Tuesday, October 28, 2008

**Birthday Girl and her Mommy**

Our Hannah celebrated her 5th birthday in September, on the same day as her mommy. Sorry, somehow we did not get any pictures of mommy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

**Birthday Girl and her Daddy**

Our princess Sarah celebrated her 4th birthday this week. She was so excited to have a yellow cake and to open presents. We love you Sarah Michaela Mei!! Her daddy also celebrated his birthday this week; we won't say how old he is although his age does contain the #4 too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update June 10th

I have not posted anything regarding the recent earthquake in Sichuan Province, China or the tragic accident involving the Chapman family. However both deeply impact my thoughts and prayers. Our Hannah was born very near the epicenter of the earthquake and is close in age to Maria Chapman....
Half the Sky is a wonderful organization working in China to help orphaned children, here is the latest update.

Dear Friends,

Since I last wrote, we’ve been working toward developing a more well-defined plan for addressing the emotional needs of so many thousands of traumatized children. We know we can’t help them all, but we are making certain that, using the resources you are providing us, we will maximize our effectiveness.

Under the guidance of trauma experts from National Center for School Trauma and Bereavement and volunteer pediatric psychologists from China, the US and Canada, our field staff has been training caregivers in shelters and camps and talking with many, many children. What we have learned has informed our long-term plans, which already have tentative approval from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In the next couple of months, with your help, we will be creating giant tent “Big Top” Children’s Centers in temporary (estimate is 2-3 years) refugee camps at Dujiangyan, near the quake epicenter, to help the children as the town is rebuilt. Each will offer HTS preschool, after school counseling and art classes and other therapeutic activities for school-age children, as well as counseling and training for caregivers, teachers, parents and foster parents. The first “Big Top” is scheduled to open in QinJian camp on Saturday.

Funds permitting, we will also be creating new permanent children’s community centers in six quake-affected towns as well as setting up Family Villages, supporting traditional foster care, and other HTS programs for orphaned children who are able to remain in their communities, providing long-term support for thousands of children.

I stole away for a couple of days in order to write our proposal to the Ministry. In my absence, HTS communications director, Patricia King, wrote this report:

A Machine to Save the World from Earthquakes

“When I grow up I want to be a scientist so I can invent a machine that will predict earthquakes hours before they happen and I can take all the children to safety. And I will give the machine to everybody in the world for free.”

“All I want is to go home.”

“I want to be with my family.”

“I want the earthquake to be gone so we can be happy again.”

Who wouldn’t want to make these wishes of some of the youngest earthquake survivors come true? The wishes of children struggling to come to terms with a disaster that shattered everything they counted on—the rock solid earth they walked on, the mountains that were supposed to loom majestically above, not break apart, raining dangerous rocks, and most of all the comfort of their homes and their parents and teachers.

The children now attend a “tent school” in the large refugee shelter in Dujiangyan designed to house 15,000 people displaced by the earthquake.
They are taught by volunteers in prefabricated, vinyl walled, 9x12 classrooms, each one packed with 40+ students.

The walls are decorated with children’s artwork. It is art that depicts the kind of world the children would like to live in, the kind of world they now know can never be. In this town where the most prestigious middle school collapsed and killed so many bright, ambitious students, one child drew a mobile school complete with a lookout telescope and radar to pick up any sign of danger. The school is floating on what looks like a cloud or a flame that can move it out of danger should the earth below start to shake again.

The Red Thread

A short distance from the refugee shelter and school, on a muddy, rock-strewn field, a huge, white tent with arched, plastic windows stands on high ground above the fast-moving Minjiang River. A large Half the Sky logo with its girl holding a red thread announces that this tent has been provided by donors all over the world, moved to help the children of Sichuan to whom they are connected by the proverbial red thread.

One, yellow Ikea delivery truck and one truck with a small Half the Sky logo and the words: “Everything Donated to the Disaster Area” bump their way onto the field to deliver supplies for Half the Sky’s first Big Top Children's Center. In a situation that is repeated over and over in Sichuan when people learn that Half the Sky is here to help the children, the Ikea truck was able to make the delivery only after a compassionate manager made lots of phone calls to bend the rules to allow the truck to deliver to a heavily damaged town.

All week Half the Sky’s field supervisors and other caregivers have been receiving training about how to provide “psychological first aid” to children in the wake of this disaster. Today the work is more familiar, the kind of work Half the Sky has been doing for 10 years during “builds”
when rooms in government welfare institution are transformed into colorful, child-friendly Half the Sky centers.

It becomes clear very quickly though that there are unusual logistical issues for this first-ever tent build. The six inch concrete floor that anchors the tent is solid, but two puddles have collected inside after the last big rain storm. Straw brooms appear so the staff can sweep out the water and strategize about how to engineer a fix so the tent will stay dry during this rainy season in Sichuan. They are helped by a contractor from Guangzhou, who is in Sichuan to build roads wherever needed, including a road that will make it easier to walk from the huge refugee shelter and school to Half the Sky’s Big Top.

It is Dragon Boat Festival day and a holiday, but nevertheless workers on ladders bring electricity to the tent, hanging energy-saving bulbs from the aluminum rafters and setting up the fans that will cool the during the increasingly steamy Sichuan summer.

As the small chairs and tables, shelves for toys are assembled, and bright, turquoise chairs unfolded, the tent starts to look more like a Half the Sky center, a kid-friendly haven in an earthquake-ravaged town where the long task of removing rubble and rebuilding has only just begun.
The toys will stay in their boxes for the children to open. There are puppet theaters, a toy kitchen with pots and pans and dishes, a doll house with a mom, dad and children. And there are lots of toy trucks and bulldozers, doctor kits, and uncharacteristically for a Half the Sky center, lots of soldiers, who were the first to reach Dujiangyan and other towns near the epicenter to help.

Nothing is the same anymore…

In Shifang City, Half the Sky’s Child Development Director Ma Lang approached a woman reading alone in a communal shelter where people were cooking and eating and two preschoolers were playing with water, “trying to be children.” The woman looked so young that Lang thought she might be a high school student, but she told Ma that she is a 27-year-old math teacher. There was a “calm coolness” in her eyes so MaLang was surprised that her eyes welled up with tears when Ma Lang asked: “How are you doing?” She answered sadly: “It is tough. I have been here all my life.
Nothing is the same anymore. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the fields, the crops. Everything else has changed,” she said.

The teacher told Ma Lang that after the earthquake she helped escort all
41 children from her classroom to safety. Then she spent six, panicked hours that seemed like a year looking for her mother and her three-year-old daughter. Ma Lang put a comforting hand on her shoulder as they both found paper tissue and the woman continued with her story.

Then the Air Force came and carefully removed all the children’s school bags and clothes from the heavily damaged building. “It was very dangerous.” When the teachers tried to help, the soldiers said, “No, it is our job.” When the teachers volunteered to at least stand by the building to collect some of the children’s prized possessions, the soldiers said, “No. It is our job. You stay away from the building. It is not safe.”
After retrieving the children’s things, the Air Force built a new, prefabricated school named the “Air Force Loves Children School” in six, working-round-the-clock days.

The young math teacher told Ma Lang that such help and such kindness from the Air Force and “so many people like you” has “made a huge difference”
in the lives of those who survived the quake. But despite her gratitude for the help and her relief that her mother and three-year-old are alive, the woman told Ma Lang that there have been “many times” during the last weeks when she has wished that she hadn’t survived.

For Ma Lang, who has been working in the field since right after the earthquake, it is “overwhelming” to learn how many children and their caregivers need emotional support, even those “lucky” ones like this teacher, whose child and whose students survived the earthquake.

The psychologists who are helping Half the Sky train field workers stress that patience is key when working with traumatized children or their adult caregivers. Pediatric psychologist, Pi-nian Chang says it is important not to jump to conclusions and to be a good listener and; “Be quick to listen, listen carefully and be slow to talk.”

At the tent school in Dujiangyan, Chang noticed a taciturn, sad boy who stayed apart from the other children. Clearly not wanting to talk, the boy of about 11 did agree to a game of Chinese checkers with Chang. Slowly, slowly the boy spoke, telling Chang that his parents died in the earthquake and that he had no desire to play with other kids and little desire to go to live with his uncle, who will take him in. A few words from a sad child who is dealing with unspeakable grief by retreating into a shell that he peeked out from for a few moments during a long game of Chinese checkers that ended in a draw.

The earthquake has not stopped the survivors housed at the refugee shelter from celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival holiday. Zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) from the Loving Heart Cafeteria appear and are pressed into our hands as we walk. Psychologist Dan Zhang gives a few t-shirts to one family, who has decorated its small living space with curtains and laid down vinyl flooring so they can take their shoes off outside the room in the traditional way, and those small gifts unleash a deluge of gift-giving by this family that has lost their home. They give us umbrellas and when I mention that I am thankful because I forgot a hat to protect my pink skin from the sun they try to give me sunscreen, which I already have, and they give us salted duck eggs, another delicacy traditionally eaten on this holiday.

We encounter a man concerned about his yellow-beaked bird who, since the earthquake, hops nervously around her cage and seems to have forgotten how to make noise of any kind let alone sing: “We must be patient,” says the man.

But underlying the patience and the resilience of this gracious and generous community of survivors, hunkering down for what many expect will be a long stay until permanent housing is built, is anxiety about how long the world will pay attention.

One mom is worried about her 18 month old daughter, who was buried in the rubble with her grandfather for two hours. Before the earthquake her daughter was friendly to everyone. Now she won’t let anyone touch her except for her family. “What can I do?” When the staff tells her about the new preschool in Half the Sky’s Big Top Children's Center she asks “How long will you be here?” She is relieved when our staff tells her that many people around the world want to provide help for the long haul.

Like the man who is patiently waiting for his bird to sing, Half the Sky will be patient, working in the hard-hit towns of Sichuan for as long as there are children who need help.

If you would like to donate to Half the Sky’s Children’s Earthquake Fund you can do so by calling Half the Sky (+1-510-525-3377) or visit our

If you’d like to view previous earthquake journal entries:

Thank you!

with love,


Friday, May 30, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend!

We traveled to beautiful Anacortes, over the Memorial Day weekend, to visit grandparents. We had an enjoyable weekend of fishing in Grandpa's trout pond, hiking, kite flying, and playground playing. We also were blessed to witness a gorgeous sunset from the deck of their home and the kids were thrilled to spot deer near the woods. Sarah especially enjoyed picking flowers with Grandpa from his beautifully landscaped haven surrounding their home.

Baseball Spectators


More baseball days-Joshua

Oh no, has it really been two months already!!

Seems I am not very good at keeping this blog updated! Where does the time go? Well, I guess we have just been busy, busy, busy!

On Easter Sunday, Joshua celebrated his 7th birthday!

Also, in March the boys joined their first baseball teams. Joshua's team is known as the "Flame Throwers" and Andrew's team is called "The Cubs". They have both enjoyed their practices and games. We attend two games every Saturday and some weeknight games as well. We have braved the rain, the snow, the wind and cold this season and are finally soaking up a little sun!
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In April, Hannah had a VCUG(medical procedure) to determine proper kidney and bladder function. She is currently on medication to help with this.
In May, Sarah had her second surgery. She had a pyogenic granuloma(growth) removed from the roof of her mouth. While she was "out" they also did a complete dental exam with x-rays and a cleaning. She emerged from out-patient surgery with two crowns, one for outstanding behavior and one on her tooth. I must say out-patient surgery was a breeze! Just a few hours after her procedure, we were back home and she was playing and happy like it had never even happened.

A few more pictures!