A poem a day

My 10 year old daughter Amy is very good at writing poems. That’s true, at least in this mom’s mind.

I think I am not exaggerating. She actually won the 1st place for her poetry collection at the Minnesota State Fair two years in the row, in 2009 and again this year,

Each time we selected 100 poems out of her 300-400 poems written during the year and made it into a poetry collection for the Minnesota State Fair contest.

The amazing thing about Amy is she can write poems really fast. It hardly take her any time to think. If she wants to, she can come up with a short poem in a minute or two.

But the problem is she doesn’t always want to write poems. She would rather read books.

For several months since this summer Amy didn’t write poems. I got concerned. I really wanted her to continue writing and practicing the art.

So at the beginning of last month in November, I made a suggestion to Amy. I asked her to write a poem every day and email it to me. She loves checking her email and thought it was a good idea.

The next day, she started sending me her poem via email, one every day.

It has been fun to receive her poem every day. It’s a daily ritual now between us.

We also created a blog for her to keep her poems. She just wanted to keep the blog private for herself. Hope some day she will feel comfortable to share it with others.

I want to share one poem she wrote last week that I thought was quite hilarious and funny. It made me laugh.

Santa Claus
by Amy Guo
 
On Christmas Eve
I saw a dude
Come into my house
And steal my food.
 
My mom put it on the table
I really don’t know why
But that fat guy stole it
And food costs money to buy.
 
He came down our chimney
And went back up that way
Next time he comes
He’s going to have to pay!

My girl

Last Friday my 10 year old girl Amy was invited to a birthday party by the daughter of a good friend of mine. A group of 6 girls went to Mall of America after school for fun rides and shopping.

Personally I don’t like to go to Mall of America. I haven’t been there for  a few years. Shopping is not my way of spending time and money.

I have a deal with my kids. If they want to go to birthday parties, they need to pay themselves for birthday presents. When they want to go to birthday parties, they are happy to obey and pay out of their own pocket.

So my girl paid for the birthday present. She made a birthday card and included cash. We thought cash is better than a gift card. You can spend it anyway and anywhere you want.

Amy also took $10 of her own money with her to Mall of America.

When she came home at night, I was eager to find out whether and how she spent her money, since it  was her first shopping trip without a family member.

“I didn’t spend any money.”

I was  surprised by her self-control.

Then she told me that one of her friends brought $40. Everyone bought something – silly bandz, perfume, etc. Everyone urged her to buy something as well.

“I wanted to buy the fragrence too, but they ran out of the flavor I wanted. Then I didn’t feel like buying anything. When I wanted to buy something, I thought of you. I didn’t want to make you mad.”

The word mad was a little harsh to hear for me. I won’t be mad in this case, even though I might not like what she bought. She already has enough silly bandz, she got more in her goody bag. She doesn’t need perfume or other cosmetic products at this age.

Yes, mostly times I don’t approve my kids’ request of purchase, even when they are willing to pay themselves.

“Mom, can I buy this?”

“Do you really need it?” is my usual response.

I was very proud of my daughter for having self-control and not giving in for any peer pressure.

That is my girl.

My in-house editor

Sometimes when I am writing my blog or have my blog on the screen, my kids are interested in checking what I am writing or have written lately. 

My daughter likes to say: "Mom, this is not correct." She likes to correct mistakes I make. Usually they are minor mistakes that I think only native speakers would easily notice. 

Since English is not my native language, I don’t have a perfect natural feel for the language like the native speakers have. Native English speakers don’t necessarily have to learn grammar to use the language correctly. When they hear or read something, they can tell whether the words are used correctly or incorrectly based on how they sound like. 

Amy told me: "Mom, it’s not fried chickens. It’s fried chicken." She deleted the "s" from fried chickens in my post "KFC vs. McDonald’s in China." 

She added a "s" to "food scrap" I used in my post "Greening the workplace." 

Today Amy added a "s" to "getting on my nerve(s)" I had in my post "Parents, there is hope." 

I trust Amy’s judgment. Although she is only 10 years old, she is a native English speaker and a good reader, therefore has a better feel for the language. 

So I told her, "Go ahead and make changes if you find any mistakes I make." 

I like to have her read my writing and tell me what’s wrong. 

I hope someday Amy will be a writer and love to write like I do.
 

Parents, there is hope

My cubicle got a face lift today. It was painted fresh with a new color.

The painter is a nice guy, a grandpa with two grown up kids and two grandkids. I had a casual conversation with him, about kids.

I told him that my kids are getting on my nerves more than ever this year. They are 12 and 10 years old. They used to get along OK, they fought but not that much.

This year, things have changed for the worse. My son is getting very naughty. He likes to be sarcastic, say silly things to deliberately tease and annoy his sister, to make fun of her and provoke her. In his own word: "I like to torture her."

When I asked him, "Why do you do this to Amy? Do you behave like this with your friends?"

He said: "No, only with Amy, because we are family and she won’t mind."

My daughter is quick in response and action. When she gets annoyed and mad by Andy’s comments, which always happens, she reacts immediately and starts to chase him down and hit him. He let her hit, laughing or crying. 

I told Amy numerous times: "You do not need to react to his comments. The more you react, the more funny it is for him, and he will do more. If you ignore him, it won’t be fun for him and he will stop doing it." 

But my advise has fallen on deaf ears. 

Meanwhile, they are still fighting and chasing each other every day. 

It’s getting frustrating for me. 

Just last Sunday I told them when they were fighting in the car for no reason: "You guys provide the best entertainment. You don’t need TV or games at all. Just watching yourself fighting is more entertaining than anything on TV." Yelling won’t help. I tried to take it easy. 

Is this a teenage phenomenal? 

I asked the painter, "What about your kids?" His son and daughter are two years apart as well. 

He responded, "That happened to us. I remember a couple of times I had to pull the car over. I almost lost it. But don’t worry, there is hope. It will pass. When they get into high school, they will change. My kids are getting along just fine now." 

My brother witnessed my kids’ bad behaviour when we were in China recently. He said the same thing. "Don’t worry. They will stop fighting in a couple of years." 

I know I have hope. It’s just getting through it right now is not so fun and easy. 

Just like for my daughter, it’s hard not to react. 

I don’t remember ever fighting with my brother who is three years old than I. A few times my brother got into fights with boys in the neighborhood, and many times he got into trouble with our Dad who had a hot temper, but he never fought with me. We never fought for anything. We were pretty quiet kids. 

He told me recently: "I hit you twice when we were kids, because you cried and it annoyed me. I have regretted it ever since to this day." 

I would never know it had he not told me. 

Won’t it be nice if my kids were siblings like my brother and I?

One minute they were having fun playing together, laughing.

 

The next minute they were fighting like the worst enemies, punching and yelling at each other.
 

(Photos were taken 7/27/2010) 

 

A poet in the making

My daughter Amy prefers writing poems than doing the dishes or playing piano.

Today when I asked her to wash the dishes after dinner, she asked: "Can I write five poems instead of washing the dishes?"

She hadn’t written any poems lately. I would like to see her doing that again. So I said OK.

Later when she was playing piano, she asked: "Can I write 15 poems instead of playing piano?"

Again I said OK.

So she wrote over 10 poems today.

I am always amazed by how fast she can think of a poem. She definitely has a natural talent in writing poems.

Here are two of them: 

                                       Reading

                                  Adventurous, fun

                           Intersting, exciting, inspiring

                         Words, pages, pencils, erasers

                          Drafting, editing, publishing

                                    Fun, awesome

                                         Writing

I heard a ring

It was the phone

But I didn’t answer

Because I was home alone.
 

Some of her poems that won the 2009 Minnesota State Fair are available here.

Procrastination

I often tell my kids: “Get your homework done early. Don’t wait till the last minute.”

I wasn’t happy that my daughter Amy didn’t get her social studies homework done today. She had the weekend to do it, but she forgot. And worse, when she was ready to do the homework right before bedtime, she realized that she forgot the assignment sheet in her textbook at school and didn’t know for sure what needs to be done.

Amy asked me to wake her up tomorrow at 6:15 am to do homework.

Thank God, this kind of incidence doesn’t usually happen in my house. My kids are mostly responsible for their own school homework. If they forget something, they will get up early the next morning to finish it.

I don’t like the last minute hassle and stress, and prefer to get things done early and on time.

But truth be told, I don’t always follow my own advice. When it comes to things I don’t like to do, such as filing tax return, I tend to procrastinate a lot.

Every year, I wait till April, often right before April 15 to do my tax return. Every time I get it done, I feel such a relief as if a burden falls off my shoulder.

Logically I know I should get it done as soon as possible so I don’t have to feel burdened. But because I don’t like to do it, I procrastinate as much as I can.

In real life, people often behave irrationally. This is just an example. We wait till we can’t any more, knowing so well along the way that we are better off not to wait and procrastinate.

If I could do things I like to do and don’t have anything I don’t like to do, then I probably could say goodbye to procrastination.

Since this is unlikely in real life, I have to accept the fact that a certain degree of procrastination is a part of life. I am not perfect, and I can’t expect perfection from others either.

Good that I didn’t get too upset with my daughter today. I was pretty calm and didn’t yell at her. She has to take responsibility for her own action and learn from consequences.
 

Reading Rivalry at Middleton Elementary

Reading Rivalry Competition was held at Middleton Elementary School in Woodbury today. The 3rd, 4th and 5th graders had separate competition at the grade level. I watched my daughter’s 4th graders competing.

Amy’s team got the 3rd place. They lost the 2nd place to a boys’ team when they didn’t answer the 2nd tiebreaker question correctly.

Nice job, boys, for winning the reading competition. It shows you are not only good at sport (they were all wearing some kind of sport team shirts), but also at reading.

It was a fun and exciting event.

Each team had to read 12 books in order to participate in the competition. They had practiced with a parent coach since mid January. Amy was one of the few who read all 12 books.

Thanks Brenda Erikstrup for coaching Amy’s team! And thanks to all teachers and parents involved who made this event possible.  

 

DI Tournament and Award for Principal

My daughter Amy and I spent more than half of the day today at Harding High School in St. Paul for the 2010 Minnesota Destination ImagiNation East Metro Regional Tournament.

Destination ImagiNation is an after-school educational program for students from elementary school through college to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving.

Each team chooses a Team Challenge to work on. The team works together to create a solution and presents it on tournament day. The Team Challenge is the first part of the DI competition and is open to spectators.

The second part of the DI competition is the Instant Challenge. An Instant Challenge is an unknown challenge and is conducted in a private room with only one Team Manager for an audience.

The winning teams from the Regional competition are then eligible to compete at the affiliate-level "State" competition. Winners at the state level can compete at the Global Finals in May in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Amy was on one of the eight teams from Middleton Elementary School that participated in the event. The teams started practicing weekly since December 2009.

We left right after the Instant Challenge and before the award ceremony. So we don’t know the results yet.

Middleton teacher Mrs. Joan Hochman has organized and coordinated all the details around DI practices and competition for Middleton, with several parent volunteers as team coaches. My daughter’s team coach is Dana Millington. I want to thank them all for making the DI possible and successful at Middleton. I know they had put a lot of time and efforts into the program and tournament.

For more information on DI, visit the following websites:
Destination ImagiNation

Minnesota Destination ImagiNation

Wikipedia Article 

Speaking of Middleton, I got the following good “News from District 833” yesterday.

"Middleton Principal Julie Nielsen receives MESPA award
Congratulations to Julie Nielsen for being named the recipient of the 2010 Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association Division Leadership Achievement Award. MESPA members selected 12 of their peers to receive the 2010 MESPA Division Leadership Achievement Award. Principals are responsible for a school’s instructional, school culture, and resource leadership. The award honors principals whose exemplary leadership and sustained efforts have made noteworthy contributions to the operation of effective school learning programs – improving education, their communities, and their profession."

Congrats to Middleton and Principal Nielsen.
 

Don’t be intimidated

To teach my son financial responsibility, I helped him open a savings and a checking account over three years ago. So he could save his money in his bank account instead of keeping and spending all, and learn to use checks.

Mid November last year, Andy wanted to buy a school t-shirt, and he was willing to pay for it. So I wrote a check of $7 from his account to his Lake Middle School.

Unbeknownst to me at that time, his account would soon be closed by the bank due to six-month of inactivity.

The account was closed near the end of January 2010. The school didn’t cash the check until at the beginning of February. I don’t know why it took so long to cash the check. And I didn’t realize that I had the check still unpaid.

Last week I got a letter from a collection agency dated February 15. I was asked to pay $37.

I never had something like that happened to me. So I was not happy about it. A $7 t-shirt became an expensive $37 t-shirt.

But it was something I couldn’t blame anyone else for, I still had to pay.

Today I called the collection agency to pay the charges.

I pay everything with credit card. It’s just easy and convenient. So I asked the customer service rep if I could pay with my credit card. She told me I had to pay extra $12 for using credit card. Then I told her I would just send the payment with a check in the mail.

Then she started to intimidate me, saying if I didn’t pay right away with a credit card, I should mail the payment overnight. Sending the payment in the mail might be too late. The case could be referred to lawyer tomorrow and I could end up with expensive lawyer and court fees.

I asked for a timeline. I wanted to know when that would happen to avoid what she was telling me about dealing with lawyer and court. She couldn’t tell me. When I asked to talk to her supervisor or another person, she got upset, saying I would get the exact same answer. I didn’t buy it. She got inpatient and hung up the phone.

Having to pay extra $30 was enough for me. I didn’t want to pay another $12 unnecessarily. I certainly felt intimidated and threatened.

I would rather pay the school district the extra fee than the collection agency.

So I called the school district business office and told the woman on the line what happened.

She made a phone call to the collection agency. Then she called me right back and told me that what the rep did was not right. I don’t need to worry about being late. I have plenty of time to mail the payment in.

I was glad I didn’t give in to the intimidation.

This reminded me of another experience I had eight years ago with a doctor from Capitol Orthopedics.

My then three-year-old daughter suffered some fractures on her left elbow due to an accident. A local orthopedist threatened to turn me over to social workers because I didn’t want him to take an X-Ray of her elbow for the third time within a 10-day time period.

I felt the doctor was trying to manipulate and intimidate me. I never went back to him again. And my daughter turned out to be fine without that extra X-Ray.

I wrote about that experience in a Woodbury Bulletin article.

My point is, don’t let people in any kind of power or position intimidate you. Especially in the business world, people do certain things for their own best interest and benefit. If you feel intimidated, go to another source and get help from someone else.

Reading biographies

My kids and I have always enjoyed reading and visiting library.

Since I announced incentives to my kids for reading nonfiction one month ago (see 1/31/10 post), visiting library has become a little bit more exciting.

They have been reading more biographies and have accumulated enough page numbers to be rewarded for an ice cream at every visit.

Now it has become a routine that we go to the library every Sunday afternoon to read and have ice cream. We stay for one to two hours till the library closes.

I check out lots of biographies about writers, artists, politicians, celebrities and historical figures and hope my kids will read them all.

My daughter reads some of them. She especially likes the “Who was …” series and has probably read most titles in the series.

But my son is not interested in the books I checked out for them. He reads almost only biographies about athletes whose names I do not recognize.

Since I don’t like books being checked out and returned without being read, I end up reading some of the books none of my kids wants to read.

As the result, I have been reading more biographies myself. It’s interesting to read about famous people or people I admire, William Shakespeare, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Condoleezza Rice, J.K. Rowling, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Kate DiCamillo, etc.

I wish I had read biographies years ago while growing up.

One common thread I find among the famous and successful people, especially writers, is that they love to read at a young age.

Today I read a biography about Oprah. Winfrey was born into poverty, but her grandma taught her to read before the age of three. I am sure that early reading and her life-long love to read played an important role in her success later in business and life.

Tha’t what I am trying to do with my kids. Instilling in them the love to read and helping them build a solid foundation for future success.
 

Just a game, win or lose

Today my 10 year old daughter Amy had her Year End Basketball Tournament.

This was the first time that Amy participated in a team sport. She has enjoyed playing the ERAA 4th grader in-house basketball. She had a great team and two wonderful coaches.

For the whole season that started last November, her team was unbeatable. As the result, the girls expected to win the last two games today at the tournament.

They won the first game against a Cottage Grove team pretty easily.

For the second game against another ERAA team, it was more challenging, but for the first half of time, Amy’s team was ahead of the other team. It really looked like that finishing the season with an unbeatable record was a done deal.

Then the other team scored their first two points. Quickly they gained momentum and more points. Within a few short minutes, Amy’s team lost ground and the game, to everyone’s surprise and disappointment.

It was hard for a few girls to accept the reality. They were emotional and cried.

The girls were really passionate about the game and had high expectation. Therefore, it was hard for them to take the loss.

The more passionate you are about something, the harder you crash when it fails.

I am not a sport fan at all. I don’t know anything about sport and don’t watch sport. When I take my kids to practices or games, I always have something to read with me. I am not as attentive and involved as other parents are when it comes to cheering for the teams.

But just being in the gym, watching the kids play, surrounded by excitement and disappointment, I could feel my body get tense from time to time.

No wonder watching or playing sport can be such an emotionally charged experience.

I certainly wish that Amy’s team could have won the final game and finished the season with a perfect winning record. But I think losing a game was not necessarily a bad thing. It could teach the girls some important lessons.

  • You don’t always win, whether in sports or in life. Success and failure are all part of life.
  • Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, as almost all investment literature tells you.
  • Don’t take things for granted.
  • Don’t be too proudful when you win; don’t be too discouraged when you lose. Things can change in seconds.
  • Don’t take the game too seriously, play and have fun.
  • Win or lose, it’s just a game.

My daughter had fun playing basketball, enjoyed her classmates and coaches, learned some skills and team spirit, and got good exercises twice a week for over three months. For me, it was a winning game from every aspect. It doesn’t really matter what the score says.

 

Reading incentive

My kids love to read. So I don’t worry about them not reading or not reading enough. 

But I am concerned that they don’t read broadly enough. They read almost exclusively fiction. I am a nonfiction reader. 

I wanted to encourage them to read more nonfiction books, especially biographies. I think at this young age, they can learn a lot of important lessons and wisdom from other successful people. Through reading life stories of famous people, they learn how to overcome poverty and challenges, how to work hard in order to become successful and reach your dreams. 

Today I had an idea and announced it to my kids. 

Whoever reads 1000 pages of nonfiction books will get an ice cream at the library. 

I don’t uaually buy my kids treats, so an ice cream at the library is a nice treat and a big deal for them. They were both excited and motivated. They couldn’t wait to go to the library today. 

In the afternoon we went to the Washington County Library in Woodbury. They checked out a whole bag of books, about 40 biographies. All of my son’s books are about athletes. My daughter’s books are about artists, musicians, writers, etc. 

And they started reading intensely. 

In 2-3 hours, Andy has already finished 400 pages. I don’t know about Amy, she hasn’t tallied her totals yet. She is a fast reader. I won’t be surprised by her high number. 

Some of the juvenile books Andy read are really easy. The page numbers add up quickly. 

I was glad to hear a comment Andy made after he read about 10 books. He said he liked reading those biographies. 

Now I am getting concerned that I will owe them too many ice creams by next Sunday when we visit the library again. 

For sure, going to the library will be more exciting for them than it used to be.

Making photo magnets

My kids are doing basketball this school year. Recently they got their basketball photos back. I bought them a package that includes a team picture, a couple of individual pictures and a bottom.

My son was not so happy because I didn’t buy the package with a photo magnet.  

Why should I? I can make one so easily myself.

So today, since my kids have no school and I have the day off, we made some photo magnets together.

I asked my kids to select any birthday or school pictures they like and want to make them into photo magnets for fridge. 

I am one of those people who saves everything for reuse and recycle. I have saved a lot of magnets that businesses give away at conferences and events. I use them mainly to make photo magnets.

First I select the appropriate size of magnet for the photo. Next, I peel off the business card from the magnet. If there is enough adhesive left and the surface is still sticky, I can simply put the photo directly on the magnet. If the surface is not sticky, then I use a glue stick to glue the photo on the magnet.  

It takes less than five minutes to make one. It’s really simple and easy.   

Now my kids are happy that their basketball pictures are on the fridge, along with some of their other photos. 

As you can see from the following photo, our fridge is very cluttered with photo magnets. But it looks nice. The photos make a pleasurable display on our fridge. Guests to our house are always attracted to that fridge area to look at the pictures.

  

Keep organized with three ring binders

I love three ring binders. They are a life saver for me. I use them to keep my life organized. I also use them to keep my kids’ life organized.

I use three ring binders and sheet protectors to keep related items together. For examples:

• My published articles in newspapers or magazines

• All the appliance manuals

• Retirement and financial statements

• Recipes

For each of my two children, I gave them a three ring binder with plastic sleeves when they were born. I have been building a portfolio for each of them.

Each binder contains important documents from the birth to present – birth certificate, graduation certificate, school report cards, test results, yearbooks, awards, letters from teachers, etc.

My son‘s first binder was full when he finished 5th grade at age 11. So when he started 6th grade at Lake Middle School last year, I gave him a new binder. The transition from elementary to middle school was the perfect time to start a new binder.

I have a few binders that contain all their birthday or school pictures.

Another binder for frequent use contains all current information about their after school activities, practice and game schedules for sport. The binder keeps all papers in one place and is handy when I need to know quickly when and what about their activities.

When my kids grow up and leave home, each will have a portfolio to take with them, their life summarized in a few binders, neatly and orderly.

Crazy schedule

Sport is not something I like. I don’t do any sports and don’t watch sports. My knowledge about sports is so limited that is unbelievable.

For example, I have lived in Woodbury since 2001. And I didn’t know that WAA is part of Woodbury High School until ERAA came into existence last year.

Naturally my two kids are not into sports a lot.

They went through the swimming lessons through the Community Education and graduated at their highest level. That’s about all the sport they have done.

They both don’t like swimming. They did it because I made them to. I think swimming a basic life skill they need in life.

Last summer they played basketball in our driveway after they got a basketball hoop. They liked it.

So when ERAA began to offer basketball in the fall, I signed both of them up for the sport, my son in the in-house 6th grade boy’s team and my daughter in the 4th grade girl’s team.

I didn’t know at the time that we would get ourselves into a crazy schedule.

My daughter’s practice usually starts at 6 pm and ends at 7:15 pm, and my son’s practice starts at 7:15 pm and ends at 8:30 pm. And they are at two different schools in two different directions, one at Liberty Ridge Elementary and one at Cottage Grove Elementary. The schools are not close to each other.

When we did the swimming lessons through Community Education, both my son and daughter had lessons at the same time and in the same location, even though they were at different levels. So it was predictable and convenient.

But now with basketball, they have different practice time and location. And they change every week. They are unpredictable and inconvenient for us. It really makes our life more hectic and stressful.

I don’t know how other parents handle multiple sports with multiply kids in the family, especially the traveling kinds. I have enough with just two kids in one sport.

Now I can better understand when I hear other parents talking about crazy schedules because of their kids’ involvement with various sports.

Yes, it is crazy.

I wish when ERAA schedule practice times and locations, there is a way that they could take sibling situation into consideration to make the schedule less crazy for participants.

Well, it’s probably not realistic, just my wishful thinking.

Too much of a good thing?

Three days ago, I said in this blog that I have two kids who love reading. I am happy and proud that I have instilled in them the love for reading. 

I don’t have problem getting my kids to read. My son Andy reads when he has books he likes, while my daughter Amy reads like non stop. She never runs out of books. 

My problem is to get her to stop reading sometimes. 

Just before bed time the other night, I asked Amy to come back to the bathroom to floss her teeth. She walked in with one book in her hand. Then She tried to clean her teeth while reading at the same time. When the book was taken away, she got frustrated and started to cry. 

Sometimes she is a little too much and too deep into reading that she doesn’t want to stop. 

"One more page," or "One more chapter," seems like the most used phrase out of her mouth. Then her one page or one chapter turns into several pages or chapters. She is still not moving. 

Is too much of a good thing turning into a problem? I wonder. 

If it’s a problem, I feel it’s a good problem to have. 

I believe reading is a cornerstone to success. Great and successful people are people who love to read, love to learn and love to grow and change. 

As long as my kids love to read, I am confident that they will do well in school and also do well later in life.

Amy’s piano recital

Today my daughter Amy had her winter piano recital at Mt. Olivet School of Music in Minneapolis where her teacher Ms. Yao teaches.

Ms. Yao comes to Woodbury on Saturdays and gives piano lessons to several students in my neighborhood.

Amy did well at the recital.

"Some kids made mistakes, but I didn’t make any." That’s her own reason for having done well.

Amy started piano lesson when she was 5 years old, around the time she started kindergarten. In the last five years, a lot of money and time and energy have been invested into giving her a good music education.

These five years have not been easy, because it has not been easy to get her to practice every day, especially at the beginning.

Amy would much prefer to read or do something else than to practice piano. We went through a lot of battles, tears, yelling, frustrations, and bribery. All kinds of methods and tricks were used to get her to practice.

I am glad we didn’t give up with Amy.

Today, when I asked her: "Do you want to quit piano now if you have the choice?"

She said: "No. I like to play for fun. I just don’t like to practice."

I can’t blame her for that. Which kid would like to practice something over and over every day instead of playing and doing something funner?

I am just glad that she likes to play piano now.

          

As an update to an early article published in Woodbury Bulletin, my son Andy quit piano at the end of 2008. He chose to play clarinet in the school band. I had to let him quit since he really didn’t like piano.

A special birthday celebration

To celebrate my daughter Amy’s birthday, I did a few special things with her.

I use the word special, because these are things I don’t usually do.

I took her out for breakfast at a coffee shop. She said the hot chocolate she got was so good.

I let her buy clothes at a clothing store she specified. She wanted it because some of her friends wear that brand name cloth. This was the first time I gave in to her wish for a brand name cloth.

We went to a bookstore and found a poem book for her.

I took her to a fast food restaurant for a happy meal and bought pizza for the whole family for lunch. We so seldom eat fast food it becomes a real treat for her.

We bought an ice cream cake. More junk food.

It’s her big birthday. I thought I could spoil her a little. That’s what I did.

What else did I do for Amy’s  birthday?

A few days before her birthday, I started to give her one poem book a day. Today she received two, including one by Shel Silverstein.

Since Amy loves Shel Silverstein’s poems and writes poems herself which I really encourage her to do, I have been collecting poetry books for her. Lately cruising used book and thrift stores for poetry books has become a new hobby for me.

I made her a card which I always do. This year I also wrote an ABC poem for her.

Instead of having a big birthday party for some fun and crazy time, I much prefer to have some quiet and special time.

This list of special things might look trivia to you, because you do them so often they are not special any more.

But for my daughter, they are very special.

I hope Amy had a memorable birthday. I also hope she will read all the poetry books I gave her.

Happy birthday, Amy!