so great if we could go live abroad for a little while!”  Heck no!  I thought I would for SURE die.  But I look back on that time as one of the best experiences I have had.  

It’s ok to do hard things.  I know we will all grow from it.

Is China set up for the visually challenged? Are the private schools there set up to handle special need students? China is not a place with 504’s, IEP’s and the ADA. 

The kids will be going to an International school and no, I’m sure it’s not set up for the visually challenged.  That’s another reason why we want to do this now before Lucy loses her vision.  When I talked to her Braille teacher about our plans her overall sentiment was one of gratefulness that Lucy will get to experience so much with her eyes before her vision is gone.  She recommended we talk through every thing we see.  She reminded me that doing new things helps kids notice more than ever before.  When she loses her vision the only frame of reference she will have is from what she has experienced.  She will be that much richer from having an opportunity to reach outside her normal realm.  

We are bringing her magnifier and have bought a little desk lamp to be sure she can see well at school and have all kinds of plans in place to help her at home.

Hopefully seminary is something online they don’t have to do at 4:30 in the morning?

Seminary is taught out of someone’s home at 6:00 every morning.  From what I understand, that home is about 20 minutes from where we’ll be staying.  It will be tricky to figure all that out but what an adventure it will be!

How long is a semester? {a few people asked this who don’t live in the states}

A semester is four months.  We will be gone from the end of August until the beginning of January.  

Where will you live?

We will be renting a little house Dave’s awesome business partner helped us find in the Pudong part of Shanghai.

I worry about Max and volleyball. Before anyone disregards that as a silly sport concern just know that I was a full-ride athlete in volleyball at a major Division I university. I’ have no idea from your blog if he has the ability to play at that level but if he does I hope with all my might you can still find a way to get him recruited if it is important to him. 

I shared the part about volleyball because it was our number one concern with this decision.  
Ok, number one along with about fifty-eight other things.  But volleyball is a big deal.  

We have talked to his coaches and solicited all the advice we can get from every avenue we can think of.  We have videos of his playing and plan to send them to every university he is interested in.  From all the feedback we have received, if he is in shape, 6’8″ and willing to work hard they will still be interested and hopefully he can prove himself if that’s what he decides he really wants to do.  We don’t know for sure that volleyball is really the route Max wants to take long-term, but we definitely don’t want to close any doors.  He may chose to do something totally different and get sick of it so we can’t base a whole family decision on that.  But because we have been ultra conscientious about this we are very aware of what needs to be done to keep him on the radar with college coaches and we’ll see what comes of it.  Everyone we have talked to seems to think that a kid applying for college from China working with a club team there is a pretty great leg to stand on.

Maybe Max/Elle can play club vball/tennis in China and come back to the states with full HS & college eligibility?

We are for sure looking into that.  They cannot play at their school in China to remain eligible for sports but they can sure play on club teams.  We haven’t found any yet (although we have searched), hopefully we will be able to find something.  Their school sports seasons begin after we get back so we’re looking forward to that.

Why did you build a house if you were just going to leave it?

We had no idea this opportunity would arise when we built our house.  Yes it is sad for all of us to leave it for a few months, but it will be here when we get back. 

What will you do with your house while you are gone?

An awesome young couple will be living here and taking care of it for us.

There was also a question about school credits and whether or not they will transfer.  Here’s the answer:

I have met with all the principals and have had multiple meetings with the school counselor to work all this out.  It has been a little complicated but almost everything the kids are taking in China will transfer right back here.

Are you going to adopt a baby in China?

That one made me laugh out loud.  Oh man that would sure be fun but we are 100% complete over here. 

Thanks for all the VPN comments, my brother helped me set that up last night so hopefully that will all work out over there.  Until then, I have a few posts I have scheduled to post to finish up our chapter here at home.

I have found myself cherishing the “normal” days here more than ever before…walking down the isle in the grocery store, hopping in my car to run to the post office, etc.  But we are off for the trip of a lifetime and will appreciate it all even more when we return.


  1. It seems like you are set to go!! I wish you a wonderful time. China will be an amazing adventure for sure! Thanks for the Q&A and answering some of the concerns readers had!

  2. Love these questions!! I hope it helped solidify your decision as you answered all of those tough questions. You'll be happy to know that my teenager (sophomore) would move abroad without batting an eye! I think it is awesome that you will get this experience as a family. Life will be a bit slower and you will have time together before your family changes. (max leaving, elle on her way)

    I hope you are able to blog over there because I would love to hear about your adventure. I wish you the best!!! Safe and happy travels.

  3. Since he is losing a chance at a scholarship and both your older kids losing the chance to earn money at a part time job this semester (and max part of last summer) I hope you commit to his having enough for college no matter the decisions they make once they turn 18. A scholarship and job would allow them to be totally on their own and get an education and be an adult not dependent on you.

    Seminary. I don't get it. I went to parochial school and we had religion every day not matter the grade. But between 7:30 and 3. And we only had church for an hour. What do you do for three hours on Sunday and the time spent on night activities per week that your 14-17 year olds must wake up and be anywhere by 6am? Not to mention the 20 minutes there and back wasted in commuting. Why not let them set seminary aside for a semester, maybe take the semester they miss in the summer on their own or with your guidance the semester they miss.

    How will going to China be hard for you and your husband? You spoke of your kids worries, we forget our own as parents.

  4. I think your children are going to get a great lesson in giving up things that are GOOD, to gain an experience that is BETTER, and the BEST thing of all is to be together as a family. Good luck to you! I will enjoy reading about it whenever you are able to post!

  5. I think you are awesome for giving your kids this experience. My parents moved us to Chile just before my junior year of high school. I remember occasionally feeling like I was missing out on so much back home, but excited for the adventure. It was an amazing experience and I learned so much at my International school. (academically, socially, and it it completely changed my view of the world and my perspective on life and where I fit into the whole grand scheme of things. ). Good luck on your adventure, one thing I remember about my mom is that she always treated it as an adventure and really minimized the things that were difficult and focused on how blessed we were to have this experience. Her attitude made all the difference! I am so excited for you, please continue to share your adventures on your blog!

  6. My parents and little brother have been living in Shanghai for the past three years. It was a big adjustment at first coming from the Houston suburbs but they love it now. My brother will be a senior at the Shanghai American School in Pudong and they live in Puxi. Let me know if you have any questions!

  7. Shawni I think it's awesome that you guys are doing this, I really don't think most of us would have the guts to do it, people talk about things but rarely follow through. You don't owe us any explanations although you are gracious enough to share them with us. I don't understand why people think it's really any of their business but I hope you guys have a great time and I hope Lucy can soak up all the beauty I'm sure you'll experience while there. I really hope you can still blog because I'll miss you but I'm sure you will. Best of luck to you and your family

  8. Bottom line-you've got to do what you feel is best for your family! I commend you for doing just that. You are an inspiration! I wish nothing but the best for you and your beautiful family.

  9. This is such a timely post for me! We are currently deciding whether we should take our young family to London for a year for a medical fellowship. It is exciting and scary…sometimes it feels like there are way more cons on paper but the pros are just SO IMPORTANT. I have also always wanted to live abroad with my family for the experience factor. I think I've come to the conclusion that you can have the things you dream of in life but probably not at the perfect timing. And that's okay. It is worth the trouble and hard work. Your family will never forget this. Have fun!

  10. I am a long time reader, but have never left a comment. I just wanted to say wow! What a wonderful adventure you are taking with your family! I am more than a little surprised by how many people have commented with concern about your decision. You are so gracious to explain your thought process, but you owe us NO explanation for the choices that you and your husband make for your family. Thanks for sharing your family with us. I stop into 71 toes each day for a little inspiration.

  11. congrats, what a great adventure!! The couple you talked about that has seminary in their home are friends of mine and they are amazing!!! good luck to you!

  12. I'm so excited for your family's new adventure. I'm sure that everyone will gain so much more than they can possibly imagine. As I always tell my children when they travel: Have fun. Stay safe. Stay hydrated. Stay in touch.

  13. I read your blog yesterday and have been envious ever since! I have a senior, sophomore and a freshman in high school this year and would absolutely love to do this!

    I just love how deliberate you are 🙂

    You go girl!!

  14. How exciting for you and your family!! Your children are so incredibly lucky!

    My family spent a year in Botswana, Africa when I was a teenager. I had to miss my freshman year of high school and I pretty much thought my life was over. I cried for days and begged my parents to let me stay behind. I still remember the despair I felt when they broke the news.

    But of course (OF COURSE!) it turned out to be the most wonderful and incredible experience of my life. It's a unique experience that changed me in so many wonderful ways and I am so incredibly grateful to my parents to have given us such a beautiful opportunity. You can only understand when you've done it yourself that something like this opens so many more doors (and eyes!) than it closes.

    I dream of giving my own children a similar experience. I can only hope! I'm so glad the stars have aligned for you and hope that you all have a wonderful experience.

    Good luck and I hope you will be able to share your journey with us. Thank you for a wonderful blog!

  15. kms: I respect that you are asking questions about the move. However, Shawni did not say that Max loses his chance for a scholarship. And respectfully, this experience will provide him more opportunity for growth than a part-time job in the US.

    As far as seminary, you are correct that you don't understand it. I am Catholic; however, I do understand that Seminary is an important part of the Mormon faith and it is not viewed as an inconvenience. Their faith should not be challenged or questioned. Sorry, but your comment kind of seemed very "judgy." While we may not agree with decisions others make, judging them is not helpful.

  16. I'm so glad you wrote this! I'm a new blog reader and love reading about your family. After yesterday's post I was so sad for your kids! Today's post clears up so many things. I can't wait to read about your new adventures! 🙂

  17. I have got to tell you- last night when I read your previous post, I was thinking that you were just simply out of your mind. High school isn't that important long term, but here and now, it's their whole lives. How horrible must it feel to be yanked from that because your parents have a dream and are forcing you away from your world… and the dangers of some of these countries right now, and who on earth would want to live in a country where somethign as simple as a blog is censored?! then, I heard your explanation about Lucy and wanting her to experience everything before that's gone forever. And while I still don't get it, I think that right there is explanation enough. What a gift to give her- seeing all of this world you are showing her- so during the years when the memories are all she has, she will have SO much more than the average bear to look back on. I think that thought is pretty amazing 🙂 Good luck to you guys and be SAFE!! 🙂

  18. Apparently there were a lot of negative comments. I rarely to never read the comments, but I just wanted to tell you I think it is awesome and would do it in a minute if I could make the opportunity happen for my family. It will be one of the best experiences you can ever have with your family. Your kids will look back on it with fond memories and not miss for a second those high school dances they missed. Have a great time! I have a friend there right now with her family. If you would like contact info for her let me know. She is LDS.

  19. You are a class act Shawni! I read some of the comments yesterday and was sad to see so much negativity. Some of the comments were completely out of line. I thought about it most of the day yesterday and realized you've got to have pretty thick skin to write a blog now days. There is so much bullying and questioning of everything that is written. I find that sad. Wouldn't it be great if we could all be supportive of one another and realize that it isn't our job to determine what is right for everyone's family, marriage, children, life, etc.. Our perspective from the outside looking in is not always correct nor do we have all of the facts of a situation to be judging others. We need to realize that everyone needs our love and support. I believe we are all really trying to do our best.

    Thanks for being such a great example of this.

  20. my hubs and i are planning to take our daughters overseas for 6-12 months at some point in the next 5 years. my sister lives in India, and we want our girls to have the opportunity their cousins have to see the world through different lenses. i want my daughters to experience as many things as they can before the worries and responsibilities of adulthood set in. seize your moment, pothiers, and be blessed in the process (even if it's hard).

  21. Ditto to what Sharee Hills just said. You responded in the most gracious and classy way to questions from people who honestly don't deserve an explanation because you're life is not theirs to run.

    I'm so glad Lucy will have the chance to "see" things that most of the world never gets to see before she can't see much at all. Bless her sweet little heart.

    Good luck to you all. Can't wait to read about your adventures TOGETHER as a family.

  22. I will admit that I had a difficult nights sleep last night after reading some of the comments (gosh, I don't even know you!! I just felt some of those comments were harsh and did not come from a good place…I think that's why I keep my blog private!! I can't handle the "critics")–I think I should follow what a different commenter posted and just not read the comments! However, I will say that your response today was so well-written and very nice (maybe too nice for how some of those "questions" were posed!). I hope (someday, God-willing), I can respond in such a kind, gentle manner…and not get all defensive!
    My husband and I talked about your post last night and although we agreed it would be not be for our family (I'm into predictable & routine…and I'm a terrible traveler and am probably passing that on to my own kids), what a great experience Lucy will have and I could not agree more with her vision-impaired teacher! It's one thing to see images on tv or on the computer (or to visualize them from a book), but to see them with your own eyes! Priceless experience! I think this may trump all the other cons!
    And I believe you are right that most teenagers would never choose to do something hard…leave their high school friends and activities for 4 months? No way! (and I do get that, I do!) I went to Germany with about 10 other students in my German class between my sophomore and junior year and I absolutely hated it. And I remember being over there thinking: "I will never travel abroad again unless it's with my family or husband." The comfort a family brings (the one constant!) in a foreign land/situation will make the experience unforgettable and will set the kids up for enjoying international travel (or just travel in general). I do believe this will make Max enjoy China more than when he was there without his family.
    Safe travels & enjoy your time in China! God Bless!

  23. So sorry you had so many negative comments yesterday. Three years ago, hubby and I moved our family to New Zealand. At the time I received a lot of criticism and people who thought we were crazy. While I can appreciate that it might look crazy to some, we thankfully don't make decisions based on what other people think. Good for you for perusing a dream. It will be a wonderful experience for every member of your family.

  24. I think you're awesome! It is SO not like me to comment or to gush over strangers, but I admire you for taking the criticism head on and doing a Q & A today. You don't owe anyone an explanation other than your family but regular blog readers, of course, feel a part of your lives and gave feedback both good, bad and (quite honestly) rude.
    Your responses today were kind and classy.

    I wish you a great family bonding experience. Life IS long, but some things can only be done in a small moment of time or not at all. It made me teary to think about giving Lucy this experience before she loses her sight. This is a time to hold your family tight before you launch them into the world. It's only 4 months not a lifetime away.

    Best wishes on your grand adventure!

  25. My family and I are returning to the USA next month after living in France since January. It was definitely the hardest, but best decision we have ever made for our family. The experience has been incredible!! I wish you and your family the best as you embark on this wonderful new adventure together!

  26. I believe you have made the right choice there! This experience is going to be priceless for your entire family!! Sure, it's a big change for everyone, but I think it's the best way to have perspective in life! High school is a big deal for teens, however this semester is so much bigger than the "high school experience" they would have back home. Maybe that's all your big kids are thinking about: what they will miss instead of what they will gain! Again, it's so big it's easy to miss all the greatness and get lost on the little things! 🙂
    Besides, having "When I lived in Shanghai…" will be an awesome conversation starter when your kids go to college and something they will treasure forever!
    Have a wonderful time there! Can't wait to read the posts!

  27. Hi Shawni,
    Thank you for answering my question about how long a semester is. I didn't have a clue!

    Thank you also for the rest of the answers.

    When I went to bed last night I kept thinking of some of the negative comments & was worried that you or your family might be upset by them.X

    The part that has really touched me is that Lucy will eventually lose her sight. I hadn't realised this before now. It'll be so lovely for her to see another country.

    I bet Grace is jumping for joy after having her braces off!!!

    May Heavenly Father watch over you & your family as you prepare for this exciting adventure.

    Take care.

  28. What an amazing adventure! Not many kids get such an opportunity, and when you mentioned Lucy… what a gift that she'll be able to do this before her eyesight is eventually gone. The best of luck to you and your family and I do hope you'll be able to keep blogging about your adventures overseas!

  29. YOU.ARE.AWESOME! My selfish concern… no 71 Toes blog for a semester! Hopefully we will be able to come along 🙂 Ignore mean spirited people and ENJOY every minute!

  30. I agree with some of the other comments — you and your family are awesome & I'm going to miss reading your blog if you aren't able to post while in China. I will be anxious to read about your adventures whenever you are able to share them. You are such an inspiration on living a purposeful and faithful life. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself to help others. Have a wonderful trip!

  31. Shawni, I'm so excited for y'all.

    You only live once, you might as well soak in as many memories as you can.

    Besides, regular life will continue, and y'all will fit right back in with a completely different perspective of life when you come back.

  32. Geez, I find it unfortunate you had to answer all of these questions! My parents did exactly the same thing with me when I was in HS (to Germany) and it is absolutely what has most shaped my life and opened up incredible doors to me. Four months is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but yet will influence your lives forever. So great you're doing this and you're right — teens will never want to leave! You have to force them out of their comfort zones sometimes. You'll all be together, which is what matters. Hooray! Can't wait to read about it!

  33. Good for you! I share in your hope to live abroad with my family someday (and it will likely be China as well!). I saw something yesterday that read, "Encouragers wanted. We have enough critics on the planet. Yours truly, The World." Go for it and have a fabulous time making memories. It WILL work out. 🙂

  34. After I read your post yesterday, I was just left with sheer, dripping ENVY! Oh yes, I understand the stress & prayer that have gone into making this decision, but what a once-in-a-lifetime chance for your family! And, in the big scheme of things, it's just a few months. I've always wanted to live abroad with my family for just a year or two. Maybe someday we'll take the plunge like you! Kindred spirits for sure, Shawni. Can't wait to hear all about your adventures & misadventures! 🙂

  35. And, by the way: I moved quite a bit growing up. Three times in high school. The last time was the summer before senior year. I'd just made Madrigals at East High ;), and life seemed pretty great. So yeah, it was tough. But my education wasn't derailed, I ended up having a really great senior year, and getting scholarships to the colleges I wanted (go Cougars!). It'll all work out.

  36. Wow, what an amazing experience! After reading yesterday's and today's posts, it seems to me that you have a wonderful "Big Picture" outlook, and are doing your thing, regardless if it makes sense to anyone else. I hope to be such an open-minded, adventure-seeking, intentional parent as my boys grow. Can't wait to read about your experiences!

  37. I read through some of the comments yesterday and was a little shocked at how free people felt to judge your decision… So I'm jumping in there too. Good for you!! High school is fun, but 2 years from now they won'r feel like they missed out on anything. It's the relationships with your family that are not only eternal but throughout your life as well. I have one good friend from high school that I keep in touch with, yet I talk to my parents and siblings at least every couple of days and see them a lot too. I think what you guys are doing is amazing. It will be hard, but think of what they will have to remember! Good for you!

  38. Oh man my heart broke yesterday when I read about Max and Elle's concerns now, but honestly my heart broke for senior and junior Max and Elle. When I reverted back to my senior and junior year of hs and thought I would have diiiiiiiiied if my family had to move half way across the world! I didn't comment though because 1. not my really my place (I figure as their parents you were prepared, as it seems you are) and 2. I thought about 30 year old M and E and I was so excited for how they would look back on this family adventure probably more fondly than they did anything that happened their first semester of high school in 2014 (and this is coming from a girl that L-O-V-E loved hs!) 🙂

    I didn't even think about Lucy having all of these pictures to store away in her mind. That is so so sweet to me! I hope that we get to follow along.

  39. I'm not sure that I have ever commented on your blog, but I just cannot resist this go around.

    My husband and I went abroad 2 days after we got married (6 years ago) and it was the best leap of faith we ever made. We now have 3 young children that were born in 3 different countries; the older two (even though they are only toddlers) have a grasp on cultures and accepting differences that I know they would not have otherwise. I have also grown in ways that I know I never would have otherwise (including a new language under my belt). I had never been outside north america before our big adventure overseas and so there were certainly things that came as a shock but it helped so much in me discovering the things that really resonate with me and our little family.

    Going abroad has been a choice that has defined our family in a way that feels so right. My life, married and with children looks nothing like what I thought it would if you had asked me 10 years ago but allowing God to take the reigns in our family's life has made all the difference to making it better than I could have imagined.

    That said, there are "normal" things that we have to let fall by the wayside because it just doesn't fit. There are pros and cons to every decision and every family needs different experiences to help each of those family members find their unique path in life. I'm like you, big decisions worry me, so thank you for sharing all of your thoughts and journey in making this choice – you are brave to share it all on such a public format!

    Also – I am sure you will meet them soon enough, but we know two families in Shanghai (that we met while living in other countries) that are in the branch there that are just absolutely lovely people and have teenagers as well. I'm pretty sure their kids are in the international school, too. If you need any further contacts, I know they would be happy to help. Feel free to email me if the need should arise labellastudios101 (at) gmail (dot) com

    All the best on the adventure ahead. It will be memorable!!

  40. Um yeah… whose business is it what your family does? Some people know so much about where you are and where you've been it's a little freaky. I, for one, spent 6 weeks in Australia when I was 17 as part of a youth exchange. It was amazing to go to a school (as a visitor) in a different county and see how other people do things. It's 14 years later and I still talk about it all the time. This time in China will be something your kids will cherish forever.

  41. I commented yesterday (we moved to Hong Kong with 3 teens for 2 years). What I didn't mention was that we made told them it had to be a 'family' decision. Everyone had to WANT to go 100%. One child was in college (she would have to transfer to a foreign college in HK). One was to be a HS senior, the other a HS junior. My high school kids were both league champions in XC/Track and heavily involved with their teams and friends. However, we took them to Hong Kong for a week first, to taste the life out there. They were enchanted. They without a question (the college student had to give it some thought) wanted to go. We told them life is an adventure. You get each day once, It would be a waste to not experience as much as possible and go after those opportunities. Also, that their life story would be so much more interesting by the experience. They really were excited to go. Now that being said, the experience was a great challenge education (even at an international school) is much more intense than in the US and the took plenty of AP classes before HK. They cherish their experiences there, even if many of the experiences were challenging. They see the world differently, and just as an aside being more well-rounded IS actually desirable to colleges… Anyhow. Best of luck and you must indulge in some delicious dumplings for me. I miss them already!

  42. I've been reading about you in one way or another since you were a kid. It makes me happy to see you going confidently in the direction of this dream you have had for so long. I can't wait to read about your adventures!

  43. I wanted to thank you for your post yesterday. We've been planning for a few years now to move from Australia to London for a couple of years and now that it's getting closer, so many doubts are flooding in. Your post articulated so many things that I've been feeling but also reminded me that my husband and I both feel that our move is what The Lord wants us to do. Thank you 🙂

  44. I just read through all the comments. Wow, some people… I am just grateful for the window you open for us into your amazing family, and find it silly and sad that you have to explain(justify) anything you decide is right for your family. Can't wait to hear about your exciting semester abroad:)

  45. What an adventure! How sweet to think if Lucy years from now if she's lost her vision being able to remember all the amazing things she's seen. What an amazing gift you're giving her.

    I appreciate the way you handle the critics with such grace. You are brave to allow open comments on your blog! I'm not sure I would have a thick enough skin to explain mine and my husbands decisions to perfect strangers. I really hope you're able to blog over there…I love reading about your family adventures! If not though…I'll look forward to reading about them in January.

    Have a wonderful time!

  46. I totally got your post yesterday. While yes, it is a hard time to move teens. Your time with them all under one roof is limited. They might miss a few dances or dates or even playing volleyball, but will gain so much more as they see and live in another culture. It will all work out! Lucy will be fine! Heck it is just a semester not a lifetime and I am sure you will do a great job keeping her up with her school work. Go fly and enjoy!

  47. Hi Shawni, I've commented once before and have also sent you an email once, I just can't help commenting again. I really can't believe that people are actually giving you grief about the most amazing experience you are about to provide to your family? I know you have a blog, and it's public and everyone has got opinions, but I really really don't get what makes them think that they have the right to criticize your decision?
    I am sorry, but I was just a bit shocked.
    I was an exchange student when I was 16-17 (for 1yr) and no, it was not all great, but the experience was unique and I learned so, so much!
    In any case, it won't all be easy, but it is an experience of a lifetime and I wish you and your family all the best.
    You're very grateful to answer all of these comments.
    Have fun! Flavia

  48. AMAZING! So very wonderful, exciting, thrilling, challenging, growth promoting, memory making, and in the scheme of life…So wonderful and so right for your family! Sounds like it is custom made just for your family. Yep, doing the right thing for the right reason in the right season is never an easy thing but, the outcome is so much more eternal than being conservative and living in all kinds of fears and worries.
    You must find a way to blog!

  49. I was so surprised yesterday at all of the negative comments in response to your announcement. You would have thought you were moving to China permanently and selling your new house (which would still be your prerogative and no one else's place to criticize)!

    Four months is a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, but this will be a life changer. How lucky your children are to get to do a semester abroad while still living in the comfort of their family. Best of luck, safe travels, and soak up all of the concentrated time you are sure to get on this adventure. And you will be back to the States in no time!

  50. I think this is fabulous! Yes, some sacrifices will be made, but the overall, incredible experiences far outweigh them. It's for four months…not four years! Soak it all in!!!

  51. I would love nothing more to give my family an experience abroad. If you have the resources to do so, DO IT! This life is too short not to experience all the wonders the world has to offer. 4 months out of a lifetime is just a snippet. All the little worries you may have now will slip away. Keep calm and travel on! (Selfishly I will miss reading your blog if you're not able to maintain it while in China.)

  52. Are you serious???
    Max is 6'8???

    Have a great time, four months will fly by, it's not long at all.
    Travel and family are too important, the education the kids will get is priceless.
    Imagine the pressure on Max if you based a decision not to go on volleyball. If he decided to give it away he would be really torn.
    This is going to sound bad but I get the feeling some Mormon children (I'm generalizing) can live in a bit of a bubble…I applaud you for widening their world so to speak.
    Can I come too?

    Safe travels!

  53. I just read some comments. Yikes.

    Can I just say, in regards to Lucy and her progress. People who do not have a child with special needs (myself included) have no right to comment on them. Parents of SN kids walk a road that can not be judged by others.
    THEY know what's best for their child and they develop quite a thick skin when it comes to making decisions regarding them, as their situation is unique and complex.
    She is one lucky girl x

  54. I just want to say what a classy lady you are and I admire you so much! My oldest is 6 and I learn so much about being a mother from reading your blog, thank you! I hope you have a wonderful experience and safe travels!

  55. I'm not sure if you guys do early morning seminary in Arizona or not, but I LOVED it. It is a great experience making a sacrifice to get up early to dive into the scriptures as a youth. They will love it! And we also drove 20 minutes to our church building. It was a great way to spend extra time together as siblings in the early morning. What a great start to my day as a youth.

  56. Renchat, I have a son with special needs. That is why I know what an IEP is. I have been to China just for a trip. I know they are not set up for people with disabilities. I know people are going to walk up to her blond kids and touch their hair if they go off the beaten tourist enclave area. I know how much routine and familiarity can benefit a child with special needs and everyone around them. But this family knows far more than me. They lived there once, travelled there several times for work and play. And she mentioned the uneasiness of all of this in the first post. So people wondered more about the things she specifically mentioned. Everyone cheerleading is judging as well. I don't think she is a bad mother or even wrong. I can't see the full picture behind anyone's consequences. She never has to answer anything she doesn't want to. If she just posted that because of her husbands work in china they were going to live there a semester, everyone would have been cheerleading, but she mentioned reasons not to go there and no reason other than she wanted to have the adventure. I see lots of outdoing things in the family. It's probably part of why they are so interesting to so many of us. All spent two years abroad for missions. They don't decide where they go, it just worked out that way. Many spent time abroad during college, honeymoons. At least three lived abroad, including this family with minor kids. Life finds a way to make things hard on it's own. I do hope they all have a blast.

  57. I haven't been on your blog for a while and just checked it to see the exciting news about China! Yay!! So excited for you all! But honestly I am not surprised for all the negative comments you received. My husband and I made a similar decision a couple years ago and received a similar response. We lived in Hangzhou, China for 6 months and absolutely loved it! We would take the 45 minute bullet train up to Shanghai for fantastic shopping, tex mex, and Branch Conference. So many people were skeptical about us going and some thought we would never return alive haha but it was the best decision we ever made. A lot of aspects of the decision seemed crazy, but when we prayed about it we knew it was right. And actually it has lined up so many wonderful adventures and possibilities ever since! So I am so happy that you are going and wish you all the best!!!

  58. What a grand adventure for all of you. It's very generous of you respond to strangers' concerns about this, but in the end I hope we all realize that every family is different, and this is about your family only. I hope we will be able to hear about your adventures in China while they are happening, but if not, I look forward to hearing more in 2015. Safe travels & happy adventures!

  59. Why won't they let Max and Elle play sports in your current school if they play sports in an international school?
    I have some friends in Shanghai right now. They are LDS and with the state department, and lived in Mesa. That is where we met them. Fowlers are their name if you run into them. They have a daughter Grace's age. That would be really cool if you got to know them.

  60. OMG KMS, you are so right about people touching their hair, I had a giggle at that!
    Can you imagine their hair and height combo?
    I'm only 5'9 and look of horror on their faces when I'd walk into their stores. Especially shoe stores, they'd say
    "Shoes for you…?"

  61. It's only 4 months!Let's stop beeing dramatic about that… time flies when you are living such an adventure- I know, I did it so many times… And I think that an experience like that will teach your children more then the school/oridinary life would ever do!Try to concentrate on getting as much from your China trip as possible- meet people, eat the food, watch the tv, go and see places!!!!And do your thing, no matter what people say!

  62. Hi Shawni! I read your blog often but haven't commented before, but I have to tell you how excited I am for your family! My family and I just moved to Mesa after a 2 year expat assignment in the UK. When we moved over in 2011 our 5 kids were ages 10- 11 months. It was a crazy time and honestly really hard, but we would do it again in a heartbeat! My husband has been to China several times with work and is trying to persuade me that a move to China is a great idea! I am not sure but seeing your decision to go may help his case:) A semester will fly by and you will be so glad that you went! Best of Luck with this adventure!

  63. This second post about the whys of China was really great. I guess the WAY you wrote the first one confused people a bit.

    I had actually thought it was a bad idea after your first post, but since I don't say anything if I don't have anything nice to say (I seriously don't understand some of your commentors), of course I kept that confusion to myself.

    But can you believe that I had myself thought that about Lucy- that if she has the possibility of losing any of her sight, she should see as much of the world now as she can.

    Bon Voyage!!!

  64. Oh, I should mention this- my father was a diplomat and I'd lived in six different countries, eight houses and went to ten different schools by the time I was seventeen!!!

    Looks like I had an overdose of what you're trying to give a drop of to your family! I do agree that it opens your mind like nothing else. I have the ability to understand basically everyone's point of view, weather I agree with them or not. And that helps me more than anyone else. The feeling of belonging to not a community of ten or even a hundred thousand- but of seven billion- is, ladies and gentlemen, absolutely priceless.

  65. I think it is WONDERFUL that you are willing to live abroad with your children. My husband and I are currently living with our two children in Singapore and it has been an amazing experience. We have the following quote on our fridge:
    "If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days. Don’t let yourself become one of these people. The fear of the unknown and the lure of the comfortable will conspire to keep you from taking the chances the traveler has to take. But if you take them, you will never regret your choice.” –Kent Nerburn

    Hats off to doing HARD things! You are a wonderful mother and this will be a life changing experience.

    Perhaps you can email your posts to someone and have them publish them on your blog while you are away?

  66. Shawn, you are indeed a classy lady. I love you. I'm so excited for this adventure you are going to have. The whole family is going to look back on all this work and stress and be so thankful you had the faith and gumption to make it happen.

    A new favorite poem from Marianne Moore that reminds me of you:

    I may, I might, I must

    If you will tell me why the fen

    appears impassable, I then

    will tell you why I think that I

    can get across it if I try.

    I love you and Dave's deliberate living Shawn. You inspire me to go confidently in the direction of my dreams.

  67. Wow! Im so happy for your family, the kids will take time to adapt but will be thanking you with stars in their eyes soon enough! 4 months is not long at all so soak up every minute while you are there! And always remember..

    Nothing good comes out of a comfort zone!!

    So hope you can blog over there, or please write and post when you get back!

  68. I love that you doing this. This life we live, is not a guarantee, life is fleeting. What an incredible opportunity to be able to experience this with all of your children. Have fun, soak it up, you will never regret this time!

  69. Hi Shawni, I got so excited when I read your last post. You are one fun family! I remember your trip to India, how happy you looked and how you focused on the beauty of the places you visited instead of the negative.
    I would like to share something with you.A few years ago, after looking into every single detail we decided to put our 5 year old in first grade. She knew how to read really well, was very mature for her age and we thought she would get bored to death if she had to go to K and learn the ABC's all over again. Many people thought we were crazy! How is she going to do it? What about when she is older and she wants to go to a dance? What about driving when her friends already will have their DL? And many other questions we had already considered and prayed about. People didn't have evil intentions but I always wondered why they seemed more worried than I was. Their negativity at times made me question if I was doing the right thing for her. She is now in 5th grade. She is at the top of her class and her teachers always tell me how mature she is. I am so grateful I followed my heart and gave her the opportunity to go a little bit early. I also took my kids for 3 months and went to Chile, where I am from. (my husband is American) I wanted them to soak as much as they could from my culture. I stood back and let them form their own opinion. They loved it! The people, the food, the places we visited, everything. They beg us to take them back! Your trip is making me think about all of that. Many might think you are crazy, many will question your decision, many might worry about things you don't even think about but the important thing is that you and your husband are giving your children the opportunity of their lives! There is something fascinating about learning from other cultures and their people! I can't wait to see China through Lucy's eyes in her drawings. It seems like you have every detail taken care of, you are an amazing lady! I would love to visit the beautiful city of Shanghai and all the historic places there. Are you planing on visiting the Great Wall? I hope so. Please, share as many photographs as you can. Wishing you and your family the best time on this adventure! Hugs from Utah.

  70. I am over the moon thrilled for you and your family!!I love the quote your sister sent you…Go confidently… Horray for adventures! Good luck and try try try to send us word on your lfe there! xo

  71. Shauni, I have been reading your blog for years and just love and adore everything about you! You are such a great example of leading your family as our Heavenly Father wants you to and putting your faith in Him. I'm sorry for all the negative comments you have received on the issue of moving to China. Don't let it discourage you. Only you/Dave and Heavenly Father knows what's best for your family. Thanks for sharing your life with us! You inspire me on a daily basis!

  72. i just wanted to share that when i was a sophomore in high school my parents made a decision to move back to taiwan from the states. at the time it was incredibly hard for me to accept and took me awhile to adjust. but now as an adult i look back at the time that i spent in taiwan (3yrs of high school) and that was the most enriching time. my closest life long friends were made there and i learned so much about my culture. it was definitely a great experience and i'm so glad of it. i think your kids will thank you for it in the future. and as you were raised the same way you already know that this will be a great experience for them. i hope you will be able to blog while you guys are china, I'm looking forward to the adventure for your family!

  73. What a blast!!! And only four months! I'm pretty sure you'll just feel like you're getting started when you leave and fully expect you all to love it! We're a military family… four months is just past the hump in a MC deployment.

    I'm truly happy for you all Shawni! What wonderful time together! I hope you share your travels!

  74. Hello Shawni! My name is Anna McNair and I work at Concordia International School in Pudong, Shanghai. I teach 2nd grade and my husband is a PE teacher at the high school. He also happens to be the volleyball coach. I have been following your blog for a while (love the recipes and great ideas I get, THANK YOU). Anyway, I feel funny about writing a post to you when I don't know you BUT if you want more information about Concordia International School OR living in this little bubble of Pudong, I would be happy to help. My email address is:

    Such a small world!

  75. I just love you and your blog. Your family is bound for great things. I hope you can keep blogging in China, because yours is one that I look forward to reading every day!

  76. Annie mentioned last night that Grace said you were on your way! Thought I'd swing over here (while this baby is sleeping on my lap) and say how awesomely exciting that is! Enjoy every minute of it. (you know how jealous I am, right?)

    Love you guys … maybe a combined family trip in summer 2015 to hear all about it? 🙂

  77. I really hope you keep blogging. I would miss your posts!
    Maybe you could email one of your family members and they could post for you? If not, have an amazing time 🙂

  78. Wow, I can honestly say I think this is the BEST gift you can give to your children. I had the opportunity to live and study overseas when I was 15 and it completely changed my life. The life lessons, insight into different cultures and religions, and overall experience is something that cannot be replicated in a book or classroom. Getting out and exploring a new way of life is a blessing that many will never get to experience in this lifetime. I am not LDS, but grew up in an LDS community, and think the exposure to other religions will also be very interesting. I attended an IB school and all of my credits transferred without problem. In fact, the IB schools were so advanced that I was pretty intimidated at first, especially with their exposure to different world events and experiences, but I ended up learning a ton and was actually pretty bored when I came home 🙂 The International community is so advanced and your kids are going to meet some incredible people. Best of luck!

  79. Thank you for this post. Simply because we are looking into doing a sabbatical semester in Romania in a couple years and I know there is so much to think about regarding the kids and school, etc. I'm excited to follow along on your adventure in China!

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