Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Annie!

Today my eldest daughter is four years old. Here is a poem I wrote for her third birthday:

Anna Danai Stine

Baby girl oh so fine

Some Times It’s Not Easy.

Zhang Liang

Stability you long

Even your name is uneasy.

Anna Liang Stine

Uncle Sam drew a line

So many names make me dizzy.

Zhang Wen Yu

Wo ai ni

Shi ni zhongwen Ming zi.

Four names and you’re just now three.

I’ve been here 47 and only have three.

Danny, Dan, Daniel oh wait there’s more

The most important name, Daddy, makes four.

On the day that you were born the angels got together

I didn’t write that but it’s true you’re birds of a feather

Now that you’ve reached the age of three

The devils dance you’ll surely see

Beware my Anna, Annie, Zhang Wen Yu.

I try so hard to be a good daddy

But it’s like golf with no caddy

I can’t always follow the ball.

Please forgive me any innocent mistake

Our future lives coals do not rake

I will always find that ball.

I morn the loss of your first baby journal

Those words I wrote were meant to be eternal

You should know I wrote them.

Your daddy’s a poor poet and he sure does know it

But the heart speaks and these words do show it

You should know I wrote them.

Annie has four names. Her first name, Anna Danai Stine, was my creation. In chinese there is a word for peace, An, and I identify with this character. My name in D'AN'iel, my wife is "AN" gie so our first baby's name is Anna. Peace both ways meeting in the middle. Since Annie was the culmination of two beings "Dan"iel and Zhang "Ai" (my wife's Chinese name) we made her middle name Danai.

The hospital where Annie was born would not allow an English name to be printed on her birth certificate so we had to scramble for another name, a Chinese name. We chose Zhang (my wifes family name) Liang (beauty) for there was no disputing she was a beautiful baby.

The time comes when I need to register Annie as an American Born Abroad so that she can enjoy American citizenship should we ever leave China. The Us Consulate would not accept the name I gave her (Anna Danai) because it was not part of her birth certificate. They settled for Anna Liang Stine.

It was not long after when my wife, after countless numerology calculations and consultations with her village voodoo uncle decided to change Annies official Chinese name to Zhang Wen Yu. The meaning is not important, the calculated score, 88, is. This score insures Annie a life of luck and love. So Annie has four names by her fourth birthday.

A snapshot of Annies every day life: Annie is in her second year of kindergarten. She is a proud member of the Zhong Ban (middle grade) class number one at Tong Fan Yi He Kindergarten. We chose this school carefully. I actually worked there for two years as their foreign English teacher, I know the owners are doctors and well respected. I know their teachers are fair and hard working, and most important I know they value play as much as study, a critical point for me. Annie has two special classes that she attends, one is Beijing Opera studies, the other is piano. I know, I know, she's only four. But it's common here and we do not push her to study, study, study. It's more about exposure at this point. After school, on the weekends Annie learns the GuZhen, a Chinese string instrument like a harp laying down, and she gets lessons from a Beijing class piano teacher. We are trading lessons in this case, we teach the teacher English, she teaches Annie the piano. When Annie is not in school she is playing with mei mei, her little sister, helping mom and dad at the Language and Culture Center, and reading (well, looking at) books. Annie can speak, in order of skill, Cantonese, Hakka, Mandarin, and English. It's hard not having her first tongue as English, But we still communicate just fine.

So this is my tribute to my eldest, sweet baby girl Anna Danai Liang Zhang Stine. Annie baby, I love you! Happy Birthday!


  1. BR, that is one of the most beautiful things I have read. A wonderous tribute to your special girl on her birthday.
    As for the names, WOW!!! What do you call her at home? Anna, I guess.
    Again, fantastic, my friend!

  2. Beautiful, Daniel. A four year old with four names. She's moving up in the world at a fast rate. Happy Birthday little Annie!

  3. lucky girl to have such a great dad. happy day to her!

  4. A rose by any other name.. that is quite a story and actually a great tale for her to tell when she comes of age. Beautiful sentiment and poetics. Lovely, Dan, just lovely and heartfelt.

  5. Happy Birthday little Annie! Your daddy is one proud papa!

  6. Anna Danai,
    Zhang Liang,
    Anna Liang,
    Zhang Wen Yu,
    let me say ~ and in a Stine-way, "Happy Happy You" in all the loving paving your ways and joys of life. Your vibrant pensive papa and the lilting grace of your lovely mother are foundations for you to simple bubble and float and dance and sing and taste a bit of everything.

    MAY *4* ROCK!
    Dad & Mom's shy friend, Kate

  7. This amazing little girl is four years old, has four names, speaks four languages, plays two musical instruments and has two beautiful parents. How can she help but have a happy birthday? I wish happiness to all the family,
    and "peace both ways meeting in the middle."