Monday, October 26, 2015

Belt Test Time

In August, the boys tested for their next belts in tae kwon do. At our school, the kids can earn an intermediate striped belt in between the solid colored belts. Mason was testing for his blue belt with a purple stripe and Daniel was testing for his orange belt with a green stripe. They prepare 4-6 months for each belt test, so it's a big deal when it is time to test.

One thing I love about our school is that the owner, Master Martin, really cares that the students know their skills. He will not even allow a student to test if he isn't prepared, unlike other places that simply promote on a schedule, whether you know anything or not. Master Martin wants his students to be able to walk into any dojang in the world and be proficient at their belt level, which is the way it ought to be. There are far too many unethical places out there that are just in it for the money and don't care that the students are really mastering the skills. I'm so glad Master Martin has a different philosophy!

The tests work like this: the kids wear their full uniform. They warm up, and then the test starts right on time.

Warm up time

More warm ups!
Everyone lines up according to belt - dark (most advanced) to light (newer students). The class works through the skills, starting with hand motions.

Hand motions - that's Mason up in the front, blue belt.

Hand motions, Daniel is in the middle, orange belt.
They start with the easy skills everyone knows, and then the lower belts drop out as they move on to more challenging skills, until all the belts have shown that they've mastered the skills for their new belt, as well as all the ones they've learned for lower belts. It's quite comprehensive, and you never know exactly what will be asked. It's best to be ready for anything.


More punches! They also demonstrate the "turn arounds" for each move, which differs depending on the skill.
 The kids demonstrate both offensive and defensive hand motions (attacks and defenses).

I think this is called reverse knife hand strike, but I could be wrong.
Once hand motions are completed, the students move on to kicks. Here they are, ready in their fighting stance.

The instructor calls out the kicks. The kids must kiyi at the right places and have the technique mastered for each different kick. By now, they are starting to get tired. Kicks are tiring.  Kids testing for darker belts are also required to do some kick combinations, which the instructor will call out. I'm always so impressed with how they can remember the sequence and do it - pretty cool.

After kicks, we move on to forms. Forms are standard choreographed sequences of attack and defense moves. Each belt level has a corresponding form that is learned. By this point, Mason knows 4 forms and is learning the fifth. For his test, he had to do the first half of the 5th form. Daniel had to do the first half of the third form. I have videos of these, but they don't load very well!

After forms, the kids each have an opportunity to break a board using the kick that corresponds with their belt level. I think Mason's kick was a spin-back side kick, which is pretty challenging. I think Daniel's was a Korean sidekick, but I am not sure! I also took video of that, so no still shots. Some kids break their board, and some kids don't, but it doesn't affect whether you pass the test. The instructors are looking to see that the technique is proper - that is the key.

Mason is getting more advanced, so he also did what is called two-step sparring, where he partnered with another student to demonstrate specific defensive techniques. He was so amazing!

Finally, the test was complete! The whole things takes about an hour at this level.  The kids all did a good job and were pretty tired. Like I said, Master Martin will not let a student test if he or she is not ready, so it is really rare to fail a test (although I know it does happen occasionally). It is more common to be told you have to wait to test, because you are not ready. That definitely happens.

Test complete!
The kids line up again by belt color, and then are called up individually to receive their new belt and shake hands with the instructors. I love that Master Martin is teaching these kids to make eye contact and be respectful. He is really an amazing teacher, in so many ways. He cares about the kids and it shows.

Daniel shaking hands with Master Martin!

Tying on the  new belt, with a little help.

Mason shaking hands with Master Ruff.

Mason shaking hands with Master Martin

Happy boys! And look - Mason broke his board! He was so proud. So was I!

Mason and Daniel with Master Ruff (L) and Master Martin (R).
We love Martin Martial Arts and the fantastic program there. Master Martin is committed to teaching the kids respect, honor, diligence, focus, and confidence. The school attracts families with strong values who want their kids to develop these character traits. I love that the boys are learning tae kwon do skills along with these important life skills.

Good job, boys! You earned those belts.

School Days

The first day of school came way too fast this year! Before we knew it, summer break was over and it was time to buy school supplies and new shoes and get ready for another school year. I am always a little sad when summer ends, and this year was no exception. I think I really just don't like change! I don't like when the school year ends, and then I don't like when summer ends and school starts again! It only takes me a day or two to get back in the swing of things, though. And luckily, my kiddos love school and are always excited to go back and see their friends.

Mason started the 5th grade this year. The intermediate school classes are grouped as "teams," and Mason's two best friends (Matt and Ryan) are on his team this year. Truth be told, I requested it, since it took Mason awhile to make good friends last year. Thankfully, the principal was on board and Mason had two friends to start out the school year. My mother heart was so happy!

Ready for this adventure!
Daniel started 3rd grade this year.  He is also in class with his best friend, Ben, and they even sit right next to each other! He was thrilled! He is in a wonderful class this year, with two teachers who job share. They are both amazing and he is already off to a great year.

My baby boy is in third grade! What?!?
After the boys got on their buses, Holland and I joined the other moms at Bob Evans for a little back to school celebration! I swear, I have the most beautiful breakfast buddy ever. She picked out this awesome piggy pancake and ate a lot of it. That, plus the curly straw, made for a happy little girl.

Holland didn't start school for almost an entire month after the boys, so we had 4 weeks to really party.  We hit all our our usual hot spots (Target, Costco, visiting teaching visits, etc.), but also some fun outings like the zoo:

Zoo train selfie with Holland and her dollie, Olivia
We also took full advantage of the warm weather and the fact that the outdoor pool was still open during the day until Labor Day. Holland and I went several times while the boys were at school. They were not too happy about it, so we tried to keep our little swim parties to ourselves.  It was so fun! The only people there were moms with little kids (or just moms by themselves!), and not too many people in general. It was low-key and relaxing.

Swim time with my girl!
Before we knew it, September was here and it was finally Holland's turn to go to school. She was So. Excited. to be in the Butterfly class this year. She goes to school 4 days a week in the morning and just loves it. She is enthusiastic about learning and gives me a full report every day of all the goings-on.

I was sad to part with my best buddy, but school is good for both of us. I am able to get my legal work done in the morning hours, and she loves being in class and learning with her friends.  Her preschool has a Christian focus, which I love. The teachers and administrators truly love and appreciate our kids, which is a beautiful thing. I can't believe this is our last year there. If I think about it too much, I'll start crying, so let's save that for another day!

Now it's October and school is well underway. Everyone is off to a good start and we are looking forward to the new adventures this school year will bring.

Seize the day, kids!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Y is for Yummy and Z is for Zoo!

Sometimes, at the end of the alphabet, you do two letters in one day! So efficient! Did I mention that school started August 12th? We were under the gun to finish. In keeping with tradition, we ended our ABC Summer with a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo.

We are really lucky to live so close to such an amazing zoo (and botanical gardens, too!). We have a membership and I get to go often with Holland while the boys are at school, but it's a rare treat to have all three of my kiddos there together.  So this was fun!

It was a pretty warm day, so we cooled off with a soft serve ice cream treat. Y is for Yummy! See those smiles? Those are some happy kids!

Holland looks a little crazy in this picture, but I think she was just excited. That ice cream is as big as she is!

Mason was so sweet on this day.
We saw all our favorites, but the funniest was this polar bear, who was just floating there in the water. I couldn't resist this picture of the kids and the polar bear's bottom. Ha! We thought it was funny.

We took a spin on the carousel. You know, when the boys were little, we never went to the carousel. I don't think I realized it was there! But with our membership, we have free rides on the carousel and the train, so we always stop by now. Holland LOVES the carousel. It usually isn't crowded, so you can keep riding it over and over.

And last but not least, we took a ride on the zoo train. It is tradition to take a group selfie whenever we ride the train, so we did just that.

So, another ABC Summer comes to an end! We made it all the way through the alphabet, and just in time. I am always a little sad when summer break is over. As soon as school actually starts, I get into the swing of things and it's OK again, but those last few days of summer break always bum me out. I wish I could have more time to spend with these little ones, who are growing up in front of my eyes. It is, at the same time, the most beautiful and bittersweet thing. I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that these boys will never be little again, and that my girl is getting older by the minute! I wish I could freeze time and just hold them close. I absolutely cherish those moments when Mason reaches for a hug, and when Daniel tells me he loves me. Everyone still wants me to tuck them in at night, and Mason and Daniel still want me to sing to them. Every day that I am their mother is the greatest blessing.

X is for eXplore!

I knew we wanted to get a visit in to the museum before the end of the summer, so we decided to make it work for the letter X. Don't judge me! X is hard!

Actually, there was a cool exhibit in the museum at the time called "The Science of Sports." The kids were able to explore different things having to do with sports and sporting equipment. It was a fun, but Holland was anxious to get on to the children's museum, so we didn't stay too long.  Also, it wasn't very brightly lit down there, so my pictures turned out blurry.

Here, the boys raced a cheetah, which was projected onto the wall behind them. I think the cheetah won, but they certainly gave it their all trying to beat it! X is for eXercise, right?

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the children's museum. The kids never seem to get tired of it. They had lots of fun climbing and exploring the tree house area. There was a new fish tank with a little tunnel you could climb in side to get a good view of the fish. It is actually pretty cool! Holland loved it.

We also visited the water play area and the construction zone. I'm telling you, if the kids put as much effort into actual work as they do in the "pretend work" at the construction zone, we'd be getting some serious projects done at our place!

When it was time to go, we snapped a few pictures outside at the fountain. Look at these cuties! Can you believe how tall Mason is getting?

Cincinnati was hosting the MLB all star game, and as part of that, the city had placed these mustaches all over town. The kids were good sports and let me take more pictures. Thanks, kids!

And, of course, we ended on a selfie. I just love these three. They are the best.

Museum selfie! Whoops, we've got a blinker!

W is for Walk to the Park

I tend to lose some momentum by the end of the alphabet, I'm not going to lie. I knew we needed to get those last letters in, and school was starting so early this year (August 12th! What?!?). So we walked to the park near our house and we counted it for letter W.

It was such a nice night! Daniel actually roller bladed there, which made the walk take a little bit longer. You'd think it would speed things up, but not really. :-)

The kids played and climbed and I just enjoyed watching them be kids for a bit. They are everything to me.

Look at this idyllic shot. Perfection.

V is for Visit the Temple

The Indianapolis Temple Open House ran from mid-July until early August. We didn't make it up there before our New  Hampshire trip, so we were glad we could go in early August to see the beautiful new temple.

I was so excited to take the kids to see the inside of the temple. They've seen the outside of the Columbus Temple before, but I knew I didn't want to miss this special opportunity to be together inside the temple with my family.

We were able to meet up with Brett and Katelyn and Katelyn's family there, which was awesome.  The tour started with a short video in the stake center next door. The video really invited the Spirit and I just felt so happy to be there with my little family.

Then we walked over to the temple and took the tour. We moved from room to room and were able to see the baptistry, endowment rooms, sealing rooms, bride's room, and celestial room. Everything was absolutely gorgeous, with dark wood and incredible details.  The designer really incorporated a lot of the symbols (circles for the Circle City, the state flower, etc.) associated with the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, which was really cool. It is a beautiful temple, that's for sure.

After the tour, we stopped at the visitor's tent and got this nifty picture taken in front of a backdrop! They emailed it to us on the spot and even printed a copy for us. I thought it turned out really cute. Don't we look happy to be at the temple?

We grabbed a quick dinner at Chipotle in the nearby mall and then headed back home. It was a fun day and a great experience. I am so glad to live within easy driving distance of three different temples. Now, if we could just get a Cincinnati temple! Fingers crossed, maybe in ten years?!?

U is for Under Water!

After we got home from our big trip to New Hampshire and back, we had some days to swim and enjoy the hot summer weather. It was so nice to be home and just have some fun! One week, we went swimming three different days. Our friends, the Guffeys, are very generous with their pool.  Their daughter Gini (my good friend) invited us to come swim with them, so we did. They have an awesome back yard and the kids were in heaven with a pool almost entirely to themselves. How cool!

The boys' swimming skills are coming along, although I still watch them like a hawk. Holland, on the other hand, has never had lessons and relies on a flotation device. I also watch her like a hawk. There was a time when I wouldn't have felt comfortable taking all three to a pool by myself, so we are definitely all making progress!

I love those hot summer days, full of sunscreen and snacks and wet hair and the smell of chlorine. To me, this is summer at its finest.