We have a big change coming up and I don’t know how else to explain it except for just pasting in some excerpts from an email I sent to our families to explain why in heaven’s name we are doing this crazy thing.  
It doesn’t make any sense from a practical standpoint so I will try to speak from my heart.  
We are leaving to live in China (Shanghai, to be exact) for a semester on August 26th.

Yes, that is in less than a week.

And we have five kids in various stages of sheer panic.

To be honest, their parents are pretty panicked too.

But after much deliberation, we feel like this is going to be an amazing experience for our family.

We have been trying to make this work ever since we lived there one summer seven years ago when I was pregnant with Lucy.

Well, let’s be honest, we’ve been trying to make this work ever since we got married because I’ve always had this crazy notion that has compelled me to seek out opportunities to live abroad.  I completely blame my parents on this one :).  (See some of our travel stuff back HERE.)  And if we were going to live abroad, China was really the only option because Dave can work in the China office.

So I held on to that hope.

When we were in Shanghai all those years ago we envisioned our kids going to school there and felt that it would be such an amazing thing for them.

But life just gets busy.

There are always “good” things on the horizon and each year, although China has always been on our minds, it hasn’t worked out.  Dave even gave me a semester in China as a Christmas gift one year a few years ago and had everything ready to go until some business things here in the states fizzled that grand plan.

As this year approached though, I was all too painfully aware that this is our last with Max home under our roof.  Sure, he’s not disappearing or leaving forever, but once he graduates things will change.  We don’t know if he’ll go right on a mission or do some schooling first.  We didn’t want to be gone for the end of the school year because we wanted Max to be able to graduate here and be able to make that mission decision here, etc.  So it was this semester or just keep pushing it off.  
So when Dave was over there six months ago for work he researched the schools and living arrangements. He researched business opportunities.  He weighed how he could make things grow there.  He found a school we applied for which was a huge long process with lots of communication issues but we finally got the kids accepted and started going forward with plans.
From there, we had some momentum going and felt compelled to ride with it.  It has been a whirlwind of trying to figure things out.  There are so many wonderful things we are saying “no” to in leaving.  It makes me tear up to even think about them.  My little sister is getting married in October. She’s been up in the air on this for a long time, I cannot believe the timing finally worked out for her and us at the same time.  There’s also moving out of our new home that we have stressed over for the last two years.  Dave and I have been in stress/panic mode for what seems like those whole two years.  Building a home is not one of our fortes.  But man oh man we love this place and we are finally starting to unwind from all the craziness.  Part of me just yearns to be here and slow down and soak it all in.  To actually be able to get to know people in our neighborhood and get more involved in church. There is so much I want to do and become and learn!  I want to gather my family around the Christmas tree here and bask in the spirit of the whole holiday season being HOME.  (We were gone last year to Mexico back HERE which we wouldn’t trade for the world BTW, and this will possibly be Max’s last Christmas at home.)  
My heart has been literally sick with worry and we have come across so many road blocks Dave and I both kept wondering if we were just forcing this thing.  Poor Elle’s face has made me want to turn back over and over again.  If I thought I might die when my family moved to England when I was a Freshman, I can only imagine what her heart is going through.  She just turned 16.  She is the youngest of her friends and has watched them go to dances and date with great anticipation for the last year (we don’t date until we’re 16 in our family).  It’s finally her time!  People are starting to talk about Homecoming.  I am trying to be strong and tell her how great this will be but in my heart I am dying for her.  I gave her a surprise party on her birthday (with the help of friends, Dave was in China, poor guy) and she was so surprised it was so funny…more about that later.  But as I watched her surrounded by great friends my heart ached for her.  I know it sounds dumb but talking to Dave on the phone about it all the next day made me start bawling.  It was the “ugly cry” kind of bawling.  I couldn’t even talk I was sobbing so hard.  (Part of that was because I was SOOOO tired, but still….)  I totally know that in the big scheme of things, who cares about some dances and dates.  Honestly.  But I was HER years ago.  I was that high school girl who would have died if my parents announced we were going to China for my Junior year.
Then there’s Max. Taking him away from club volleyball is a pretty crazy move.  That’s where kids get recruited for college.  And I haven’t really realized how good Max is.  I mean, he’s not out-of-this-world, but he’s tall and teachable which makes him a precious player.  He has had letters of recruitment from quite a few small colleges and one bigger one and club season senior year is when you finalize things like that.  Not only are we worried about him missing out on recruitment and the opportunities surrounding that, but he’s worried about keeping up on his skills.  We had planned on having him play for the international school he will be attending in China but I happened to talk to the athletic director at the school on my way out of the principal’s office last week (letting her know what’s going on) and he let me know both Max and Elle won’t be eligible for their sports back here if they play sports for that school.  I about died but we will work something out.  It’s Max’s senior year.  That is a really tricky thing to pull a kid away from.  He’s being such a good sport but I know he is right in the same boat with Elle (agony and woe).
Grace and Claire are nervously excited and Lucy is dying because she was planning on getting baptized on the same date with one of her friends in October.  I can hardly even get started on the worries I have with her aside from social issues.  We have been scrambling from doctor to doctor (with all the kids, but mostly with Lucy) and my heart has been sinking with every one.  She is down to 5% central vision her peripheral vision is so off which is making her trip and fall more, her foot pronation is getting worse and we are rushing to try to get an orthotic to help with that, she and Claire both have UTIs which makes me worry about kidney issues that are so prevalent with BBS kids, and there are no special services for kids with disabilities in China.  It is going to take a lot of work to keep her on grade level.
I could go on and on with the cons.  There are many, many, many of them.  Each time a new issue comes up Dave and I figure that we’re kind of forcing it.
But the answer is that we ARE forcing it.  There’s no other way to make it work.  Despite all the craziness swirling around, we still feel like it is right for our family.  We love where we live and are so incredibly grateful for this safe, good place.  So grateful we get to raise our kids here among so many other valiant youth.  But it makes me crave opportunities like this where there is so much diversity.  We know it will give us all an invaluable experience we will never forget.  We want these kids to know there’s so much life out there.  So much beauty.  So many real people doing all kinds of different unique things.  We want them to struggle.  We want US to struggle TOGETHER. 
As I have wrestled with the decision of what is “right” or what is “wrong” for us as a family in our journey I have been confused and worried.  Dave and I have fasted and prayed our guts out. I kept waiting for some sort of clarity but just felt foggy.  A big part of me just wanted to forget it all and just calm down about all these crazy notions.  I kept wondering if I was just trying too hard to make my dream into Dave and my family’s dream.

Was it really a worthy desire?

Am I really completely crazy?

Should I be mad or glad that my mom and dad raised me this way?  ha!

I just couldn’t figure it out.  Until the other day when I was trying to finish the Book of Mormon (I’ve been trying to keep up with Elle who had to finish by her birthday to get her personal progress award and I wanted to do it with her), I was listening to Ether 12.  Oh man, that is such a beautiful chapter.  I don’t remember any exact words (I couldn’t write anything down because I was scrambling to whip up some texas sheet cakes for the surprise party that night), but I had a distinct incredibly peaceful feeling as the reader went on and on about the power of faith.

I realized I need more of it.

I don’t know if the words “strong and enlightened” are even in that chapter, but they kept running through my mind over and over again.  I want our family to be strong and enlightened.

Sure, we could become that way staying here.

I could clear out the clutter in my brain and we could do the things I am committed to do in China (read, write, and build our spirits).  We have so much growing to do here!  But if we can do that in China and it works out with Dave’s work, how amazingly lucky are we?  I just felt this overwhelming blanket over me calming my nerves and telling me it is a righteous desire and I just need to have faith to make it work.  

So, my dear husband who is well aware of how crazy I am, is totally supportive.  And he’s getting excited πŸ™‚ He is the best.  He is worried because he’s an even bigger worrier than I am by nature, but he is up for the adventure and is going for it.  Now that is true love.

I don’t know how we will make a lot of things work.  There is still so much up in the air.  But we are starting to pack and we feel really, really great about it.

(That is two-year-old Claire.)
I’m so sorry this is so long.  Just wanted to let you in on the scoop.  It’s kind of a huge deal for our family with so many moving parts.

And it is crazy.

And that jubilant wedding of my sister’s is always in the back of my mind beckoning me to stay.  But I just feel like somehow it will all work out.  I don’t know how, but it will.

When I wrote to my family about our decision, my sister sent me this quote:

“Go Confidently in the Direction of your Dreams, Live the Life you have Imagined”

And THAT is what we are doing.

I have no idea what kind of blogging I will be able to do there.  I know you can’t read blogs there, everything is highly censored by the government.  But I hope there is some way I’ll be able to keep a record here.  Because I’d love to bring you all along πŸ™‚

Love, Shawni


  1. You are a great momma and your kiddos with thank you for all the meaningful experiences you are providing to them. Made me think of this…
    "Life is not just the passing of time. Life is the collection of experiences and their intensity." — Jim Rohn

    Best wishes and safe travels! I sure hope you'll be able to blog so we can follow along! πŸ™‚

  2. Wow! What great news!
    I would love to be able to do something like this when I have chikdren in the future!
    I hope we'll be able to tag along on your adventure in China via your blog.
    One practical question: Will you be able to rent out your house in the US?

  3. I was JUST thinking about Max's trip to China and feeling like there was more to his story that we didn't hear. What a wonderful opportunity for your family! They may not thank you now, but they will later on, for providing such amazing experiences for them.

  4. Wow, what an exciting – & scary – adventure!

    I hope you'll continue with your blog, I'd miss you.

    Will you be returning to the states in October for Charity & the boy's wedding?

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

    P.S. How long is a semester, is it a year?

  5. I never usually comment on your posts but reading this, I can't even grasp how hard this will be for your family (rewarding too no doubt, but nonetheless, hard).

    From watching exchange program videos online, most exchange students who enjoy and are able to immerse themselves in another culture say that the experience is much better if you know the basics of the language. It is incredibly hard and extremely irritating to not be able to understand and communicate with those around you. If you're able to speak some of the language you can get to know the motives and reasons why things are done a certain way or how things are perceived a certain way even though it may seem stupid or doesn't make sense to the western world.

    Anyway, just thought I'd add my 2c but I am just stranger on the internet so take nothing to heart.

  6. Hey, you have probably already talked to people in the branch there, but in case you need another contact, I have a friend (my husband's former mission companion) who lives in China with his wife and three kids–they're American, and have lived in one city for the past 4 or 5 years where he's been the branch president, and now they're moving to Shanghai. I'm sure you'll meet him, his name's Steven and his wife's name is Annie. If you want to contact them, I'd sure hook you up. But like I said, I'm sure you have plenty of contacts already.

    Anyway, have fun! I actually like it a LOT when you talk about the benefits of living abroad, because I do at the moment with my family, and it helps me focus on the good, instead of looking at the hard stuff. So thanks! Best wishes!

  7. WOW!!!!! You are truly one of the bravest people I know (but don't really know…ha ha ha).

    It will be a wonderful experience for your family. Challenging but definitely one that will make a huge impact in their lives. We have neighbors that were transferred to Beijing a few years ago and were there for about 3 years. They were able to experience so much.

    I will be excited to read about your adventures. Tell your kids how brave they are too πŸ˜‰

  8. My parents are leaving in just 5 days to live in China for a year! I am so excited for their new adventure. I think there are so many wonderful opportunities in going, that any regret you will have will be over shadowed by the wonderful new experiences you will get to have! Good luck and be safe!

  9. My sister-in-law and her family have lived in Shanghai for five years and they love it. My brother-in-law is a Branch President there and their son loves the school he goes to. Good luck!!!

  10. holy moly!!!!!
    ok first, can u sneak back some babies for me πŸ™‚
    it will b a great opportunity, and life changing, my heart does feel for elle and max, but seriously what a once in s life opportunity, take it, run with it!!!
    I loved loved the quote from charity!!!

  11. This is so amazing and brave. My youngest two are adopted from China and we have dreamed of going to China and immersing ourselves in the culture.

    Ironically, the last time I really blogged was two years ago from China when I took two of my kids to work in an orphanage for a week. I installed the blogger app on my ipad and I was able to post in that way. I also know people who have used a vpn (??) card to bypass the chinese filters. I only share this because I would love to follow this adventure on your blog. Good luck.

  12. What a wonderful adventure for your family πŸ™‚ I think it is an experience that will only bring you closer together!!
    Hopefully you will be able to still blog. You bring so much inspiration with your love of family, motherhood and the gospel. May you have the adventure of a life time πŸ™‚

  13. Like you said its YOUR dream and your dream only and you are lucky to have a husband to support it…hope it works out. It seems you've run out of time to fulfill it and it's now or never…you are so brave to go for it, truly!

  14. Thank you for sharing so much of your heart with readers who don't always really know you. I hope you have a great adventure and will post updates. πŸ™‚

  15. God always gives HIS BEST to those that leave the choice to HIM.

    You've got this, Shawni!

    I used a proxy to keep up my blog while I was in China, but I didn't feel right about breaking the law to do it! So I found WEEBLY!

    As you know, China's internet is a strange place because the internet is censored by the government there. They block Facebook. And Blogspot. And Blogger. And Twitter. And YouTube. And the New York Times. But not weebly. Not yet, at least! So check it out! We would all love to follow along on your Chinese adventures!

    Praying for you all!

  16. Shawni, I've been reading for a while and I've noticed how committed you are to how things SHOULD be. You SHOULD go on family road trips (even if they're not right for Dave and Lucy), you SHOULD stay up late doing house stuff even if you're really sick and tired, Max SHOULD go to China for an "internship" even if that means missing family reunion and other things he needs and loves. Maybe it's time to give up the vision you've always had of how it SHOULD be and go with how it is. Bloom where you're planted. Do the best thing for Max, Elle, and Lucy (who I'm sure needs to keep up with her therapies and needs stability) instead of what you always though you SHOULD do.

  17. What an adventure!
    This brought tears to my eyes. How brave and courageous you are for trusting your gut. This is a chance of a lifetime that I'm sure you will not regret. If you had not gone, would you hae regretted your decision – I would.
    Soak in every moment!!

  18. As a kid about Max and Elle's age (17-years-old) I totally understand where they are coming from. My mom moved my brother, sister, and me to a different state last year, right before my junior year. I was beyond upset and couldn't imagine leaving my friends and family behind. The first couple of weeks were rocky but today I can't imagine living anywhere else. I have made so many new friends and memories where I am currently living. Yes, I miss my old town. Yes, there are moments where I still wish we were living there. But my family moving here was meant to be. Give them a couple weeks and they'll start to flourish.

  19. Wow! So happy for you and for the experiences this will give your family. Your children are absolutely amazing to be able to do this and leave their life behind for a little bit. Can't wait to hear how it all goes!

  20. No one can decide what is best for your family except for you and your family. However, I can't help but hurt for your kids having to sacrifice for what you believe should happen in life. I know that we should all sacrifice in life, but having them give up part of their senior year, possibly missing out on scholarships and other opportunities, is it really worth it? You seem to have them going all over the planet on trips all the time anyway, why make them miss part of what is important to them? I hope this doesn't seem like I am passing judgement, I am not, to each their own. I just can't help but feel for kids having to give up so much for what you feel you should do and that they should do, even if it may not be their dream too.

  21. So…you don't know me – I'm just one of those blog stalkers that found you from some other blog and thought you are such a fun family! So I've looked at your blog here and there over the past several months, mostly when I get bored at work and need something to entertain me for a few minutes. πŸ™‚

    My husband and I are LDS and live in Utah, but about 2 years ago lived in China for 6 months with his job. You can see some of our adventures on our blog (mattandcarolineklein.blogspot.com), but really I never update that thing, and only did a handful of times when we were living there. Now I'm just rambling…

    Anyway, what I really wanted to tell you was that to get on your favorite websites that are banned in China (Facebook, Blogs, etc.) you just need to buy a VPN. I think my husband bought ours for, probably $60 or so (under $100 for sure, and we used it on multiple computers and our iPads too). You just connect to the internet, then connect to the VPN, then you can look at anything on the internet. I'm not a tech person, but it just makes it so your internet connection (or IPN or whatever) is routed through one of the major cities here in the U.S. It's super easy to use once you get it set up on your computer. I can ask my husband who he bought our VPN through if you are curious.

    It looks like you have lots of friends and connections that know people that live in China, but if you have any questions or need an additional resource, I'm happy to help! We didn't live in Shanghai, we lived in Xiamen down in the southeast, but we have a friend that have lived in Shanghai for years and loved it! (we visited them too, and it was a blast. we loved the branch there too).

    Best of luck as you embark on your newest adventure!!! Your family will love it!! Let me know if you need anything! caroline.bosley@gmail.com

  22. OK – I agree with the two people who don't think you should do it. I've been reading for a while too, and this is (has been) YOUR dream.

    Max and Elle's last year(s) of high school will be totally messed up by this. Lucy is upset. Charity is getting married (although obviously money has never been an issue with you so I'm sure you'll all travel back for the wedding).

    I think it's a cool idea and would be fun and fulfilling – FOR YOU. Why not wait until both Max and Elle have graduated and gone on to college, missions, whatever. Then take the younger kids with you. Or better yet, just dream about it like the rest of us do, and get back to reality with your family.

    It's almost like you are forcing all these great "experiences" on them so they will be fulfilled and better off in the future. What about now? What's best for everyone NOW?

  23. Shawni, we just adopted a little girl from China and while over there we used a VPN . They cost $10 a month and yo will be able to access your blog, Facebook, and email. Panda Pow and VPN express are two of the companies. I would get both and then cancel the one you don't use. Sometimes one does not work. Have fun! Kelleyn

  24. I get it now. "IWAN" is in play. You are going to cry and beg poor Dave for a Chinese baby – I bet you will come home with one. Not what you need by a long shot, but I get it now.

  25. Well, I was just going to say "How exciting! Great luck on this new family adventure." Then I read a few of the other comments and wanted to add some additional thoughts. I moved to a new high school my senior year, and my mom heard all about how it would ruin my life. It didn't. I met amazing people and kept up with my old friends, and it all worked out. Of course, with all of you, it will only be one semester and not the entire year; so, even better! Those folks telling you to dream and not do and to focus on the now and not plan for you kids' future make me sad. I hope we are teaching our children vision and hope and doing and hard work and the concept that there is often struggle before a good result. You inspire me. One last note: I love that you do all you can for Lucy and don't force her to live a limited life defined solely by her challenges. Many, many happy wishes for your family.

  26. I never comment on here but I've been reading for a few years. I come here to be enlightened, encouraged on the path of motherhood and womanhood, and enjoy. I too have embarked on a different adventure with my family in moving. Not a move like yours, Utah to Wahsington, but it's been a struggle. Sometimes I'm not sure why cause the list of cons is pretty long. But the list of pros is great dispite the shortness. Can't explain, but I think you understand. Anyway, I appreciate this post, right now, where I am at. And the quote. Perfect. Good luck. I hope you can some how document and then share later.

  27. This is amazing opportunity you are able to give your family. It will serve to give them a greater understanding of other people and other cultures, as well as of themselves.

    I'm saddened to read the comments from people that think missing high school dances and high school moments are more significant than an opportunity to explore the world, meet other people outside of your circle, and learn about things outside of yourself.

    Very few people look back on high school or middle school with any kind of significant remembrance.

  28. Traveling is the best kind of education and to be able to do that as a family is a complete gift! I don't know very much about the American school system, but I am sure it will all work out if it's meant to for your older kids.

    I went on exchange in grade 11 (by myself) to Germany and I was terrified to leave my friends and family behind. As it turns out, that experience was one of the greatest things for me…and I still won scholarships and graduated high school and went to University. Your kids will be FINE and your family will flourish during this incredible experience. I hope you can keep up your blog while you're away!!

  29. My brother and sister-in-law live in Shanghai, China and they LOVE it. They love it over there. If you need any advice, I can definitely give you their contact information πŸ™‚

  30. I think this is an amazing decision and experience you are making. They may be nervous and sure they miss out on things right now and it will be hard to see the big picture until later but I know your kids will thank you down the road for giving them this chance of a lifetime. What a gift that you are giving them and I think it's incredible that you are fighting for what you feel is right for YOUR family in your heart. Have safe travels and a wonderful but yes at times hard experience. My husband has the same dream as yours and down the road may have an opportunity to teach at the University of Seoul for a semester. Seeing your bravery in doing this gives me the courage to maybe consider moving our family for a semester to to the same someday.

    Best of luck!

  31. Okay I'll say it. Why on earth did you just build a new house? Wasn't it built to be a teen hangout? Two teens will be gone in 20 months.

    I hope the high school kids can get their credits in. I hope that the school can accomodate Lucy.

    You will be able to get western care in China.

    England is totally different. I'm sure there is some language confusion but both countries essentially speak English. China is another story entirely. Unless you are in a western gated area and then what is the point? I would not put the kids in Chinese school. Things like corporal punishment are different there. This is Max's fifth home in his life. And his parents are not in the service.

    I did not like the smuggle back babies comment from a poster. I'm a little sensitive since I adopted a boy from China. The human trafficking is excessive and serious there.

    I would think it you wanted to give the kids real world not entitled experiences they would be chosing between sports and a part time job through the entire school year employed by someone not related to them. Instead you are just making they sure perform at their tasks so you can fairly give them your money, since you have five kids you need a system. And you have taught them to be non materialistic. You have also taught them not to be lazy. There is was more to entitlement than that.

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

    Maybe I just can't relate?

  32. Wow! This must have been a tough decision to make. With all the cons listed in your blog, I can see and even feel the struggle you and your kids are going through. Dave is a supporter – same like Max – I don't think they would ever object. Why don't you let them chose? They are old enough, right?
    Looking back to my life, I would have loved to go on such an amazing trip with my whole family. I would love to do trips or even reunions right now. We don't have that strong family connection as you have. maybe that's a reason why I don't understand how in the world you could force this on almost adults. We always make everyone make their own decisions. Since I am not a Mormon, I don't know if this is part of your religion. Anyway, I think everything as pros and cons and I am sure YOY will have the best time of your life. Don't be disappointed if the others don't though.

    Best, Sabine

  33. Ooof. Is there a way you can leave Max and Elle behind so they can enjoy the high school experience that they so badly want? They've been to India. Max was in China. You all built a house in Mexico, and they will be on their missions soon. That's a lot of international experiences in the last 3 years.

  34. Dear Shawni, I hope and pray that you can remain focused on the knowledge that only you, your husband and the Lord knows what's right for your family. The random people so freely judging and giving advice today have no stewardship over you or your children. I have faith that Heavenly Father will continue to bless you and guide you. I hope you will focus on that thought today rather than be swayed by the negativity and judgment here. Have a wonderful adventure and I hope you figure out the tech stuff so we can still follow your sweet family. xoxo

  35. I have been reading for a couple of years but don't think I've ever commented. Some of the above comments make me feel the need to. I think you are super brave to share this knowing many will judge and not understand. I think that so often when you choose the hard, it is disconcerting to others and makes them uncomfortable for you and your kids. We chose to send our child to the worst school in town on purpose, despite us having access to a free and amazing private education. It dumbfounded people and we heard many judgemental, hurtful comments about how we were messing up our kid and "throwing him to the wolves". We had a list of cons a mile long like you, but also very clear direction from The Lord that this was the right thing for our family at the time. What made us more uncomfortable than sending him to a school surrounded by people completely unlike him in socio economic status, language, religion etc was sending him to a school surrounded by others exactly like him ( the private school). It was an incredibly hard and painful year in some ways but it was also filled with growth and so much learning for us as a family. Long story short, we left after one year and he was put into one of the best schools in town ( not of our choice, the only one that had a spot for him). It is a comfortable place for us, where most people think at least somewhat like us and even though there is diversity of skin color and faith, I really miss his old school and how much we didn't fit in there and how much that grew us to think outside the box. We were the only parent helpers in his old school and this new one has a wait list! All that to say, it was so hard to do it when others around us were questioning us, but it was the right thing for our family at the time, even though it made no logical sense. In our family, one of our mottos is that " we do hard things" as I so want my kids to grasp that in choosing the hard, we often reap great rewards that we wouldn't have experienced had we chosen the comfortable or easy way. No one but you and your spouse can decide what's "right" for your family but I just wanted to try to offer some encouragement amidst all the tough comments. I'm eager to read about your journey!

  36. Such an amazing experience for your family! Hopefully you'll be able to blog and share your experiences while you're over there. I can only imagine what beautiful photos you'll have to share. One day I hope to be able to something similar with my family…Best of luck!

  37. To those trying to "diagnose" this blog's author, stop it. You may read her blog every day and feel like you know her and her family. You don't. Why you feel the need to write such judgmental, speculative comments escapes reason. Clearly, you wouldn't make this choice. Guess what? Neither would I. But because I enjoy reading this blog and learning great things from Shawni and her family, I support them and wish them well. Any regular reader should do the same. If you feel the need to add your unsolicited criticism, then you're reading this blog for the wrong reasons.

  38. I am an avid follower of your blog and I've never commented before but today, I feel the need to do so. I am incredibly in awe of you for so many reasons – but mostly because of how you intentionally parent your children – how you and Dave parent your children together. I have no doubt that this was not an 'on the whim' decision but rather one that you agonized over and prayed about for some time. I am in complete shock that people who don't even know you feel the need to voice negative opinions or question your decisions. No where in your post did you say 'well, what do you think blog readers who don't know me or my family?' This decision cannot be compared to ones where you ask for input on hardwood floors or paint color – this is your family – your decision. Geesh people. Remember the golden rule? If you can't say something nice? I know this will be hard – but it will be hard for everyone and I know that your already strong family will be even stronger – you will pull together and do this and while they may not thank you now, or next week, your children will thank you for the experiences that you are giving them – experiences to not only grow spirtually and emotionally but experiences as a family. God bless you Shawni – looking forward to hearing the updates.

  39. Kimberly, good point. That is a lot of travel in the last 2 years. India was just last summer. And her older kids lived in China when she was pregnant with the last one. They have done this before. They have lived on the east coast, the southwest and China already. That is a lot of experience, Couldn't they stay with her brother? Or her brother stay in the family home with the two oldest? Or they go live with any number of his siblings who live there? There are a lot of choices for that to work. Still have no idea how they got a visa for max to work in china this summer?

  40. I'm pretty sure she didn't post this to get people's opinions, I think their decision has been made.

    Shawni you and Dave are wonderful parents and I'm sure this will be a phenomenal experience for your kids. We can teach them to do hard things in lots of ways, this will be hard but oh so worth it I'm sure.

  41. This is so amazing and you, as a family, are so brave. This is such an incredible experience. I wish you the best of luck and hopefully, you can keep us updated on your journey!!

  42. Have a wonderful semester! My aunt and uncle up and moved to Ghana when their last two children were a senior and a sophomore. No one died, everyone learned, and high school is over rated even half way across the world. Again I say, have a wonderful trip.

  43. Okay, I can't let this go.

    Shawni, you are an amazing mom and you and Dave are incredible parents.

    Living abroad is an amazing, invaluable experience for growth an possibility. I am thankful everyday for the lessons living abroad with my family taught me about living and appreciating people and cultures. I love the confidence I gained from knowing I could adapt anywhere.

    This is going to be an awesome, irreplaceable, invaluable experience. Sure, there are a ton of concerns, but those very concerns, may bring the exact struggles you all need for growth. Besides, at any moment, you can change it if you have to; planes make that possible.

    So, all of this to say, why do people think they get to opine on your decisions or rationale? Ignore them all. Their issues are more about them, than you. And what you do, is none of their business.
    Go soak up experience and never look back.

    I am so excited for you and your family. I love Asia! I would come with you in a heartbeat!

  44. Wow! I am blown away with a few of the people who have such strong opinions about you and your family. So ridiculous! This is going to be such an amazing opportunity and if you guys feel right about it, go for it! I have LOVED your blog and have implemented so many of your wonderful ideas in my own family. I appreciate you sharing such a personal part of your life with all of us. Please don't stop just because some people make themselves feel better by having strong opinions about things that have absolutely nothing to do with them. Some people just like to have something to say, ya know what I mean?:) Good luck! I know you guys will make the right decision for your family:)

  45. Wow! What a fabulous experience for you and your family!
    I am laughing at some of the comments… I love how people think that they can speculate someone's motives for doing something!
    Hope we are able to follow along on your journey, I wish I would have done something like this with my kids and husband!

  46. KMS, I didn't mean to trivialize this. Who knows what has been in the works behind the scenes. And money talks, so maybe some strings have been pulled. I don't know that much about it and you obviously do, so I may be wrong.

    Maybe they won't be bringing one home, but I bet they visit some orphanages and I bet it's something they consider.

    Might not be such a bad thing, because if they ever do settle down into their new home it would be a great place for a child to grow up.

  47. I am 18 and can't even imagine moving to China for half a school year, but HOLY COW that will be awesome. I definitely know I am sheltered here in Utah, and think your family is amazing. This experience will be so exciting and i can't wait to read and hear all about it. Good luck πŸ™‚

  48. Shawni, anyone who reads this blog knows your children are always first and foremost in your mind and in every decision you and Dave make. We don't "know" you, therefore, have no right to call you out on YOUR blog as right or wrong. You are giving your children an amazing experience that most will never have. Missing a semester of life in the states is not detrimental to them. Take this time to put aside all the noise of life here and spend quality time with your family. That's what it boils down to. Ignore the naysyers. They have no business judging you! Best wishes to you and your sweet family!!

  49. I forget not everyone knows the process. To adopt they would need permission from the US gov to bring in an orphan, prove that to China the child would be approved for VISA and citizenship, not meet the child before matching, not interact with any caregivers before match and only through the china center for families. I forget their new name. They can't adopt a child they meet in an orphanage. It's against the treaty. Yes there is a treaty. Any funny business and the USA won't allow the child into the country. They would also need proof they are not on any registries for child abuse for every country they lived in from age 18 on. They would need to submit to fingerprinting in the states at immigration of their own selves and FBI fingerprints as well. People have been on the list for healthy children since 2006. Special needs is faster at the moment. If they had adopted this living experience would be awesome.

  50. I was also going to say to get a proxy server (VPN). My husband and I lived in China the year after we graduated college and it was a lifesaver. My blog was much better updated there than it was here in the US! I have been reading your blog for years and I so appreciate everything you share. I have one two-year-old at this point and I am so thankful for your parenting insights.

  51. I really don't like the vitriol in some people's comments. (Ahem…you know who I'm talking about).

    When I first read this and read all the cons I thought, "well, that is something I would never do." I do think there is something to what Jenny (also) and jsurry said. But, you get to do what you want to do. And it's clear you have agonized over this and thought about it SO much, and you want to do what's best for your family.

    Then, I read some of the more negative and disparaging comments, and I thought, "whoa people…this is a semester. Isn't that like, 3 months, maybe 4 months? that's NOTHING in the grand scheme of life." (Life is Long:) I also thought about how, unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I'm not in touch with anyone I went to high school with anymore. It sounds like Max and Elle have great friends, but those friends will be there when they get back. There may be a few dances missed, and there may be some friendships that change, but that's all at the cost of having lived abroad for several months, which is so enriching. I thought about studying abroad in college and how much that broadened my horizons, and how I ended up living abroad after college and now use French in my job in NYC. There's SO much to be gained from an international experience.

    Anyway, long winded, but this will be something your family will never forget doing together, and I highly doubt you'll regret going. Best of luck & hope the blog is able to continue!!!

  52. I'm a long time reader of this blog and first time commenter. Just wanted to say I totally relate to the idea of 'forcing' things even when so many hurdles arise. I am from a family of 5 children and we would have never done anything or gone anywhere without some 'forcing' on my parents' behalf (not that Max and Elle's concerns aren't totally valid). The reality is there will never be a perfect time for everyone and yet it will be such a fantastic experience for the whole family to share together.

    Also, not sure how college applications work in the US as I'm from the UK, but won't this be a great thing for Max and Elle to write about in their applications/talk about in future job interviews?

    I think it's amazing and good luck to you all, can't wait to hear about all your experiences out there!

  53. "Spirit lead me where my faith is without borders" is a line in one of my favorite songs right now. God will lead and provide for your family wherever you are. If anything, this experience will help grow your faith and trust in Him. Best of luck with the trip-you will treasure this special time with your family forever!

  54. Charlotte. Each state requires a certain number of credits and those credits taken in a certain order. Some schools require 24 credits, some 27 to graduate. And then college may have requirements beyond that as to which specific classes need to be taken. I would imagine they worked it out. If they are missing Xmas then they are coming back a full four months. A semester is 16 weeks. A year is 32 weeks. But breaks aren't included in those weeks. The semester should end sometimes in January. What is complicated is they have a early start. With the second semester already start when they get back? Will they get enough days in those classes for them to get to credit for the next semester? If you are absent for too long in some districts you won't get credit. Heck some families going over for adoption don't take high school age children cause the two weeks they would be gone is too long for most districts to work around, even giving the kids work to so while on the trip. They must be in class for instruction and take the tests on time.

  55. Arguing with a fool only proves there are two!

    Jealousy is so UGLY, isn't it?!

    Shawni, you and your family are loved & respected!

    "Let your haters be your motivators" as my Grandma always says!

    Safe travels!!! Go Confidently in the Direction of your Dreams, Live the Life you have Imagined!

  56. It's never a perfect time to get married. It's never the perfect time to have kids. It's never the perfect time to live in China. But we do those things because we have faith and can see the larger picture. Don't forget that the Spirit helped you make this decision. Others can judge but only you and Dave receive revelation for your family. I think it's brave and awesome and semester that your kids will remember forever.

  57. Wow! I am shocked at how negative people are. Many prayers for your amazing family. This will be a fabulous bonding experience that will build great confidence and character! High School is not the end of the world, they will all be so thankful when this short time is over.

  58. Why am I crying? A long time reader and as someone who admires the way you mother and your relationship with your family, I am happy for you. I cant imagine making that decision, because I am not a decision maker. I know you will be teaching you children things that they will never forget. I wish you safe travels and I can not wait to hear of your adventures.

  59. What the heck?!? I came to the comment section to wish you good luck and got sucked in by the ridiculous attacks. Not just ridiculous, asinine.

    While you have opened up your life for observation to strangers by having this blog you did not invite them to run your life or even opine on how you should run it. I am SO sorry people think they have the right to do that or to diagnose you with some mental disorder. Good grief!

    I just wanted you to know that I was touched by your openness. I felt the agony of this decision in your writing. I see all the reasons that this isn't a good time but I, like you, also yearn for my children to experience life outside their bubble. I think it takes great courage to live beyond the expectations of the norm.

    Best of luck as you pursue this adventure in your grander scheme of creating children who are contributors to the world.

  60. Oh Shawni, I don't even know you personally but my heart is aching for you over the attacks that some people feel the need to throw at you. We talk to our children about not being bullies to other kids, but there are a few repeat offenders who comment on this blog who are adult bullies. You know who you are. STOP IT.

    I'll admit when I read your cons list of going to China my heart hurt a little for your older kids. But even without knowing you personally, I know that you are a woman of great faith who converses with her Father in heaven a great deal. This decision was not made in haste.

    I do hope that you can get the technology figured out over there because your blog has taught me more than any other blog that I read.

  61. I am so excited for you! We moved to Angola 2 years ago for a 3 year assignment and I had many of the same reservations as you, though my children are younger… My youngest wouldn't be receiving regular speech in the new location, and many family member wishing we wouldn't leve them. We also knew by leaving we would miss many baby blessings, weddings and other evens, but we did it anyway! My daughters have blossomed in their new environment and have really developed. Besides which I love that my daughters talk about far reaching places as though they are easily visits and they have friends froma round the world. When we moved we had a FHE about the quote you talked about on your blog, "we do hard things" and we framed the quote and it sits in our living room. Things are hard, people are stretched out of comfort zones and times aren't always fabulous and wonderful, but oh, man, we wouldn't change this experience for anything! Good luck to you all and enjoy this adventure, despite what people are saying!

  62. Holy Cow!! How exciting! I am just in awe of you and your sweet husband. The thought and love you have put into raising these children is inspiring! And you know what, sometimes the right thing seems INSANE but the blessings that come from it are priceless and can be life changing! You are close to the spirit you know what is right for your family! Can not wait to see what time and experience has in store for your family!! God bless you Shawnie for being so inspiring to me and to mothers and women everywhere! Your life that you have shared with us is full of light and joy! What a treasure to of had your blog to read on hard days while in the trenches or difficult days of parental decision making! You have been an unmeasurable resource of good to me. My family has been blessed by your efforts you make to have this blog. God Be With You Till We Meet Again in the blog world! Until then Hope On, Journey On Friend!

  63. How wonderful! It's difficult now but just imagine how much this will change an alter all of your lives.

    Concerning being able to blog, please check out subscribing to a VPN blocker. I have used Lamnia. It is about $10-15 a month and re-routes your VPN country code to another country of your choice (allowing you to access whatever you are able to access online in the country you are re-routing to). It's worth checking out : )

  64. I don't think she is doing this because God called her to do this. He will keep the family whether they stay or go.

    I admit I will be reading. A virtual vacation for the rest of us.

    I think hard for her would be to remain in AZ for an entire year with the exception of the Bear Lake reunion. That would be hard. And impractical with 8 siblings on each side living in at least 8 other states. In a 14 month period she will have been in China, Mexico,Bali, India and several states.

    Safe travels. Good luck.

  65. I would love for this to be an open forum for comments, but I had to go through and erase a couple of those zingers.

    Please feel free to disagree…that's what makes the world go around. But please be civil.

    Thanks for all the sweet support.

  66. this is.Shawnis family record, that she.chooses to.share with us all..
    she never asked.for opinions on this matter, she was sharing her story, no one has a right to "question her on it"..quite Frankly,.it's none of your business!

  67. Shawni,

    I graduated high school a short 4 years ago. Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively and experience what it is like to live in other parts of the world. Having experienced both and still being young enough to remember what it was like at their age (Max & Elle)- the experiences they will get living abroad at this age (and in China, nonetheless!) will be so much more valuable than any high school dance, dating, or scholarships (given you will likely be able to pay for his schooling).

    Life is all about sacrifices. I think down the road Max & Elle will be grateful you made the decision to make this sacrifice for such a short time giving you all so much in return.

    You aren't being selfish. You are doing this because you know that "doing HARD things" will bring to them the fulfillment, experiences, and confidence they otherwise wouldn't be able to get here.

    I wish you all the best of luck!


  68. I have read every single one of the comments that were posted, with the exception of the ones that were deleted before I got here. Having open comments does, in effect, invite others to give their opinion. To lambaste some for disagreeing with the blogger is a form of bullying. You are saying "if you aren't one of her cheerleaders, you don't belong here." You can support Shawni without criticizing others. Let's not gang up on those that have an opinion different from your own. Isn't that a form of judging?

  69. What an amazing experience you and your family have ahead of you. I'll keep you and your beautiful family in my thoughts and prayers.

    I'll also keep those who think its their job to judge you in my prayers. Unfortunately they took your openness and vulnerability, and used it against you.

    For those concerned about Lucy, they should think about the flip side of their negative comments. Lucy may loose her vision. How amazing that she will be able to see and experience a different culture, with her own eyes and her siblings will all be by her side. What a blessing!

    God bless your precious family!

  70. Thank You LauraB!

    I have commented lots of times over the past 3 or 4 years I've been reading Shawni's blog. Sometimes I agree with her and express that in my comments.

    Sometimes I don't agree and express that as well. I was not rude to Shawni in any of my comments – she only deleted the ones where I responded to the "bullies" who told me and others to "stop" criticizing Shawni, and keep my opinions to myself.

    No. If I respectfully disagree, I will say so in an open comment forum. By having an open comments forum, you are definitely welcoming people agreeing or disagreeing with you, and giving their opinion on your blog post. Otherwise what is it? Even Shawni said it's ok to disagree with her.

    The people ("and you know who you are") who jumped on my case and on some others who had the nerve to disagree – they are the ones who are bullies. They have commented here before, but only to say how much they love Shawni, what a great family, you can do know wrong, you are so great… ad nauseum.

  71. This made me teary!!! I am SO happy for you and your family, so proud that you are going for it in the midst of everything. You are inspiring Shawni. I really hope you can keep us updated in China. Sending you LOVE and safe travels πŸ™‚

  72. I don't usually comment, but thought I'd offer you a little positivity. I went to four different high schools, a different one every year. In three different states. My parents didn't move, and I wasn't bullied or in any way "forced" to move. I just wanted to. I was restless in my tiny town. I am the youngest of nine kids, and I stayed with various sisters, getting experiences of a life time. My senior year, I was homeschooled (which I talked my mom into because I only needed a few classes to graduate). So I missed out on most senior experiences. I'm 24, now. The fact that I missed prom,or anything else never cross my mind. I had an amazing senior year. And I just went to Nebraska, not China. Your kids will be fine. Elle will go on dates this spring, and Max will be back for most senior activities, since almost all of them take place right before graduation, anyway. Hopefully, his volleyball won't be too disrupted and he won't miss out on any college opportunities. As an elementary special education major, it's Lucy I worry about the most. But, at the end of the day, it's only a few months. Good luck on your adventure! It'll be a great experience. If you are blessed to have this opportunity, you should take it.

  73. LauraB – No criticizing here. I never mentioned differing opinions are bad, differing opinions are wonderful!! It's the delivery in those differing opinions that aren't kind. There are nice ways to express your opposition to something.

    Madame Queen – respectfully disagree, but make sure it's respectful.

  74. Best of luck to you and your family! The logistics of what you are about to do sound absolutely impossible, but if you can pull it off I think it will not just be "fine" but I think it will be great for everyone. I know that Max and Elle are sad. I think they will be happy with how quickly the time passes. Sounds like Lucy (with her therapies) and Max (with his Volleyball skills) will need some extra practice in China. I'm excited to see how you accomplish that. Everything else sounds perfect. πŸ™‚ I think the single best thing about it will be how you are doing it all TOGETHER. how priceless!

  75. 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. Then there is seminary. Hopefully something online they don't have to do at 4:30 in the morning. China doesn't owe them anything. Who is she going to fight for things for the kids?

  76. Hi Shawni! I wanted to let you know that you can get around China's censorship by subscribing to a VPN service. VPN stands for virtual private network and it disguises your internet connection as if you were connecting from the US. When I lived in China I used VPN to access American websites like Netflix and blogs and Facebook. There is an ipad app called VPN In Touch that I used for a small monthly fee. I think there are free ways to do this, but I prefer to pay just in case! I tell you this because I am very curious to read about your future adventures! Please keep us updated!

  77. Oh, PLEASE keep blogging! I am so inspired by you. I would feel a real void if I didn't have your daily uplifts. I am so glad you're making this decision. I would totally go for it if I was in your position. Keep on doing what you're doing! You're taking those lucky kids of yours on an amazing ride. You will all be better for it.

  78. praying for you and your sweet family. What an adventure. I hope you can keep us posted through the blog….it will be fun to read about your adventures. Good luck and safe travels. Sorry for the unkind comments.

  79. I think more than anything this post confused me. It seems life has been so chaotic and scattered for months with the house that some calm would be appreciated. That said, I am not you and therefore what would tire me out might invigorate you and lead you to the next thing. I'm also super confused about volleyball. With as much time and money that was put into this activity, I guess I just always assumed it was with an end in sight – scholarship or at least playing at the college level. Now it seems like he will be missing some key moments to facilitate that, but maybe I'm missing something or it isn't really a big deal. I worked in Division I athletics, but really my focus was on football and basketball so maybe there is more wiggle room in volleyball. Maybe the goal was never college sports, but just socializing and feeling part of a team. I'm sure in the grand scheme of life the kids will be fine – 3 or 4 months is just a snapshot (which also confuses me that for so much effort and work it is only 3 months). I don't think anyone can say they will love it OR they will hate it. You won't know until you go. I wish your family nothing but the best and hope it is a good experience for all. I also encourage that upon your return you can find some small every day ways to learn and grow and meet new people in your area. Trips to orphanages, foreign countries and building houses are amazing and awesome opportunities that your children will always remember, but they are really big gestures where it seems something always needs to "top" another experience. My upbringing gave me many opportunities for travel and "big ticket" experiences for which I will always be grateful. However, I feel the majority of my learning and growth came from doing weekly service commitments with my parents and on my own. Weekly commitments I made and kept, part-time jobs I held each summer and throughout the school year, clubs I wasn't used to being in, but encouraged to join to make new friends, projects to work on at home to learn a new skill or educational area. Those are the things I've appreciated most and what I hope to share with my children. Sometimes I worry when I read your blog and that of other family members that while your upbringing was amazing beyond most wild dreams, it seems as adults you find it difficult to find joy, peace and acceptance with normal day to day life. You and your sisters sometimes seem so hard on yourselves when you don't do activities or experiences like you had growing up. There is nothing wrong with the lives you lead now – maybe just a bit more challenging to find the excitement and adventure in the mundane.

  80. Maybe Max/Elle can play club vball/tennis in China and come back to the states with full HS & college eligibility? Worth looking into…at the very least, to keep their skills up. Can't wait to hear about your adventures!

  81. Firstly, I am sad that so many people feel the need to attack you from the safety of their home computers. No one deserves to be bullied, period.

    Second, I am an Army brat. I moved more times than I can count. It was for sure hard, and I missed out on a few things. BUT it also taught me how to adapt well in every situation, it taught me to be polite to strangers and definitely amped up my make friends ability.

    If this was me, as a teenager, yes, I would be upset about missing part of my senior year, and the sports scholarship would seriously worry me. HOWEVER, IT IS CHINA. WHAT an experience for them! Sure, ya'll went when they were young, but now that they are older they can learn and absorb so much more!

    From what I read here, you are a great mom and I know you would never make a decision for your kids that would be a detriment to them.


    This is your family. Your life. Your decision!

    EVERYONE is going to have an opinion on your life and how you should run it. But, Oh well!

    Don't let anyone rain on your parade! I really feel like every negative commenter needs to listen to that song right about now.

    Good luck in China and I hope you keep us updated! I'd love to see China anyway I can πŸ˜€

    Love & prayers!

  82. Oh how I hope to be able to follow along on your family's adventure! Go!!! be happy! everything will work out. Growing is all about change and challenging ourselves! You are giving your children quite a gift!

  83. Wow! That was a lot! HA! I think you are doing a brave thing that I'm sure you and your husband have prayed over and researched thoroughly. I hope that you all enjoy your short stay there and that you all benefit from it! Most of all, I hope you can blog often to keep us informed!

  84. Dear Shawni,

    I am a young mom -of a young family- with hopes and dreams of growing my family in coming years. I have sought mentorship, wisdom and inspiration from your blog for two/three years now. I have referenced (many times) your older posts with pictures of Elle sleeping in the laundry room, or photos of your children in a well-loved kitchen with outdated cabinets -like mine. I dream about my family growing older and hope that we grow together like yours, in God's love, and with good fortune.

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us; I've benefitted greatly from learning how your cohesive, God loving, serving family works. I've read your parents books. I've taken on some of your daily family routines. I am able to grow my family much differently than I was raised and with a successful model.

    Watching you pursue your dreams, and your dreams for togetherness with your family is inspirational! I can imagine how overwhelming this is, but our world is so small, Shawni! If you need to, you can always come home. The time will pass so quickly. You are giving your children memories of a lifetime!

    We are a military family and my best wisdom -changes and relocation aren't opportunities missed, but always opportunities created. Goodbyes are hard, but they aren't forever, either. You will all have each other for the rest of your lives -really everything is to be gained from taking this time as a unit while you still can!

    Have peace! Have fun! And whenever you're back blogging I will be happy to follow your happenings! <3 Thank you!

  85. How exciting for you and your family! I admire you so much for making it happen and I admire you more for considering your high schooler's feelings–You are such a great mom and I look up to you so much. Good luck with preparations and I really hope you are able to keep us all in the loop too!! Safe travels!

  86. Shawni, I am a long-time reader who has never commented on your blog before, but I was just so impressed with this post!! You are teaching your kids to sacrifice a little bit (even though it might seem big) for a greater goal. In the end, it's all about family and I am just so impressed with your family's dedication to each other… truly your family as a whole is greater than the sum of your parts. The experiences you will have together are SO worth the little sacrifices… they will be lifelong memories for all of you. I am sure you will never regret it!

    p.s. so sorry about the rude comments on here — wowsa. Ignore them!

  87. My heart is bursting for you!! I hope we're able to come along for the ride and read about all your adventures. Either way, best wishes and prayers coming your way for you and your beautiful family!

  88. What an adventure for all of you. I have so enjoyed your blog and hope you will be able to update us from China. I feel like I'm part of your family – but really just a blog stalker – the good kind though. Charity said something in her blog a few months ago, and I adopted it as our family motto for the rest of the year as we went on vacations and different directions this summer. "Attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal." Had to remind my grown children and husband of that several times, but we have had some adventures. Good luck on this mission/adventure/experience. I know it will be amazing, because you will all be together.

  89. I sure hope that you keep blogging while you are in China. I would miss your posts if you didn't. I cannot even imagine doing this but I know your family does hard things and I do admire that. Be safe, be well, all the best to you!

  90. What an amazing experience for your family!! Best wishes and please keep blogging… I don't know what I'll do without reading your blog everyday! When I shrieked that you were leaving the blogging world my husband told me "I would manage." Ha it will be tough!!

  91. As an expat Mom in Taipei (but we have also lived in Nanjing China), I also think there are few things more enriching than living abroad! And few things harder, as I'm sure you well know. It can be hard for people who haven't lived outside to the U.S. to really understand the expat experience, but I think it's great you're helping your family have this experience! You can blog, Facebook, stream Netflix, etc. in China by purchasing a VPN router from a company like Strong VPN. It makes staying in touch much easier!

  92. Shawni-
    You are the best. You are tougher than anyone I know… not just because of all the things you mentioned here in the blog, but also because you let people post comments on your blog. Seriously. You and Chichester have some nerves of steel.

    Glad that you are going!! I'm just sad it'll be so short. But, it probably won't seem short to you– the first five months in a new place for me seem to last years… Good long years with every moment overflowing with ultra-heightened senses and deep, rich memories.

    I've tried to figure out why this is… it's different than just traveling somewhere. When you "move" somewhere… make a home in a new place, country, state… and then leave after not too long, you have these distinct location-based memories tied to your daily routines. You frequent the same places enough that they become familiar and normal, instead of that blur that fuzzes by when you are just visiting. And then you move again, and the locations and the memories are tied together in their distinctiveness.

    I also love how moves like this help to mark the passing of the years. Instead of the years whirling by in a run-on-sentence, they get these fantastic punctuation marks.

    I understand what it does to your in-the-moment heightened awareness, and I understand why and how it effects your memories, but I still can't grasp how it all works together to elongate one's sense of the passing of time. But man-oh-man, that's my favorite part. And with two teenagers getting ready to fly off into adulthood, I know why you want to stretch that time out as much as you can.

    My kids are so excited for your kids. Wish I could send a few of mine with you, but I would probably miss them, depending on which children it was.

  93. So exciting! What an adventure! My husband is in the midst of getting his MBA with an international business certificate at BYU. He also speaks Mandarin. We also plan to do our best to make it to China and live there for a little while, adopting a baby is on the "I hope" list while we are there too!
    A professor of his who has lived abroad with his family of 6 throughout his career told him, "You can change if you stay where you are, but you WILL change if you do this."
    Growth is not easy, but it is what life is all about.
    So happy for your family! Your children will be changed for the better and Heavenly Father will bless you because of your willingness and faith. Good Luck on your great adventure!

  94. I am really excited for your family! I would love to put out family in a similar situation and do hard things together. They are lucky to have you as parents that care about strengthening those ties and encouraging them to branch out. Have fun!

  95. PS. after scanning over a couple of comments, I am so surprised that some people think they can tell you what is best for your family. Wow!
    You are the parents, you have the right to your own personal revelation for your own family. Nobody else has that responsibility/privilege.
    Don't listen to the trolls. Do your thing…go off and experience the world!! YOur children will be forever thankful!

  96. Ok! I haven't read the previous comments, but while China does block blogging and even google (at times!) you can have your hubby set up a VPN to get around that. We just returned from two years living abroad in Hong Kong with our three teens. One was Senior, one a Junior (and the eldest in college, she came too). It was the best and most challenging experience for them. Definitely, a life changer. It is a far cry different to walk through a different culture on a 'trip' then to walk in the footsteps of the different culture on a day to day basis. We have some super awesome friends that live in Shanghai. You should contact them. The neatest couple if you haven't met them before. Jeff & Kendra Lindsay. You can't meet a more Christlike couple that love the Chinese people more. Anyhow, good luck to you and your children! We believe all Americans should be required to live abroad for a time to give them a greater global awareness and appreciation of the freedom and privilege we have here.

  97. IT IS A DIFFICULT DECISION but I agree with you, you have to try it before it's too late, specially if it's something that's been in your mind for such a loooong time. What a great experience it'll be for all of you even if teenagers are sulky, and you miss home, and feel jealous of what you're missing in your confort zone… I felt the same everytime I left and I felt so powerful everytime I came back (even if things didn't go as expected…). I'm still not married not a mother but my boyfriend and I WANT to do the same, live in a few different places in the future. It changes everything and make the family stronger πŸ™‚

  98. What a wonderful experience awaits your family! We lived in China for a year and have never regretted it, truly life changing,life/family building. You will never be the same again!! (And i mean that in all the best ways!) GOOD FOR YOU! Best wishes,Sharlet Bouchelle (from my daughters google account!)

  99. Shawni, You inspire me SO much! This is the greatest thing ever! I am so proud of you and your family. It's been my dream to do the same – my kids are young and we have with special needs too so I don't know how we would do it, but if anyone can do it, it's YOU!! Hugs!

  100. What a blessing this will add to your family to experience this together. If my family could do this we would. Enjoy every minute of this! Those things that are good and those things you have to squint really hard to see the good in.

  101. Some of the best decisions are the hardest ones to make but in my humble opinion, living and seeing the world is never the wrong decision. When you look back, a semester is not a long time.

  102. So excited for your family! We experienced many of those same emotions when we decided to move our family to New Zealand, and although it has been more challenging than we thought, it has also been so much more rewarding. I'm keeping my fingers crossed you can still keep up your blog over there, I'm anxious to follow along on your adventures! Good luck!

  103. When we decided to pack up our family and head off to Central America for a year (3 years ago now) we got all kinds of reactions. It was the most amazing experience ever and although there were some very rough days and even tears at times…we would never change that decision! It will be awesome for your family! Good for you guys that you are able and up for the adventure!People thought we were NUTS going to Nicaragua! haha….I just thought it was funny to see people's reactions. You will get all kinds, as you already know. Just be confident in your decision and have a blast!

  104. AAAAAH! This is SO awesomeοΏ½οΏ½οΏ½οΏ½οΏ½οΏ½so happy for you and the family, you've wanted this for so long. WE DO HARD THINGS, this is your family motto right? Good for you to live it and not just say it! Oh I will pray for this wonderful family every night, have fun, the kids will all be fine, and you'll be TOGETHER! Ha ha so excited for you!!!

  105. I just heard that you were moving to China and knew I could get the "scoop" on your blog. I am SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!! You are so smart to take this opportunity. You and I have so many similar feelings about family and the ages that they are (my son is a senior as well) and wanting to have experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime. I think you are so smart, brave and amazing to do this. GREAT job!!!!

  106. Seriously? Some of you people need to CALM DOWN.

    They are not even going to be away for a whole year! It's just like a long holiday!

    As someone who has just relocated her family of three children from Australia to Singapore (where we expect to stay three years) I think they will be fine. It isn't easy doing time in another country. Not at all. And the desperate desire to want to pack it all in and go home comes in waves. Hits at about three months, and then again at about 5. Then things get easier. They will be heading back home again by then!

    There is PLENTY of families out there doing the expat thing and the communities are VERY supportive.

    Shawni – I wish you and your family well. Embrace and enjoy!

  107. This is so exciting. My in-laws lived in Shanghai for a couple years with their youngest daughter and loved the experience. It's going to be so fun. I only spent two weeks there but always dreamed of going back. I can't wait to see your pictures.

    And fun fact is that i am in Saydi's ward… I just recently made the connection.

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