Monday, June 27, 2011

Water Babies

June saw the completion of the weekly Mommy-Baby-Toddler pool classes at Vecora (fka VRRI). Mommies did exercises in the pool with babies floating in tubes. Toddlers had swimming lessons at the other end of the pool with an instructor. All the ages lined up perfectly for all three families of cousins to participate together. Sadly, illnesses and vacations meant that one of the families was often mission on any given day (as is evident from the photos).

It is also evident from the photos that Katie absolutely adores baby A. At first, Katie sat very still in her little tube-boat-dingy-thingy, a bit uncertain about the surroundings. However, as the weeks wore on, she became much more comfortable and began to play with her toys and splash the water a bit.

Scott had some breakthroughs of his own. He's typically been averse to dipping his head under the water and this has held him back a bit in his swimming. But with his two cousins in his class he has been more adventurous and and did a lot of new things.

The Boys Montana Road Trip 2011

Originally, the whole family was supposed to go down, but R wasn't feeling particularly well so she and Katie stayed behind, making it a trip for just us boys. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Scott has come a long way in his travelling. I hung the DVD player to the back of my headrest, gave him some DVDs and he did the rest, switching up discs to suit his mood. I occasionally had to throw him some snacks, but he even managed to go 5 hours without a bathroom break. I guess I can take some credit for that, since I've learned not to give him a slurpee an hour into the trip (like last summer, when we ended up stopping every few minutes).

Once in Kalispell, Scott was in absolute heaven playing with his 6 cousins. He continues to idolize his older cousin Connor, but I noticed that he played with Bailey the most. She was really sweet about looking out for him and helping him to have fun. I also saw that Scott's tendency to treat children younger than him as second-class citizens continues -- according to him, little Cannon (2.5 years old) has no right to the soccer ball. I shot a bit of video at the park [click to view]:

Although the majority of our time was spent at the park across the street, we also managed to take in Cars 2 and see Mater and McQueen take on the forces of evil on the big screen. Aside from our time in the theatre, the kids spent very, very little time with TV or movies, splitting their efforts between board games and the park. It was a great trip and I think we both can't wait to make the trip back.

There are a few different ways to get from Calgary to Kalispell, the shortest distance being the route south through Cardston and then over Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. The scenery in the park is gorgeous, but the winding roads are a bit intense, the speed limits are low, there is frequent construction, and sometimes I'm more interested in just getting to my destination. I also don't like paying the $25 toll. An alternative is to turn south at Duck Lake and go around the park through Browning and come into Kalispell from the East. It is further, but you can drive faster (but if you go too fast you'll get a ticket like I got in October); however, the scenery is pretty bland (brownish grassland) if you go around the mountains like that.

My new favourite route is to go south to Nanton and then turn onto the 533 and head southwest through the foothills to Highway 22 (the Cowboy Trail) and then the Crownest Highway. I think that route is really spectacular in its own right, especially that first little bit in the foothills. There are a very few farms or houses and it feels more like a wilderness trail and less like a highway.

Another highlight is driving through the Frank Slide site near the Crowsnest Pass, where the mining town of Frank was buried in a sudden avalanche of rock from the adjacent Turtle Mountain in 1903. The road is surrounded on either side with an immense field of boulders that almost makes you shudder. Even though Scott had been engrossed in a video, he suddenly looked up and said, "Wow, look at that!"

So if you have already been over the pass in Glacier, you should consider Frank Slide. It will take your breath away but let you keep your $25. You can use the savings to buy a barrel of cheeseballs at Walmart (they can be found on the shelf right next to the pork rinds).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Breakfast

Ingredients for a great Father's Day:
- a great breakfast
- some new socks (tradition)
- a new bedtime book called "Why I love my Dad"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Scott's 3 (or 4) Goal Breakout Game

As you may recall, Scott scored a goal in his first U4 soccer game back on May 2. Since then, he hadn't scored again. He has followed the play closely and has had the chance to kick the ball quite a bit, but usually he just watched it after he kicked it once, rather than trying to take it all the way down the field. Also, he has often sat back and waited for other people to try kicking it, rather than horning in on their opportunity.

For the last few weeks we have been encouraging him to play more aggressively and pursue the ball more. In this week's game, when he was sitting on the sideline, we pointed out the play of another boy on the team (named Thomas) who seems to score at will. Thomas takes the ball the length of the field for the goal, beating everyone else to the ball every time. He actually doesn't have a lot of ability to change directions, but once he's headed the right way he usually scores. We pointed him out to Scott and said, "you should try to do it the way Thomas does it."

On his next shift Scott scored 2 goals, and then scored one more on the following shift. In fact, when I was editing the video clips together I thought I saw him score another one right after the first, which would bring the total to four. You watch it and you tell me if you think he scored it.

While you are at it, watch the video closely for his sweet move where he reverses the direction of the ball by putting his foot on top of it and pushing it back behind him. It's his trademark move and I heard the coach say, "Whoa!" when he saw Scott do it in the game. Scott is very strict about only kicking the ball in the direction of the other team's goal, so this is his solution. It's borne out of our basement games where he has to pull the ball out from under the piano or from behind the TV stand.

His games have always been fun to watch, but watching his victory dance after his first goal was extra-fun. Way to go Scotty!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sand Between Her Toes

It has been fun to watch Katie experiencing new things as she ventures outside in the changing seasons. She learned to walk when it was winter time, and it was funny to see her standing nervously in the snow, hesitant to make a wrong move and fall.

Then there's grass. She was pretty wary of that stuff too, unsure whether she liked the feeling of it against her hands. I think she's gotten used to it now, but it's funny how natural it seems to walk on the grass in bare feet, when really it is vastly different from the world of carpet, lino and wood that she's used to.

Finally, there was a day nice enough in June to pull the cover off the sandbox and let Katie experience the feeling of sand between her toes. Judging by the photo evidence, she didn't like it very much. Rather than playing with the sand, it was something she wanted to avoid. However, it's difficult to avoid something when you are sitting in it.

VIDEO [click on image to watch]

Later that same day, R captured some video of Katie laughing as Scott was playing with her in the kitchen. Scott understood that he could make her laugh by touching her face, but it appears that he misunderstood how hard he should "touch" her. I alternate between grinning and cringing when I watch this, wanting to tell the video "be gentle!"

They are slowly, slowly learning to play together.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Springtime First-Time Pigtails

Neither of our children have particularly thick hair, and Katie's is probably even thinner than Scott's. Aside from one little trim, she's never had a haircut and it still took her 16 months to grow enough hair for her first pigtails.

With a skirt and little pigtails, see is seeming less and less a baby and more a little girl.

She is very happy to play on her own, just wandering around and examining everything. With the gradual arrival of spring, she has so much more world to inspect.

The day after my big CFA exam, the family enjoyed a few minutes of sun in the back yard before heading over to Grandma and Grandpa M's house. As usual, we had to make a few runs down the slope in the wagon.

Katie loved the first run and asked for more, but she was pretty quick to abandon ship after the second one. I would love to know what is going inside that mind of hers.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

CFA Level 3 Exam: An End in Sight?

[My 2011 Results Here]

For the last few years, every spring has been dedicated to the CFA Exams. Even though I graduated from my MBA program in 2009, I have continued to work on my professional designation, which requires that I pass three levels of exams, offered the first Saturday in June each year. Each year there is another stack of textbooks loaded with material that is tested in a pair of 3-hour exams. And they don't pull any punches. They can ask you ANYTHING... and they do. Topics for Level 3 include:
- Ethics & Standards
- Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning
- Asset Allocation
- Alternative Investments
- Derivatives
- Equity Investments
- Fixed Income Investments

Here's the low-down on my 2011 CFA Level 3 experience:

I started studying on Feb 1, skipping ethics and going right to behavioural finance (reading #7), mostly reading on the train during my commute. By the end of February I had completed reading #9. There are 48 readings, so I was on pace to finish the material by June 2012. I picked up the pace in March, but the first half of April was a total write-off because everyone in our house was sick all the time and my motivation suffered a bit. The last part of April was more productive, and I set aside one evening each week and some time on Saturday.

With one month left, I had done 18 readings (from #7 to #25 -- I have all this info recorded in my study plan). Mind you, as I went along, I was doing hundreds of practice problems, so it wasn't just reading. Anyways, I went into Total Study Mode in May, studying every evening and most of Saturdays, plus I took the final week off of work. I blasted through the remaining 2/3 of the material in one month, finishing with ethics on June 1 -- 2.5 days before the exam. I got through 1 complete practice exam and then did a complete review of the whole curriculum in the remaining 2 days. I really wish I had another few days for practice exams.

I had a little table set aside in the office in the basement where I would study with the door closed. Scott knew that he wasn't supposed to bother me, but he relished the opportunity to come in and call me up for meals. One other time, he opened the door a crack and then hurled in a Buzz Lightyear picture that he had coloured and then closed the door again. He told me that I could keep the picture in my hand all the time and take it with me to my test. He also gave me a trophy. I had explained to him that I was trying to learn all the answers to the questions so that when I took the test I could win. He figured that meant I should have a trophy. I kept it by the computer for luck while I did my final cram sessions.

On game day I was glad that I'd done that final review, because there were tons of things that I would have forgotten otherwise; however, I didn't have a great feel for the way the written sections should be answered to get maximum points, so I was overdoing it at the beginning and started to run behind by about 25 minutes. I managed to get all the questions done, but I guess that I got about a 60% score on the morning, but possibly lower. The afternoon was great and the 1000+ multiple choice questions that I'd done along the way served me well. I finished 40 minutes early and probably got about 80% for the afternoon, give or take.

Overall, estimate I got 69%, with my 90% confidence interval being about 62%-76%. Since a passing grade is generally at or just below 70%, I fear that I may have just missed it. However, I know that I did really well on the ethics and I think that will help me out if it's close.

Either way, I don't have to think about it again until that fateful Monday morning in Mid-August when I will look in my email inbox and let out a little yelp. Last year 46% of those who wrote the Level 3 exam passed. So why not me?

[My 2011 Results Here]