If you know us personally, you probably know Abe’s black belt story. He set a goal for himself to attain black belt status in Tae Kwon Do before his ninth birthday. Yes, I did say *ninth* birthday. Isn’t it funny how the oldest never seems little? Getting a black belt before nine seemed totally reasonable to us back then. Also, he’d been taking Tae Kwon Do since two weeks before his *fourth* birthday. Five years was plenty of time to achieve black belt. No matter that he wasn’t even double digits yet!

Anyway, long story short, it was the last testing cycle before his ninth birthday. He had passed everything except the board breaking. If he didn’t break the board he’d be given another chance at a make up testing but he wouldn’t get the black belt at the awards ceremony; he’d just get it in class. Getting a black belt in the ITA (International TaeKwonDo association) is a big deal. Your dad makes a speech at the awards ceremony and everything. I didn’t want Abe to miss getting his dad make a speech about him!

Back to the testing… As they were preparing to break boards Abe’s instructor realized he had taught him the wrong kick. The kick he needed to pass the test was one he’d never practiced. The instructor pleaded with the judges to let him use the kick he’d learned but they refused. The instructor took Abe aside for a moment and gave him a pep talk. Then the board breaking began. Kids have 3 chances to break the board. If they can’t do it in 3 tries, they get a “no change” status for testing. They don’t say they “fail”, but they don’t move up to the next level. Abe did not break the board on the first try. He did not break the board on the 2nd try. The instructor gave him another pep talk. Kenny and I and Mr. MacLaughlin (the instructor) held our breath. AND HE BROKE THE BOARD!! I’ve never jumped up and shouted for joy before but I did that day. I was so proud of Abe! His dad made the speech and everyone at Tae Kwon Do had to call eight year old Abe “Mr. Bailey” from then on.

(I wanted to put a picture of the “Congratulations, Mr. Bailey” cake I baked for him, but I can’t find it in my huge mess of old pictures. I’ll post it later if I find it!)

Fast forward to four years later. We move to New York and hear about a Tae Kwon Do program that costs only $35 per month for the whole family. By this time Wesley and Novella are into TKD, too, although neither of them felt the drive to achieve black belt at the young age that Abe did. $35 a month?! For the whole family?! Seriously?! Yes, please!! We hadn’t even done TKD for months because we simply couldn’t afford it anymore. I was paying $185 per month in Alabama for a family plan with $60-$100 testing fees every two months per kid.

The thing was, it wasn’t ITA. It was USTF (United States TaeKwonDo Federation). While all the kids got to keep their belt colors, they each had to earn them all over again with USTF patterns and regulations. For Abe, that meant going back to the white belt pattern while still working at the black belt level. They have a fantastic instructor. None of them ever felt like they were starting over. They were just “catching up.”

After two years, Abe was ready to test for his black belt in the USTF. Since testing takes place in Concord, Massachusetts, and since we all wanted to be there, we decided to make a family trip of it and see some sights along the way. Our Norman Rockwell trip was actually on the way to Concord.

I know I’m taking forever to get to the actual testing part of the post, but I have to mention God’s providence. As time for the trip drew near, we got a little worried about expenses. Hotel rooms in Concord were $200 per night and most hotels make a family of eight get two rooms. We wanted to stay at least two nights. You can do the math. That was more than we felt comfortable spending. We were starting to toy with the idea of taking the three hour trip the morning of testing (Abe had to be there at 9:15) and coming straight home — hopefully we could squeeze in one little field trip on the way home if testing didn’t last too long. Thursday before our trip I had a homeschool support group meeting. I mentioned that we were going to the Boston area and didn’t have reservations yet. The leader of our group is moving to Boston and already has an apartment there but has not yet moved in. She gave me her keys and said we could have it for the weekend!

After all the wordiness of this post, let’s just go straight to some pictures!

Abe and Wes hanging around before testing. Wesley looks more nervous than Abe and he was only there to be Abe’s sparring partner. 🙂

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Jesse found a box of legos.

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John found a table full of snacks. (Replenishing snacks, too. Every time it got low, someone filled it back up — all day long!)

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During testing.

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Sparring brothers.

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Didn’t someone say testing was only three hours long?

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Not a great shot, but you can see where Abe’s foot went through two boards.

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Jesse and Sophia made some friends.

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He passed!

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It was a big group of new black belts. Testing took over 6 HOURS!!!

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Senior Master Reyes, Abe, and Abe’s instructor, Mr. Gibbons.

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Proud Mom and Dad.

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Celebration dinner. 🙂

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