Max left for China two weeks ago.
Due to the craziness of summer schedules, he had to leave early from our family togetherness for the 4th of July, played in Nationals for volleyball in Texas and then Dave plunked him on a plane destined for Shanghai where these wonderful people were waiting with open arms for him:  
(That’s Dave’s Chinese business partner and his family who came to visit us back HERE…too bad he didn’t bring his white crocs with him because it looks like they would have helped him fit right in 🙂
I can’t quite express how grateful I am for them, because I will tell you what:
THAT is not easy on a mother’s heart.
We have planned and prepared for this for years.  The plan is that we want each of our kids to have an experience to work alone abroad the summer after their junior year in high school.  Before all the college/mission craziness hits.  We have been preparing for this for a good while.  Max has been in on the plan the whole time.  He would be working for Dave’s partner over there and would learn all about getting products made in different factories and how to do quality control, etc.  He’s been nonchalant about this upcoming experience and just fine until the couple days before he left.  
Then that poor boy who never shows any emotion started to sweat a little.
And I quickly learned that having a plan in place for years doesn’t do diddly-squat to calm you down when it hits you that your barely 17-year-old is headed to a foreign country by himself.
Did I mention how incredibly grateful I was to know that he was in the good hands of those great people in that picture?  I have to say that even with knowing he was in good hands, I was pretty much in panic-mode as I thought about him constantly those first few days…where exactly was he right then, what he must be eating, how tired he must be, whether or not he remembered to bring some granola bars, how shy he would be…I worried about everything under the sun.
But one day right there near the beginning Elle looked at me wringing my hands in worry and said, “Mom, he’s going to be just fine.  I promise.”  
And for some reason that did it.  My nerves started to relax a little bit.  
We got a super homesick email from him after that.  He was jet-lagged and trying to get his bearings straight.  Those nerves tightened back up.  
But then I got this email, and I got this overwhelming feeling that all was right in the world (he told me it was ok if I shared these):  

Hey guys. 

Mom, sorry about my last email i was just feeling a lot of anxiety and homesickness. The past few days have been good. I saw an American yesterday and it felt really good. I need to talk to you guys on the phone more because I have found myself talking really bad English with an Asian accent because that is all i have been hearing for the past week. And if someone calls me Mak-es again I might go crazy. Today we went to some park like an hour and a half away to play games and build teamwork as a company. I swear if that was filmed, it would have been an Office episode. We were playing soccer and one of the guys sprained his ankle, and by the end of the day it was about as big as a grapefruit. Dad, I bet you could never guess what shoes he was wearing ;-). 

One of the workers at the park told me, “You should learn Chinese, because you are in China.” True words of wisdom. I have been thinking about them all day and I am now inspired to learn Chinese. [he’s been working his tail off with this Chinese software and working with Kevin to try to learn more]  I am getting more used to the food, but the whole warm water deal has only gotten worse and worse. Kevin and I went swimming yesterday, where he claimed that his friend can hold his breath for two hours and that a man in India once held his breath for 3 years. I will keep you guys updated.


Here’s the next one:

This weekend was pretty good. On saturday, Kevin brought me to his Ti Chi class (I have no idea how to spell it) and it was actually really cool. It was super hard and I almost had to just stop and sit down or something because I was squatting for like an hour straight! I love how Kevin is so into all the traditional Chinese ideas and stuff. Yesterday I went to church at the branch and let me tell you, it was tiny. Imagine the branch we went to in South Carolina, divide it by 2, and subtract about 5 and that is about how many people were there. It was a good experience though, being able to talk to American people and what not.  The Chinese food is so different and is really starting to get to me.  I find myself eating less and less every meal. 
Yesterday one of the employees at the office showed me around Shanghai. We went to the top of the Financial Center and saw the cool view from there, Ill send pictures on WeChat. We also went to Peoples Square and after saw a few cool night views. I feel like the time is ticking a little bit too slowly, and everyday I get more and more homesick. 
Can’t wait to be back with you guys.
Even though this one is tough, I loved his analogy.
I’m really really really really struggling. I can’t communicate with anyone, and no one can understand what I am trying to do.  NO ONE in the office can understand me. And I cannot understand what anyone is saying at all times. I’m getting really really frustrating and I can’t seem to do anything about it. Yesterday when we were running, I was thinking about this experience a lot. I thought that this experience is like running, it sucks so bad while you are doing it and it seems never-ending, but when it’s over it feels amazing and you are glad you did it. I am so glad for this opportunity and I know it sucks really bad right now but it will all be worth it in the end. 


One more:
I’ll admit, the past two or three days have been awesome! We have been visiting a lot of factories and it is so interesting to see how everything works! Yesterday, Kevin, Ted, and I picked up a client from the expo because he was interested in creating a tea drink that is all natural. He was from Singapore, so he didn’t speak Mandarin but he spoke perfect English, so the whole day I knew what everyone was talking about. We went to the beverage factory, where they bottle and make bottles for a bunch of big Chinese companies. I was able to hear all his great ideas and it was super cool! Afterwards, we went to a restaurant that the man who owns the factory also owns, with him. The day before, Kevin brought me to this awesome restaurant for lunch. I had this great big bacon burger that tasted so good. Later, Ted, another colleague and I went to the factory for the garage shelving. We checked all the products to be sure they were all ready for shipping. Afterwards, we went to a seafood restaurant, where Ted ordered me this steak, probably the best steak I have ever eaten. I hope the next week goes as good as the past couple days!
I love that so much happiness can come from food 🙂
I love this list of things Max misses that he sent me on WeChat (“Jenna” is our car):

At least I made it in before “friends.”  🙂
Here’s the last email we got last night:
ONE MORE WEEK. In exactly a week from this moment right now I will be home (or at least close). I’m starting to like it here more and more, but at the same time I’m missing home more and more. I keep having this reoccurring dream that I wake up in my own soft bed, walk into the kitchen to a glass of OJ with our ice and some Coco Puffs. Then I go beat dad in ping pong like 100 times until he begs me to go easy on him. Then I go back to bed. Today I told Kevin that I really need a haircut so I’m going to his barber tonight after work, just a heads up if you guys don’t recognize me, it will be interesting. It is so hard to do stuff for Freedom or any clothing for that matter, because they don’t seem to understand the phrases “Ask me about shoes before you order a sample” and “That is really not the Freedom style, or any style in America for that matter.” They have ordered some of the weirdest things I have ever seen. This weekend we went to Kevin’s hometown. It was awesome. I was able to meet some of Kevin’s family, his mom and his sister and her family. Although I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, I could tell they were some of the nicest people I have ever met. Kevin’s mom made us some great meals. At first sight, I thought I was going to die eating all that seafood, but they ended up being two of the best meals I have had here. They have a pretty good way of making food because all they have to do is boil everything that they catch. Everything on the table looked like it had just died. Ill send you the pictures on WeChat. Yesterday, I wasn’t able to go to church because I had to catch a train at 10 to go to Nanjing, so I just had my own church on the train. Lately I have just been opening up the scriptures and reading whatever chapter I open up to, but yesterday I started the Book of Mormon over again and got pretty far, like chapter 15 already haha. It is so interesting, especially when I am able to focus. Bill and I toured Nanjing, it was awesome. One thing I am really struggling with is Chinese. I feel like I can do great when I practice, but once someone says something to me its like everything I have learned goes away and I can’t understand anything. 
Love you guys.

We are in Salt Lake with our girls right now…sure feeling the hole he leaves when he’s gone.  This correspondence we got last night:
Kind of breaks my heart.  
Oh man I am so grateful for this boy.

And incredibly grateful for all he is learning.  

But I’m even more grateful that he only has one more week.  I cannot wait to get him back here.
Makes me wonder how in the world I will survive when he leaves for a two-year mission.
I guess it will make me just as happy to hear all he’ll be learning there as it does hearing all he’s learning in China.
I love how hard things change us for the better if we will let them.


  1. An amazing experience for sure! I would never have thought of doing that for my child. Are you planning on having all the kids go to China since that's where Dave has his business? I've never thought of this as a goal for our children, although we have thought of many others. It's getting my brain going. I also home my oldest son when he is older can have this much love for his sisters. Even now watching my kids love for one another just makes me love each one of them more and more.

  2. When Max is on his mission serving the Lord, it will be a different kind of homesick. Right now (with the exception of his family) his homesickness is for his worldly stuff…somehow the Lord takes care of that when you are in his service. What a great kid you have! What a great mom HE has! 🙂

  3. How on earth did you get a VISA for this? Does China allow foreigners to enter and work under age?

    The inside crocs would have to be brand new or only been used indoors.

  4. That last picture of your conversation made me cry! What a sweet, sweet boy! I love the amazing experiences you create for your kids, this gets my brain thinking to create opportunities like this for my kids when they are older.

  5. Those emails kill me!! I know its great for him but I also know how different China is (even for Steve)! He's growing leaps and bounds and that is awesome!

  6. What an awesome experience – I'd LOVE to do something like that for our boys. Or maybe I should say… I love the idea of it. I know it'd be hard on this mama's heart. I love the list of things Max is missing (and laughing especially at the facial hair one). I know you're so ready to hug your boy! Xo

  7. What a wonderful experience! Something I regret about college is that I never took the time to study abroad (luckily my family loves to travel). I would love to do this for my kids! Is it bad that I only have a two year old and a bun in the oven and I am already hyperventilating about the future day when they leave for school/mission or get married? I just know it goes so fast! My younger sister went to Music and the Spoken Word several weeks ago and told me that she saw you and your 'Gorgeous' daughters there. The conversation went more like, "You know that blog you follow? I saw them!" Love all you do.

  8. I studied abroad in France about a year ago, and Max's emails sound so familiar. Even when you have worked hard on a language, somehow what seems to be simple at home (being able to talk) can suddenly make you feel so helpless. What a great opportunity to get to do this now, though, in advance of a longer time away from home!

  9. There is one thing you can learn from his experience: Your daughters ought to learn more of the language if they intern as well in China.
    I also experienced how much it sucks if you don't understand a language and people use it all the time.

  10. What an awesome experience for Max! I'll admit the emails and his list made me tear up. My oldest is leaving for college in NYC next month (only 6 hours away, but still away from us)and it's getting tough for me to think about. She also wants to study abroad in a few years so that will be a new worry. Seems like you've raised a great young man, you should be very proud!

  11. What an amazing experience!! I seriously think these experiences that you set up for your children (India and China) are so amazing! Thank you for giving me a goal for my young children, it's so great to think of these things now. Good luck getting through this week!

  12. Amazing. I love his emails to you and the family. You can really see how much he loves you all. Way to go, Max! This experience is priceless.

  13. Oh my gosh. That kid and his emails made my heart swoon and break and wonder if my one-year-old will ever be so articulate, reflective, open and/or thoughtful. What an amazing boy you are raising. I'm sincerely inspired by what intentional parents you are. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I was his age when I went to the States for the first time: I was goinjg to be there for 12 months, I did not speak english, noone spoke italian and the internet was invented but not common yet!
    I make it thru! and it was the best experience of my life!

  15. I haven't read for a while you blog but I'm glad for Max! I can only imagine how hard it is for a mom to read when he's homesick but as a traveller myself (who's also been in Chine for a while and a few other countries) I can only say that he's going to miss it a bit later. All the things he's experiencing; even the bad ones, will be soooo useful and appreciated! I agree with you about encouraging them do this kind of things, I'll do the same with my own kids (in the very far future haha).

  16. What a brave guy! Solo travel is always an adventure, especially international where the language is not your own. When I was abroad all I wanted to do was learn the language perfectly so I could stop having to ask people if they spoke mine, I always felt awful doing that. Tell Max to bring home the food he's not a big fan of and I will eat it ALL 🙂

  17. Holding his breath for 3 years-that line made me LOL. As hard as this is, what an incredible experience that he will always remember. And such a neat growing experience. I wish I'd been able to do something like this when I was younger. You guys are doing wonderfully with your kids-such an inspiration! Thank you!!!

  18. I have read your blog for years and never comment but my curiosity is killing me, we live right outside of Charleston ~ where in South Carolina did y'all visit?

  19. My daughter and I chuckled as we read this post…a sympathetic chuckle as we can totally relate to everything Max was feeling. We are intentional communicators, it's what beautifies and enlivens our lives. When that ability is taken away it is frustrating and lonely! And when trying to communicate in another tongue you are forced to use simpler words that perhaps don't really convey your feelings.

    BTW, the internship after grade 10 is a very European thing and a great idea, I only wish it were longer! We sent our daughter back to the US for her's–she worked at local family magazine and they printed a piece she wrote about high school abroad. All good experiences–hard, but good!

  20. So happy to see this and to realize once again ow good hard is! Love that Max! So happy for all he learned and will continue to realize. What a great smile…and also great facial hair!

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