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 🙂 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 🙂