Their smiles….

5.17ChinaDancing-015.17ChinaDancing-03We stopped by BeiHai Park in Beijing while out exploring. The boys and I were walking around and came upon this group of dancers. There was a crowd made up of every generation gathered. The women dancing were mesmerizing – not because of the way their bodies moved, but the expressions that covered their faces.

Their smiles.

They were beaming. Watching their joy, it was impossible not to smile yourself.5.17ChinaDancing-05The boys immediately were adamant that we had to go find their sisters. They knew the girls would relish watching the dancing…and the chance to join in too.5.17ChinaDancing-075.17ChinaDancing-09Nothing quite magnifies the differences between Chris and I than when we are in a crowd, especially when the crowd has public dancing. You’ll find me hiding behind my camera – behind a tree or anything else. If someone tries to convince me to join, I have no problem sprinting the opposite direction.

Chris sprints to the crowd. He sprints to the dancing. I’m so thankful the girls have him and he has the girls!


5.17ChinaDancing-13When my oldest daughter stepped away from the dancing, she was asked to pose for a selfie. She threw up the peace sign and smiled so big. This girl cracks me up.5.17ChinaDancing-14It is hard to believe we have already been here almost 2 weeks. The time is flying by for us. Over the weekend, we visited the Great Wall of China – that post will be coming soon. We are staying busy volunteering and exploring….and eating! The time change has me all messed up regarding blogging. I meant to post more last week and lost track of days and time zones. When my mom and father-in-law check in because there aren’t blog posts, I know I better get back on track! This week will be better Mom!

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  • Patti - Such fun. An amazing experience for your kids. I look forward to your posts. We were in China 15 years ago and I loved being there. My daughter in law of 2 years is Chinese. We have been traveling all through Asia this past 4 years visiting different countries. What a beautiful world we all live in with all the diversity of cultures. Thank you for sharing your experiences

  • JenW - I know it’s mostly for yourself…but it’s fun to be along on this China adventure with you! I’m glad you’re blogging about what you can. 🙂

    I understand if this is not a topic you will blog about, but I am praying for your youngest daughter about how people are reacting to her. I hope she is finding acceptance and love in China!

  • Carol - Thank you!!

  • Sally M - I love the dancing. When we went to China, we stopped at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing to do Tai Chi, and there was a group of senior citizens dancing. They pulled my daughter in, and she will never forget it. I love your posts. They bring back memories!

An attribute that has always been important to me to instill in my kids is adaptability – in relationships, situations, goals and everyday life while still remaining consistent in their core beliefs and values. The ability to adapt and change as needed will not only open the door to some pretty incredible adventures, but it also makes day to day life far less frustrating.

Since they were all tiny, Chris and I have tried to teach them to approach change and the unexpected with a positive outlook…to be able to smile and say, “Plot twist!” when the unknown and unexpected pops up in the story of their days.


Today marks one week in China. The last week has flown by so quickly! We all settled into life here very quickly, didn’t really deal with jet-lag, and culture shock has not been a thing. Chris and I prepared for helping the kids if they struggled with all the change and unfamiliar, but so far it is like they don’t even realize anything is different. While walking down a small alley in Beijing, Corbett asked me, “Is it weird that this is not weird to me?” I’ve prayed for and tried to teach my kids adaptability at the earliest ages – it is pretty cool to see just that in them. They are so adaptable and simply don’t skip a beat.

They’ve made friends. Savored new foods. Haven’t seen a fork in a week. Walk miles each day. They’ve made themselves at home.

Sometimes I think I have to wait until my kids are grown to see ‘the fruits of my labor’ in regards to raising kids. That mindset is simply not true. All the tough years of pushing them to adapt to new places, new foods, new schedules, new people – in the last week I’ve watched firsthand how beautifully they ebb and flow with changes in life. I’m so grateful for this time – for them, but also for myself. It is really encouraging as a mom and goodness there enough discouraging days in motherhood!

Hands down the hardest part of our trip so far has been that foreigners are not allowed to take photos in the village we are staying in. As hard as it is for me to keep my camera tucked away, I am a visitor in this beautiful country and a guest in this village – I will honor what the local officials have declared. I guess you could say I’m learning to be adaptable and trying my hardest to say, “Plot twist!” with a smile.

5.17ChinaAdapt-12The pictures I’ll be posting (and have posted) will be from when we venture outside our village, are in our apartment complex or at New Day Foster Home. A big chunk of our time in China will be spent learning and serving at New Day, no doubt I’ll be sharing more about that later!

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  • Carrie - So good! So glad you are doing this! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  • Rebekah - Hopefully your new village will welcome your family as you interact with them, and who knows, maybe that photo restriction will be lifted before you know it! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your family and experiences. I always enjoy reading your words of insight and seeing your “everyday” from the viewpoint of your camera.

  • Tammy - What you have taught them is indeed wildly important, but the examples you and Chris model for them in LIVING what you teach is priceless.

    God bless and keep you all on this amazing journey!

  • Sara Torbett - I have read your blog for years (and years!) and often like to share what you’re blogging about with my husband. You feel like a friend! 🙂

    Thank-you for sharing these lessons in motherhood with those of us who have littles at home. Thank-you for sharing your journey in China also!! I am delighted to read along and pray for your family.

  • Melanie - Please keep posting here! As much as I like your Instagram pics I love to read your deeper thoughts via this blog.
    I’m totally excited about your chinese adventures!

  • carrieg - Yes, thank you for posting and sharing! My husband and I are not big travelers/adventurers, in part because it is difficult with kids and part it is just our personality. I love seeing places through your adventurous eyes. Thanks for taking me on this trip through your blog post. Your words often encourage me as I parent, to do hard things and even embrace the hard.

  • Lisa M. - You need to write a book. I don’t think I have ever read anything you’ve written (here or on social media) that hasn’t inspired me.

    It sounds like you are a having a wonderful, adventurous time all while serving – your kids and the locals.

    Thank you for including us in this journey.
    Blessings to all of you!

  • Christi S. - It sounds like you’re raising future foreign service officers! 😉 My kids have had to learn the same adaptability as we travel the world with my husband’s job. It’s amazing to see what these little people are capable of!

  • Rachel - If you don’t mind sharing, I am looking for a good backpack for hiking, is there any you would recommend? I will be carrying a days worh of stuff in it. What type is Corbett wearing in the above picture.
    Also, I love your blog perticularly the posts on China. Thank you for sharing your life with us in this way. I’m praying for a safe journey home for you all. God Bless

  • Meghan Pence - As a mother who is anxious by nature, I am inspired by your parenting style. I truly wish I would have believed “things almost always work out” while my children were young. If I could do it over, I would prioritize embracing “plot twists”. Your mind set is a gift to your family and your readers. Thank you!

We arrived in China, I have giveaway winners to announce and a big SnapShop sale in honor of Mother’s Day – a lot to cover in this post!

We left our house Monday night and arrived to our apartment outside of Beijing Wednesday late afternoon. It has been a whirlwind last 7 days and I’m grateful to be on this side of travel – the adjusting to a new normal.


The kids did not mind all the extra technology time while waiting on planes to arrive.As soon as we landed in China, the girls started FaceTiming with my sister and parents. I got the funniest video clip of a woman video-bombing them during their conversation with my parents. I’ve been sharing video clips on Instagram Stories. I thought about trying to combine the clips to post here, but I am not sure how to do that on WordPress. If anyone knows – let me know. Otherwise, for video clips you’ll have to check out my Instgram Stories @underthesycamore32 hours on planes, in lines and in airports…then a 1.5 hour drive across Beijing to our apartment. There was no trace of young boys in the way they handled traveling. Instead, I realized I was joined by 3 young men, who didn’t crash until there was no longer a need for their help or leadership. When they finally did crash…they crashed hard!

We made it to our apartment, kept everyone awake for a couple hours, ate dinner and then went to bed. By the time we woke up the next morning, we were all pretty close to adjusted to the next time zone…a 13 hour difference. Complete exhaustion followed by a long sleep at the appropriate time has always helped us curb jet lag.

When we travel internationally, we always pack two things in our carry-on. Well, we pack more than that, but these two things are always included: instant oatmeal and instant Vietnamese coffee. You can pretty much find hot water anywhere, so these two things can hold us over a couple meals if we are in a bind. We ate oatmeal when we arrived to our apartment and again in the morning…then we were out and about getting groceries.

5.17China1-09The next day we explored a bit of our surroundings…played basketball and found a little room for weight lifting. Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to feel at home.

We are staying in a 2 bedroom apartment on the 6th floor in a ‘village’ outside of Beijing. It has everything we need and more. We’ve been diving into all the local food and taking in as much as we can. I have a ton more pictures, but I’ll divide them up into posts. I am active on Instagram and IG stories, but for my own reference I want to be able to remember more details, so I’ll still be compiling posts here.

While I was traveling and getting set up in China, I hosted giveaways all week with 5 different businesses. Below you can find a list of the winners.


Giveaway winners are:

Mpix + SnapShop – Julianne (Julianne.m…)

My Fair Ellie + SnapShop – Heather (hms…)

Bought Beautifully + SnapShop – Kathy (skw…)

Pink Lemonade Handmade + SnapShop – Debbie (debbie3…)

Binxy Baby + SnapShop – Jodie (Jodies…)

*Winners will be contacted this week.

For those of you that were hoping to win a SnapShop membership, but didn’t…well, today starts a Mother’s Day sale. I only offer 50% off registration twice a year. The code will end on May 9th…so, now is the time to sign yourself up or a friend. It is also a good time to give anybody a hint on a Mother’s Day gift idea 🙂


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  • Melissa - Instant Vietnamese coffee?! Where can you buy that?

  • Donzel - Congrats to the winners! The pictures in the post are really fun. It’s neat to see a family I always picture in total suburbia living it up in the concrete jungle of Beijing! I cannot wait to see some of the pictures from your travels inside China. Keep them coming!

  • Nancy - I can’t wait to see how your youngest adjusts to being in a world where everyone has her features and the rest of you guys all stand out in a crowd.

  • Tammy - I am so excited to come along with you on this journey!

    My first thought is that the cultural adjustment won’t be as hard as the adjustment from a house on two acres to a two bedroom apartment? I suspect you’ll be out and about in Beijing a lot!

  • Danielle - What an amazing adventure! You make this look easy! HA! So incredible.

  • Heather - Thank you so much! I’m so excited!!!