Pencil Bugs Blog Posts

The posts below are an archived version of my blog from 2008-2010 in chronological order.

Seussical, the Musical

Published Mon Dec 08 2008
Today, we went to see the play, "Seussical, the Musical" presented by CYT. My best friend's sister was in the play as one of The Whos. It was really good, especially because all the kids in the play have to be under 18.

KATY Leadership Award

Published Sun Dec 14 2008
I was very surprised when I got a phone call after school today from our local radio station, KATY 101.3 FM. The DJ, Craig Cruise, said the station selected me for the community Leadership Award. It was really cool because he interviewed me about my Pencil Bugs business and asked about the charities I've donated to. Then I was really surprised when he said they had 4 tickets to SeaWorld to give me. I will post again after we go. I'll be taking my best friend with us since I'm an only child. It will be fun!

Thanksgiving break!!!!

Published Mon Dec 22 2008
YAAAAAAYYYYY!!! I am finally on Thanksgiving break.

SeaWorld Adventure

Published Wed Dec 24 2008
Yesterday, I went to SeaWorld in San Diego. Because I was selected as the winner of the community Leadership Award from our local radio station, KATY 101.3 FM, I received 4 free tickets to SeaWorld. So I got to take my best friend, Jacob. He's the one on the right next to the holiday sign. The weather was okay as long as the sun was out but after riding the two wet rides, Atlantis and Shipwreck Rapids, a bunch of times, we got pretty wet and then it got really cold. Walking around in wet shoes and socks all day wasn't too fun.
I just want to say "thanks" again to KATY for picking me for the Leadership Award. I hope I can inspire and encourage other kids and adults to do things for their communities too. Even if you can't give a lot, sometimes the smallest thing can make a huge difference in someone else's life.
Shipwreck Rapids - Jacob and me

Turkey Day

Published Sun Dec 28 2008
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving day yesterday. Even though there are many people who are having tough times because of the economy, there is always something to be thankful for. I'm especially thankful for my family.

Back to school!

Published Fri Jan 02 2009
Well, two days back into the routine of school, homework, and getting up early. School is one of those "have to's" in life that you might not always want to do but you need to anyway. It's especially hard after having so much fun on a break. Besides school stuff, I'm busy getting ready to make my second donation of gift bags to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. I've had quite a few people offer to donate various items to add to the bags so the kids will have more surprises and goodies. I'm sure it would be really rotten to be in the hospital during the holidays so I hope my gift bags can make their stay just a little more fun. Just 12 days until Christmas break. Ho, ho, ho!

Sun Chip Cracks Tooth

Published Mon Jan 05 2009
Yesterday was interesting. I had just finished eating my PBJ for lunch at school and started eating some Sun Chips. One of my baby molars was loose and when I bit down, the chip cracked my tooth. That's not to say that Sun Chips are that tough if you don't have a loose tooth to begin with. So because the tooth was cracked and it was going to fall out anyway, I ended up having to go to the dentist to get it pulled out. And since I was already there and he had to numb my mouth, we decided to have him pull out the other two baby molars that were also loose and hurting.

It wasn't too much fun but at least I'll be able to eat good stuff again without having loose, hurting teeth. Remember to brush and floss!

Pencil Bugs fly to Denmark

Published Fri Jan 09 2009
Twitter is really amazing. The first day I made it around the world. I got an order for my Pencil Bugs from a person in Denmark. I've shipped my products to Lesotho, Africa and Cairo, Egypt but Denmark is the first European country. I expect that there will be more in the future, or at least I'm hoping so. I think it's so cool to know that kids everywhere will know about me and can use my Pencil Bugs while they're doing their homework. Thanks Peter for the order and following me on Twitter.

Twitter, anyone?

Published Fri Jan 09 2009
My mom signed me up for a Twitter account yesterday. It was UNBELIEVABLE! I think our e-mail server got overloaded because in about 4-5 hours, I had over 75 followers, most of them thanks to a really nice person named, Erin Coss ( She co-authored an amazing book with her younger sister, Katie Kinsella, called "My Hospital Journal" which they generously donated 50 copies for my project with Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. I'm putting together 50 gift/activity bags and delivering them on Dec. 19. There are many more people that have helped with donations to make the bags full of goodies and the kids in the hospital a little happier. It can't be very fun being in the hospital during the holidays. I'll have a complete list of those who helped posted on my website on Dec. 19. Be sure to check back.

My Grandma's Book

Published Sun Jan 11 2009
My grandma (aka Betty L. Smokov) became a published author this summer about a month after she turned 75. It's a pretty cool book called "Bikes, Trikes, Toads, and Roads: A Lifetime of Stories." To read one of the stories, go to Amazon. Then you can buy your copy of the book. It has a ton of short stories about everything from way back when her ancestors came to America in 1883 to sad stories about how my mom and her three sisters almost froze to death in the car during a snow storm when they were young. Then there are more recent stories like the one about how Grandpa (aka Paul Smokov) became pretty famous by forecasting the weather reading pig spleens.
Pig spleens you ask? Well, it's an organ inside the pig just like people have a spleen.
In December 2007, an AP reporter did a story on him and it appeared in more than 1500 papers around the world. Well, wouldn't you know that Jay Leno and David Letterman both called to invite him on their shows. But here's the most amazing part: Grandpa said "no thanks, I have cows to feed." Well, it was winter in North Dakota and it's pretty hard to feed cows when it's so cold and Grandpa doesn't like anyone else doing his work.
Needless to say, neither Jay nor Letterman called back. As they say, opportunity only knocks once, especially when it comes to TV shows. But back to Grandma. She's been having a lot of fun doing book signings around North Dakota and also giving presentations at schools. Since 4th graders study about their state, lots of them like reading the stories too because she talks about things that aren't in regular history or science books like what caused red snow one winter and how it's possible to rain frogs and toads. Really! My mom has even seen that happen for real when she was a kid. I guess I'm lucky because I come from a pretty amazing family with lots of different talents. Probably where I get my entrepreneurial spirit.
Grandma's Book

Shop till you drop!

Published Mon Jan 12 2009
After school today, my parents and I spent about an hour and a half shopping at Target. We bought lots of toys and goodies for my gift bag project for Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. The shopping cart was chuck full and it made us feel a little weird knowing that lots of people don't even have jobs this year. But at least we knew the gifts are going for kids who are in the hospital during Christmas this year and maybe getting a bagful of fun things might make their time in the hospital not quite so bad. I'll be going down to San Diego on Dec. 19 to deliver all of the bags. There is so much stuff, we're getting worried that my dad's car might not hold all of the bags. I have 50 bags but we also have a bunch of other things like board games and toys for their community playroom that all the kids can use. My mom said we might have to rent a small pickup or something just to get everything down there in one trip. Then after I play Santa at the hospital, the NBC station in San Diego (KNSD 39) has invited me to be on their 4pm news. I hope lots of people watch and maybe if they can donate even just a little to some charity, then it's worth it. Even the smallest thing can make a difference in someone else's life. You just never know.

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 1

Published Tue Jan 13 2009

#1 - Help someone because even the smallest thing can make a difference.

Starting today, I'll be giving one tip per day until Christmas. These are things that I've been taught by my parents in my everyday life but also things that I've learned from having my business and meeting a lot of other people that have helped me along the way. Check back every day to read the next tip. Merry Christmas!

A Little Begging

Published Tue Jan 13 2009
Here's my dog, Rusty. We got her from a rescue home almost 5 years ago. She's a cocker spaniel mix but we're not sure the the "mix" part is. She had some real problems when we got her but after knowing that we weren't going to hurt her, she softened up a lot. Whoever had her before must have taught her at least one trick because right from the beginning, she was able to "shake hands." We've been teaching her other tricks since then. Here's the list:
  1. Shake hands
  2. Roll over
  3. Sit
  4. Stay
  5. Lie down
  6. Crawl (on her stomach if you can believe that)
  7. Walk on her back legs only
  8. Dance on her back legs in a circle
  9. Hop on her back legs
  10. Catch a piece of food in the air after we set it on the tip of her nose
  11. Beg
We're working her on covering her eyes with her front paws and playing "dead" but that's taking a little while. She's been a good dog and I'm glad we got her.
Rusty begging

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 2

Published Wed Jan 14 2009

#2 - Everything happens for a reason. We just need more patience.

Sorting the gifts for Rady Children's Hospital

Published Wed Jan 14 2009
We received so many donations from people that today my mom, dad, and I started to go through everything to put the gifts in separate bags for the kids. We had many board games, video games, DVD's, doll clothes, and pretend play things that will stay in their community playroom so all the kids can use them. The other items you see in this picture are just some of the many donated items that will go in each of the 50 bags; everything from mini-footballs, books, trading cards, football game playing cards, sports drinking bottles, and so much more. I've listed all the people I've received donations from on my website so click on the Santa at the top of my home page and you'll see all the generous people so far. We're still expecting a few more in the next day or two. Then we'll be off to San Diego on Friday to deliver. We have received so much that we're a little worried that it won't all fit in my dad's car. We are going to call a rental car place and hopefully they might donate a van for the day.
Sorting through some of the donations

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 3

Published Thu Jan 15 2009

#3 - Listen more than you talk.

Okay, remember I'm a kid and I haven't figured everything out yet. But as my grandma always says, "you're never too old to learn." So the tip for the day is simple.

Rain, rain, go away!

Published Thu Jan 15 2009
I've heard people say "it never rains in southern California." A big HA! Last night it started dumping and it rained all day. This year my locker at school is inside but we go between portables for classes. The rain was coming down so hard and the wind was blowing sideways that by the time we went from first to second period, our pants were drenched. Umbrellas were blowing inside out and kids were rushing around trying to keep from getting totally soaked. It didn't work. Everyone was wet from head to toe. I felt sorry for the 6th graders having their lockers outside because the school didn't fix the overhangs right last year and from personal experience last year, you might as well not even tried to keep things dry because it was impossible! I finally kept my text books in jumbo ziplock bags all winter last year. We may be getting dumped on but at least it's not FREEZING!

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 4

Published Fri Jan 16 2009

#4 - Keep going, even if you want to quit sometimes.

For the first two years of my business, my parents and I did A LOT of sidewalk sales events trying to get more people to know about my Pencil Bugs. I would ask stores like Wal-Mart and Albertson's Grocery if I could set up outside their store. Both were really supportive and were glad to hear I was donating some of the money to help kids. We all did it because, well, they wouldn't let me be out there alone and I wouldn't have wanted to anyway. So for many weekends, we'd get a large supply of my products, the display stand that we handmade, the card table, a couple of folding chairs, and sometimes the giant paper mache' Pencil Bug head that we made and load it all in the trunk. During the summer, we'd usually start at 9am and try to go till about noon. Sometimes when business was slow or people would just walk by, I'd get a little discouraged. But my parents would keep reminding me that it wasn't necessarily about me. I finally learned that some people are in a hurry, some people are tired, and some people just don't stop for anyone. It was hard many times to stand there trying to get people to buy my Pencil Bugs. Lots of times I wanted to quit early or not go at all. In the beginning it was hard to even talk to people. My mom and dad kept telling me to just be friendly and say "hi" or "how's it going?" and not ask if they wanted to buy anything. That's when more people would actually stop and then eventually buy. The more I tried that, the easier it got and I finally realized that selling is really just talking with people. But it was still hard to keep going for two or three hours. Mom would say, "see if you can find that extra 10% in you to go just a little more." Sure enough, I had it in me and pretty soon, it was time to go. The good thing was, Mom and Dad always understood and knew when enough was enough. When I thnk about all those times, it wasn't as bad as it seemed then and I'm really glad they kept me going. Otherwise, I would have missed out on so many opportunities and fun things that I've gotten to do with my business.
Sidewalk sale outside Albertson's

Do you dress up your pet?

Published Fri Jan 16 2009
Why do pet owners dress their pets, especially dogs, in holiday costumes? And then we make them pose and take pictures of them. Do we think they like it? I wonder sometimes. But my mom has done that to our dog a few years ago. I guess she didn't mind having the Santa hat on and we were surprised she sat still as long as she did but I wonder what goes through their heads. She hasn't dressed up Rusty since then. But check out these other photos. My aunt has a dog that can fit any holiday. These are pretty funny. Leave a comment and tell me what you think and I'll pass it along to her.
My Santa dog, RustyChristmas ShelbyGardener Shelby

"Oh what fun it is to give . . ."

Published Fri Jan 16 2009
We are still receiving donations for the hospital gift bags. And by the way, THANKS to everyone who has helped so much. I'll be posting stuff after we deliver these on Friday so make sure to check back Saturday. On Sunday, we started laying out all the things that people have sent. We still weren't sure what size of bags to buy until we sorted through everything. Yesterday, we finally bought the 50 bags we needed to organize all the toys, games, books, color crayons, DVD's, etc. for the kids at Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego. Then it was trying to figure out what to put in each bag. Some things were better for little kids and other things were good for older kids. Then we had items donated that were good for all ages so those went in each of the 50 bags. Then we had to figure how many for each age category and start putting the gifts in the bags. Here's what our system looked like. It's a good thing we have a spare play room at home with not much furniture in it because that's where we were able to spread everything out. Once the bags were filled, we had to see how many large games and toys we had that will go in their community playroom for all the kids. My dad called Enterprise rental car in town to see if they would donate a small van for the day since all this might not fit in his car. We haven't heard anything back from them yet though. Now that we have the bags sorted, filled, and put into age categories, we're going to make tags for each one so that when the hospital staff distributes them, they can look at the tag and see if it's better for a boy or girl and what age. I really do feel like Santa. I just hope it's not raining on Friday when we need to go there.
First day of sorting donationsSorting Rady bags-Day 2

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 6

Published Sun Jan 18 2009

#6 - No one can do it alone.

Being a kid and having a business can be really fun but it also means that you're probably going to need a lot of help from adults. When you're a minor, you can't sign anything legal like business licenses or contracts. There are a lot of other situations where you'll need help because it's hard sometimes to manage school (which should always come first), the business, and still have time to be a regular kid. I'm lucky because I have my mom and dad and they help a lot. But even if you're a grown-up, there will be times when you need help from other people. The more people you have around you that are willing to help and support you, the easier it will be. With Internet, it makes it easy to "talk" to people all over the world.

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 7

Published Mon Jan 19 2009

#7 - It's not about how much you do but what you do.

Even at my age, I see things that make me wonder about "quality vs. quantity." I think sometimes people focus too much on the "how much" when they should be more concerned about the "what." As I've said, I'm not getting rich from my business, at least not yet, but I am doing something and everyone has to start somewhere. Donating and helping other people is the same thing. Since I started my business and I was donating right away to help foster kids in my community, people wanted to know "how much" I was giving. Back then, I didn't really have any idea of how much to give. My dad explained that most really big companies don't give more than 5% and many give less. And that 5% for them is usually from their profits which is a very different amount than gross sales which is what I did. It didn't take me long to figure out that part. :) After awhile, I didn't care if people thought it wasn't enough. I knew I was doing good things and as I've said, "even the smallest things can make a difference to someone." So I try to encourage other kids to help out if they can. If kids can get in the habit early to do something for other people, then we'll probably grow up and keep doing that. The same thing goes for grades in school. Even though I'm a good student and get A's most of the time, it shouldn't be about "how high" the letter or percentage is. Almost anyone can memorize long enough to remember for a test but that isn't really learning for the long run. The more we have to remember, the less we really know.

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 8

Published Tue Jan 20 2009

#8 - You can do anything if you set your mind to it.

This isn't always easy to remember. There are times when I know I can do it if I really try. It's just sometimes I'd rather be doing something else than what I should do. Even though I'm a good student in school, believe me, there are many times I'd rather be playing than doing homework. For adults, I'm sure there are days when you don't want to go to work or get a project done. For a kid, this can even happen if you're playing a game. For instance, I've tried some video games that are really hard. Even though it's fun, it's still frustrating but usually if I keep trying, I'll figure it out somehow. And there's no reason you can't ask for help if you need it. Remember BizTip #6? That kind of goes along with this one too. So the trick is to try and remember what the end result is if you just get it done. Focus on what you want and quick stalling. Pretty soon, you'll find that you made it. Then the cool part is, when you look back, you'll probably say, "that wasn't so hard." Or maybe if it really was hard, you might think, "whew! I did it even though it was tough." Either way, it's a good feeling to know YOU DID IT!!! Then give yourself a BIG pat on the back.

A Very Rady Christmas!

Published Tue Jan 20 2009
Oh, what a day yesterday! It was a long time in coming and lots to do. While I was in school, both of my elves were working hard getting all the toys, books, and games into the 50 bags I delivered to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. When it came time to load everything in the sleigh (aka my dad's car), it didn't all fit. So mama elf jumped on the phone and called Enterprise Rent-a-Car. They weren't able to donate the use of a van but were nice enough to give us a discount. Even with that, it was still full by the time we got the 50 individual bags for the kids and the six extra large bags filled with toys and games for the community playroom at the hospital. I had a short day at school so by lunch, we were off to San Diego. When we got there, a camera woman from the local NBC station was waiting for me. Since I was invited to be on the 4:30pm news, they wanted to film a few minutes of me with all the toys. The people at Rady are so grateful that I've chosen them to support with my donations that the coordinator, Shelley Borree, presented me with an Appreciation Certificate. I was really surprised but I can't take all the credit. There were many people who were generous and donated their own products to help with this project. They are all listed on my website so please take a look. I didn't have a chance to meet the kids in the hospital this time but I really hope my gift bags help them have a nice holiday season and maybe make their time in the hospital not quite so bad. After we unloaded everything from the van, we had a little time until I was supposed to be at the TV station. We walked around the 5-story mall they have downtown near the studio and got lost many times since it was so big. Right across the street and next to the studio was an ice rink which was cool! Literally! :) Finally it was time to check it with the news producer. I was a little nervous since it was the first time on live TV but it went very well and amazingly enough, a 3-minute interview goes by pretty fast even if you're nervous. A HUGE thank you again to everyone who donated to help make Christmas in the hospital a bit more enjoyable for a lot of kids this year.
Rental van full of gift bagsOops, I blinked!

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 9

Published Wed Jan 21 2009

#9 - You can't get anywhere by sitting on your ideas. Don't be the person who says, "I thought of that years ago."

You don't have to be really old to have heard someone say things like, "Hey, that was my idea," or "I should have thought of that." People do it all the time when they see a product or service on the market. And maybe sometimes it's actually true. But it doesn't have to be that way. YOU could be the one that other people are saying that about. It could be YOUR idea that makes it to the store shelves. When I give presentations to schools, libraries and community organizations, one of the things I always mention is that an idea doesn't have to be brain surgery, as the saying goes. It can be the simplest thing in the world but if no one else thought of it or actually did something about getting it made, it doesn't do any good.
My Pencil Bugs are not rocket science and there certainly are dozens of choices of pencil toppers for kids but for some reason, I've become pretty successful with my simple, little idea. Oh sure, there are lots of reasons why some people never actually put their ideas out there but if you don't at least give it a try, well, then it's just an idea and will never become a product or business.
My mom told me a story about when she was little. Her and her sisters came up with a game idea but because their family didn't have a lot of money and Internet hadn't been invented yet to make things a whole lot easier, they weren't able to do anything with the idea. Well, sure enough, a few years later, a similar concept was in the stores. So money is a big factor when trying to get your ideas off the drawing board. That's why if you can, keep it simple in the beginning. But no matter what the reason is, there's always a way to get it done if you really want something bad enough and just sitting on your ideas will guarantee nothing will happen.
Individually packaging

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 10

Published Thu Jan 22 2009

#10 - Treat everyone with respect - good customer service can make all the difference.

My parents told me people used to say that the customer was always right. Well, maybe that's not always so but if it weren't for customers, businesses wouldn't exist. My business is still small compared to a lot so I'm still able to send a personal thank you and confirmation for every order I receive. If someone just wants to ask me a question, I always send a reply back. But since I'm still a kid and you never know who is really on the other end of the e-mail, my mom or dad make sure they read all messages. People have asked me if I plan on giving the same kind of customer service when my business gets really big. It's hard to say how things will change because I figure they probably will but at least I want to always make people feel like they really count.

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 11

Published Fri Jan 23 2009

#11 - If you make a mistake, get over it and move on.

This pretty much says it all. We can try and try, as hard as we might but sometimes we're just going to make mistakes. That's the way it is. For me, it seems like whenever I make a mistake, if I keep thinking about it, I end up making more mistakes because I get so preoccupied with the first one. Sometimes I get embarassed depending on the mistake I've made but I've finally learned that if I can laugh at myself and even make a joke about it, it helps to get over it quicker. I guess what we all need to remember is that no one is perfect. Mistakes are bound to happen but it's good to not make the same mistakes over and over again.

12 BizTips of Christmas - Day 12

Published Sat Jan 24 2009

#12 - Think BIG!

I've learned this from my mom. She's a tiny person but she always thinks big. If she gets an idea in her head, she doesn't do baby steps to the top, she takes a giant leap right up there. There have been so many times since I started my business that out of the blue, she'll look at me and say, "something big is going to happen." She's not psychic or anything and not really sure what that "something big" is but she just believes it. Maybe that's the power of suggestion as they say. If you think it will happen, there's a better chance it will. But the ironic thing is, she's been right many times so when she says something like that, it kind of gets me excited wondering what is coming. I've had big plans for my business for a long time and right from the start, I went right to the top. In fact, it was maybe about 5-6 months after I started when I decided to send a set of Pencil Bugs and matching bookmarks to guess who? Yep, Bill Gates! I knew there wasn't much of a chance that he would even receive them but I thought, why not? IF he happened to actually get them and IF he thought I was a pretty good young entrepreneur and IF he just happened to use one of my Pencil Bugs on a pen to sign something in the media, what better attention could I get than to have Bill Gates using a very cool pencil topper? Well, it's been almost three years and I have never heard anything from him or even received a form letter but that's okay. One reporter wrote about it in a newspaper article and a customer of mine actually had a friend of Gates so you just never know who knows who and what could happen. If SpongeBob can have toys, cartoons, books, and a movie, then Pencil Bugs can too. So whatever you do in life, THINK BIG! You might surprise yourself. :)

Merry Christmas!

Published Sat Jan 24 2009
I hope everyone had a great year and if not, 2009 will be better. Since we'll be busy eating lots of food tomorrow, this will be my last post until after Christmas. I've been really lucky with a lot of things but the best things in my life are my parents. I have the best parents ever and I know that I wouldn't have gotten many of the opportunities without them.
I just received an e-mail from Inspire Me Today ( letting me know that they will be re-running me as a featured luminary on their website on Dec. 27. Make sure to log on and read my story.

Winter Wonderland

Published Fri Jan 30 2009
I wished for a white Christmas this year and I really got it. We left sunny (well, sort of rainy) southern California last week before Christmas and flew to my grandparents' farm in the middle of North Dakota. I wanted enough snow to make a snowman or at least have a snowball fight with my dad but we didn't want to have bad weather on the days we were flying. The plane made it to Bismarck on time but since it was pretty late on Dec. 23, my grandma and grandpa didn't want to take a chance driving on the highway the 40 miles at night so my mom's sister came to pick us up at the airport and we stayed with them that night. It was COOOOOOOOLLLLLDDDDDD!!! No, it was FREEEEEEEEZING! and tons of snow! The next day, my grandma came to pick us up and we drove to their farm. Even more snow! About 2 feet all over but around the yard where my grandpa scooped the snow up into huge piles so they could drive to the road, there was even more snow. I had never seen that much snow . . . EVER! The funny thing was, the snow was really fluffy and dry because it was so cold which meant it wasn't good for making snowballs or snowmen but my dad and I still played around throwing snow at each other for awhile. On Christmas day, the temperature got up to around 15 degrees above zero so grandma and I put on our snow suits, bundled up and started to dig out a snow fort. Near their house, the wind had blown and piled up a snow bank about 6-7 feet high. That's where we started digging a hole. By the time Mom came out all bundled up, Grandma and I had already dug a hole in the snow bank about 3-feet deep. Mom decided it wasn't big enough compared to the snow fort she and her sisters had made when they were kids so her and I kept digging into the snow bank farther and farther. We dug out enough snow to make the fort about 8 feet across but it was only about 4 feet high so you had to crawl in and then couldn't really sit up straight. The next day it snowed again and blew which made the door get half covered with more new snow. It also piled up on top of the hill so the weight of the new snow made the height inside even lower which meant the next day we had to do more digging and shoveling out of snow. Once it was fairly big inside, I decided to try and experiment by digging a small hole in the side of the wall and then I stuck a plastic bottle of root beer in to see how long it would take to get cold and frosty. After an hour or so when I thought it should have been really slushy, it was only about as cold as the refrigerator. Grandma said it was because the snow actually acted like an insulator and wouldn't let it freeze. It would have gotten colder if I would have just left it sitting on the ground outside. I'd had enough for awhile so after I went in the house to warm up and play cards with Grandma, my mom and dad walked around the yard taking pictures of everything covered with snow. Then Dad decided to make a snow angel. Then when it finally warmed up to about 22 degrees on Christmas day, we hurried outside and had Grandma take a family picture. Mom had the bright idea to use this as our 2009 Christmas card. Even though that was the warmest it got all week, it was still too cold to be outside without coats. It was a fun week and went by way too fast. I've been lucky to go to their farm almost every summer but I've only been there twice for Christmas and the last time was a long time ago. The day we left Bismarck, North Dakota on the plane, it was delayed over an hour before taking off. We made our connection in Minneapolis to San Diego but didn't get home and in bed until after 2 a.m. which was really 4 a.m. on body time. So it was a very long trip home. Now, I've got just 5 more days until school starts again.
Snowball fightBeginning of snow fortNew snow drift over snow fort doorBigger snow fortDad, Me, and Mom

2009 BizTip #1

Published Sun Feb 01 2009

#1 - If you believe big things will happen, there's a better chance they will.

When you're a little kid, you usually think you can do anything. Then people grow up and pretty soon they start using the word "can't" too much. Luckily, my mom and dad have always told me I can do amazing things if I just set my mind to it. They believe in me even when I don't always believe in myself because sometimes it's hard to do that. It shouldn't be that hard. It's just positive thinking and it's something everyone can do if they really want to. I've heard of people taping pictures of things to their fridge when they want something. They figure if they see the picture every day, then maybe they'll believe it will happen or they'll get what they want. I've never done that and I don't think my parents have either because you don't always need a picture of something to believe. My grandpa always says, "I'll believe it when I see it." But sometimes it's the opposite. "You'll see it because you believe it." Think about that one for awhile.

2009 BizTip #2

Published Tue Feb 03 2009

#2 - Don't make New Year's Resolutions

I don't think most kids make New Year's resolutions. It seems that people, mostly adults, make them when they want to quit a bad habit or start a good one. Not that kids don't have bad habits but we're still at the age when we don't think we do. :) But then some adults are just the same. I'm only 13 but I think if people figured out why they do the bad things or why they don't have the good habits, then maybe they would be able to make the changes a little easier. Ever since I was old enough to talk, my mom always took time to explain the "why" for things. She thought that if I knew why something was, it would be eaiser to understand or help me do what she was asking. She swore she'd never use the saying, "Do it because I said so." She has always explained a reason. That's kind of the same thing with resolutions or trying to change a habit. If you know and understand the "why", then maybe it will be easier to fix. Plus unless you really want to, you won't stick to it anyway. Even for me, I usually don't try very hard to change things unless I really want to. So you just have to make up your mind and WANT TO. Here's the other thing about resolutions. If you officially make them and then can't stick to them, you'll feel much worse than if you just keep trying without really saying you have a resolution. What's the point anyway? Just do it!!!

2009 BizTip #3

Published Thu Feb 05 2009

#3 - Everything in moderation

This is one of my grandpa's favorite sayings. He's 84 years old so he should know. This can be applied to almost anything; working, eating, or even playing. Sometimes people work so hard at something they forget to stop and see if it's working. Or they do it so much, it gets boring or old and then they can't stand to do it anymore. It might have been the best idea but they didn't know how to keep things in perspective and not overdo it. The same things happens with me and fun stuff. Even though I have limits on how long I can play on the computer or play video games, sometimes even playing fun things too much can be a bad thing. I bet everyone could find something that they've overdone at least once in their life. Then think how much better it would have been if you had just done it in moderation. Something to think about as my grandpa says. Another thing that's much better in moderation is SNOW. I had lots of fun at my grandparents' farm in North Dakota during Christmas digging out a snow fort in a very large snow bank. (Check Dec. 30 post for those pictures and story.) We spent quite a long time making it big enough for three people to fit into and it was really cool in more ways than one. But after we left to come home, they've had one blizzard after another. Grandma sent me a picture of what used to be my fort. As you can see, it's totally covered up with several feet of new snow. No fort door, no nothing. The snow was too much of a good thing. Grandpa is sick and tired of plowing out the snow in the yard for hours so he can get to the cattle to feed them hay. He says enough is enough! I guess the weather hasn't heard his saying, "everything in moderation."

A Kid's POV - #1

Published Thu Feb 12 2009

#1 - Textbooks are great for the basics but nothing beats common sense and practical experience.

Before all the teachers and principals get all crazy, I've always liked school and am an A-student. BUT . . . as I get older, it seems like we waste more and more time in school. I even go to a private school and it's not much different than public schools except that there are fewer kids and it's not as dangerous as most public schools. But as far as what we actually do in class and how the time is spent, it doesn't make much sense. Probably ever person who's ever gone to school has had to memorize things now and then. I can see that makes sense for things like speech meets or famous history speeches but memorizing isn't really learning because for most people, you forget it as soon as you have to perform it especially if you weren't really that interested in the subject to begin with. It doesn't take a college graduate to figure out that memorizing is short-term and learning information lasts longer. I'm only 13. I wonder why teachers haven't figured that out about memorizing? My mom went to back to college about 10 years after she graduated from high school. Right out of high school, she got her hairdresser license because that's what she always wanted to do. She worked for a few years in North Dakota until she moved to California, then had to quit so she worked in the corporate world, as they say, for a lot of years until people kept telling her she just had to get a college degree. She always said the piece of paper wouldn't make her any smarter but finally decided to do college anyway. So she worked full-time and went to school part-time to get her paralegal degree and graduated the top of her class. The funny part was, she ended up not ever working in a law office because she was making a lot more money already and would have had to start over. And even though she was the top of her class, she couldn't get hired because she didn't have any law office experience. So it didn't matter what she learned in all the textbooks, they wanted people with experience. Funny how that worked. But back to memorizing. She tells this story a lot. In one of her law classes, someone asked how lawyers can remember all the cases they talk about in court. The teacher who was a lawyer too, said a smart person doesn't need to remember; they just need to know where to look it up. I really like that philosophy because I think it's true for most things. If you're taught how to do something instead of just memorizing what someone gives you, I think you'll turn out much smarter in the long run. It's like learning to play piano. If someone sits there and shows you how to play chopsticks and all you do is follow and memorize it, that's not teaching you how to play any other songs because you didn't learn how to read music. You only memorized that one song. I'm really lucky that my mom and dad have taught me the things they have, especially since I started my business. For instance, just today, I got my bank statement so I had to balance my checkbook for my business. While I was doing that, my mom asked me if I could ever remember in any of my math classes if they've ever taught us about business or banking or something simple like how to balance a checkbook against a bank statement. I couldn't remember any class that did and neither could she. They teach the basics out of textbooks. That's pretty much it. I guess they figure the rest will come in college or when we're already in a job. I think of all the things I've learned since I started my business that most kids miss out on because schools don't teach any of it. I know there are certain rules schools have to follow to get kids through but it sure would be a whole lot better for all kids if schools could figure out a way to teach more practical things that would be useful in the real world when we grow up. If anyone is thinking, "I wonder if his mom or dad know about this blog," here's the deal. I don't get to write my blog or do any Pencil Bugs business online without my parents' okay. Mom always knows what I'm writing and edits if necessary before it's officially posted. Mom's e-mail address in on my website contact page if anyone ever wants to e-mail her.

2009 BizTip #4

Published Mon Feb 16 2009

#4 - A website doesn't guarantee success or sales.

I've given quite a few presentations at schools, businesses, community organizations, and libraries. Sometimes when people are interested in starting a business of their own, they ask me about my website. Of course, the first thing I tell them is that my mom designed it for me and has a web design business of her own. But the most important thing I say is that just because you get a website, doesn't mean you're going to be successful. It doesn't matter if you have a product or service business. If people don't know where to find you on the Internet, it's the same as having a real store in the middle of nowhere. Or to use one of my grandpa's sayings, "it's a needle in a haystack." Having a website is pretty easy to do but it's not all about making it just look good. As my mom has taught me, there are a lot of technical things involved to make sure the search engines find your site. And even with that done right, your site is still one of millions on Internet which means you need to find other ways to get people to it. That's a whole other topic about creative marketing which luckily, my mom does really well. So when people think, "hey, I'll get a website up and start making tons of money," it usually doesn't happen that way. There's a lot more to it.

A Kid's POV - #3

Published Mon Feb 16 2009

#3 - The Fear of Flying

After yesterday's plane crash that landed in the Hudson River, I remembered how much I don't like flying. It's not because I'm afraid of flying. I actually think it's pretty fun and have been doing it a lot since I was seven months old. The part that bugs me about flying is that initial smell of the air as you walk inside the plane from the runway. I know it's not natural air and I don't know what they do to it but it sure stinks! Just the thought of that stinky air makes me get nauseous even before I get on the plane. Mom says it's a mental thing and tries to help me get my mind on something else but that hasn't worked too well. Here's a trick that works wonders that my mom did when she flew over to Greece a hundred years ago when they let people smok on planes. And she said the European cigarettes stunk much worse than the ones here. If you have a glass of water that you can take on the plane with you, pretend like you're drinking it but don't. Instead, just keep your mouth on the edge and breathe the clean oxygen from the water. Of course you don't want to have a full glass or you'll have your nose in the water and that wouldn't be good or safe. It probably sounds silly but it works. When I don't have a glass of water, I've even carefully put my nose up to a plastic bottle of water and breathed into it. Other than the horrible smell in the air, I think flying is the way to go. Thankfully, I've never been in a crash or even any minor problems while flying so I might change my mind if that ever happened. But flying is like anything else that goes wrong. It's the old saying my grandpa says, "if the horse bucks you off, you get right back on." I can't imagine what life was like before airplanes. We can go halfway around the world in no time. Everyone knows it's safer than driving in a car so if a person is scared of flying, I'd say to figure out how to get over it. Otherwise, you're limited on what you can do or where you can go in a reasonable amount of time. It's a good thing that pilot from yesterday's crash knew exactly what to do to land the plane safely, even if it was in freezing water. At least everyone lived. It must not have been their time.

A Kid's POV - #4

Published Thu Feb 19 2009

#4 - Over 14,000 text messages - Get real!

I don't watch much news on TV because it's mostly bad news and my parents don't think I need to see that all the time. But I do see some headlines on Yahoo once in awhile. This one was pretty silly. The 14-year-old girl that texted over 14,000 messages in one month! First of all, girls are different. They giggle a lot, get in stupid fights over silly stuff like who copied whose hairstyle, talk on the phone more than boys, and probably text more often. But any kid, no matter if it's a boy or girl, that has time to text that many messages must not be doing much else or have parents that pay too much attention to what she's doing. My parents gave me a cell phone last year when I started 6th grade for emergencies only because my school was several miles from our house and mom has to drive me there and back. She wanted to make sure I had access to her even though the school has rules about keeping cell phones in our lockers all day. And my cell phone isn't even an expensive one - it's the pay-as-you-go kind without even a camera option. I use it so little that I don't even use up the minimum number of minutes we have to buy each time. So texting isn't something I do either and can't imagine how anyone could text that much. And if I were on the phone that much, my mom or dad would for sure know what I was doing and wouldn't let me keep doing it. The thing that really bugs me is that the news was all over this story. This girl even made the national news because my grandma in North Dakota saw it and the kid lives in southern California. How dumb is that? It just goes to show you that the news focuses on more bad things than good stories. What's wrong with this picture?

A Kid's POV - #5

Published Sun Feb 22 2009

#5 - 44th Presidential Inauguration

Ask your kids if their school had the inauguration on TV or even Internet for them to watch. From what I've been hearing, most schools didn't. My school wasn't any different. The history teacher didn't even talk about it. During science when we were reviewing for the midterm next week, the teacher had her computer on but it wasn't like the whole class was able to see what was going on. I saw and heard a few things here and there like the lady who did the poem, which I thought was kind of weird. It didn't make any sense to me. It shouldn't matter who people voted for or what their religious ideas are or what color someone is. I think a presidential inauguration (at least his speech) should have been important enough to all schools so they made time to show it to the kids. It's now two days past and even though my mom recorded it for me, I still haven't had time to watch it because I've been so busy getting ready for midterms next week. There are more important things in life than just taking tests but that's what schools focus on and I don't want to blow it so other things have been put on hold for now. I even told my mom that maybe we should make a DVD of the inauguration; that it might be worth something some day. She said with how easy it is for people to do that on their own, my copy wouldn't be worth money but suggested that I might want to keep a copy to show my kids so I could say I was in 7th grade when America voted in the first black president. And who knows? Maybe he won't be the last. So for all the schools, including mine, that didn't think this historical event wasn't important enough to make time to show to every class, "Bad school."

A Kid's POV #6

Published Sun Mar 01 2009

#6 - It's only money.

You don't have to be old to understand how bad the economy is on so many levels but things can't stay bad forever, right? I know this is probably not a good time to say "It's only money," especially when I'm only 13 and don't have to make a living or take care of a family or any of those grown-up responsibilities. But I'm not talking about whether you have it or you don't. I'm talking about how it affects people. My mom and dad both grew up with five kids in their families. They got the things they needed but didn't always get the things they wanted. When they grew up and were on their own, they both went through times when they didn't have much money. My dad tells me stories about how he ate mac and cheese a lot in college. My mom remembers going to the grocery store with a calculator adding each thing she put in her cart so she wouldn't run out of money at the cash register. Luckily, we've never been in that situation since I've been born. But as I learned more about money, they taught me about saving too. So when I opened my first lemonade stand at the age of 5 and made $25, I didn't even spend it. But really, what does a five-year-old need anyway? That was the beginning of my saving spree and I'm still in that mode. I have personal money from my recycling business and birthday gifts but I don't spend much of that either. I just hate letting go of it. My Pencil Bugs business hasn't made me rich, well at least not yet, but I know I'm luckier than a lot of people. The best part about making money with my business is that I've been able to donate to help foster kids and buy toys and games to put together gift bags for kids in the hospital. Some of the money is used to buy more supplies to make Pencil Bugs and the rest is saved for college. I've had some amazing opportunities because of my business. Just in the last few months, I've met some very rich and famous people. I thought that if I ever met someone like that, they would be different or it would be different but it wasn't. Well, at least it hasn't been different for the ones I've met. They were as nice as could be. Very generous, supportive, and humble. As I like to put it, "they're not full of themselves." No attitudes or anything. Just regular people except with a lot of money and they were all doing a lot to help less fortunate people around the world. Obviously, life is easier if you have money but it doesn't make you any happier. It also doesn't make you any better than the next guy. As my grandpa says, "everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time." I guess that means people are just people regardless of what you have or don't have. I also think part of why the rich are rich is because they didn't spend every cent they earned.

2009 BizTip #5

Published Mon Mar 02 2009

#5 - Believe in yourself and what others think, won't matter.

Growing up is hard. Just ask anyone. Now ask a kid. They’ll tell you it’s even harder. But I bet almost every generation of kids have said that.

I've heard adults say they are glad they’re not a kid in today’s world. Everything seems to go so fast. There are so many influences and distractions, it is hard to stick to what you believe in. Even if you are a good student, school life is difficult at times. Kids, especially boys, can be very mean. Teachers don’t always understand. And parents, well . . . I’m lucky and think I have the best parents in the world, but it’s the law of nature that we are going to disagree and argue. All that is just part of growing up and everyone has probably had similar experiences.

Now take all that and add in the fact that you are a kid with a business. A young entrepreneur. That makes you different from all the other kids you know. Most people just don’t get it. Some even think you have nothing more than a little hobby. It’s frustrating for sure. Sometimes people try to look interested and understand what you are doing but the blank stare tells it all. It can make you wonder if what you are doing is worth it.

What would life be like if you were just an ordinary kid? No business. No income. No extra work. No public speaking. Just a regular kid. Everyone has moments that make them wonder. If you are lucky enough to have people in your life that believe in you, they remind you to believe in yourself. It’s not easy sometimes because you are looking from the inside out. You don’t always see what they see.

My parents have always believed in me. They have encouraged me with all my ideas. They have reminded me that what others think now won’t matter in the long run. It’s true. It's just hard to see that sometimes.

So here's my advice. If you have moments or doubts, it’s okay to feel bad but don’t hang onto it for too long. Find that extra 10% as my mom says. Believe in yourself. Get going. In the end, it’s up to you.

The ying-n-yang of life

Published Fri Mar 13 2009
No matter how hard you try to keep positive and do the right things, sometimes something or someone throws a wrench in your day. Because I don't want to focus on the bad parts, I'll tell you the good things that happened first. Not sure if the good stuff is the ying or the yang. On Wednesday, I had a phone interview with Shonika Proctor for her teen CEO teleseminars. Shonika is the founder of Renegade CEO's. She found me on Twitter with the help of Carrie Wilkerson. If you're reading this post and you aren't following them, Shonika is @teenbizcoach and Carrie is @barefoot_exec. They've both been terrific and given me a ton of support. Shonika and I talked for almost an hour about business, charity, and tips to help other kids who may be thinking about starting a business or donating to charity. On Thursday, I received my copy of the February issue of Inventor's Digest magazine. Editor, Mike Drummond (on Twitter at @inventorsdigest) interviewed me a few months ago so I had quite awhile to wait. He surprised me with a page and a half article and a really cool photo which you just have to see. Here's the link. Then last night as we were eating dinner, my dad got a text message from someone at his company on the east coast. The guy said he subscribes to the magazine and had just seen my story. That was really ironic but very cool! Today, I made it to in the Money section. Abby Ellin wrote an article about four young execs and I was one of them. Actually, I was also the youngest. Seems like I'm usually the youngest but that doesn't bother me a bit. I'm also the current guest on the web radio show, Mind Your Bizness with Danielle Hampson. Danielle has followed me since I first started my business and has given me a lot of support and encouragement. Here's the yang of the week. On Thursday, I got slammed against a cement wall by a kid in my class. I needed some ice for awhile but was fine after that. I was more bothered that he did it at all. After both of us talked with the principal, he ended up getting suspended but only for today. Maybe things will be different now.

Everyone can't win.

Published Sat Mar 21 2009
You've probably heard the saying, "everyone's a winner." A lot of people think that way. The fact is, not everyone can win. There will be winners and losers. It's not realistic that everyone can win. Think of a sport. You play all season and at the end, there are the playoffs and then the tournaments. The purpose of the tournament is to see who is the best overall. They become the winner. Depending on the sport, the winning team gets an award or trophy. Everyone else got the experience and fun of playing the sport. But should they all get an award? When I was in football and baseball, my teams didn't win. All the players still received trophies though. The coaches even made a point saying they didn't want to make anyone feel bad so gave everyone something. It didn't bother me that my team lost and I don't think we deserved a trophy. Another team won. They deserved the trophy. I think people are too worried about hurting someone's feelings. Maybe if people realized that if you lose, you just have to try harder if you want to get that trophy, then they would be better off in the long run. If people know they don't have to try very hard and will still get rewarded, they'll never really give it their all. There is no sense of accomplishment for doing nothing versus someone who tried really hard and won. My mom said she heard the other day that the Oscar Awards even changed their wording when someone wins. They used to say, "And the winner is. . ." Several years ago, they changed it to "And the award goes to. . . " Apparently, nominees that didn't win felt too much like losers. Even adults who should know better still may not be able to handle "losing." My school promotes this kind of thinking also. They give out what I call "just breathing awards." It seems like you don't even have to try to "get" something in return. How does that teach anything in life? So what's the point? Sometimes you'll win and sometimes you'll lose. Life doesen't always have to make everyone happy with the outcome. My parents have taught me to try my best and if I win, that's great. If I lose, then I should realize I have to try harder next time if I want to win. Let there be losers and let there be winners but everyone can't win and it should be okay to say "you lost."

The Jungle Book

Published Wed Apr 08 2009
This weekend I went to my friend's sister's play produced by CYT which is Christian Youth Theatre. The play was Jungle Book and it was phenomenal. I always love the way they do the lights and all of their songs are so amazing, I just want to go see it again. My friend's sister was one of the village girls and I was surpised at intermission when I ran into a friend that was at my school last year who played a gazelle. There were kids from 5-18 in the play. I have wanted to be in plays and act ever since I was little and after I saw this performance I wanted to do it again, but I don't really have over 10 hours a week to put into it at this point.

Great Writers

Published Fri Apr 10 2009
Recently, I heard someone say, "there are no great writers, just great re-writers." Hmmm? Could that be true? Then I thought about writers like J.K. Rowling or C.S. Lewis, or Christopher Paolini. They are great writers, right? After all, look at their books and how successful they are. But do you really think they wrote their books and didn't have anyone edit them before they were published? NOT! As I meet more and more authors at different speaking events, I'm always amazed at how many people become authors. Even if someone self-publishes, it would be pretty silly not to have an editor at least review it. We all make mistakes and none of us want to have things in print with errors. I have received many compliments on my blog posts which I really appreciate but I can't take all the credit. I'm only 13 after all and still have a lot to learn. On my blog, there's a page that says, "All Posts Mom Approved." Not only does she approved them before they're published but she also edits to make sure they are the best they can be. I think many people learn best by example. Plus, the more you do something, the better you become. Unless you are taking a specific writing class in school, most teachers don't take the time to edit and show you how to improve your report or story. I've had many assignments in all of my classes where I had to write a report on something. It seems they don't really care how well it's written, only that I did it so they have something to slap a grade to. That isn't really helping kids improve their writing skills. Regardless of your age or what you're writing, whether it's a blog, a school report, or maybe you're working on a book, find someone else to critique and edit it. How else are you going to learn and improve? And for every editor that reads it, you'll probably have a different opinion from each person. Here's another tip. For the people that hate to write or think they're not good at it, just write something. Maybe start out with a daily journal and just makes notes. It doesn't have to be anything formal. You don't even have to think about something big like writing a book. But if you at least get started and in the habit of writing something, pretty soon you may find that you actually like it or that you have a huge journal of information that could become a book some day. That's how my new book started out. Before Christmas when I posted my 12 BizTips of Christmas, I received so many positive responses and a few suggestions that I should put them together in a book. That got me to thinking about all the business, self-help, inspirational books that are out there and I thought, "Hey, why not me? I could do that too." With a lot of help from my mom, we started writing everything down and just recently, I sent the proposal to an agent. I'll keep you posted on that. The point is, everyone has something of interest to say and share so start writing it down. My grandma had her first book published last year when she turned 75. She didn't set out to become a published author. All she wanted to do was write her family history and stories down on paper and give copies to her kids so they would have something for their kids and their kids . . . well, you get the idea. After my mom saw how many stories she had and heard her idea of just going to get them copied, Mom offered to be her editor and help her self-publish a real book which she did. "Bikes, Trikes, Toads, and Roads: A Lifetime of Stories" won't make any best-seller list but very few do anyway. At least she wrote what she wanted, had the smarts to have it edited, and then was able to give a real book to her kids AND she's sold a good amount on top of that. So whether you write a little or a lot, it's a good idea to have someone else read it before it's published. Once it's out there, you can't take it back.

One Weed at a Time

Published Fri Apr 17 2009
Mom and Dad have the philosophy that "if you are able to do it yourself, then you should." Our yard is pretty big and when we first moved into the house, Dad wasn't so excited about doing yard work. He tried out a couple of gardeners but they always left something undone. Finally, Dad decided to buy a lawn mower and do it himself. Of course, that meant Mom and I helped out too. It's actually not that bad unless a few weeks go by and we don't have time to take care of the weeds and grass and other stuff. That's what happened recently. My business had been keeping all of us on the go so much that the yard had to wait longer than normal. Dad started on one side of the back yard and Mom and I picked weeds around the garden box. We both looked at the hundreds of little weeds in between the tiny pebbles and didn't like the thought of picking all of them. It was a HUGE job but if we didn't do it, the weeds would just keep growing and the job would be worse later on. Mom said, "just start with one weed at a time and don't look at the whole garden." Before I knew it, I had a large square area with no weeds. The job that I thought was impossible ended up not being that bad. I'm not saying doing the whole garden area wasn't hard because it did take us quite awhile to finish everything. But sometime not looking at the big picture, makes the job a lot easier. It's the same with anything in life that seems to big to handle. It could be homework, chores around the house, yard work, or even business related stuff. Just start with one weed at a time and work from there. Pretty soon, you'll see that you accomplished more than you thought you could and it wasn't that bad.

Cute Marketing

Published Sat Apr 18 2009
Awhile ago, my parents were talking with someone about marketing ideas but it wasn't specifically about my business. In fact, the guy didn't even know I had a business. After they talked for awhile, he made a really interesting comment. He said it's a lot easier to advertise and sell just about anything if you have any of the following associated with the product or service.
  1. A kid
  2. A cute kid
  3. A dog
  4. A cute dog
When Mom and Dad told me what the guy said, we all had a good laugh. Then I started thinking about different ads I've seen on TV. Doesn't it make you want to buy whatever the product is if you see a cute little kid playing with a fluffy puppy in a commercial? Even as a kid myself, I notice those commercials more and I bet parents, or even adults that aren't parents, do too. I haven't done research on this myself but apparently there is a lot of money spent on kid-related products and pet items. So I guess the guy's comment sort of makes sense. At least it's something to think about. Hmmmm? :)

Talking + texting + eating = disrespect

Published Tue Apr 21 2009
My family has a rule about using cell phones or playing handheld games at the table. It doesn't matter if we're eating at home or in a restaurant. It's not polite either place. I don't think anyone likes being ignored and if someone says they don't mind, I wouldn't believe them. People think that just because almost everyone has a cell phone, it's ok to talk and text anywhere, anytime. No big deal, right? We were in a restaurant and so many people were either talking on their phones or texting. Nobody seemed to care or get bugged. The table next to us had a mom, dad, and three kids. The kids were playing on a game system, the mom was talking to the dad, but he was texting at the same time. None of them put down their electronics even when the waitress came to take their order. After she left, the dad picked up a newspaper and started reading it while the mom was still talking to him. I guess that was enough to bug her because she told him to put down the paper. It's funny how she didn't seem to care that he wasn't paying attention to her when he was on his phone but when the newspaper was in front of his face, that changed things. I only have a basic, pay-as-you-go phone which my parents gave me for emergencies when I started middle school last year. Every three months, they refill the units. I don't use it much because if I run out of minutes before the three months is up, I have to buy more minutes myself. Even though I don't like that part, it's taught me how to manage time better. Mom said when she was in first grade a million years ago, they had a week or so when they learned phone manners. The school had regular desk phones that weren't plugged in but the kids took turns learning how to answer a call politely, how to ask for their friend if they called their house or how to take a message. I had a friend in elementary school that used to call me and if Mom picked up the phone, he would just say "hi" and nothing else. She knew who he was so the first couple of times, she asked him if he wanted to talk with me. After that, she decided to teach him what he should say. It took him a couple of times but after that, he actually said, "Hi, this is so-and-so. May I speak with Jason?" Maybe schools or even just parents should teach their own kids about phone manners? It's not brain surgery. :)

Search vs. Research

Published Fri Apr 24 2009
They always say in school to research a topic but what that really means is to search for something again. So more people, in my opinion, should be searching for things that haven't already been found. When people get grants for medical research, aren't they just spending money to look for something that has already been searched for? If all that money went to searching for new things, then more would get done and the world would evolve quicker. How many times have you heard that someone say, "I'm doing research on something" compared to "I'm searching for something"? It's a lot easier to research a topic because information is already out there somewhere and you know there's a good chance you'll find it if you keep researching. Astronomers search for new stars and planets but once they're found, other people then do research on them. When you think about searching versus researching, I'd rather be the person who is searching for something new. It's like thinking outside the box which is a good thing. I guess inventors and entrepreneurs could be considered "searchers" since they find new ways of doing things or new products. It's a good thing there have always been people willing to search for things; otherwise we would still be living in caves and using stones as tools. So we have to keep our minds wide open and start searching for new possibilites, not just researching things that are already here.

15-year-old gets onto Obama press bus

Published Sat Apr 25 2009
HOW COOL IS THAT? Now that's the stuff every news station should have on TV. The kid's name is Ian Delucca. He goes to Millikan High School in Long Beach, CA. He's probably a pretty regular kid except that when President Obama came to Orange County, CA for his speech, Ian got a little more creative than most and was determined to see the President close up. He talked his mom into driving him to Long Beach airport using the reason that he wanted to write an article for his school newspaper about the President. Very clever! One thing led to another and before he knew it, he was on the press bus with all the big-time reporters and photographers. He saw Obama walk down the stairs of Air Force One but didn't get a chance to ask him questions or shake his hand. Seeing him that close would have been awesome enough. I bet he was excited and probably pinched himself a few times. Amazingly enough though, he was able to take his picture right along with the rest of the other photographers. Surprisingly, he got invited back to see the President leave Long Beach the next day. When they saw that his name wasn't on the press list, they told him he'd have to leave. Since his mom wasn't there to pick him up, he told them he'd have to walk home. His quick thinking ended up getting him another press pass and in with the press crowd as they all waited and watched to see President Obama before he left. Of course it's not good to crash the party but he definitely had guts and since he wasn't doing anything bad or illegal, it just showed how smart and creative he is. He'll be telling that story for as long as he lives. I bet he didn't even sleep that night because he was so excited. I know I would have been. If you missed the story on the news and want the details first hand, you can read the article that ran in the Orange County Register.

A Hospital Cow?

Published Tue May 05 2009

Last Friday, April 3, I went down to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, CA with my parents for my quarterly donation. We delivered lots of fun toys for the kids and their playroom such as Play-Doh, bubbles, and cool musical toys and books. This time, we were given a short tour of some of the public areas in the hospital. Because I’m under age, I’m still not allowed to go into the medical areas but we saw some cool things.

When the coordinator said she was going to show us their cow first, I wondered why they had a cow at a hospital. It turned out to be a very colorful statue which stood in the courtyard. It was designed by artist Eduardo Parra and painted by some of the patients. It was spectacular because of the vibrant use of colors. It was on display for La Jolla's Cow Parade which runs from March 15 to June 15. On one side, it was painted in yellows representing day and on the other, in blues for night.

The tour continued inside through the lobby and we saw all of their remodeling efforts. As we walked through the emergency room waiting area, it was empty. I guess that was a good thing at least for the moment. She said they typically get busy after school is out. On the other side of the reception area was a hallway lined with hand painted tiles by sponsors. They are doing a lot of construction which will mean they can care for more kids when everything is done.

The day was really fun and since we had just gotten a new digital camera, I used it to take lots of pictures of random stuff. Here are some of the more meaningful pictures.

I donate to them every quarter so if anyone is interested in helping out a really good cause, let me know. The next donation will be about the first week in July. They always need toys and activities because so many kids go through that hospital.


#GNO for boys?

Published Mon May 18 2009
Twitter does have a learning curve for most people, especially figuring out the abbreviations. Recently, I received a tweet from @jyl_MOMIF inviting me as a guest on their weekly Twitter #GNO pajama party. Since my mom monitors all my tweets, she wondered what GNO stood for. I'm not really sure why I knew that abbreviation but I quickly told her, "girls night out." You would think it was just for girls but they often invite men guests. Last week, they had @guykawasaki on talking about entrepreneurship. On Tuesday, April 21, I'll be one of their guests for the topic, "Charity." I'm pretty sure I'll be the youngest Twitter guest/entrepreneur, not mention the youngest boy, they've ever had. How cool is that?! Since I started my own business when I was nine (I'm 13 now), I've been donating to help foster kids and also a children's hospital. I always encourage people to at least give something because even the smallest things can make a difference in someone else's life. It doesn't have to be money or gifts either. If you can volunteer your time, that's good too. Besides helping kids in California, I've taken on a much bigger project also. Last year, an organization called Nurture Smart located in Nairobi, Kenya found me on Internet when they were searching for a young entrepreneur. They have a program to teach kids ages 7-15 the skills to become productive business people so when they grow up, they can continue to help people in their own country. They invited me to Kenya as a peer ambassador, keynote speaker, and judge at their annual Young Entrepreneur Search competition. As details were being worked out for the trip, their funding partner backed out on them leaving their program, and especially the kids, with nothing. I've seen a lot of things on TV about people donating food and clothes to other countries which is really good. But when that stuff is gone, the people are still in the same situation they were before. Nurture Smart's program is trying to educate the kids to be more self-sufficient when they grow up. I think that's a lot smarter in the long run. That's why my family and I are looking for ways to help them raise money to keep their program going for the kids. Join me at #GNO on Tuesday, April 21 from 6-8 p.m. I'll be online answering questions and giving some tips that I've learned about business and charities. For more details, check out Mom It Forward .

Junior Achievement Event

Published Wed May 20 2009

How many times does a seventh grader get to judge a high school business competition? Probably not too often. On April 17, I was invited to judge and speak at a Junior Achievement business competition in LA. It was really interesting. There were about 17 groups from different schools in the LA area. Each group created a business and had to present their plan. I judged the table displays for the teams. I was paired with two adult judges and we didn’t always agree but I made some pretty good points.

The overall winners were:

  • JA Company of the Year (Venture Capital League) went to Falcon Royal Tees from CALS Early College High School.
  • JA Company of the Year (Board of Directors League) went to Higher Grounds Cafe from Chaminade College Preparatory School.

Through the Inland Empire’s Junior Achievement rep, we were able to also invite Mark Victor Hansen, author of “The Richest Kids in America” to be on the business panel. He has so much energy, the kids were amazed.

I am looking forward to working with Junior Achievement in the future.


Sometimes Newer Isn't Always Better or Faster

Published Fri May 22 2009
On the way to school this morning, I was telling my mom how I couldn't get the water temperature in the shower adjusted just right. She said sometimes there's a fine line between the hot and cold on the handle. I thought it would be better to have a digital shower dial so you knew exactly what temperature you were trying to get. Mom had a counter point to my brilliant idea. For safety reasons, she said there would have to be an instant shut-off button in case the temperature got too hot for some reason. Digital may be easier to set initially but not as fast to change. Before so many things went digital, she said it was actually easier with dials because you could change it quicker in one turn or rotation. Think of a digital alarm clock. If it were set to 6:45 a.m. yesterday and now you want to set it to 7:20 a.m., you usually have to set the hour and minutes separately. Changing the hour isn't so bad. It's just one number. But when you get to advancing the minutes, you have to scroll through from :45 to :20 and on some clocks, they make you click through every number which is kind of silly. You can't just hold down the button and speed through all the numbers. Then Mom remembered about the old rotary phones like she had when she was growing up on the farm. She said that was about the only device that improved once it went to a push button type. It was much faster to punch in 7-10 numbers instead of dialing them one at a time and then waiting for the dial to rotate back into starting position. As with any digital or push button device now (phones, calculators, etc.), if you push a wrong number, you just hit a clear or back button to erase that digit, then continue on. So I asked Mom how they cleared a number if you realized you dialed the wrong digit on those rotary phones. She started laughing but I didn't see what was so funny about my question. She said she never thought about "clearing" a number on those old phones. I said, "well, how did you do it?" She said you just hung up the receiver or clicked the button in the receiver cradle and started over. Because it took much longer to use a rotary dial phone, apparently they were more careful about not making mistakes and dialing the wrong digits. Things are sure different now and most kids have a really hard time thinking about anything but the way it is today. I'm glad Mom grew up when and where she did because her childhood stories are really interesting and sometimes pretty funny. In case you don't know, some stores sell a retro version of that old rotary phone. They are kind of cool.

Rady Makes Top 25 Children's Hospitals in US

Published Tue May 26 2009
I've said this before but I think it is worth saying again, "A little bit can make a BIG difference". A lot of people don't give to charity because they think that they have to give a lot or can't afford even a little. The fact is, it doesn't have to be money or gifts. Sometimes volunteering your time may be just what someone needs. When I first started my business, I donated money to a local foster family agency. Last year, I started buying toys and games to put together gift bags for the kids in Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, CA. Even though I don't get to deliver them to the kids personally because of my age, I know I am making a lot of kids happy and hopefully making there stay in the hospital not so bad. I just found out that Rady was ranked in the top 25 children's hospitals in the US by Parents Magazine (Feb 2009 issue). Rady is also part of the Children's Miracle Network. Each year, Rady helps tens of thousands of children. Thay are building a new facility which will help them care for even more kids in the future. Helping a children's hospital is a good place to start since they need so many things for the kids each day. I deliver my donations every quarter so if anyone is interested in helping out, please contact me through my website.

Listen, don't just hear

Published Wed Jun 03 2009

When you talk, you want to be heard. Right? And don't you just hate it when you tell a whole story and then find out the other person wasn't listening? I have been on both sides of this situation.

Not only is it respectful to listen when someone is talking but you gain credability because they know you will really listen, not just pretend to hear. My parents try to listen when I tell my never-ending stories about my video games. Since they really listen and not just hear, I feel able to talk with them more about everything. Even if they get tired of hearing about the game and sometimes they don't understand all the details, at least they listen. In return, I try to listen to what they say. I admit to sometimes not listening even when it is important but I am human and make mistakes just like everyone else.

I feel when you pretend that you are listening, people don't want to be around you. Nodding your head to make it look like you are paying attention is just the same as lying.

So no matter who is talking, you should really listen, pay attention and not just hear them. There's a huge difference between listening and hearing.

What's in a title?

Published Mon Jun 08 2009
When I first got on Twitter and saw people saying they were V.A.'s or had a V.A., I wasn't sure what that meant. So like I do with most things, I asked. Simple: Virtual Assistant. Mystery solved. I should have figured it out myself because my dad works from a home office here in California and his assistant works from her home in Pennsylvania. A few weeks later on Twitter, someone referred to my mom as my V.A. I never really thought about her as an assistant because she's much more than that. Plus she isn't virtual. :) So I started calling her my R.A. (Real Assistant) just for fun. But that wasn't right either. Next idea: Since my mom does a lot of my business stuff, calling her my B.M. (Business Manager) made more sense except that I've heard doctors use the initials BM so that didn't work either. [If you've never heard the medical term BM, ask someone. It's funny.] So what initials could describe all that Mom does for me? I thought awhile longer and then came up with the perfect title: M.O.M. (Mother of Me!) V.A.s are great. R.A.s are too but MOMs are the best! I wouldn't be where I'm at without her.

School vs Life

Published Wed Jun 17 2009
My grandma says that the best learning is from the school of life. It didn't make much sense the first time I heard that but since I started my business, I have learned more about life and business than they ever teach in school. Some of the things I have learned with my business are pretty basic but they still don't teach or spend time on them in school like balancing a checkbook or legal aspects of business or even the art of conversation which a lot of people could definitely use. Many schools still take field trips but a lot of times, those are just for fun even though they say they relate to a particular subject. Kids like them but use them as just another excuse to get out of a day of class. Life outside of school when you are involved in a business or charity work can teach you so many valuable lessons. Below are some topics that I think should be covered in school, even as early as middle school. Having an introduction to these things would make more kids ready for life than just what they are taught from a textbook. Isn't that what school is for? To get us ready for the real world?
  • Public speaking (and not just memorizing poetry or speeches)
  • Interviewing with the media (which would be good for job interview experience)
  • Social networking (learning how to communicate with a large variety of people)
  • Profit and loss (or at least some basic business finance)
One of my video games even teaches things that aren't taught in school. It's called Runescape and it is an amazing game that teaches about economics. School is great for the basics, but life teaches you more.

20 Twitter Tips from a Teen Tweeter

Published Sat Jun 27 2009
There is no shortage of blogs and articles online that offer tips for Twitter users. I've read some of them and when I'm at school, my mom reads even more so that I can get the most out of using Twitter. Even with all the information available, people (many of them kids) ask my advice on how I meet people or make friends on Twitter. So I'm adding my two cents to the already volumes of Twitter tips. These are in no particular order. The first one applies to kids only. Some of these I learned from very helpful tweeples when I first started and some I've figured out as I went along. If you don't agree, remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
  1. Have a parent or other adult help you tweet.
    • Even though the minimum age requirement is thirteen for Twitter and most other social networking sites, it's no secret there are kids much younger online. There are also adults who shouldn't be allowed on at all because they haven't figured out it's not cool to use bad language or act inappropriately. Except for a couple of tweeters who sent horrible tweets to several kids (me included), the majority of the adults I've met on Twitter have been awesome. By the way, one e-mail to from my mom about a user who was at the total opposite end of the "G" rating, and their account was deleted the next day by Twitter. Keeping it clean for everyone does work.
  2. Remember that ANYTHING you say online stays forever somewhere.
    • If you are a biz kid using Twitter, you want to have people take you seriously. Using proper grammar and spelling helps. Even if you only get 140 characters to say what you need and have to abbreviate a lot of words, you can still come across much better if you're not just plunking out the first thing that comes to your mind. Think before you type. It can save you a lot of embarassment later on.
  3. Learn how to have a conversation with people.
    • Don't just say random things. Use Twitter to practice talking with people about a lot of different subjects.
  4. Use http:// before a URL so it makes a clickable link. Or better yet, use a Tiny URL option to save space. Tweetdeck has an auto option for this.
  5. Do searches with keywords that interest you.
    • If I'm stalled and haven't had many new followers lately, I'll go to the web version and use the Advanced Search option. Type in some keywords to find people who might be tweeting about the same subject. Then take time to see what they're talking about and if you want to follow them.
  6. Take time to do #followfridays
    • Don't just list people. Tell why people are worth following even if you have to do several #followfriday tweets. I started making a list (on paper) during the week to group my favorites. I'll usually have a Biz Kid group, Awesome Adults, Artists, etc. You get the idea. Then because I'm in school all day Friday, when I'm done with homework after school, having my faves in groups ready to go makes it a lot easier to tweet my #followfridays.
  7. If someone refers you on a #followfriday, it's good to reciprocate.
    • Okay, for this one you have to be reasonable. Some Fridays there are too many to even keep track of so I'll just do a general shout out and thank all the people who included me in their #followfriday tweets. Most of the time, people understand and aren't offended.
  8. I recommend Tweetdeck
    • It has so many advantages over the web version: separate column options, auto tiny URL, post tweets to Facebook at the same time, among others you can play around with. I have mine set up with a DM column, my own Pencil Bugs column, my Favorites, and All Friends. It's easy to see who has mentioned you by quickly looking at your own column or who has DM'd you.
    • The only thing I still go to the web version for is to see new followers and follow back.
  9. Take time to read other people's tweets. There's always something you could comment on (i.e. movies, people asking opinions, etc.)
  10. Send replies as soon as you see them.
    • Try to mention what you're replying to especially if it's been awhile in between tweets. Otherwise, the other person may not even remember what they said to you in the first place.
    • Even if I somehow missed a tweet directed to me or referring to me in some way, I still send a reply. People would rather have a late response than no response. What's one of the rudest thing to do to another person? Ignore them . . . so don't.
  11. It's ok to sell or advertise your own services or products but it's even better if someone else does. Recommendations from other people is better than tooting your own horn all the time.
    • If you have something you really need to promote but don't want to keep saying it too often, send a DM to someone you know really well and ask them if they'll tweet it for you. I've had people do that with me and I know who I can ask for favors in return if needed.
  12. NEVER EVER use bad language. There's just no reason for it and it doesn't make you look good.
  13. Web Twitter and Tweetdeck have a delete tweet option but you only have a short time to delete it.
    • I've tested it and was able to delete a tweet up to a minute afterward. It may go a little longer but I haven't tested that yet. Don't get worried if you still see the tweet in your own column because it stays there but it's gone from the general view. For general purposes, I'd still make sure you proof before you hit enter just in case. You may not realize your mistake until it's too late for delete.
  14. Use DM if there's no reason for the world to see what you're saying to a specific person.
  15. RT whenever you find something that's worth repeating. Not only are you spreading good things but your username comes up more often too.
  16. If you know people that have something in common, do a tweet with both people's usernames in it so they can meet & tell them why. Twitter is like trying to find a needle in a haystack so if you can introduce people, they appreciate it.
  17. Be genuine.
    • Don't have people tweet for you. Tweeples see your profile pic, get to know "you" and expect they're talking with "you", not a hired substitute.
    • Even though it's fun to change your profile picture, keeping it the same helps people recognize and find you faster.
    • Take time to fill our your profile information and post a picture of you, not of some random cartoon unless of course you're a cartoon artist. :) I've heard from many tweeters that say they won't follow people without a profile pic or information.
  18. If you tweet something that you hope others will RT, make sure you leave enough characters for that.
  19. Even though many Twitter applications have auto responders, etc., I wouldn't use them.
    • If you follow someone and you instantly get a DM that is obviously not personalized, it's like hearing a recording on a phone message or getting junk mail. If it wasn't meant for me personally, I usually don't pay much attention to it.
  20. Don't schedule tweets ahead of time like when people write a bunch of famous quotes and set them to auto tweet on a regular basis. Without too much effort, anyone can see they are auto generated. If you're too busy to tweet them yourself and have real conversations with people, maybe you shouldn't be using Twitter until you're not so busy.

Chain Reaction

Published Mon Jul 20 2009
Everyone's story starts somewhere. You never were the only one who caused something to happen. My business was not because of me. I had a long chain reaction to get to where I am today.
  • I have a business book coming out in 2010.
  • I wouldn't have written my book if I hadn't done my 12 Biz Tips of Christmas on this blog.
  • I wouldn't have a blog if I didn't have my business.
  • I wouldn't have started my business if my Pencil Bugs hadn't been so popular at the craft fair.
  • I wouldn't have had to come up with my own idea if my mom would have let me help her paint her wooden door stoppers for the craft fair.
  • She wouldn't have been doing the door stoppers if grandma didn't ask her if she wanted to take part in the craft fair.
  • Grandma wouldn't have been in the craft fair if she wouldn't have been painting watercolor greeting cards.
  • Grandma wouldn't have started watercolor painting if mom hadn't encouraged her to try something new.
I could go back even farther but you see how this works. When someone asks me how I got started, I usually give them the condensed version and simply say that it all started from a craft that my grandma was doing in North Dakota. Everything has many more steps in the process to get you to where you are today. As you can see, it was not just my doing to create my business. It was thanks to what many people did. Remember that everything you do will affect someone else. If any one of these pieces to my puzzle were missing, I wouldn't be doing what I am doing now. You can't do anything alone and every move you make will fill into someone else's chain reaction.

Once In A Lifetime

Published Fri Aug 07 2009
Can you imagine what a 20 ft wave is like up close? 20 feet is equal to a two-story building. It's huge! Now think of being on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with 20 ft. waves slapping against the ship and making you feel like you were on a roller coaster for over 12 hours. That's what I experienced for one day during our Alaskan cruise last week with my family. We set sail on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas ship on Friday, June 26 from Seattle with an itinerary that took us to Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia. I had been on two other cruises with my family before -- the first one when I was eight to the Caribbean and the second one when I was ten to Mexico. I remember feeling like I wasn't even on a ship except for a little gentle swaying back and forth. None of us had ever needed motion sickness medicine before. All that changed on this last cruise. Apparently, a few days before we set sail, the Alaska/Canada coast had a pretty bad storm and we had to sail right through the remnants of it on our way to Juneau. We had dinner in the dining room the first night and everything was just fine. The weather was cold and a little drizzly but we pretty much expected that. Everything was pretty normal until we got ready for bed that night when the captain announced that we would be going through some rough waters the next day. He wasn't specific just how rough it was going to be. We found out first-hand the next morning as we woke up to bigger waves and a lot of rocking back and forth on our way to getting sea sick for the first time ever. Mom was feeling bad right away so stayed in bed but Dad and I made it to lunch for a little bit. The ship was pretty deserted already by then because so many people had gotten sea sick and were either in their rooms or sprawled out on the deck chairs in the cold air. I guess they thought maybe the fresh air would make them feel better but being on upper decks made the rocking and rolling much worse. I found out the caesar salad I had for lunch wasn't such a good idea. It didn't take too long before I joined Mom sprawled out on the bed in our stateroom. Dad wasn't feeling as bad as we were yet so he made several trips to the cafe to get any food that might help. Several crew members suggested green apples to settle stomachs but within a few hours, every food area was out since so many people were sick. As Mom and I got worse, Dad went to the shop to buy motion sickness bracelets but they were all sold out too. His next stop was the doctor's office. They gave him a few sample packets of some pill that we all ended up taking. It helped a little but not enough to get us out of bed for the entire day. I guess they work better if you take them BEFORE you get sick which wasn't an option for us by then. I watched a lot of TV show reruns and a few movies throughout the day which helped me keep my mind off my stomach sloshing. I was glad when that day was over and the ocean had calmed down the next day. After not eating or drinking much the day before, we were all glad to get to the dining room for some real food and not be sick anymore. Even though there weren't a lot of outdoor activities on the ship because of the weather, I was able to climb the rock wall one day. I'm not sure how high it was but I made it to the top to ring the bell. Then on the way down, the guy lets out the rope so you go flying down really fast. It was very cool and a lot different than the first time on our cruise when I was eight. On Sunday morning, we docked in Juneau. It wasn't at all what I expected. The ship pulled into the dock which was surrounded by the town in a U-shape with small mountains around that. It was weird to think that you can't get to Juneau except by air or water -- no roads go into the town. I couldn't live in a place like that. We took a small sea plane tour over five glacier areas. It was pretty cool to see different things like that but we were sort of expecting to see glaciers breaking apart too which didn't happen. I guess those things don't happen that often. The next day we docked in Skagway, Alaska. A tiny town of about 800 people but mostly tourist businesses. The dock was within walking distance to town so we checked out things on our own. On the way into town, we passed by a gazebo near a park. Not so weird except that it had a toilet sitting right in the middle. We forgot to ask someone why it was there but couldn't imagine anyone really using it since it was right in the middle for everyone to see. After we looked in many of the shops and bought a few souvenirs, we took a horse & buggy ride back to the ship. Very early the next day, we sailed into a fjord where the captain let the ship idle for awhile right in the middle of a million icebergs of all sizes which had broken off a big glacier at the end of the fjord. We could see the glacier but it was pretty far away. They announced that he couldn't take the ship in any closer for safety reasons. So in a wide part of the water, the captain slowly turned the ship around which took about 45 minutes but it gave everyone a lot of opportunities to take pictures of all the icebergs. It was really amazing to see all the different designs and colors of the icebergs. Some were perfectly see-through like glass. Many were white and looked like snow but most were what you would expect an iceberg to look like -- white ice. It's hard to say how wide or tall the biggest ones were but all of us had thoughts about the Titanic for a second. Another day just cruising at sea on our way to Victoria, British Columbia for the last stop of the trip. Even though it's only a three-hour drive from Seattle and about 90 minutes by ferry, it is really different from the rainy, cloudy Seattle weather. Apparently Victoria gets a lot more sunny days per year. It was the first day on our whole trip that we actually had sun and were able to wear shorts and no jackets. It actually got pretty hot (around 85 degrees) in the afternoon as we were walking around town. Double-decker buses are pretty normal for tours but I had to take this picture since it had Titanic written on it. Thought it was ironic. While we were walking around, we ran across this Bug Zoo. Naturally, I had to stop in to see what it was. I had taken some of my Pencil Bugs bookmarks with us so I gave them one and told them about my business in case they wanted to order any of my products for their gift shop. The only bear we saw close-up was this one. We did spot a bald eagle sitting on a post in one of the ports but it was too far away to get a good picture. We met people from all over the world and saw some pretty amazing sights. When people asked why we chose the Alaska cruise, we jokingly said we wanted to see it before it melted away. What we learned is that it's been melting at about the same rate for over 200 years and local scientists who have been tracking and monitoring the conditions there apparently have different information than the people who talk about global warming melting the glaciers. It makes you wonder who to believe. If you made it this far and finished reading my vacation blog post, thanks for hanging in. There was just so much to say and I didn't even include everything. So if you have questions, feel free to send me an email at and I'll try to answer them. You can also tweet me on Twitter.
100_0949rock-wallglacierGazeboicebergdoubledecker-busbug-zooAlaskan bear

Money is Funny

Published Thu Aug 13 2009
At thirteen, I don't have the money worries that many adults do and I'm thankful for that. Having my own business since I was nine has taught me a lot about money though -- how to work to earn it, how to spend it wisely, how to save it, and most importantly, how to donate it to help other people. This is good to learn no matter what age you are. I've been interviewed dozens of times since I started my business. One of the questions I get asked a lot is how much I've made or other financial-related questions. Even at age nine when I first started, it felt a little weird when people asked about that. It's like that was all they cared about. Sometimes I got the feeling that if they didn't hear I was making a huge amount, all of my efforts were worthless. I wondered why they weren't more interested in the fact that I donated part of my money to help other kids? Even today, people still ask the "how much" question. Shouldn't it be more important "what" the person is doing than "how much" they are doing? I try hard not to give out specific financial information. I usually smile and tell them that since I'm still a private company, I'd rather not share that information but as soon as I go public, they'll know. I also tell them my main focus is not money. Most people understand and don't keep asking. For some, it's not so easy to take that as my answer. Money is funny. People, even kids, have very specific ideas about how much is enough or what is worth trying for. If I said I made $500,000 a year, some people might think that was beyond reach and they would be discouraged. If I said I made $5,000 a year, I'm sure there would be some who thought that wasn't worth bothering with. Either way, money does funny things to people. My biggest thing is encouraging people of all ages to try their ideas. You probably won't get rich overnight but at least you'll be doing something and maybe working toward that goal. My plan is to make Pencil Bugs into a mega empire so the characters are as well-known as SpongeBob or any other character you see on products. But all that takes time and lots of work. My grandpa is 85 years old. He has some good advice about money:
  1. You don't have to share your finances with everyone.
  2. Don't loan money unless you can afford to never get it back.
  3. Don't mix money and friends.
  4. Don't buy something just because you "want" it.
  5. Save as much as you can.
  6. If you have extra, make sure to help other people less fortunate.
We all need money to live but I think it's more important what you do with it than how much you have.

After the Storm

Published Thu Aug 27 2009
Usually a storm is where nature unleashes all havoc. Then afterward you find there was a lesson being tought to you in a harsh way. I went to Grand Cayman two years ago and this exact situation happened to me -- literally. We were walking along the beach, the sky was blue, and waves were crashing up on the sand. All of a sudden it started raining and the rain kept getting worse. We ducked under an overhang of a resort by the beach and waited for the rain to clear. Anyone who has been to the Caribbean knows that the rain does not last very long. As we watched the rain pour down around us, I saw something wash up on the beach. I ran out into the rain to see what it was. It was a large conch shell, just like the ones you pay 50 some dollars for in a gift shop. It was perfect, all in one piece. The rain had polished it nice and clean. I quickly retrived my findings and ran back to my parents. I still have my conch shell and I will never get rid of it. It will always remind me of what happens after a storm. Just remember, you may have hard times and you might have to do things you don't like but in the end you will see things differently. Just like with nature, after the storm comes the beautiful rainbow.


Published Wed Sep 09 2009
Life is about believing what you can't see. When you believe, it becomes real to you. Think of when you were little. You believed in Santa Clause and he was like a real person to you. Believing is like magic -- it makes dreams into realities. The problem with society is that after we start growing up, people start deminishing our fantasies. Those who continue to dream and BELIEVE are much happier in life. It's like they are still a child at heart. Sometimes people who continue to believe are looked down upon as being childish or immature. But when you believe in yourself, you are more likely to accomplish what you set out to do. Do you think Thomas Edison would have been able to invent the things he did if he didn't believe in himself? For those who have been to Seaworld in San Diego, you might remember that their Shamu show is titled "Believe." If that philosophy is good enough for Seaworld, it should be good enough for us. "When you believe you can achieve" as the saying goes, so start believing and your dreams may just come true.


Published Mon Sep 14 2009
Initiative is the drive to do something without being told. Not everyone has this talent. I, for one, struggle with initiative and just getting going sometimes. Because I have my own business, people assume I am really motivated. But I remind them that I'm really just a regular kid who would rather play than work a lot of times. Apparently, there are many adults like this also. I have come up with a way to motivate myself without being told to do something. For most people getting started is the hard part. I figured out that if you make a list of everything that needs to be done and just go down the list and start doing each thing, you will have your list gone in no time. Once you start, it is easier to finish it. Why am I telling you this? Well, there are many people who live their whole life just being told what to do. Those people are not the ones running companies. Unless you always want someone telling you what to do, try my method. Initiative can go a long way. Then be proud of your efforts.

A Child's Dream - Part 1

Published Mon Sep 21 2009
You would think a thirteen year old would remember a lot from his childhood. Right? After all, I'm still living my childhood. But even with only thirteen years behind me, I don't always remember much from my early school years. That is, except the big moments that stick out for one reason or another. I was in kindergarten. I think we were having "career day" for whatever that was worth at that age. Parents were invited and Mom came as always but Dad had to work. The teacher went around the room asking each kid what they wanted to be when they grew up. Normal question, right? Lots of people have asked me the same thing since then. Most kids answered the typical jobs and the teacher responded with a "great" or "that's a good job" or some other positive comment. When it was my turn to answer, I proudly said, "I want to be everything!" Immediately, the teacher said, "You can't be everything. You can only do one thing. Just pick one." After a few rounds of "Yes I can," and "No you can't," I burst into tears and ran to my mom sitting in the back of the room. I honestly didn't know what Mom thought then but apparently she was shocked at the teacher's negative comment. Mom knew I had big plans, whatever those were, so she thought my answer made perfect sense. My teacher happened to be pretty old and was close to retirement. Being a teacher all of her life, maybe she never had any other goals or things she wanted to do. I guess lots of people in her time chose one job and stuck with it their whole life. But telling me that I could only be one thing (especially in front of my whole class) didn't set well with me, even at five years old. I knew better. I could be anything I wanted to be or even try a lot of different things. Note to teachers, parents, and other adults: Don't tell a kid they are limited in what they can do or what they can be. Note to self: Keep believing that I can do anything as long as I keep trying and remember to ignore the negative comments of others.

A Child's Dream - Part 2

Published Wed Sep 30 2009
I've always believed that art is individual. No two people think alike or look at art alike. So it would make sense that no two people would create art the same either. When I was in first grade, my teacher asked us to make a picture of some land and sky. From what I remember, we were free to draw and color pretty much any way we felt. While most of the other kids used color crayons, I picked magic markers. I wanted my picture to be really bold. I don't remember exactly how I did the ground area but the sky is a vivid memory because of my teacher's reaction in front of the whole class. She took one look at my picture and said, "What did you do? That's not how the sky looks! That is sloppy work!" That's all it took and I began to cry. Yes, if you read Part 1 of this blog post, you'll see another teacher made me cry. It wasn't like I did something to get in trouble. Both of the teachers squashed my creativeness. Well, since I thought my dark blue, light blue, and purple sky looked just like some stormy skies I had seen, something came over me and I told her I thought my picture was just right. Apparently she didn't like me standing up for myself and took it as being disrespectful. (Keep in mind, I was only 7 years old and I can't believe I actually even said anything when most of the time I was like a mouse.) However, by the end of the day, the teacher had called my parents and told them she needed to speak with them about my "behavior." Thank goodness, Mom and Dad, always supported my creativeness and stuck up for my choice to color my picture the way I did.

Some joy ride!

Published Thu Oct 15 2009
Why do they call it a joy ride? If the driver hit and killed someone or himself, it wouldn't be so joyful. I'm not even going to say the kid's name because I don't want to give him anymore credit for doing a really stupid thing. Giving a 7-year-old kid attention on TV and in the papers because he stole his mom's car and took it for a "joy ride" is a bad idea. On Fox News with his ENTIRE family, the kid said he took the car because he didn't want to go to church. On the Today Show, the dad said if a "cotton candy, all American kid like _______ [could do this], it could happen to anybody." I don't think so. When asked what his punishment was, the kid said, "grounded for four days." By the time this kid made it on the Ellen Show, the parents got so much grief from people for the short punishment that the dad said the kid was now grounded for a month. A MONTH? Are they for real? A kid steals a car, gets chased by the police, runs from the police and all he gets is grounded for a month? Totally dumb! Several of the comments I read suggested that the parents should be punished. I actually only saw the Ellen episode last Friday but as I was writing this post, I wondered if other shows had him on also. It didn't take much effort to find other major shows made a bad decision to have him on too. But Ellen made a worse decision. At the end of the interview, she jokingly gave the dad a steering wheel lock and said maybe it would help keep the kid from taking the car again. But it got worse. Even though she told the kid that what he did was bad, the show still gave him a kid-size motorized Cadillac car! How dumb was that?!! So what does that tell other kids, "Hey, I can do something criminal, get famous on TV, AND get a cool toy?" It really bugged me that the kid looked like he was proud of himself as he waved and danced walking on Ellen's stage. And on every show, they (the family and the host) were all laughing about it while saying it wasn't a laughing situation. Then don't laugh! It was plain stupid! When there are hundreds of kids out there who ARE good role models for lots of different reasons, why doesn't the media focus on them?

A Kid's POV: Drug Commercials

Published Sun Nov 01 2009
A lot of people use the TV commercials for bathroom breaks or getting a quick snack. Me? I actually like watching the commercials too. Some are so funny but the ones I don't like are the ones about medicine. It seems like there's a medicine for just about everything and some of the so-called diseases or problems are just plain silly. Take for instance RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome). I think the drug companies give common problems a name just so they can justify and sell their drugs. My grandparents are 76 and 85 and still do all the work themselves on their ranch. Grandpa's solution for someone with RLS is to get out there and do something like walking around or exercising in some way. It makes sense that if you just sit or lie around all day that your muscles won't work as well. It doesn't take a scientist to figure that out. There are lots of drugs that companies are making for different problems. But have you really listened to one of those commercials? Just the other day I saw a commercial for a drug called Chantix which is supposed to help people quit smoking. Quitting smoking is a good thing so everyone should try the best they can, anyway they can . . . but. As I was watching the commercial where an old guy was talking about how it helped him, the narrator started telling all the side effects the drug could cause. The commercial seemed to go on a lot longer than most 30-second commercials so I decided to rewind the DVR and time it. Here is the unbelievable part. The advertising FOR the drug lasted just 40 seconds and the warnings AGAINST the drug went on for 110 seconds. It was a 2 1/2 minute commercial. Those aren't cheap and the fact that the warnings took longer than the advertisement should make people who might be considering this drug to reconsider. All drug commercials have warnings about possible side effects but I'd worry when they say taking the drug could cause you to think about suicide but stopping the drug could also make you think about suicide. Geez! You're taking a huge risk either way. I wonder how the FDA can even allow companies to make drugs that could make people think about suicide. That doesn't make any sense to me. My grandpa quit smoking about 30 years ago. He didn't use any drugs and wouldn't have anyway even if they would have been around back then. He just quit 'cold turkey' as he says. Anyone can do anything they choose if they just set their mind to it. You don't need dangerous drugs to do it either. Of course what do I know? I'm still 13 and my worst habit is wanting to play video games too much. From this kid's point of view, I'm just saying, maybe it's better to rely on your own will power than to depend on some drug that some company says will work but the side effects could make you worse off than before.

Free Advertising

Published Fri Nov 06 2009
Free advertising? It really does exist. The only thing is, it takes a lot more effort and a little creativity. You need to keep your eyes and ears open and take advantage of every opportunity. Contests are one way to get some free advertising. You would be surprised at how many people skip by this option for various reasons. One of the reasons is that there are usually a lot of details to follow in order to qualify and many people just don't want to spend the time to enter. Another reason someone, especially a kid, may not enter is because of age restrictions. But sometimes you have to ignore that rule and still submit your application WITH an explanation of why you're entering even though you may be under age. This has happened with me a lot but I don't let that stop me. Depending on who is sponsoring the contest and what the specific rules are is how I handle the entry form. Sometimes I try to contact them ahead of time and ask permission to enter explaining why I think I should be allowed to. Sometimes I just send in my entry form with the explanation attached. Believe it or not, I haven't been turned down yet. And if I do get a "no", it's not a big deal. There are always other contests. The very first contest I entered was sponsored by the Young Entrepreneurs of America. The rules clearly said you had to be 16. I was only 11 at the time but I had had my business for about a year and a half by then. I figured that I could go up against anyone over 16 and have just as much of a chance to win as they did. The prize was being named "Young Entrepreneur of the Year." I knew if I won, that would give me some really good national recognition, especially because I was so young. So I entered. I filled out all the forms exactly as requested but in my essay, I explained and justified why I felt they should consider me. The worst they could say was "no." After a few months, I got a big surprise. Not only did they consider my entry but they said the judges were so impressed that they created a whole new category for kids under 16 and I was their first recipient. There wasn't any money attached to it, no prize, no trophy, and not even a certificate. But the national recognition from them and what would follow was worth more than any piece of paper or statue. Less than a year later, we got an email from Forbes saying they wanted to include me in their first Top 10 List for role models 18 & under. They said they found me because of my Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I'm not saying it's easy to find contests of any sort for young entrepreneurs so sometimes you have to think outside the box. Just this year, I found out about a contest sponsored by Intuit. I was way too young according to the rules but I found a person to email and actually got written permission back to enter anyway. I didn't care if they even put me in the actual contest because they said they would at least post my information on their website which gave me a lot of exposure. When I was a contestant on NBC's game show '1 vs 100' for their all-kid episode, I lost on the second question. I got teased and people actually sent me nasty emails about it but the 2 minutes or so that the host, Bob Saget, talked to me on camera about my Pencil Bugs business was worth more in the long run than what the remaining kids finally won. I also entered a contest from Kohl's department store. Not only did I win a college scholarship but my picture was on a huge poster in our regional stores which was pretty cool. Free advertising? Absolutely. Can you afford to pay for advertising like this? Probably not. Remember, contests are just one way to get more exposure for your business. It's always worth the effort even if you don't win.

It Doesn't Happen Overnight

Published Thu Nov 12 2009
There are probably those rare situations where someone becomes famous or successful overnight but they are definitely the exception. Most of us have to work hard, whether it's starting a business, becoming a musician, athlete, or actor. Pretty much anything you choose to do is going to take a lot of effort. This is easy to say but that doesn't mean I always like doing it. Everyone, no matter what age you are, is going to get tired of work, work, and more work, especially if you can't see the reward right away. That's why everyone, but especially a kid, needs someone to support and encourage them when they want to quit. And that will happen at some point. That's where a parent or other mentor really helps. Maybe it's their age or their experience but somehow my parents can see the possibilities and opportunities much farther down the road than I can. But I keep learning as I go. Success won't happen overnight. The only guarantee is that if you quit, nothing will happen.

A Good Entrepreneur is a Round Peg

Published Fri Nov 20 2009
Are you a square peg or a round peg? Most people will probably answer "round peg" because the idea of being a square anything isn't that appealing. Why do you think people use the expression, "think outside the box?" A box is square or rectangle and considered pretty limiting. What if the saying were, "think outside the ball?" Just doesn't sound right, does it? A square also has four points. When you think of a point, you normally think of sharp things which can be dangerous. A square also has four sides. Since I'm still in school, when I think of sides, I think of team sports in PE. Depending on which side you're on, it isn't necessarily that much fun. Apparently in the 1960's, being called "square" meant you were the guys in suits, the people who worked at traditional companies, the ones that followed the rules. I guess there were probably a lot of grown-ups that were considered "square." When you think of being square, there are a lot of negative meanings associated with it. But being something round, without any sides or points seems pretty good. A round peg can fit into a square hole but a square peg can't fit into a round hole (of course given that the diameter of the circle isn't bigger than the width of the square). The round peg has more options. Have you ever wondered why manhole covers are round, not square? It's because round covers won't accidentally fall into the hole. No matter how you hold it or tilt it, you can't push it through the hole. If it were square, it would be really easy to turn it diagonally and drop it through. Wouldn't you rather be a round cover than a square one? Use whatever expression or saying you like for this situation. When it comes right down to it, I think it's better to be round than square. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be flexible and able to, as my grandpa says, "roll with it." You can't roll if you're a square peg.

A Person's Character from Playing Golf

Published Mon Nov 30 2009
You can tell a lot about a person's character by playing a round of golf with them. It doesn't matter if it's mini-golf or real golf. The basic principles are the same. Golf is a game of honor. Each player is responsible for enforcing rules on their own game. It would be pretty easy to hit two strokes and only count one. You may be the only one who knows you cheated but what will that really get you? In any part of life, either business or personal, wouldn't you want to deal with honest people? Some people feel it's okay to bend the rules as far as they can without breaking the rules. There are also those who think it's okay to break the rules if it benefits them but not okay if it benefits others. No matter how you look at the situation, it's better to be honest with yourself and others. You will get a lot farther in life. So the next time you make a new friend or business contact, invite them to play golf. You may learn a lot about them that you wouldn't have known otherwise.

Knowing vs Doing

Published Wed Dec 09 2009
You can have someone show you how to do something and you think you know it. Depending on what is is, you may only need to see it one time. With other things, you may have to see it done over and over again until you really know how to do it. But simply knowing how to and actually doing it are two totally different things. This can apply to many things: sports, music, swimming, or even playing video games. Let's take one of my video driving games and my parents as an example. I could explain in detail how it works, what the object is, go through all of the buttons on the controller and show them what each one does. They nod their heads and agree they understand everything. "Okay, we know how," they say. "Let's try it." I get the game set up for them to play a round. They each have their controller. The green light starts but Mom's car isn't moving. "Tell me again which button is for the gas," my mom says. Even though I showed her what controls to use, until she actually did it for herself, just knowing wasn't good enough. Actually doing it for herself made all the difference. This situation is just one example. Most of us, especially kids, have probably had a similar situation at one time or another. As kids, we think we know everything even if we've never done it before in our lives. We think being told or shown how is good enough. Then the surprise hits. We actually try it for the first time and realize the difference between knowing how versus doing is huge. What's the point? You can learn more from doing.

A Group of Generous 8th Graders

Published Tue Dec 22 2009
As many of you know, every quarter I donate part of my proceeds from Pencil Bugs to buy toys, games, books, and other activities for kids at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California. For Christmas, I try to do something extra special for the kids by having a fundraiser. This year, my goal was to give 250 bears to Rady Children's Hospital. With the help of generous people on Twitter, Facebook, and also family and friends, to date we have received almost $750 which along with my own money is enough to buy 300 bears so far. With the deadline of December 1 approaching, I hope to be able to buy even more. We hear lots of negative things about teens today but there are also many who are making a difference in a positive way. Here is a perfect example. This past Friday, I received a very generous donation from a group of eighth graders at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, Michigan. Their teacher, Kathleen Mencotti, sent an email explaining she taught a Service Learning Class. A group of three students, Adrienne Yu, Sarah Matthews, and Maggie Pyett held a bake sale to raise money to buy bears for their local hospital. As they were running out of time to complete their project, the students took it upon themselves to search Internet to find someone who was already doing the same thing they were to see about contributing the money they raised. They found me and read about my hospital bears project for Rady. They generously donated their bake sale money of $119. Young adults have many opportunities to do amazing things. They just need to have the drive and the heart to do it like these students in Michigan. I am so grateful for everyone who continues to support me, my business, and my charity work but I especially get excited when other kids want to help also. Thank you very much!

A Thanksgiving E-Mail

Published Sat Dec 26 2009
As many of you know, I've been working on a project since August to raise money to buy teddy bears for kids at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California. My original goal was to give 250 bears to the kids for Christmas. At the beginning of this week, I did an interview with KNSD TV (NBC) in San Diego. After the news segment ran, picked up the story and donations started pouring in. Within a day, I had raised enough to buy 1700 bears! I could hardly believe it. Kids were donating $5 and $10, companies were donating larger amounts, and a group of three 8th grade students in Michigan donated their bake sale money. But today, on Thanksgiving of all days, I received a special donation from three soldiers stationed in Iraq. They read my story and decided to donate. I was amazed but it meant even more when I received this email from one of the guys. He gave his permission to share it on my blog. It means a lot! Remember to thank our military guys. Jason, I am Staff Sergeant (name withheld for privacy reasons), curently serving in Iraq. I saw an article about your donation of teddy bears to kids in the hospital and felt that in addition to a donation I should write you this email. Hopefully you know already how incredible your achievments have been thus far. The fact that you have chosen to give back to others less fortunate than yourself is what makes all of it truly extraordinary. Your friends and family are no doubt proud of you beyond words. I wanted you to know that others are proud of you as well. I, as well as my fellow soldiers, are often asked why we are willing to do the things that we do. While most everyone has a different answer, I believe I can speak for most when I say that one of the primary reasons is in order to protect the American way of life. In this current age filled with people looking out only for themselves, or expecting things from their country that they have neither earned nor deserve, it is refreshing to see someone carving their own path while giving of themselves at the same time. Many adults in your shoes would concentrate all of their effort into their profit margin without a thought for others less fortunate than themselves. I can't tell you how glad I and my teammates are to see that the American spirit is alive and well in our younger generation. Please keep up the good work. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. My teammates and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. Take care. Respectfully,
SSG (name withheld)

Bears, Bears, and More Bears!

Published Tue Jan 05 2010
When I started my charity project in August to give teddy bears to kids at Rady Children's Hospital for Christmas this year, I was hoping I would raise enough money including my own to buy 250 bears. Things were going pretty well. By the beginning of November, I had raised enough to buy almost 400 bears. I was pretty happy and I knew the hospital would be too. My plan was to tie donation tags on every bear and put each person's name who donated money to help. At that time, 400 bears seems liked a lot to tie on individual tags, but since we would be delivering them on December 18, we still had plenty of time. Then the week before Thanksgiving, my project exploded! KNSD TV (NBC) in San Diego came to my house to interview me for their news. I had pre-ordered 100 bears so they could see what the bears were like. I had a great time. The very next day, picked up my story and before long, I was receiving donations from all over the country. With just a little over a week left to donate, things were adding up quickly. Once everything was calculated, the grand total was 1800 bears. So that our entire garage wasn't completely filled with teddy bears all at once, we ordered 1000 bears. 40 large boxes arrived on Wednesday by UPS. I think our UPS driver was more than a little surprised when he got the order to deliver to our house. He actually called ahead of time to make sure someone would be home which Mom and Dad appreciated. I was excused from a school field trip on Thursday so I could start unpacking, sorting, counting, and tagging the 1000 bears that arrived. Tying donation tags on each one went a lot faster than we had expected. Being organized ahead of time by printing the tags, punching holes in them, cutting pieces of yarn to tie them onto the bears, and even stringing them really helped the whole process. Of course Mom and Dad helped a lot. Otherwise, I would still be tying on tags instead of writing this blog. We finished everything in about 6 hours. Once all the bears were tagged, we put them in large bags, ready for delivery. It's a good thing we don't have a big family because we now have very large bags and boxes of teddy bears all over our house and we still have 700 more bears to do the whole process over again next weekend. Thank you again to everyone who donated and supported my project. Our coordinator at Rady was amazed when we called to tell her we had a few more than our original plan of 250. All she could say was "WOW"! Stay tuned for my post after we deliver them. We're still hoping for a rental company to donate the use of a small truck for delivery. It should be a fun job loading all of the bags and boxes in the truck but even more fun unloading them at the hospital.
40 boxes of bears

1800 Bears Tagged, Bagged, & Counted!

Published Thu Jan 14 2010
On Saturday, December 12 my parents and I finally finished tying donation tags on 1800 bears that we will be delivering to Rady Children's Hospital on Friday, December 18. What started out as a small fundraiser in August to raise enough money to buy 250 teddy bears for kids in the hospital for Christmas, exploded into a gigantic success! 27 very large bags and five boxes later, I never imagined it would have turned out this well. There are so many people to thank for helping me make this possible.
  • My parents, Don and Nancy O'Neill, for EVERYTHING they do to always help me.
  • Catherine Garcia of KNSD TV in San Diego, California who interviewed me for their news the week of Thanksgiving. Because of the interview, MSN picked up my story and donations started flooding in from around the world.
  • Every person who donated money to help buy bears. From $5 - $500, every dollar received was used to buy bears. Including my own donation, the grand total received was $5,130 which bought 1800 bears. A complete list of generous supporters can be found on my Pencil Bugs website.
  • Lisa Vinton and Darcy Jones of Only2Degrees in Temecula, California who made a few calls and found several people willing to donate a truck so that we could deliver the bears to the hospital.
  • Rachel Mason of Hemet Hospice in Hemet, California who donated their organization's truck, driver, and time. Rachel was so excited to be a part of my Christmas project that she is even coming with us on delivery day.
One of the most fun parts for me was opening up box after box to see what type of bears we received. We ordered an assortment of bears which made it interesting. Each box was a surprise but the biggest surprise was when I opened a couple of the last dozen boxes. We didn't expect to receive Santa bears but we got about two dozen assorted Santas. Then to top it off, there were three large yellow bears that looked a lot like Winnie the Pooh so I'm sure three kids will be very surprised and happy when they receive those bears. After we had finished with the first two shipments of bears (1100 total) and had tied donation tags on each one, Mom put together a short video with highlights. Stay tuned for the video update after the big delivery.

Give Me What I Want!

Published Wed Jan 20 2010
A few weeks ago my dad and I were looking through the ads in the Sunday newspaper trying to find something for my mom for Christmas. We noticed this ad in the JC Penney flyer. I don't think they were trying to sell any of the clothes on the page because the center square "Give Me What I Want" was what most people would notice right away. The more I thought about that phrase, the more selfish it seemed. I know that stores are in business to make money, just like I am with my Pencil Bugs business, but at a time in our economy when things are hard for a lot of people, putting an ad out like this to make people think they have to have everything they want doesn't seem quite right. If people feel entitled to have everything they want, what's left? It's good to appreciate the things you have and if you buy what you need instead of everything you want, you'll be ahead in the long run. I guess big companies like Penneys don't really think about the message they send in their ads or what it must feel like to the people who don't have jobs to buy things for Christmas this year. I know I've said things like "I want . . . " but if I ever sound demanding, my parents make sure I don't get what I want just to keep me in check. Do I like when they do that? No. But when I can look back on the situation, I can see why they do what they do. It's a good way to learn the value of things, not overspend, or feel entitled. I guess that's why I've liked donating toys, etc. to kids in the hospital. I know they appreciate it and it makes me feel good. Maybe the Penneys ad should have read, "Give to Someone in Need" and get rid of the "Me, Me, Me" idea.

The Santa Truth

Published Fri Jan 22 2010
I don't expect little kids to read my blog so I think it's safe to write the truth here. My parents were like most parents. They lied about Santa, where he lived, how he delivered presents all over the world in just one night, and most of all, how he was real and that his reindeer could magically fly. My grandparents live on a farm in North Dakota. Having been there many times and seeing the different animals they raise, I knew that animals couldn't fly. I was in kindergarten when I started to ask more questions about Santa and his reindeer. I figured that if my grandpa's cows couldn't fly, then probably neither could reindeer. So at age five, I came right out and asked Mom and Dad again if Santa was real. Apparently, they suspected that I might be too smart for them to continue the lie. But before they confessed, they questioned why I was asking. I proceeded to explain my logic. There wasn't much time for Mom to decide how to respond. In a matter of minutes, she confessed everything and said how smart I was to figure it all out at such a young age. After the Santa truth was revealed, Mom then told me that a lot of other kids probably still believed in Santa and his flying reindeer. She said I had to be a big boy and make sure I didn't tell the other kids what I had learned so I wouldn't spoil it for them. I agreed not to tell. Just because I had figured out that Santa wasn't real, it didn't spoil the fun and excitement of Christmas for me. Mom and Dad still hide one present until Christmas eve and then put it under the tree for Christmas morning with a tag that says, To Jason, From Santa. Santa doesn't have to be real to make Christmas magical. Leave me a comment and tell me how and when you or your kids learned the Santa Truth?

Bears for Christmas-A True Fairy Tale

Published Wed Jan 27 2010
Now that my hospital bears project is complete, I wanted to write a wrap-up and post photos on my website. I decided to write the conclusion in a fairy tale form. Instead of posting the whole thing again on my blog, if you want to read it and look at the photos, click here. Thanks again to everyone who supported me and helped make a lot of kids at Rady Children's Hospital a little happier this Christmas when they received a fluffy teddy bear.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 1

Published Fri Jan 29 2010
Most people think the 12 days of Christmas start before Christmas but they actually start on Christmas and run for 12 days. So I decided to follow that and run trivia or little-known facts for the 12 days of Christmas. There are many parts to the traditional "12 Days of Christmas" song that have lost their original meaning over the years. Did you know that 5 golden rings did not refer to jewelry? Apparently they were five golden ring-necked pheasants. Source: ABCOG Keep checking back each day to have fun with more Christmas trivia each day.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 2

Published Fri Jan 29 2010
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows in trees and shrubs. Mistletoe basically means "dung-on-a-twig." Several hundred years ago, people used to think that it was formed from bird poop. Now we know that's not true because otherwise there would be mistletoe everywhere that bird poop lands. It still needs the right kind of host to start growing. The seeds are spread in the fruit which is eaten by birds. When you think about it, it's kind of weird that people use it during the holidays to kiss under. Source: Bellarmine University

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 3

Published Fri Jan 29 2010
If you bought all of the items in the 12 days of Christmas song, it would have cost $87,403 this year. But then again, who would really want all though items anyway? Source: Huffington Post
Christmas tree

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 4

Published Fri Jan 29 2010
In the traditional song, "The 12 Days of Christmas," four calling birds was originally four colley birds which are similar to blackbirds. To read more about details within the song, click here. If you missed days 1-3, scroll down in my blog to catch up.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 5

Published Fri Jan 29 2010
Originating in Germany in the 1600's, the first tinsel was actually made from a paper thin silver alloy, cut into strips and hung on the Christmas tree. Even with the tinsel that is sold in stores today, putting the individual little strips on the tree is hard and even harder to get it all off which is why a lot of people have probably stopped adding the shiny stuff to their Christmas trees. It may make the tree sparkle but it's still a mess. Source: Associated Content If you missed days 1-4, scroll through my blog to catch up on more Christmas trivia.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 6

Published Sat Jan 30 2010
When someone says berries, we think of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc and they are all really good to eat. But there are many berries that are poisonous. One of them is the holly berry that we associate with Christmas. Eating more than three holly berries can cause severe and prolonged nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as drowsiness. According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, each fall they receive about 5 to 10 calls for the poison control center because a child ate some poisonous berry or seed. Morale of the story: Just because it looks good, doesn't mean it is good. If you're reading this trivia today and wondering why I'm still on the 12 Days of Christmas after Christmas, scroll down in my blog and read Day 1 which explains the 12 Days of Christmas. You can also catch up on the days you missed.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 7

Published Sat Jan 30 2010
This was a real surprise to me because I thought Christmas was always an official holiday in the United States but it wasn't until 1836 when Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. Other states followed and by 1907, Oklahoma was the last state to make Christmas a legal holiday. More fun facts from the Farmers' Almanac. Scroll down in my blog to read more Christmas trivia from days 1-6.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 8

Published Mon Feb 01 2010
The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington. Oregon tops the list of Most Trees Harvested, Most Acreage of Tree Farms, and Most Sales of Operations. In 2008, Oregon Christmas tree growers cut and sold 7.34 million trees with a value of $110.1 million. More Oregon-grown Christmas trees end up in California than any other state. Guess that makes sense since we're the closest state with the most people. For every real Christmas tree harvested, 1 to 3 seedlings are planted the following spring. Sources: National Christmas Tree Association and National Agriculture Statistics Service If you're wondering why I'm still on the 12 Days of Christmas and it's New Year's Day, scroll down in my blog to Trivia Day 1. There's a good reason for this.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 9

Published Tue Feb 02 2010
There are two islands in the world named Christmas Island. One is a territory of Australia located in the Indian Ocean, about 1600 miles northwest of the city of Perth, Australia. It has a population of approximately 1400 residents. The majority of the people are Chinese so it makes sense that the main religion is Buddhism. Their official language is English. If you can afford it and are into nature expeditions, this seems like the perfect place to visit. It's 52 square miles of wildlife, birding, and natural history. Do I sound like a travel agent? :) The other Christmas Island also goes by the name of Kiritimati. It is actually an atoll which is an island made up of coral that circles a lagoon either partially or completely. The entire island is a wildlife sanctuary. While I was finding out about this island, I ran across a website by Jane Resture who actually lived there for about five years. She has some pretty interesting information and photos. Sources: Christmas Island-Australia and Christmas Island-Pacific Ocean

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 10

Published Wed Feb 03 2010
Ever thought about eating a Christmas tree? Well, don't. The needles from certain types of pine trees are actually poisonous although I don't know why someone would want to try eating one anyway. But you can make a pine needle tea from the Eastern White Pine tree and it's actually healthy for you because it's high in vitamin C but I bet it tastes like eating grass. If you are interested in finding out which trees have pine nuts that are safe to eat, visit Rhora's Nut Farm and Nursery. Sources: University of Colorado-Boulder and Survival Topics Just another little-known trivia to add to my 12 Days of Christmas Trivia. If you missed any of the previous days, scroll down in my blog to catch up.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 11

Published Thu Feb 04 2010
My aunt sent us this joke before Christmas. The big question: Are Santa's reindeer male or female? As the joke goes, apparently all of his reindeer must be female because only women would be able to drag a fat man in a red suit all around the world in just one night and not get lost. Okay, even my dad laughed at that one. But maybe the joke isn't that far off - well, at least as far as whether they are male or female. According to the University of Alaska, older male reindeer start shedding their antlers in December but female reindeer keep theirs until they give birth in the spring. So it's likely that if Santa's reindeer were males, they would have lost their antlers by Christmas. But since most pictures are drawn with antlers on all of the reindeer, even though they have male names, it's more likely that Santa's reindeer were probably female reindeer. Now, the bigger question. Does it really matter? No, but it makes for a good joke.

12 Days of Christmas Trivia - Day 12

Published Fri Feb 05 2010
My 12 Days of Christmas Trivia has come to an end. I've had a lot of fun finding little-known facts and trivia about Christmas. I hope you had fun reading them too. This last bit of Christmas trivia is good to remember all year long since it is health-related. It is estimated that 400,000 people become sick each year from eating tainted Christmas leftovers. I read this on several websites but couldn't find the actual source to verify it but if you're like most families, there was lots of food set out during the holidays. Everyone seems to take more time eating holiday meals than regular meals any other day of the year so food sits on the table or counter a lot longer. Then there are the people who like to keep eating all day long so some munchies sit out for hours. But how long should food be left out before it starts to go bad? This ABC News/Health story explains how to tell if food has gone bad and how long you should keep leftovers. It's good to remember all year long, not just during the holidays. My parents have a saying, "When in doubt, throw it out" because it's better to be safe than sorry. And who would want to get sick between Christmas and New Years just because you ate some bad leftovers or food that set out too long? Even your favorite leftover turkey or stuffing wouldn't be worth it. And if you're not sure if it's spoiled or not, please don't feed it to your pets either. Happy New Year to everyone! Eat healthy! If you missed any of my 12 Days of Christmas Trivia, just scroll down to read the rest.

New Year's Resolutions

Published Thu Feb 11 2010
By now, I bet many people have already broken their New Year's resolutions, especially the ones you hear the most like losing weight, quiting smoking, or exercising more. Kids usually don't make resolutions. My guess is that most don't think that far ahead or some probably think they don't need to change anything. But when you think about it, why make resolutions anyway? Does a new year really make a difference in the way people think? If a person was not exercising last year, will they really do what it takes to change things this year? I think when people declare their resolutions, it's actually more of a negative than a positive. For the majority that break them, those people probably feel pretty bad like they failed. The better way might be to just keep working at what you want to change without announcing this big resolution. If one day you mess up, give yourself a kick in the pants and just try harder the next day but keep moving forward.

Take Pride in Your Pain

Published Wed Mar 03 2010
Recently, I read the book "Gathering Blue" by Lois Lowry. It is part of a trilogy which I really got into. "Take pride in your pain because you will be stronger than those who don't" was one quote from the book that really stuck with me. Pain is usually thought of as a bad thing; an experience that people don't want to have to go through. However, the quote from Gathering Blue tells us that pain can help in many ways. Pain hurts us now but will make us more prepared for the future. Just having the pain is not enough. You actually need to get in the mindset of taking pride in your pain. It may sound a little weird. I know it did to me at first but pride is what helps you learn from your pain and gives you the ability to move on. People who don't recognize this put themselves on a pedestal because they think they are better than everyone else. It is similar to accepting defeat or quitting an argument. Don't pride yourself in winning but be proud of being a big enough person to accept defeat. You can't win all of the time and no one is right all of the time either. Whether it's a business situation or a personal one, take pride in your pain, struggles, challenges, and losses. It's what helps us deal with the tough things in life and teaches us that we are usually stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

The B.I.G. Expo

Published Thu Mar 04 2010
Girl Scouts isn't just for girls. Well, at least their B.I.G. Expo wasn't. We heard about the expo the first week in January and immediately checked into being an exhibitor. With a little more than three weeks to go until the event, we (my parents and I) got busy making more Pencil Bugs and getting other products and marketing materials ready. With a lot of hard work, we were ready for the event. They were expecting between 4,000 and 5,000 attendees and since I had never done an event that large, I had no idea what to expect. There were all kinds of exhibitors, activities, food, entertainment, and girls scouts of all ages. Besides selling my products at my booth, I also had coloring pages for the kids as well as a large gift basket that people could enter to win by filling out an entry form with a few questions:
Which Pencil Bug is your favorite?
If a new Pencil Bug were born, what color should it be and what should we name it?
They didn't even need to be present to win because I would be contacting them by email. Simple, right? Well, believe it or not, many of the entries didn't have email addresses at all and some were illegible. After sorting through hundreds of entries, we tossed the 120 that remained in a hat and pulled out one entry, and sent an email to the winner. Immediately, we got a "no recipient" error back. Oops! Doubled checked the email address, tried it again but still the same error. The second entry we pulled out of the hat was a valid email address but they didn't respond within the time limit. We didn't want to have to wait too long to find the winner. I was excited about awarding all the goodies to some lucky kid. So once again, I shook up all the entries in the hat and pulled out the third entry. BINGO! I had a winner - Rhianna Anderson. Rhianna answers to the questions on the entry form were:
Favorite Pencil Bug - Patty Pink
She wanted a new Pencil Bug to be named Vivian Violet.
The gift basket included everything needed for a Pencil Bugs-themed birthday party.
T-shirt for the birthday girl
8 Pencil Bugs
Birthday card
8 Birthday invitations
8 Thank you cards
and an autographed copy of Mark Victor Hansen's book, "The Richest Kids in America" in which my story is included (although rich is not always about money).
Congratulations to Rhianna and thanks to everyone who stopped by my booth.

The Secrets of TV

Published Mon Mar 08 2010
Recently, I had the fun experience of being filmed for two different fall TV series. Due to confidentiality until they air, I can't say the names but both feature kid-related stories. I have been interviewed for TV several times. One of the things they remind people of is not to wear black, white, bold patterns, or red. I could always understand the reasons for black, white, and patterns but no one could give me why they didn't want red. Well, I finally asked one of the directors last week who gave me a good answer that made sense. This is a simplified version. The color red has the longest wavelengths and when filmed, it appears with jagged edges. But since many actors on TV wear red shirts, I wondered how they were able to. The director said that first of all, they have a wardrobe person who picks specific colors for the actors to wear and certain shades of red are okay. Plus when a show is recorded on film and not on digital tape, the film can process the color red better. Even more interesting was when she said that if a person does wear red and it comes out jagged, there's an expensive, tedious process of smoothing out the lines frame by frame. Since most production companies and news media don't want to or can't take the time to do that, they just give the reminder to not wear red at all. The other thing I learned was why they record about 30 seconds of silence after taping in a room where the interview or segment was shot. Everyone sits quietly while the camera rolls. Reason? Because when they edit the footage, they have blank space where they can splice pieces together and you won't be able to tell they did it because you'll still hear the same background noise even if there wasn't any noise at all. If they pieced two parts of a sentence together but didn't have the matching room sound, you'd be able to hear the difference between the two parts. Interesting, isn't it? Who knew that from having my business, I'd also be getting a brief introduction and education into filmmaking? They don't teach that in middle school or even in most regular high schools.

Kids and Allowances

Published Sun Mar 21 2010
Millions of kids each week get allowances. These range from petty change to large bills. Allowances are often given free of charge without any responsibilities at all. This creates kids who don't understand the value of money and who often take things for granted. While an allowance can teach kids how to manage money, most of the time it does just the opposite. When there are no chores or jobs associated with the allowance, it basically is free money. And who wouldn't want free money? When you don’t have to work for money, you have less attachment to it. Free money promotes free spending and less reasons to save it. When you actually have to work for the money, you don't want to spend it as easily because you know how hard it was to earn it. Money does not grow on trees but I have seen a lot of kids that think it must because of how much "stuff" they seem to have. When you think about it, it's not really the kid's fault they have that concept. It's the parent's fault for buying them everything they want without teaching them the value of money. According to Webster’s dictionary, the first definition of an allowance is “a share or portion allotted or granted. The very definition of the word says that there is nothing that has to be given in return. Kids will be more likely to take things for granted if they are always handed stuff for free. Everyone knows a spoiled kid with all the latest and greatest toys and gadgets. When they get everything they want, what's left? Sometimes, it is good to want for things because when you finally earn them, you will probably be more appreciative. If a child receives everything they could ever ask for while they are young, they are more likely to mismanage their finances later in life. The won't understand the connection between money and saving or spending. That's why so many adults end up in debt -- they think their money will never run out. Some of you reading this are probably thinking, "What does this kid know about money and financial responsibilities?" Well, I know that at 14, I have never received an allowance. I have saved practically every Christmas and birthday money gift I have received for years. And I think long and hard before I spend any of my money. Having my Pencil Bugs business since I was nine has also taught me the value of money, what it means to work for it, and how to be financially smart which will make me better prepared when I'm an adult. My parents never received an allowance when they were kids and they didn't give me one. I probably won't give my kids an allowance either. Even though I'm still like most kids and I like the thought of 'something for nothing', I know that philosophy doesn't do any good in the long run.

5 Tips for Successful Public Speaking

Published Sun Mar 28 2010
Public speaking is difficult for most people. Whether it's a group of 4 or 5 in a class or several hundred at an event, it can make you pretty nervous. These are five basic tips to help you speak in front of any size group.
  1. Do not stare above the audience. Many people will suggest the speaker focus on a spot in the back of the room and not look directly at the audience. The logic is that they won't get as nervous if they don't really see anyone. That's not always true and I found something that works even better. I actually scan the crowd and look at several people now and then which makes it feel like I'm talking to just a few friends instead of a few hundred people. If you focus on just one thing, you will still know there are many people starring at you even though you're not looking directly at them which will definitely make you nervous. The point is to deal with the situation head-on instead of avoiding it. Almost everyone is ok with talking to one or two people. Make it personal and you will feel more confident.
  2. Make notes. You are never too old to make notes. I use them every time I speak and so do many other famous speakers who are much older than I am. Notes shouldn't be your whole speech. It's better to only write bullet points or key phrases, just enough so you can remember what you want to say. Some people think that notes are only for rehearsal. That's not true. Think about it. Wouldn't you rather hold some notes and glance at them once in awhile than stand up there all nervous trying to remember what to say? As long as you don't read from them, you'll be fine and deliver a better presentation or speech.
  3. Rehearse. You have to know what your going to say and how you are going to say it. Use all the props that you would for the real deal so you can get a feel for it. This is one of my least favorite steps. I hate to practice or rehearse but it does work and it is a necessary part to public speaking. It's pretty easy to listen or watch someone who knows what they are talking about, feels comfortable on stage, and makes the topic interesting. If the person isn't prepared, not only will they be uncomfortable but they will make the audience uncomfortable too and probably put a lot of people to sleep with boredom.
  4. Write your own presentation. Unless you're the President of the United States, you're better off writing your own speech or presentation. And if you watch any public figure give a speech, wouldn't you rather believe that they wrote at least part of what they're saying? If they simply read it, you wonder if they even believe in their message.
  5. Know your audience. Even if you're talking about business but your audience is elementary kids, make sure you talk so they can understand. That doesn't mean talk down to them but make it interesting for the appropriate age group.
Me onstage

Why WebStudio?

Published Thu Apr 15 2010
When I started my business in 2005, I was lucky enough to have my mom design my website which was a huge savings! Long before I was born, she worked at a couple of companies where part of her responsibilities were to design their websites. (I was surprised they even had Internet way back then.) Just kidding! But apparently it was a much more difficult job than creating a website is today. She started when they didn't even have WYSIWYG programs (What You See Is What You Get). Today, with all of the free programs from hosting companies or blog programs like Wordpress, why would you pay for software, right? Well, the answer is simple. It's more flexible without having to learn how to customize a predesigned format. A few years ago, my mom started teaching me how to update my website which was really fun. She was using a program called WebStudio 4.0. It was easy to learn but still had a lot of cool options to make the website look professional. Top 7 reasons to choose WebStudio:
  1. Very user-friendly - not nearly as complicated as Dreamweaver or similar programs (and she tested many)
  2. More affordable - less than $200 vs. $400 for Dreamweaver
  3. Much easier to learn - if you can used Word, you can master WebStudio
  4. You can host your site with anyone, unlike some of the free programs where you have to use their hosting service too.
  5. They have THE best customer service and tech support. They actually know what they are talking about and know how to solve a problem if you run into trouble. The company, Back to the Beach Software, is located near San Diego, CA.
  6. The program also has a temporary host feature so as you're designing your pages, you can upload them to a temp site and see how it will really look in multiple browsers.
  7. The program has a free PayPal shopping cart if you need.
Now they have WebStudio 5.0 with even more cool stuff. At only $179 (upgrade is even less), it's a great deal. You might have so much fun playing around with it that you won't get anything else done. Or your friends might start asking you to design their websites giving you some extra income. Lots of possibilities. In case you're wondering, this post was not solicited by the company and they aren't paying for the review. One thing I've learned from my parents is that too many people complain about the negative things but not enough take time to talk about the good things. WebStudio from Back to the Beach is a good thing. You can get a free 30-day trial of the full version that even includes tech support while you're testing it. Have fun!

#1 Blogging/Writing Tip

Published Thu Apr 22 2010
Do you think J.K. Rowling writes her stories and no one else edits or proofs them before they're published? I don't think so. So why do people think they should write blogs or school reports or anything else for that matter without having at least one other person proof their work? Whether you're blogging for your business or just for fun, at least show the world that you know how to spell correctly and use proper grammar. I'm lucky that I have my mom to proofread and edit my writing. Even with school papers, she looks them over because most teachers don't take time to even check for spelling or grammar. And if kids turn in assignments they think are correct and no one ever shows them how to improve, what good was the assignment in the first place? Mom also reads every blog, letter, email, and basically all other business things that I write. At 14, I still have a lot to learn but at least I can present my business in the most professional way possible. So maybe your mom or dad isn't the best at writing, editing or even proofreading. Find someone that is and ask them to at least proof for spelling and grammar errors BEFORE you post your mistakes for the world to see. This doesn't apply just to kids either. I have read many things online that are the most basic mistakes and it doesn't make the person look too good. If you absolutely can't find anyone to help out, at least go back and read it yourself. It's easy to skip over your mistakes because you know what you already wrote and what you meant to say but reading it out loud, very . . . slowly, word . . . for . . . word, will help you find your mistakes. One of the most common mistakes people make, and I see it on Twitter all the time, is the difference between YOUR and YOU'RE. Those are two totally different words and meanings. If there is an apostrophe, it is actually two words combined. Your the best is WRONG. You're the best is CORRECT because it actually means You are. People form opinions and first impressions for a lot of different reasons. If avoiding simple spelling and grammar mistakes when you write can make a better impression, wouldn't you want to do everything you could to improve? Thanks Mom. :)

My Hollywood Experience

Published Sat May 01 2010
When the founder of Dekoposh invited me to speak at a charity concert to support Champions Against Bullying, I was pretty excited. Then I found out it was in Hollywood and since I have never been there, I had no idea what to expect. The big day was March 25. I got out of school at lunch just to make sure we had time to get to Hollywood with freeway traffic. We got there early and pulled into this deep underground parking structure. The entrance/toll booths looked like Disneyland's Autopia ride with curbs between the lanes which winded down through the structure. It was pretty cool. After driving down to the basement level 4, we found a parking spot and made our way back up to the surface over escalators, up stairs, and in elevators. The parking was an adventure in itself. If you're wondering by now where all this took place, it was at Hollywood & Highland where there is a humongous mall over the parking structure which is right where the El Capitan Theatre, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and the famous stars on the sidewalk are. Since we had time, we walked down the street a ways, pretty much people watching. And believe me, there were some interesting people to watch. It was hard to miss about a dozen or so people dressed up in costumes from movies and TV shows. It didn't take too long to figure out their gimmick. They would walk up to you and ask if you wanted to take your picture with them but most didn't tell you ahead of time that they expected a tip in return. When you add in all of the characters, tourists, street musicians, and cars, Hollywood is not at all like our lonely city of Temecula. Hollywood is loud, busy, and interesting. The concert was held at a nightclub called Level 3 which just happened to be on level 3 of the mall. After we checked in and got our wristbands, we had time to get some dinner at California Pizza Kitchen where we met up with Drew De Leon and her dad. Drew is another biz kid we met through Twitter and is the founder of Aktive Wrap. After dinner, we headed over to Level 3. Obviously, it was my first time in a nightclub so I didn't know what to expect. Two big bouncers were standing at the door and there were a lot of tweens, teens, and older people inside. Loud background music was already playing and everyone was just walking around waiting for it to start. Some of the performers throughout the night were Celeste Kellogg, Ashlee Keating, Daechelle, and Austin Anderson. My dad bought 10 raffle tickets and amazingly we won about five times, including a Custom Snuggie, t-shirts, notebooks, and a pair of autographed jeans worn by Austin Anderson which I thought was really funny. Of course, they're not my size but I wasn't planning on wearing them anyway. :) After a few of the singers performed, they invited the speakers on stage to talk about their businesses, charity work, and their thoughts or experiences on bullying. The audience was still in concert mode so I'm not sure how many were really listening as people spoke. I must have talked loud enough to be heard though because the founder of Champions Against Bullying came up to me afterward and complimented me on my talk and also invited me to work with their organization and speak at future events. That was pretty cool. I was competing in a Math Olympics the next day so we had to leave before it was over since we're about 2 hours away from Hollywood. Overall, it was a very interesting experience - something I don't get to see or do that often. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you'll know when I post the video of my talk on there. You can also watch other videos I have on there about Pencil Bugs and what I do to support Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, CA.


Published Sun May 23 2010
If you saw a person dressed up like a clown at a business event, wouldn't it make you look twice? That's what everyone seemed to do at this event I attended. For three days, this woman dressed up in very colorful outfits, complete with matching wigs, crazy makeup, and interesting shoes. At first people wondered what was up and if I hadn't talked with her myself, I would probably still be wondering. But I'm glad I met her (and I'm sorry I can't remember her name now but the story is still the same). When we started talking with her, she took off a silicone bracelet that had the words "I GET TO" embossed on it. After talking with her awhile, we found out that her daughter had been really sick for a long time and was in and out of hospitals. Apparently when the daughter did attend school, they used to have crazy dress-up day and she was sad that she would miss it while she was in the hospital. So her mom decided to take crazy dress-up day to her in the hospital every week. After a long illness, the girl died. The mom said she wanted to keep her daughter's memory alive so she did crazy dress-up day one day a week. It didn't matter where she was or what she had to do, she still dressed up silly. Then we asked what the bracelet saying meant. "I get to" meant she had her daughter with her for as long as she did but when it came time for her to go, the mom was able to let her go up. She let me keep her bracelet and my whole family uses it. If I start to complain about little stupid things, my mom will hand me the bracelet. Believe it or not, wearing it even if just for a little while does make me think about all the things I should be thankful for and the fact that I GET TO for lots of things. After I have a reality check, I'll put it back on my dresser. Sometimes I'll see Mom wearing it and I know it's usually because she's glad that she has me, even though I make her crazy sometimes. (After all, I'm a normal teenager.) Dad would wear it but it doesn't fit on his wrist so he just has to remember to think I GET TO when he feels bummed about something. The reason I shared this story with you is because there are so many times when everyone complains about little stupid things. It's easy to do, especially for kids because no matter how good of life we have, it seems we can always find something to gripe about. Wearing the I GET TO bracelet for awhile makes a big difference. Sometimes we tell each other as many examples as we can think of, like: I GET TO do homework because kids in some countries don't even get to go to school. I GET TO pick weeds in the yard because some people are homeless and don't even have a house. I GET TO argue with my son (that would be for Mom) because he is a healthy, happy teenager. I GET TO travel and be away from my family (this would be for Dad) because I have a good job which provides for my family at a time when many people are unemployed. Well, you get the point. No matter what's happening in your life, you can always find something to be thankful for. So even if you don't have an I GET TO bracelet, find some other object and write those words on it. Put it in a place that you see every day and when you start to think that your situation stinks, remind yourself that you get to.

Tech Now!

Published Fri Jun 11 2010
I was watching an episode of "Tech Now!" and they were talking about how employment, jobs, and companies aren't what they used to be in the Silicon Valley. One of the problems they said is that in the past, those companies used to have their pick of talented techie people to hire from all over the world, especially India and China. Apparently they were better educated and companies loved hiring them. In recent years as the economies and opportunities have gotten better in their own countries, fewer and fewer tech people are coming to the US to work. So on the TV show, the discussion got around to asking the question, [paraphrased]"What can we do about attracting qualified people from other countries?" The guest said that companies would have to make it more appealing for foreigners to come here and gave a few options. Wouldn't it make more sense for US colleges to educate Americans better so that companies would want to hire Americans? I will be starting high school this fall so I still have awhile until college. Everyone complains about American education and how far behind we are compared to other countries. Instead of trying to figure out how to entice foreigners to work here, we should focus on our own education first. The system doesn't make sense. My parents and grandparents have said that college used to be the ticket for success, security and stability. Not so much anymore. So what are we doing about it? Tech Now! has limited coverage on TV but you can see it online at It's pretty cool.

Blaze Your Own Trail

Published Wed Jun 23 2010
Last week I met with Ann marie Houghtailing. Her company is hosting a conference "Blaze Your Own Trail" at the University of San Diego, California for middle school and high school students this summer. I have been invited to be a guest speaker at both grade level sessions. It is an amazing opportunity for me because I always like to share my business story with other people but it's also great for anyone who is able to attend. Life isn't all about academics, textbooks, and the degree. Blazing your own trail can be just about anything these days and my generation needs to definitely think outside the box in order to be successful.

Middle school conference dates: July 26-29

High school conference dates: August 2-5

Hope to see you there. For more information or to register, please visit Blazing My Trail. If you want to follow Ann marie on Twitter, her username is @trailsnotpaths or check out her website The Houghtailing Group for other services and events.

Real Life Twitter?

Published Tue Jul 13 2010
People say some outrageous things on Twitter. We've all seen the silly and ridiculous tweets where someone gives way too much information. Some people think what they say doesn't matter because it doesn't seem real when it's a virtual life. Now imagine if you were in public and said some of the things that people say on Twitter. Say you were in a park and someone walks up to the crowd and yells, "Everyone look at pictures of my cat" and holds up photographs. That would seem weird, right? People are ok with saying those things over the Internet though. Let's take another example. You are in a store and someone says outloud, "The baby cried all night...didn't get any sleep." It's a bit random, but if you think about it, when someone say whatever is on their mind on Twitter, people think nothing of it. It seems like it is kind of expected on Twitter but frowned upon in real life. Another thing, if we "LOL'ed" as much in real life as we do online, we would be a much happier society. Think about it. The Internet allows us to be anybody without ever having any human interaction. We do and say what we do online because we can but that doesn't make it right. Point? Does everyone in the world really need to know what people are doing every second? I'm not the first, by far, to point this out either. Before you tweet just think, would I say that outloud to someone in person?

America's Got Talent?

Published Fri Jul 16 2010
Anyone who watches the competition reality shows pretty much knows that it won't always be fair or even good. The producers purposely let untalented, crazy, or even disgusting people on the show just to get ratings. That's no surprise! But if America's Got Talent is supposed to be even a little legitimate, what happened last night? A 60-something woman with sky-high red, bushy hair, painted-on black eyebrows, dark red lipstick that went way beyond her mouth "attempted" to sing and play the keyboard. She was horrible from the start and the audience immediately starting giving the X sign to cancel her. Piers was the first judge to X her but the other two just let her continue. Then when her time was up (they actually let her finish), Howie and Sharon voted her through to Las Vegas commenting that they thought she was interesting. Did they forget the show is not called "America's Got Interesting People" but "America's Got Talent?" The show went from bad to worse when a 10-year-old girl, Nina Waga Mojares, with four back-up singers/dancers was amazing and DID have talent but yet all three judges voted NO on her saying she just wasn't ready for Vegas. They agreed she was talented but had other specific, nit-picky comments about her performance. Watch her performance and I think you'll agree that she was amazing! What were they thinking? If the show starts to go away from the main purpose of the show, which is talent, and borders on weird stuff just for ratings, they will lose in the end.

Parents & Kids

Published Tue Jul 27 2010
Parents do many things but their most important job is to become obsolete. This is not a bad thing. Their goal is to teach their kids to be self sufficient and not rely them for every little thing. This doesn't mean that kids don't need their parents anymore or won't want their help for lots of things as they get older. My mom still calls her mom all the time with questions or just to talk. Parents should always be a part of their kid's life, but the kids should be able to survive if/when the parents are no longer around. People change constantly, especially kids. Ironically though, at my 8th grade graduation, the speaker said that "From this point forward, your [the parents] job is done." Even as a kid, I couldn't believe what he said because I know how much my parents still do with and for me. Then he added that at this age, kids are pretty much the way they will be for the rest of their life. Not only is that ridiculous, but it is not true. I have heard lots of adults say they changed even after they grew up. As kids grow up, we won't "need" our parents in the same way as we did when we were little but that doesn't mean that parents won't continue to help or teach their kids. My grandma, who is 77, is still learning new things each day. Life is about changing and improving. If we didn't change after 14 years old, well who knows how we would be?

"Bitten By the Business Bug" Released

Published Wed Aug 04 2010
After two years of brainstorming, writing, editing, editing, and more editing, my first business book, "BITTEN BY THE BUSINESS BUG" is officially published! As the subtitle says, it is filled with "Common Sense Tips for Business and Life from a Teen Entrepreneur." I have never claimed that I know everything. Hey, I'm only 14 years old. But I am really lucky to be surrounded with many people who are very wise and have always been willing to share their ideas, values, and life lessons. I have taken this information and simplified it, then added in my own perspective so people from age 9 to 99 will be able to get something from my book. It is available on right now or you can order a signed copy from me through my website which I will start shipping on July 20. Any good author has lots of people who help in creating a book. My book wouldn't have happened at all if it wasn't for my mom's editing and typesetting skills. Then after coming up with the initial cover design, I got a surprise from a friend, Chaz DeSimone, who worked his typography magic on the cover turning it into the amazing cover that you see here. Please share this link with your friends and family. I know you'll love the book.

A Week to Remember

Published Thu Aug 19 2010
This past week, my family went on a Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s new ship, Oasis of the Seas. It is the largest cruise ship on the ocean. And when they say large, they really mean HUMONGOUS! You could not even tell that you were on a ship. No rocking or swaying motion at all. It would be hard to get seasick on a ship this big but we still saw a few people with those seasick patches behind their ears. Just like most things, this ship had its pros and cons. Depending on how you are and what you like to do is whether you would think each feature was a positive or negative. It had seven separate neighborhoods to simulate things you might find if you were visiting major cities like New York. It had a boardwalk, complete with a full-size merry-go-round and a Zoltar machine like the one in the movie “Big.” A scaled-down version of Central Park which was open air and had lots of different trees, plants, and flowers so you can imagine how humid that section was. A Royal Promenade for shopping and specialty restaurants. If you liked different types of entertainment, there was a comedy club, a karaoke bar, a full featured casino, an ice skating rink, a theatre for Broadway shows, a night club with resident DJ, an Aqua theatre which had water and light shows, a surfing simulator, rock climbing wall, zipline, and much more. The Broadway play during our week was Hairspray. They also have special programs for kids from six months to seventeen years old. For the teenagers, we even had our own night club and hang out room. The maximum double occupancy is 5400, but our week has 6200 guests. There was also 2200 staff. That’s a LOT of people in one place. The thing is, with so many people you hardly ran into them more than a few times. For people that want variety, there are twenty-one dining options and over twenty bars but some of the restaurants cost extra. There are a lot of activities and entertainment options but many times they overlap, so you might not be able to do some things that you want. Because they had multiple entertainment areas you had to reserve your seat for shows which wasn’t always a good thing. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale, FL and stopped in Labadee, Haiti which is a private island owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Costa Maya, Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico. We had planned on parasailing in Labadee but the reservations were full so we just hung out on the beach for the day. In Costa Maya we did our own touring and bought souvenirs and did a snorkeling excursion in Cozumel. They took us from the beach and swam out a ways so we saw some cool fish and coral. About the time we were almost done, a big rain storm hit so the guide took us back to shore but told us not to panic as we felt the cold raindrops on our backs. It was definitely a weird sensation. Oasis of the Seas is definitely a beautiful ship and we were anxious to try it because it was so different from the other ship’s designs. But we will probably not take another cruise on a ship this large as we liked the smaller ships better for lots of reasons. Getting back home from Fort Lauderdale to California was a long process. We had to disembark the ship by 9:00 a.m. because by noon, they are already letting the new passengers board so the workers have a lot of cleaning to do in a very short period of time. Our flight didn't leave until 4:15 p.m. so Dad asked a taxi guy to drive us around for about an hour to see some of the sights. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the airport around 10:00 a.m., there were so many people in the same situation so the airlines wouldn't let people check in their luggage until four hours prior to their flights. We ended up sitting on the floor in the terminal along with several hundred other people just waiting and trying to kill time. After playing on my iPod for awhile, I decided to walk around and show people card tricks. One couple I asked didn't speak English but the guy nodded his head "yes" so I showed them one card trick. That was a little awkward. We were sitting beside a family who was going home to Michigan so I ended up talking with the two high school girls and teaching them my card tricks which was lots of fun. Of course we had a plane delay so on our layover in Atlanta, which was more like a "run-over", we had to run from Gate B7 to B32 in less than 4 minutes. We made it just in time but then the plane still left late because they had to call electricians on board to fix a couple of the TV screens. So we ended up leaving 40 minutes late and getting home about 11 p.m. (2 a.m. Eastern time). I couldn't wait to get into my own bed but the house was 98 degrees so the A/C had to work overtime all night to get it to a comfortable sleeping temperature. Jet lag hit the next day but now everything is back to normal. My dog is home from the kennel, all the clothes are washed, and I'm having some friends over this week. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Do You Set Goals?

Published Wed Sep 01 2010
Setting a goal is a good thing. We hear people talk about it all the time. There are professional business coaches who teach people how to set goals. I will be starting 9th grade next month and even for high school, they already have us meet with a counselor to set a four-year goal. But setting a goal or being stuck on one goal can also be a bad thing. You have probably heard at one point in your life that life is full of possibilities; you just need to take them. Sometimes when people set a goal, they get too focused on that one goal. While they are working toward their goal, many other opportunities may come up but they ignore them since they were focused on the goal. Or maybe they didn't even see the opportunities at all because of their narrow focus on that one goal. I am the first episode of the third season of PBS BizKid$ which coincidentally talks about different types of goals. It is an entire episode devoted to goals. I am fine with goals and I have had goals, but I believe that a plan is better. Some may say it is just a change of a word but most people think a plan is not set in stone. If you said, "I PLAN to go to the mall tomorrow," it's probably not too big of deal if your PLAN changed. But if you said, "My GOAL is to go shopping tomorrow," all of a sudden it changes the importance for some reason. Goals are good to have because it gives people some direction. But make sure you keep your eyes open for opportunities that may be right beside you and be willing to change or make revisions to your goals if necessary. Just because you may not achieve your original goal does not mean you failed. It could actually mean you were smarter and took other opportunities that were much better than your goal. In my new book, "Bitten by the Business Bug: Common Sense Tips for Business and Life from a Teen Entrepreneur" I have topics like this and many other things that are easily overlooked when people of all ages forget about the basics.

On Hiatus

Published Tue Sep 28 2010
I was only four years old and had almost finished preschool. Obviously I don't remember much from back then but I have heard my mom tell lots of people this so I can share it with you. Because my birthday is in November, my parents had the option of sending me to kindergarten at age five or having me be in a pre-K class. I was smart enough to go into kindergarten at that age but they weren't sure if they wanted me to start that early and be on the younger side of the class. So Mom asked the advice of my preschool teacher. She had one simple piece of advice: "When you're in doubt, give your kids the gift of time." So instead of starting kindergarten right after my year of preschool, I went into the pre-K class. So how does this relate to being on hiatus? It's August 28 and in three days, I'll be starting 9th grade. I am really excited! Everyone says high school is going to be very different. Homework is going to be more and probably harder. There will be more extra activities. Lots of things will change. As I've learned, time is the one thing you can't get back so it's important to make the most of what you have. Even though I've had my business since fourth grade, school has always come first and my parents have made sure I still had time to be a normal kid and enjoy childhood. So for the time being, I am going on hiatus with my blog posts and also with the BizKid2BizKid feature. My business will still continue and I will always make time to speak at schools, businesses, conferences and other events because in addition to believing in education, I also think there is value in practical experience and being able to share what I've learned with other people. Please visit my website, Pencil Bugs, which will continue to have the latest updates and you can always follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. See you later.

The Hiatus Has Ended

Published Sun Oct 24 2010
Last month as I began high school, I thought it was best to take a break from writing my blog. I figured high school would be a lot different than middle school and I wanted to make sure I wasn't overloaded with things that could distract from school work. It's now been a month and school is going great! I have a lot of new friends and some great teachers. I realize the importance of teachers assigning homework but I have never understood why teachers assign busy work. Well, I'm glad to say that these teachers agree. They teach in class, assign work to make sure we understand the material, and sometimes even give us time at the end of class to start on homework. That makes sense! It's no surprise that people, including kids, are overscheduled these days. Giving busy work is just plain unproductive. After this short month of adjusting to high school life, I am now ending my hiatus from my blog. I will be writing weekly posts again (usually on Sundays) and if an idea strikes me during the week, I will post then also. Thanks to my followers for hanging in there with me. I hope that you will share my blog with your friends and family. If you subscribe, you'll get an email notification when I post something new. If you haven't checked out my Christmas fundraiser to donate teddy bears to kids at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, please visit Pencil Bugs and consider making a donation. Every little bit helps. You would be surprised what a soft, teddy bear can do for a kid while they are in the hospital.

Sell yourself, not your product

Published Tue Oct 26 2010
Whether you have a product business or offer a service or are a published author trying to market your book, you can't sell any of those things until you learn how to sell yourself. Think of commercials. How many times do you remember what the product or service is during that 30 seconds? Unless you specifically want or need what they're selling, most of the time people remember other things about what they see and hear. Haven't you heard someone say something like, "Oh, what's that commercial with so-and-so in it?" They don't remember what that person is selling but they remember the actor. I once heard that a company can sell anything if they use a kid, especially a cute kid or a dog and especially a cute dog, or better yet to use both. People are more likely to remember the who than the what. The same goes for your business. Who knows how many websites there are in the world? The competition is tougher all the time. Unless you are one of the big guys, it's hard to get noticed and sell anything. So what can you do? Sell yourself, not your product or your service. What is it about you that makes you different? People have so many choices for things, many times it comes down to who is selling it. I started my Pencil Bugs business at age nine. In the beginning, I held many sidewalk sales where I would get a store's permission to set up my table outside and sell my Pencil Bugs. Even at that age, I quickly realized that many customers bought my products simply because they wanted to support a kid's business. Did they really need a pencil topper? Probably not but before long, people knew my business because of me -- "the Pencil Bugs kid" and that was fine with me. Looking back, I now see that I was also building my brand. Selling is an art. It's who you are that matters and that is what will make people stand up and take notice. My grandpa has a saying that is a perfect sales analogy. "Old Harry could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo." It's the person who makes the difference, not the product. Well, you get the point. And if you haven't bought my new book yet, Bitten by the Business Bug: Common Sense Tips for Business and Life from a Teen Entrepreneur, I share a lot of Grandpa's wisdom in it. You can read excerpts from my book using Amazon's Look Inside feature if you're interested. Then buy a copy on Amazon or get an autographed one from my website. It's a fun read for all ages. A portion of all sales is donated to help kids at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, CA. I also have a big teddy bear fundraiser I do for the kids at Christmas. If you want to read more, visit The Bears Are Back in Town. So do you need a pencil topper or another inspirational book or have you already donated your limit for this year? It's not about the products. It's about the person behind the products. Thanks to everyone who continues to support me, my business, and my charitable efforts. Because of you, I have been able to encourage other people of all ages to try their ideas. It's good karma.

Book Festival

Published Thu Oct 28 2010
Last Saturday, I did my first book festival in Mission Viejo, CA. It was a great setting in a park. We had the perfect tent location. We had extra time after we set up before it started. It didn't rain and the weather was warm, very warm. Everything was good until about 1 or 2 p.m. when the crowd started to thin out pretty quickly. The temperature was rising all morning and by that time, it was around 100 degrees, maybe higher. Most people just couldn't take walking around very long. Thankfully, the volunteers came around throughout the day delivering bottles of water to all the author booths so that helped a lot. Plus, we were extra lucky in that our booth didn't have any direct sun all day. We met some really nice people, made some good contacts, and I had lots of fun signing my books and selling my Pencil Bugs. Throughout the exhibit area, they had large blackboards where people could sign their names or answer the question that the volunteers wrote on each side. One of the questions was, "Who is your favorite author?" Well, as you might expect, it was too much of a temptation for my parents to write my name on there so they did. Of course I had to get my picture beside it then. While it was fun having an author booth, next year I would like to be one of the author/speakers. I have already suggested that the organizers consider having one time slot strictly for young authors to present. Needless to say, when you have a chance to speak to your customers in a comfortable setting and tell them your story and talk about your book, book sales tend to increase too. It's like I said in my last post, it's all about selling yourself which will help sell your product. Overall, it was a good experience. If you haven't bought an autographed copy of my book yet, please check it out on my website or you can browse through a few pages on Amazon's Look Inside feature. A portion of every sale goes toward my Christmas Teddy Bear Fundraiser for kids at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California.


Published Thu Nov 04 2010
On September 18, 2010, I spoke at the TEDxRedmond conference. It was organized by 12-year-old Adora Svitak, who has many accomplishments, one of them being a published author with her first book, Flying Fingers, at age seven. Being part of this conference was amazing in many ways. It was run By Kids For Kids with the theme, Power to the Students. There were fourteen speakers plus Adora and five musical performers. The conference itself would have been incredible enough on it's own but having it sponsored by Microsoft and BING and take place at Microsoft's headquarters made it even more amazing. The main conference room where we presented held several hundred people. That room was restricted to just kid attendees. Another large conference room was full of adults who watched it on live video feed. There was even another large room with tables and chairs packed full with standing room only. In total, I believe there were close to a thousand people who attended. Microsoft has the most amazing conference facility that I have ever been in. In the main hallway in the conference rooms, they had high-tech interactive tables, called Microsoft Surface, that was most comparable to a giant iPad. :) While those had people's attention, something that was even more exciting was the triple-sized refrigerators that were stocked full of sodas, juices, milk, sparkling water, etc.---all free for the taking, if you can believe that. Videos from the conference should be available on the TEDxRedmond website in a week or so. Even Microsoft can have technical difficulties. Thank you Adora and her mom, Joyce Svitak, and all of the other people who put this conference together. I'm looking forward to more events in the future. If you haven't checked out a TED Conference before, you just have to visit There are amazing videos on virtually every subject you could ever want.

It's a Maze

Published Wed Nov 10 2010
Probably everyone has done a puzzle maze at one time in their life. Some people may have even had the fun of running through a corn maze that usually is done around Halloween. No matter which form you do, mazes can be fun but also frustrating. There are so many options and usually only one way out. Life is a little like a maze. There are many different paths that to take to get to the end result but the big difference is, life has unlimited options at the end. Last month I spoke at the TEDxRedmond Conference held at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. I called my talk, "Take Off Your Blinders" or as they titled it "Goals vs. Plans." While I wasn't talking about mazes, it does have some connection. If you go through life or the maze with your eyes closed or get so focused on one path, you may miss other opportunities that might pop up right beside you and are even better than your original path. When I created Pencil Bugs in 2005 at nine years old, I never ever imagined that I would be where I am today. If someone would have said I'd be named on a Forbes Top 10 List of Role Models 18 & Under or would be a published author or any of the other things that have happened, I probably would have just laughed. But with the help of my parents, I went through the maze in the last five years and found new paths as I went. I don't know where it will lead from here. I am almost 15 so I don't feel I have to have my whole life planned out at this point. That's the fun of keeping your eyes open, seeing what opportunities might pop up, and making the most of this maze of life. You never know what can happen.
Published Mon Nov 15 2010
To increase exposure for my 2010 Teddy Bear Christmas Fundraiser for kids at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California, I am offering a link exchange with anyone who would like to be a part of this amazing charitable event. There is no cost involved. It's FREE advertising with little to no effort. Here's how simple it is. YOUR PART:
  1. Send me your logo and website URL via the email link on my website CONTACT page.
  1. In return, I will send you my logo and URL to my 2010 Rady Bear Christmas Fundraiser page.
  2. I will be redesigning my website home page to include a special place for all link exchange participants.
  3. From now until December 4, your logo/link will be on my home page, which is the deadline for donations for the fundraiser.
  4. After December 4, I will move your logo/link to the specific 2010 Rady Bear Christmas Fundraiser page where it will remain indefinitely.
THE EXCHANGE: My logo and link to my 2010 Rady Bear Christmas Fundraiser page must remain on your website home page or blog home page until December 4. After that, you can move my logo to another page or remove it from your site altogether although I hope you would continue to keep it and redirect the link to my Pencil Bugs home page. LAST YEAR'S BEARS: With the help of people around the world and my own money, I was able to raise over $5,000 which enabled me to buy 1800 teddy bears for the kids. With just 7 weeks left, I have a long way to go to top that success but I believe with your help, we can do it. Any other promotion or publicity you can help with is always appreciated. Thanks, Jason Note: I reserve the right to refuse an exchange with inappropriate websites or blogs. This is G-rated so thanks for your understanding.
2009 Rady Children's Hospital Teddy Bears delivery

Circles - What type are you?

Published Wed Nov 24 2010
In the simplest definition, a circle is a basic shape without an opening or end. Have you ever noticed how people's behaviors sometimes resemble a circle? It doesn't seem to matter the age of the people involved either, although kids seem to "circle" more than adults. I have always been a pretty observant person. I like to stay back and assess situations before I jump into them so it gives me a chance to notice the way people act. Recently I noticed that people, especially kids, do a lot of things in circles. Kids talk in a circle. They dance at parties in a circle. Even people eating at a table are often in a circle shape. I was recently at a Halloween birthday party. To no surprise, everyone danced in circles. There were small circles of four to five kids and also larger circles. Finally, the birthday girl got everyone together in one big circle to dance, which was really different since so much of our activities are done separately. My mom and dad just don't understand why kids dance in a circle because they are used to people dancing with just one other person at a time. I guess kids today like the feeling and security of groups. You can tell a lot about people by the choices they make. I have divided them into three circle types:
  1. The Embracer - The person who leaves a circle open so more people can join (Caring, inviting, friendly - someone that people want to be around).
  2. The Closer - The person who closes the circle so if someone else wants to join, they have to push their way in (Selfish, rude, insecure - most common but least admitted).
  3. The Protector - The person who temporarily closes the circle but when someone else wants to join, they let them (Cautious, neutral, accepting - takes care of themselves but is willing to help others too).
People do things subconsciously. Their actions and choices tell a lot about them. Not everyone's life revolves around circles, but try and figure out which type of person you are. Remember, if you don't like who you are, you can change it.


Published Wed Dec 01 2010
If you like editing songs or sounds, try this free program called Audacity. I originally found this program when looking for a way to "chipmunk" a song. (To make it sound like the Alvin and the Chipmunks.) I also found it very useful for bleeping out bad words in a song. After I bleeped out the bad words from a rap song and then just for fun, chipmunked it, Mom said that sounded much improved. She could actually tolerate it - well, at least for maybe a minute. Here is the link to download it completely for free. Now that you have the program, follow these simple instructions to "chipmunk" and bleep words out. Obviously, the program also does a lot of other special effects so have fun and experiment. Open the Audacity program. Click File>Open to insert your song. For "Chipmunking": (Very easy)
  1. Click Effect>Change Pitch>Drag bottom scroll bar until the Percentage Change box says about 50. Press OK.
  2. Now the song should be in a high, squeaky voice (aka Chipmunks). You can play around with the percentages.
For bleeping out bad words: (This is a little more involved.)
  1. You'll need to zoom in so you it's more detailed. Click View>Zoom In repeatedly until you see the time bar go in .5 increments. You can also use the Zoom tool instead which looks like a magnifying glass with a + sign.
  2. Play the song until you hear where the bad words are. Make note of the exact tick mark on the time bar.
  3. Stop the song using the square stop button. Not the pause button! The vertical bar will not show at the stopped point.
  4. Highlight the portion of the song that has the word in it. To do this, click the "Selection Tool" which looks like a text cursor I. It is located at the top to the right of the Pause, Play, Stop, Etc.
  5. Once you click on the selection tool button, click your mouse in the song bar at the point where the word is. Try not to cut out the other words.
  6. Drag your mouse to the right slightly which will make a dark grey bar. You can check the clip you selected by hitting the play button. It will then just play that selected portion. If you need to adjust to shorten or lengthen the clip, put your mouse in the grey area at either the left or right edge. A pointer finger will appear. Then just drag to lengthen or shorten the grey area.
  7. FOR THE REST OF THE STEPS, MAKE SURE YOU DON'T CLICK IN THE GREY AREA WITH THE SELECTION TOOL . Otherwise, you will have to repeat some steps, undo, or restart.
  8. Once you highlight the part you want to bleep out, select Effect>Change Tempo> Drag the bar until the Percent Change box is between 110-120.
  9. Hit OK (The selected clip should be shortened.)
  10. Select >Effect>Change Speed> Drag the bar to about 120-130
  11. Hit OK (The selected clip should be shortened again.)
  12. Select the "Envelope Tool" which is located directly to the right of the "Selection Tool". This changes the volume of the selected parts. The section should still be highlighted.
  13. Click the top blue bar above the lighter soundwave section right before your selected clip and drag all the way to the top.
  14. Before you do Step #15, if the selected clip is too narrow to see, zoom in so it's about a half-inch wide. This will make it easier to work with.
  15. Put your envelope tool cursor in the middle of the dark grey selected clip area right below the blue bar and click. The top blue bar should be lowered as a result. If the lighter soundwave area goes up, you've done it wrong so click Edit>Undo.
  16. Click after the dark grey selected clip area on the top blue bar and drag all the way to the top again. The line should make a V shape.
  17. In the top blue line, drag the lower part of the V all the way to the center of the sound wave until a double blue line appears in the middle.
  18. Notice how the blue double bar space is wider than the dark grey area time bar above. These need to match up. Put your mouse over the right or left white dot in the top blue bar and drag it to match the dark grey area/box in the time bar. Do the same for the other side. You are kind of eyeballing it to match. Be careful not to drag your mouse downward. If you do, you'll have to move the blue bar back up to the top.
  19. Congratulations you have successfully bleeped out a bad word.
  20. To test how it sounds, press the purple skip-to-start button. |<<
  21. Press Play. If you hear that the bleeped word is not completely gone or you need to make revisions, it's easier just to start over than to try and modify your settings from here.
  22. Now that you've got the hang of this, repeat Steps #2-19 for each word you want to bleep out.
  23. Don't close the program until you save the project for future editing. Note: This will only save it as a .aup file.
  24. To save the edited song as an mp3, follow the next steps.
To export as an mp3:
  1. To save the music as an mp3 you have to export it from Audacity. To do this, you must download an encoder to save as an mp3 at
  2. Follow the instructions when you are there! It is not a separate program but it is needed to run a function on Audacity.
  3. Once you have downloaded the encoder, follow these instructions for export.
  4. Click File>Export
  5. The rest is self explanatory.
Troubleshooting: If the Effects or any other options are grayed out or are not working remember to always STOP the song not pause it. To change anything it has to be done while it is stopped. Of course, if you want to spend your money on a more involved program, go for it. But I like finding free programs and Audacity is good for the average person who just wants to play around with songs for fun.


Published Tue Dec 07 2010
One of the best tips for business or life in general is that when you make a commitment, you keep it. If you don't keep your commitments, it's the quickest way to have people not trust or believe you. My parents have had this saying for as long as I can remember. "Say what you mean and mean what you say." If you say you will do something, then do it. If you think you won't be able to do what you say, then you better not make the commitment in the first place. Sometimes no matter how hard we try or even if our intentions were right, things can still happen where we can't keep our commitments. If something unexpected happens, the best way to deal with the situation is to communicate right away. Never let the other person wonder what happened to you because chances are, especially if they don't know you prior to that, they could think of you as a flake. Stick to your commitments. People will know they can count on you. There's no secret to this. It's just common sense.

The Business Golden Rule

Published Tue Dec 14 2010
How many times have you left a voice mail, email, or even a text message and haven't gotten any response or at least not soon enough? It shouldn't matter if it's a personal situation or a business one. Everyone deserves to be recognized. It is especially important in business. A good business person is one that gives great customer service. Not only should your business offer a product or service with great quality but you should also know how to take care of your customers. When people order your product, get it to them in a timely manner. If you say it will be shipped in 7-14 days, try to ship it out sooner. People will love your great customer service which gives you more business and happy customers. They say some of the best free advertising is word-out-mouth referrals but bad news can travel even faster. One unhappy customer can do a lot of damage. Quick shipping times aren't the only thing you should be on top of. When you receive an email, respond to it as soon as possible. My policy is to respond within 1-2 days and unless there is some major catastrophe and I can't get to a computer, I have always stuck to that timeframe. People don't want to wait forever for a response. This also applies to comments. If someone takes the time to write a nice comment, you should at least recognize them and send some type of response back, even if it's just a simple thank you. If they have a question or issue but you don't have an immediate answer, at least let them know you are looking into it and will get back to them as soon as possible. Then follow up and do what you say. Remember to always treat people how you would want to be treated even if it is over the Internet. One of the most frequent comments I receive is how quickly I send out my products and people are even more surprised when I respond to their emails usually within the first day. That is a huge compliment and it also shows that they are a little surprised, probably because not every business has good customer service. If your business is so big that you can't do everything yourself, then make sure you hire someone just for customer service. Whatever it takes, that should be a high priority.

Golden Rule: Good customer service=customers Bad customer service=no customers=no business

You can read more common sense tips in my book, Bitten by the Business Bug: Common Sense Tips for Business and Life from a Teen Entrepreneur. Order your autographed copy directly from my website. Part of all proceeds go to support Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, CA.

California School for the Deaf Presentation

Published Mon Dec 20 2010
On Friday, November 19, I had the privilege to giving a presentation at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside. It was the most fun I have had in a long time. We arrived early since they wanted to give us a tour of their 62-acre campus. We took a golf cart around since it was so big! We met many students and teachers and saw their diverse curriculum which included mechanics, silk-screening, technology, cooking school, art, among many other programs. There are some amazing art students there and we talked with a couple of them about possibly illustrating a picture book that I've written. I have been taking ASL (American Sign Language) at my school for about two months now. My parents and I did have an interpreter in the beginning when we talked with the superintendent but during the campus tour, I acted as the interpreter for my family. Mom and Dad were surprised and very proud that I was able to communicate as well as I did with only two months of ASL. In my opinion, ASL is probably the easiest language to learn since it is made up of a lot of common sense gestures. For example, the phrase "I will go and come back" or "I'll be right back" is signed by simply pointing to your chest for "you" and pointing with both hands in the direction you are going, then pointing back with both hands. It makes sense. So even with limited ASL training, I was able to understand almost everything that was said. I did make one crucial mistake at one point since I wasn't paying attention as much as I should have. One of their deaf teachers asked if I was deaf. I knew what he was saying since we had learned that early on in our class. For some reason I said "yes." He did not know any different so he assumed I was deaf. Our tour guide had a surprised look on his face and laughed, realized my mistake so signed to the teacher, "No he is not deaf!" That was a funny story that I can't wait to share with my ASL class. :) Before we knew it, it was time for me to speak at their assembly. It was so exciting! I stood in their gym in front about 180 high school students. I had an interpreter sign as I gave my presentation. I wanted to show the kids that I knew some sign language so I did my introduction in ASL. They all cheered when I signed and seemed excited and happy that I was learning ASL. Again, time flew by so fast and the day was over. The kids went home for their Thanksgiving break. The school services kids all over southern California so many of the kids are bussed as far north as Bakersfield and all the way down to Mexico. I wished we had to leave but could have stayed longer. I loved the opportunity speaking at their school! It was so much fun. I hope I can go back at some point. Maybe someday I will be their interpreter. Update: The video of my presentation is now on my YouTube channel. Click here to watch it.