Today half our crew left the apartment early and three of us stayed behind to take care of laundry and such. Soon rain began to pour and we could either run in the rain the 3/4 of a mile to New Day for lunch with friends or stay put. I was with two of the boys – both opted for running in the rain. As we reached the half way point,  a car pulled up next to us and the gentleman driving held out an umbrella.

Despite getting soaked, I tried my best to tell him we would be okay (in hand motions and facial expressions). He was insistent, so I smiled and the three of us finished our journey under the cover of an umbrella – a fancy, nice umbrella.

I can’t begin to express the kindness others have poured on our family. Umbrellas from strangers, homemade granola from neighbors, coffee delivered to our door…I could go on and on. Countless smiles on the bus. Numerous laughs and help as we try our best to pronounce difficult words. We feel so welcomed in this place.

{Working on math ~ Granola and coffee for breakfast}

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Last week I mentioned that the most difficult part of our trip has been the restriction on foreigners regarding taking photos in our village. Many asked why the restriction is in place and what would happen if I chose to ignore it. Well, I don’t know all the specific reasons, but I do believe it was a decision made in the best interest of the community. The village is not huge and a steady flow of foreigners come through…not all respect or understand the privacy of citizens and a community.

Could I break the rule and just pull out my camera? Probably. Would I suffer tremendous consequences? Probably not. However, those that live here and those that come after me would deal with the affects of my selfishness. Not worth it.

I ache a little each day to pull out my camera. There is one wall in town that is slate gray with a beautiful, thin green tree growing up it. There are long stemmed roses lining streets. Community gardens with citizens working the ground in the early hours of the day. Fruit piled on tables in the street. Chippy paint. Little teal carts carrying parents and kids. It is all so beautiful! However, I chose not to pull out my camera in town and honor the citizens that have so graciously welcomed us into their community.

That being said, I do jump at any chance to go explore just outside of our village!

Several of these I posted on Instagram. I never know if most people see them there…should I rewrite the captions here too if I post them on IG? What do you guys prefer?

{When you can’t read the signs, are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the culture and are trying to figure out what is okay and what is not – observation becomes so important. Look around, observe, listen, take note…this kid has got it down. ~ Ordering a snack and tying a hairband around chopsticks to make them easier for her little sister to use.}


Chris makes friends everywhere…and takes a lot of photos with his new friends. His oldest daughter is following in his footsteps.

They have a goal to try every flavor they can find.


Over the weekend we tromped around a little bit of Beijing with friends. While walking down one street I had the thought, “No one is in athletic clothes and my hair is not in a ponytail.” I quickly messed with my camera settings and asked a friend to snap a photo of us. Everything about this makes me ridiculously happy!

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  • Emily - And your littlest isn’t dabbing! #winning!

  • Debbie H - Holy COW!! Those boys have been on a growth explosion! What a difference a year makes. . . Next year at this time you’ll probably be seeing eye to eye or eye to nose with a few, Ashley! Great photo! When you don’t see all standing next to each other very often, it is hard to realize how much they are changing. Thanks for the descriptions of your village. I’m impressed at how clean the streets appear in the photos you do take. A fun journey to watch, that is certain!

  • Jenn - great post.
    great photo.

  • Trish - Oh wow! You finally got a great family photo with all smiles. I appreciate your blog so much and I am super happy for some complete strangers to be enjoying their journey.

    Trish from WV:)

  • Lisa K - Your mother’s day photo was just a little bit late. Beautiful photo. Definitely worth the wait I am sure.

  • Ethel - Love the posts, feel like I’m visiting along with you, thanks

  • AshleyAnn - It was worth the wait 🙂

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Trish!

  • AshleyAnn - You are so right Debbie – the next three are quickly catching up to me!

  • Laurainsacto - WOW! What a great family photo of all of you smiling! Awesome. Love all your posts.

  • Claudie - Really nice family photo! Everyone seems very happy. They are very lucky to have you both as parents. I’m certain that with your attitude and openness you bring upon yourselves all the kindness that is poured on your family.

    Regarding the IG captions, I wouldn’t mind reading them twice here. I think that the people who follow you only on your blog would really like to read them here.

  • Byron - Post captions for your pictures! Not all of us are on Instagram.

    Love the face paint. Is that a cat?

    It’s obvious everyone is having a great time! God bless!

  • Heather - I loved trying all the random flavors of Fanta soda when I was traveling through Mexico. The chips of course were varying levels of Diablo ?. Maybe you and the kids could watercolor paint some of your favorite things you can’t take photos of… I did that a lot while traveling.

  • Susan - Captions are welcome, I’m not on instagram. I love following your adventures, it’s like getting lost in a wonderful book

  • Amy - Your beautiful kids are growing up!! I have loved following you guys for years! Please put everything you can on FB since I don’t have an Instagram;)

  • Krystin - Oh, I just love everything about this! I am so happy that your family is feeling so welcomed in a new community. You all seem to be naturals at this new adjustment! The family photo is wonderful, too! I cannot wait to see more of the journey! Good luck and best wishes to you and your family.

  • Rebekah - A belated Mother’s Day present!!! And in China, no less. What a gift. My guys don’t like pictures at all. Last year on while on vacation, a lady saw me with my camera and asked if she could take a family picture. I quickly said ‘YES’ before my guys could say no. I never saw that lady again while at that spot. I think of her as my “family photo angel.” I will always treasure that picture and that memory.

  • Katie B. - Great family photo!

When it comes to travel my general approach is to say, “Yes, absolutely,” to any offer we get from locals and then figure out the rest later. When New Day friends asked if we wanted to hike to unrestored Jiankou (“wild wall”) portion of the Great Wall of China with them instead of doing the restored, tourist portion…”Yes, absolutely,” was the instant and easy answer.

Prior to traveling to China I began making a list of the things I hoped we could do in the Beijing area – the “wild wall” hike was high on my list, so I was pretty excited to have friends willing to take us without me ever asking.

There were some concerns about the difficulty of the climb in regards to us taking our girls, but we knew the girls are pretty strong and we might as well go for it. I packed 2 backpacks of water bottles, CLIF Kid bars, and trail mix. I probably should have packed more! It was hands down the most difficult hike we have done with the girls. It turned out to be far more like rock climbing for nearly 4 hours than it was hiking. We climbed and climbed and climbed.

GreatWallofChina-02The view from about half way up…we kept climbing and climbing and climbing. Chris and I stayed with the girls. The boys climbed ahead with friends. (We only really knew one couple before we arrived in China. We’ve instantly connected with other families here and the older boys have a crew of teenage boys they hang out with.)

The view climbing was spectacular – so very beautiful.GreatWallofChina-03The girls did have a meltdown moment about 3/4 of the way up…after climbing for several hours. They pushed through and eventually we saw a little ladder, climbed up it and were standing on the Great Wall of China! GreatWallofChina-04GreatWallofChina-06GreatWallofChina-07This section of the wall is becoming overgrown with bushes, trees and various plants, but I was giddy to be there. We were basically the only ones around. The boys could run far down the wall exploring with friends, the girls could do the same.

My oldest daughter immediately began pretending she was a warrior defending her kingdom. I hope for years to come when others talk about the Great Wall of China she remembers the day she climbed a mountain to reach it and played on top. I hope all my kids remember.GreatWallofChina-08I’m getting a little weary of the constant request for dabbing by a certain 5 year old, but experience tells me one day I will look back at this phase with fondness.
GreatWallofChina-09After making the climb, it is mind boggling how the wall was built. MIND BOGGLING. It was hard just carrying a backpack up that high.GreatWallofChina-11GreatWallofChina-12GreatWallofChina-13The boys appeared for just long enough to step into a family picture with us and then they were off with friends again.GreatWallofChina-14Guess who got upset that she was not the ONLY one doing the dab?
GreatWallofChina-15She wouldn’t stop crying until we agreed she could dab in the family picture. I had great visions of a family picture without a dab in it – it was my one Mother’s Day request. You win some and you lose some…and sometimes you chose a dabbing kid over a screaming kid. (notice the wall in the distant background)GreatWallofChina-16The 14 year old gymnast in me couldn’t help herself. Also…look in the distance of this photo, you can see the wall over the ridges of several mountains…it just keeps going and going.GreatWallofChina-17GreatWallofChina-18GreatWallofChina-19Inside the tent at the top of the ladder a man took a tax for climbing the ladder and sold highly inflated bottles of water. After making the remote climb, I would have charged even more than he was for the water. I still wonder about him and how often he makes the climb up and down.
GreatWallofChina-20Because the climb was so steep, it took us almost as long to get down the mountain as it did to get up it. The rest of the crew made it down about an hour and half before we did, but they savored a meal at the bottom and didn’t seem to mind waiting for us. The girls were asleep as soon as we began the 2 hour drive back to our village.GreatWallofChina-22I am so very grateful to our friends for taking us to this portion. The girls, for good reason, shocked many that they actually made it to the top. They definitely surprised themselves, but are learning over and over again that they can do really hard things. I was so proud of them.

If you have an entire day to spend on a difficult hike/climb, I would highly recommend making the “wild wall” hike. There are other wild portions of the Great Wall I would love to do (some with beautiful lakes nearby), but I am more than content to have this experience. I was exhausted, dirty, sweaty and in my happy place.

Unfortunately, I can’t give great details regarding which hike we did. There are several hike routes to this portion of the wall. The friend we were with said we did the most difficult climbing one…if that helps anyone. The section we climbed to is called the Jiankou section.

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  • erin - I can’t help but laugh at your youngest doing the dab; we went to Taiwan in December and my boys are doing the dab in 90% of the pictures:) keep up the good attitude and enjoy this funny stage:)

  • Debbie Hargadon - And, it wasn’t that long ago that photos were bombed with “dueces”. 🙂 . It all passess, it seems and is replaced with something new. Thanks for sharing. It is all amazing and so interesting. Broken Arrow might seems small when you return. 🙂

  • Kim - What an incredible experience! Eagerly reading about all your adventures in China.

  • Scott Smith - What a wonderful gift you and Chris are giving your family. I have always felt that memories are the best gifts since they can be enjoyed at anytime we choose to recall the.

  • susie - Wow! That looks like an awesome hike! Your girls did a good job- I will have to remember that- there are some hikes I want to do and maybe we would be able to do them this summer. Your youngest deserves to do what ever pose she wants after that hike!

  • AshleyAnn - Okay…true she did deserve to do any pose she wanted!

  • Jo Moseley - I got goose bumps as I though of how many “mountains” your Sweet Dabber has climbed since the last time she was in her birth country! I’m loving that you are taking me (and many others) along on your trip. Lots of Love & Prayers for the C Family!

A huge portion of our time in China will be spent volunteering at New Day Foster Home. The boys and I get lots of time with the kids, while Chris and the girls are busy in other areas.

I have so many thoughts, emotions, feelings about these kids and New Day. I’m not at a place to put words to those thoughts, especially words for others to read. I have permission to share about the kids and advocate for New Day while I am here, so you will be seeing many more posts over the next 2 months about the faces you see below.

There will be posts as I process being an adoptive mom at a foster home in my daughter’s birth country…and posts about being an adoptive mom and seeing this side of a child’s wait for a family. Definitely not at a place for those posts yet, so this is going to be more of a simple introduction.

On my first day in the backyard area of New Day I watched a little boy throw off his braces in exchange for a scooter and he sped off across the yard. In an instant, I saw a picture of what this place is for these kids as they wait for their families – a place where they are thriving, overcoming and being loved.

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I quickly learned the little boy’s name was Hudson and I introduced him to my Hudson. (I know SURPRISE I’m sharing his name now). Instantly, they were goofy together and bonding over their names. My Hudson anxiously awaits each day to find his buddy in the backyard. It is really a shame they don’t have fun together 😉
5.17NewDay1-20Corbett is volunteering in the preschool room. Honestly, I really wasn’t sure how he would do with preschoolers. He is great with his sister and friends’ kids, but a room full of preschoolers, I waited to see how it played out. Well, it turns out he can’t wait to get to New Day each day and get in with his kids. He knows all their names and laughs at night sharing with us the funny things they do. It is pretty wonderful to watch him in this new role.5.17NewDay1-21My youngest son joins us in the backyard for outdoor playtime too. He pushes little ones on strollers, chases the older ones and pretends to get kicked by those on the swings – much to their giggling delight.5.17NewDay1-04New Day Foster Home’s core mission is to provide life-saving surgeries and a loving home to orphans with special needs from around China. All of the children came to New Day with complicated medical issues and are waiting for their forever families. Many of the children have had life-saving surgeries while under the care of New Day. A few of the children have been matched with adoptive families while most are waiting.
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5.17NewDay1-135.17NewDay1-145.17NewDay1-16

I am still learning about New Day and about these sweet kids. I can’t answer specific questions about the kids or adoption, but the New Day FAQ page will be helpful for those wanting to know more. Look at the Our Children page to find out more information on each child (the kids I will be working with are from the Beijing Foster Home and Beijing Foster Families).

If you are interested in supporting the work of New Day, please visit their website for information on child sponsorship, surgery sponsorship, personal donations and corporate donations.

I have SO MANY ideas for things I want to write about regarding these these kids and this place…good thing I have a couple months to process things in order to write them!

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  • Michelle - I cannot wait for these posts. I am prepared to read them with tissues, an open heart and a notebook for ideas to raise funds for this amazing organization. You have a gift with words and I know you are going to be inspiring a lot of your readers to help and give back.
    Thank you!!

  • Southern Gal - Beautiful photos. I’m waiting on your posts.

  • bethanyblntn - I was reading this when my four year old came up and saw the picture of the baby at the end. He goes “she is so happy, look how cute and happy she is”.
    It made me think, yes, these children are in need; of care and families alike. Sometimes that can make use adults get that ‘aww poor thing’ feeling. But my sons simple comment made me thing, these children do need homes, and care, and help.They do. But, they are happy, because this is all they know and surrounded by (though not family) people who love and care for them.
    Instead of thinking ‘aww poor….’ I think I will strive to think ‘what a happy baby, I hope there is someway I can help to keep her that way’.
    Just a thought.

  • Carol Van Boening - My heart is with you!! Wish I could love on these precious little people! They are blessed by your presence as you are by theirs! Enjoy!

  • Leigh Ann - What an amazing experience and opportunity for your kids– they look like they are totally in their element. <3 Your family is just plain awesome.

  • Carrie - Love this experience for your family and for the children at the home. Thank you for sharing! These kids are amazing and adorable.

  • Anna - I just love that you guys get to be there. What precious time. Mark 9:37 ?

  • Anna - That was supposed to be a heart, not a question mark 🙂

  • Jenny - I love that you guys are there! I’ve been following New Day for the last couple of years! They truly seem to care about the kids, and I’ve loved watching them grow and being able to pray over them from afar.

  • debi - what a beautiful blessing you and your family are to these precious children. you and Chris are awesome parents to be sharing these wonderful experiences and lessons with your children.

  • Mandy - Loving seeing your journey thus far! The post before wasn’t letting me comment but I loved the trailer the kids made! Fantastic job; the suspense was killing me! 🙂

    Love seeing the pics of your kids interacting with New Day kids. Awesome to see their expressions and I can imagine what is going on in those heads of theirs as they play, laugh and love on their new friends. What an impact the Campbell family is making in the kingdom!

  • Elizabeth - Can you speak a bit about the balance between providing help in foreign orphanages vs. the additional trauma it brings kids to bond with the people who are going to leave? It seems there are no easy answers, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  • AshleyAnn - Great question Elizabeth! Obviously, every orphanage/foster home (in every country) is different. I cannot speak to how most handle this issue. I will tell you one aspect of New Day that impresses me the most is how gently they tread in areas like this. The children here each have a nanny that is their ‘mom’. As a volunteer I cannot pick up, feed, interact, etc. anything without the permission of the nanny. The nanny provides the constant, compassionate love and is the person that the child bonds to. Volunteers and visitors are never alone with the children. The visitors and volunteers are similar to when you have a guest visit your home. Your child has fun with the guest, but the bond is far different than the bond they have with you as the parent. If a child needs comfort or help, it is the nanny that comes to their aid – not the volunteers. It is such a hard issue with no easy answers and I wish more considered the affects of bonding/volunteering on a child waiting to be adopted. Great question – more of us should be asking those types of questions!