The 5-hour tournament

The sound of plastic hitting vinyl… the smell of anticipation mixed with sweat… allured by the glory of massive trophies…  Caleb participated in his first chess tournament today.  We took a 2 minute video of his first game, but after we watched it, realized it was about 1 minute 55 seconds too long.  Chess is not a very video-friendly game.

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We’re proud of Caleb, because you could see that he was a bit nervous as we made the long  drive up to Shoreline, but he kept his excitement for the tournament.  He said that he was afraid he wouldn’t win any of the games considering that these were all kids who were likely very interested in chess.  We reminded him that losing is a sign that you’re trying things that are hard, and he seemed to take heart.

When we walked in, admittedly, it was a bit intimidating.  Many of the kids were practicing with their very serious looking dad/coaches.  One kid was reading a hardback book that was titled something like  “Mastering the Endgame.”  The book probably weighed about as much as the kid.  Almost every kid brought their own chess kit in some kind of custom, monogrammed case.    Many had brought their own chess clocks.   Some kids had what appeared to be “Chess Journals” with a name of some Eastern European Chess school and were sporting matching chess club T-shirts.  Caleb only brought some craisins.  Hmm…. maybe we were in a bit over our head. 

After checking in, they posted the pairings which showed who everyone was playing with and on which table.  Parents were asked to leave the playing area.  This was probably for the best.  These were all clearly VERY involved parents (including ourselves) and out of the hundreds of games, very likely that some parent somewhere would drop a hint or make a facial gesture that materially affects the game. We were allowed to be in there for about 5 minutes to take some pictures, then encouraged to leave.

It ends up that he won his first game which made his subsequent pairings much more difficult.  He lost the next 3, then won the last one.  Two for five.  Not bad for his first tournament.  Most importantly, when asked how he liked it?  He said, “IT WAS FUN!”  On the way home, he exclaimed enthusiastically, “When’s the next tournament?  Next time, I’m going to win a trophy!”  Maybe he will, and maybe he won’t… but that was exactly what I wanted to hear.  But, hopefully he’ll play in moderation and not succumb to the fast and loose life of chess pros.

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The tournament, just like most sporting events, is a great place for learning how to lose.   Don’t get me wrong – most kids were laughing and joking and being kids the entire time… But there were a few kids there who were crying or pouting because they lost.  There was one kid who screamed out “YOU DIDN’T CALL MY NAME!” after all the trophies were handed out, and his mom quickly drew him in to calm him down.  

We don’t always win everything.  And dealing with losing and failure is a learnt trait.  Way to go to all the kids who participated.  Especially the ones that didn’t win a single game… but will be back at the next tourney.  You’re headed to do great things!

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Andrew’s 4th Birthday

Andrew has been looking forward to his birthday party for a long time.  After a long struggle between a golf invitational and a Mater (from cars) party, Mater finally won out.  I’m not sure if this is common for parents of children with birthdays in December or January, but we’re paranoid that Andrew’s birthday will get swallowed up in the hectic pace of the Holidays.  To add to the already hectic schedule, our anniversary is also in January. 

Perhaps, it is this conscientiousness that drove Tenille to stay up until 3 in the morning finishing a Mater cake and decorating our home.  She says that it was all worth it when Andrew begged to come up stairs with her eyes closed and revealed all the decorations to her in the morning.  He presented it to her as if the Birthday fairy came and transformed the house into a scene from Cars.  “It’s beautiful… “ he sighed.  ‘Totally worth it’ thought the Birthday fairy.

I was in charge of games.  We played Hot Tow-Mater, and had dizzy races.  

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We, also, dusted off the old Pinewood Derby Track (that we got for free a few years ago), and assembled it downstairs.  The previous nights, Andrew, Caleb, and I were pounding together some very basic looking pinewood derby trucks for each family.  In Mater style, we raced the cars backwards down the track.  The winner was the Tomlinsons.  It should be noted that they brought their own car.  We knew we were in trouble when they brought a silver, voluptuous vehicle reminiscent of a Dodge Viper.

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Pinewood Derby Backward Race (Mater–style)

An aside: The silver car belonged to Lauren (the wife).  She was quite proud of the fact that her car beat all of the cub scout boys when she was a little girl, but a bit bitter that she could not actually win the derby because she was a girl.  Later, she also challenged Caleb to a game of chess and expressed that she could hold her own in chess.  We determined that one of her primary purposes was to put boys in their place.  If I had a daughter, that’s exactly what I would want from my own daughter.  It’s good for a boy to learn a healthy respect for the capabilities of a woman from a young age.

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Speaking of capabilities of a woman, Tenille continues to outdo herself on the cake-making.  Every birthday, I warn her that she is on an unsustainable course and at some point will have to revert to the standard sheet cake to reset expectations.  This year, she made a replica of Tow-Mater.  A lot of it was candy… held together by some cake… but magnificent as usual.  Andrew loved it!

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What a wonderful boy Andrew is, and how lucky we are as a family to have him.  Happy Birthday, Andrew!

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The Value of Things

This week, I started talking to Caleb about stocks.  We have an ESA (Education Savings Account) for him at Ameritrade, and I told him that if he wanted, he can pick some companies he would like to own.

Our first discussion was about how much _should_ things cost – the value of things.  We talked about earning 5% a year on bonds as a baseline.  If we invest a $100 in something, we should expect to get at least $5 back/year.  (This is, of course, a bit simplified as we haven’t discussed risk adjusted returns). 

Then we started looking up all the different companies that he knows on finance.google.com.  I was surprised at how many public companies he could name off.  We discussed the dividend yield and the Price to Earnings ratio.  We went back and forth for a long time on what an “expensive” stock meant.  He had a hard time looking beyond the share price, but in the end understood that a high P/E meant expensive and a low P/E was cheap. 

After looking at Disney, McDonalds, Honda, Toyota, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Leapfrog, Nintendo, and a slew of other companies, he decided on Disney (because he likes Disney), and Microsoft because it had a P/E around 10. 

When Tenille walked in the room, Caleb exclaimed, “Mom!  I’m buying some Microsoft.  It’s SOOO cheap!”  She was a little startled.  That comment put a smile on my face.  I created a portfolio view in finance.google.com for him that tracks his picks.  I’m sure it won’t be long before I have someone to commiserate with when the market tanks.