Lego deals

I buy Lego mostly for my daughter and her friends’ birthday gifts. There are 5 stores I usually go (both online and offline): Lego official website, Amazon (probably bought the most), Walmart (both online and store pickup), Target (online, free shipping with red card), and Toys R Us (both online and store pickup). Note in the online cases, I usually got the free shipping.

A ballpark for deal or not is see if the per piece price is 10 cents or not. For example, for an 100 piece lego set, a fair price is $10. If it sells below $10, then it maybe a deal.

Deals usually got sold out fairly quickly. I recall once in holiday season I had it in the cart, but I was a bit greedy in terms of using shopping portal (Discover Deal) and also tried to find a nearby Walmart store, during the process the lego was sold out. Today I learned my lesson, as soon as I saw the deal from dealsea, I click on it and ordered from Toys R Us. I actually bought two because a friend asked. This afternoon when I go to the store to pick up (btw, I feel the physical stores are in big trouble, as the parking lot was pretty empty at Mid-river Mall). The store clerk said they were a bit puzzled about two orders in the morning, I said they are both mine :-)

I think Lego is good for kids toy because they encourage creativity, and in the case of I don’t know a kid’s hobby (for birthday present), a Lego set is a safe bet as it’s pretty liquid (they can give away easily).

Kids Rewards System

Recently my wife and I are having some trouble find out a way to manage our old daughter’s at home behaviors, esp. around good working habit (wait until last minute to do homework or play piano), clean up the mess after playing, be nice to her younger sister, and last but not least, playdate with friends went over the time we set initially.

Since I work in the reward space for my day job, and I thought there may be something we can do in an app. We did tried stickers, and charts, but nothing really stuck for a while. I think with the popularity of smartphones, a smartphone app may stick. Looked around I am seeing two; iRewardChart and Choremonster.

Last but not least, I came across two articles on this topic, Reward system: Goodbye to the sticker chart and How Experts Discipline Their Children.

(Update 03-20-2017) This is partially inspired at the teacher/JA volunteer (my coworker) rewards kids with chocolate/candy for good behaviors in classroom (see this post about my JA experience).

Summer camp recommendations

There are many good summer day camps in St. Louis area. STLToday recently has a good piece on this topic.

Personally my old daughter has been to the JCC Day Camp, and Andrews Academy. We like both, with a bit preference over Andrews: for its after care, and overall quality. Note cost-wise, Andrews is a bit more expensive than the J (about $1,300 per month vs $220 a week for the J). We also thought about the Arts Camp at COCA too but the pickup and dropoff is a bit challenge (due to half day schedule). Note they do have 2 locations: the U city campus and the Whitefield school at Ladue/Mason. My daughter was very much interested in the arts, that’s why we signed up the art camp at the J when she was 5 (incoming kindergartener). This summer we are thinking again sign her up at Andrews (4 weeks Science camp and 4 weeks Outdoor camp). Both the J and Andrews do swimming once a day.

For the little ones, the summer camp at Hope Montessori (Mason road, Creve Coeur) is very good. We are thinking about signing up younger daughter this summer.

Other camps I heard about: the mad science summer camp, and the Lego (Robotics) camp at Maryville U. Both are half day, so it’s a bit challenge if both parents work full time and in office.

Btw, I wrote about the summer camp about 3 years ago.

Last but not least, found a summer camp search website here.

Junior Achievement Volunteering at Northview Elementary Jennings

Today I had opportunity being a Junior Achievement Volunteer at Northview Elementary School (Jennings). This is the first time I volunteer for JA, also my first time really being a teaching position at school. Almost 18 years I did some brief teaching (Abaqus finite element analysis) for some civil engineering graduate students. More recently I started volunteer for Math Facts Scholars at my daughter’s school, but this is mostly testing and some one on one tutoring.

Back to topic, JA is a program teaching kids about community, business, jobs, work readiness and entrepreneurship. It reminds me of this Warren Buffett SMC program this evening after I came back from the school, and cooled down a bit. The day went by fast, and we (my partner, myself and classroom teacher) did the best we can, considering all the factors: the classroom is a bit crowded, 28 kids for 2nd grade. I also started appreciating the hard work of teacher, in the beginning of afternoon session, because I felt my knee is really sore, and I just feel like to sit down. It’s also very interesting to see the teacher got many tricks (gestures, rhythms, and routines) to help calm down the kids. Also there are bright and hard working kids everywhere, despite the fact they may not have the latest and greatest facility or equipment. For example, I noticed they have Windows, and small Dell laptop (chromebooks?). While in many area private school and the public school my daughter goes, they have macs.

For me this is quite an eye opening moment for me, as I listened to the morning announcement in the broadcast, from pledge of the allegiance, to birthday annoucement.

PS, I was quite nervous before the event, as I said earlier I did not have much teaching or public speaking experience. One thing I try to remind myself: as Woody Allen said, 80% of the work is to show up. So just show up and we should be mostly fine. Also, I try to set my expectation low, as long as I have impact one student, I will be happy. It seems from the students response, I wildly beat this low expectation: as I was leaving, students gave me hugs and high fives.

Also, it’s interesting some of them were very curious about China, they asked me questions on China. I never have similar experience like that in my daughter’s school, probably because I never got to talk, and they have many Chinese kids in school (not as curious).

Fund raising at non-for-profit orgnizations

(Update 28-Feb-2017) Just got back from the book fair in Spoede school, camp read a lot. It’s a lot of efforts from the volunteers and the teachers. At the same time a lot fun for the little kids and the families. Part of the profit goes to the SSA (the parent association of the school).

(Original) I have some experience on this topic, when I was a new graduate student at Rolla, I worked on the phone asking the alumni for donation during phonathon. That’s from the asking end.

When I started to working, I listened to local NPR station (KWMU) for news and english learning, I know from time to time they also have the fundraising campaign. During that time they pause the program, and ask people to call in and give money. After a few years, finally I pulled the plug and called them.

Nowadays as my daughters started attending schools and they usually have parents association that support the schools. The St. Louis Children’s Choirs my old daughter participated is a non-for-profit organization too. There are a few common ways to raise the money: silent auction (or not-so-silent-auction), trivial/bingo games, the affiliation programs such as scripts program at Schnucks, Amazon shopping, and box-on-top. There are also some events like eating out night (restaurant donate a part of revenue/profit to school). So really it’s whatever it works: bring money from multiple revenue streams. For the trivia night/silent auction or live auction, usually people bring own drink (alcohols), unless it’s a family friendly event in which alcohol is not allowed. It seems to me sometimes the bidding become more intense with all the alcohols :-)

This year my daughter’s school did something different, they did a raffle. I think raffle (sweepstakes) is not uncommon, except in this case I think the each entry is a bit too costly ($100). I think $100 is not small money in many families, also keep in mind in some culture or religion sweepstakes (gamble) is not a good idea :-)

So here is my 2 cents. I think small non-for-profit organization fundraising is a bit like a small business trying to survive, again I feel this is one reason the multiple revenue streams. Some passive (affiliation); some active (trivial/auction/eat out). Coming from China which does not have this sort of thing, I feel this is interesting.

Remembering my middle school teacher 姚仁汉老师

昨晚在初中群里面惊闻我的初中物理老师姚仁汉老师,因病去世,年仅56(虚岁)。这里有相关的介绍, 还有这里, 和这里

姚老师大学一毕业就来镇海中学(84年),我们(初二)是他的第一批学生,教了两年(初二初三)。除了教书,他还组织物理兴趣小组。记得他带我们坐公交汽车去他的母校(宁波师范大学)参观,这是我第一次看到天文望远镜。98年我有机会回到母校镇中,有幸遇见他,当时他好像已经是领导,负责整个初中部教学工作。记得他还是是憨憨的老样子。现在算来,他当时大学毕业(22岁),我们初二(13岁),他大我们十岁都不到。他就是我们的兄长。

借用一句兄弟班同学的唁文“人生有幸,在最好的年纪遇上最好的老师”。。。

Worst flu in recent memory

So here in Missouri, around February, is also the worst of the flu season. This year is the worst for a long time. I knew I got it at the New Year’s eve, and about 4 weeks later, I am not fully recovered. The problem was I had to work in the Saturday night/Sunday morning after new year (Feb 4/5 weekend), though it did not made my situation worse, it did not made my life any easier either. My two daughters also got it. They were off school in the week of Feb 6 for 3 and 4 days, respectively. I had to work from home, and did some juggernaut, and tried stay in the game. I did get flu shot, but my girls did not. I had some fever on Feb 3 and 17. My old daughter got fever again this week, started Sunday night/Monday morning. My wife think one reason was we did not dry her hair after swimming. Oh well, this is the worst flu season I have seen for a while. I heard many school kids and teachers got sick, naturally due to their environment. Work place may work better if we can issue a work from home memorandum.

My coworker also mentioned the V8 and advil to fight this off. Not sure whether this is effective or not, as I am not a V8 fan (tomato juice).

Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf schools in St. Louis

Those schools are considered speciality schools, because they have their own philosophy, which is NOT exactly the same as other private schools (both sectarian and non-sectarian).

Pre-school
Schools that care and educate the younger ones, some even have infant class.
A growing place: it’s located at Forsyth and Big Bend road, next to Washington U. Danforth campus. It’s a small school, but I heard very good things about them from two people (one montessori teacher, and one parent).

Faith Academy of Montessori: Housed in a historic 19th century train station in the heart of Webster Groves, Faith Academy is a Montessori preschool and kindergarten serving children and their families since 1982.

Hope Montessori: they have many campuses but our favorite is the original one Creve Coeur. Also noted the infant toddler community. My old daughter attended there for 3 years (from 1.5 years old to 4.5 years old; from toddler to preschooler). The only downside I can see is the cost, the environment and teachers qualify is the best in STL.

Kirkwood Children’s House: founded by Florence Kramer in 1985, is a Montessori preschool dedicated to the care and education of children ages 18 months to six year old.

Visitation Academy: Viz is an independent, Catholic school offering a co-educational Montessori program in Grades Toddler through Kindergarten…

RainTree school: emma reggio themed pre-school. I heard from my coworker. It’s a fairly new school, and they emphasize the outdoors (if you don’t mind wash kiddo’s clothes). Also they have some discount if you pay the whole year tuition in advance.

The Waldorf School of St. Louis: the only Waldorf school in St. Louis, located in a Webster Groves neighborhood (residential area). They also have elementary school.

Elementary schools
Schools have elementary schools (or higher grades).
Chesterfield Day School: Beginning in our Toddler program through First Grade, Chesterfield Day School’s premier Montessori School bridges to a strong and distinctive secondary school preparation program with personalized methodologies woven throughout.

Chesterfield Montessori: “Chesterfield Montessori School was founded in 1981 as a private school serving children ages three to six. Today CMS is a well-established, non-profit school recognized by AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) offering authentic Montessori programs at all levels from toddlers (16 months) through 15 years…” Six years ago I toured the school on a sunny day after snow, a gorgeous view of the school, and wonderful facilities. I learned the “mixed ages kids in same class” from that visit.

St. Michael’s School (about us): reggio approach is used. This may sound a bit surprising to some but note Visitation academy (catholic school) offers Montessori (see above)

Which school to choose?
This is very personal (individual family has to make this decision). Note there are many excellent public (Ladue, Clayton, Lindburgh, Kirkwood etc.), and private schools in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Also see the link here, here and here.

To be continued…

Asian restaurant near O’fallon MO area

So far I went to 3, listed below.

The rice bowl (Korean): yelp. Address below:
7895 Mexico Rd
St. Peters, MO 63376

Thai Kitchen: yelp
3899 Veterans Memorial Pkwy
Saint Peters, MO 63376

KiTARO Bistro of Japan: (website, yelp)
4551 Hwy K
O’Fallon, MO 63368

I will add more as I find more :-)

Also, some new Chinese restaurants I recently visited:
Cate Zone
Chef Ma’s Chinese gourmet
Corner 17

Remembering my middle school teacher 周国夫老师

今晚在高中群里突然听到我的初中班主任数学老师,省劳动模范周国夫三年前已去世。下面的博客中有周老师的照片。我从初中到镇海中学住宿读书,一个月回一次家,从某种意义上讲,周老师就是我们这些住宿生的父亲。我也受到周老师很多影响,尤其是学习(自学)方法和态度方面。他的数学课布置很多讲义(作业),他会讲解一些题,但主要是要自学。记得我们初一自学初二内容,以此类推。他有时又很大方,比如说数学课以后是英语考试,他说你们看英语吧。刚到镇中不久,有一次我发烧,有点严重,他和一些同学带我上医院,忙前忙后。现在想起来就像我对我的小孩一样。

这里有一个关于周老师的简短介绍