He’s a black belt – again!

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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My word for 2013

For several years I’ve seen posts around blogland by people who have chosen one word to live by or frame their new year. Every time I read about it I spend some time wondering what my word would be if I chose one. I could never come up with anything.

Two days ago, as I was out running, it hit me. I know my word for 2013! Are you ready for it?


Looking back on the past several years I think my word has been endure. It wasn’t a purposeful choice, but I think in a lot of ways that’s how I’ve been living. I don’t want to endure my time on this earth. I want to make it count! I want to embrace all that God is giving me in every moment.

The more I think about it the more I like it. I can use this word in every aspect of my life. I can use it in all of my plans and resolutions for 2013. Embracing where I am will help me be content with where I live, how much money I have or don’t have, what I have to do to get a little healthier. Most of all, I want to embrace where my children are right now. I don’t want to be so frustrated when the teenager or pre-teens slap through their chores to get to game time. I don’t want to be so irritated to see all the toy bins dumped in one big heap on the floor by the littles or see the baby with marker marks all over his legs again. I want to love every moment of what God has given me.

Do you have a word for 2013? If not, you can share mine. 🙂



A walk around town

One of my big grand new year’s resolutions is to lose 25 pounds. To God be the glory, I’m not overweight right now, but only barely. I want to live comfortably within the “normal” weight range instead of teetering on the high end of it. My plan is to run three times a week, do power yoga two times a week, and do a 20 minute relaxing yoga stretch in the evenings after the kids go to bed. And, of course, aim to eat healthier!

Right after I made this resolution I was ready to get started. The biggest obstacle is that I live in upstate New York and it’s January. I decided for my first trek out I’d just walk and see how bad the sidewalks were. I donned my snow boots and headed out. I realized right away I would not be able to run my usual route — the sidewalks were treacherous with half melted and then re-frozen snow covered with new snow! But the view was beautiful. I’m running in the opposite direction for now but I had to take one more walk the old way (perhaps I should call it the summer way?) to photograph the path. Abe, my oldest son, slogged along with me for company.

The first house we see when we walk out our door is a two story painted bright red owned by a family who loves to decorate for the holidays! They go all out for Halloween and for Christmas. This year was no exception.

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Want to see Santa a little closer?

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Right next to us is the house the kids refer to as the “haunted house.” It’s an wonderful stone structure that appears to be lived in, but we’ve never seen anyone come in or go out. The spooky thing is that occasionally we’ll see a light on at night!

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We walk down a few feet past an Ace Hardware and then turn right towards the library. I wish the route were a little quieter but it’s usually very busy with cars quizzing by. I love to look at the houses as I walk along. Here are a few of my favorites:

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This one looks so beautiful in the snow and I love the porch.

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Looks at those gorgeous columns! I think I’m partial to colonial. 🙂

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I’m fascinated by this house for some reason. I took the shot from the side to include the bright red barn, but it’s the house that intrigues me. It has an amazing porch but is rarely ever decorated.

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We’re getting close to the big beautiful Episcopal church!

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I’m guessing this house next door to the church is the rectory but I don’t know for certain.

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Here’s the church up close. Don’t you just love the bell tower? I always love seeing it as I pass by but it seems even more special covered with quiet snow!

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This is the creche on the side of the church. I snapped this shot waiting for traffic to die down so I could take a picture of the house across the street. I love that Christmas decorations in New York stay up through Epiphany!

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The house across the street from the church.

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I don’t always notice it but today I noticed those icicles!

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Cool old cemetery behind the church. I took this shot for Amanda, who loves to poke around old cemeteries. 🙂

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Finally, our destination — the library. Literally a five minute walk from our house. Although Abe pointed out that this time it took more like twenty minutes because I had to photograph nearly every house in between!

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We *had* to walk a bit past the library to get this house because it is my very favorite house in all of New York! I love the picket fence, I love the porch, I love the color, I love the Christmas decor… Not long after we moved here this house was for sale. I SO wanted to buy it. If only it wasn’t on a busy street… and over $250,000!!

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The last house I photographed from behind on our way back home. I never see the front of it on my walk because I turn left when I get to it. I wanted to take a picture of it because one early morning last June this house caught fire. I saw the little sun room engulfed in flames and I cried and prayed that the family would be safe and the house not completely lost. It was not. The fire was contained and now, by Christmas, they have re-built and a regular passer-by would never know the scary time they went through only six months ago.

There you have it! A walk around my little town in upstate New York in the middle of winter. I’m thinking I’ll have to do this post again in the spring when the daffodils are out. What do you think? 😉

Homeschooling with littles


Oh boy are my two youngest high energy and high maintenance kids! They definitely keep things hoppin’ in the Bailey homeschool!

I get asked a lot how in the world I can homeschool at all with a 3 year old and a 20 month old running around. In some seasons it’s been very hard. Newborn seasons are always tough and to be honest, the kids get a bit more life lessons than book lessons in those first few months with a new baby. We do our best but baby’s needs come first.

We are in a calmer season now. HA! I think the key is to remember that it’s homeschool. You don’t have to start at 8 a.m. and plug away until 3 p.m. with a couple of 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. It’s not like that at all. We have things ordered now to accommodate the littles better. The kids get up around 7 a.m. or 7:30 and do their chores and eat breakfast. One of the big kids helps Sophia get some breakfast. I’m usually still downstairs getting dressed, taking out the dog or starting the laundry. Around 8:30 the 4 oldest start their independent seat work. By this time I’m upstairs with Jesse. I prepare a simple breakfast for him, myself and usually my hobbit daughter Sophia who by this time is ready for “2nd breakfast”. 😉


Around 10 we all sit down together at the big dining room table and do “together school”. We pray, read history lessons, do an art study, etc. I have nothing formal planned for the littles during this time period. They usually run around the upstairs playing. We have lots of manipulatives and we’ll usually dump something out to occupy them for a few minutes. Their favorites are Lauri puzzles, Lincoln Logs and Wedgits. They also like to play in the toy kitchen area.


We also just flat out have to be flexible. Sometimes we have school on the living room floor so the littles can feel like they have mommy, too, and crawl all over me while I’m reading. Sometimes Sophia wants her own “school” so we’ll give her a workbook and box of crayons at the table or we’ll give her an extra map drill to color. Sometimes we have to close the books, have lunch early and finish while Jesse is napping.

I remember way back when I was a working woman. I specifically remember getting out of my car one morning and thinking, “Is this how it is? Every day of my life the same thing?” I can’t sugar coat it. Homeschooling with littles is challenging. But it is NEVER EVER boring and I love it!


So much to talk about!

Wow. Where in the world to start? Well, for one thing, I’ve decided to take part in the blogging challenge over at The Nester. I thought at first that you just had to write a blog post on something for 31 days. That shouldn’t be too hard. But after reading more carefully I realized that you have to pick a topic and write on that topic ONLY for 31 days. That would be more difficult under normal circumstances, but…

I currently do not have normal circumstances. In fact, I just did something absolutely DRASTIC. I moved. Hundreds of miles away. From ALABAMA to NEW YORK!! Yep. I did it. Well, we did it. My husband, children and dog are here, too. 🙂

So my topic for the month of October will be LIFE IN NEW YORK. I’m not sure what all that will entail but rest assured there will be lots of talk about APPLES. 🙂 There will be a few posts on organization as that is really lacking in our new home so far. Contentment may creep in as I’m struggling to find things I like about the new house.

For tonight I’ll just mention that since we have moved to New York Jesse has decided that he is too mature for nursing. 🙁 Yep. The “Booby Baby” ticker has been removed. The end of an era for me. There was a brief time between babies 3 and 4 where I was not nursing or pregnant but aside from that I have been doing one or the other for the past 13 years! I’m sad that I no longer have a little nursling but I’m also excited in a way. I’ve been wanting to try a juicing diet with Kenny but didn’t want to compromise the nursing relationship. Now I can try it. Maybe I can finally get rid of those last 15 unwanted pounds!

2011 is the year to blog!

I have so many resolutions for 2011 flying around in my head! I’ve never really been one to take resolutions seriously. Sometimes I would make them. They usually looked about the same:

Lose weight
Get more serious about morning devotional
Read through the Bible in a year
Pay off debt

Seriously, I said those things for years. I would work on them for a couple of weeks and then they’d fall by the way side. The last couple of years I didn’t even bother.

This year Kenny and I sat down on December 30th and thought up all our goals. Then on December 31st we came up with a skeleton of a plan to actually make them happen!!

I have to give credit to Life As Mom for getting me started. Her blog post about goal making here got me started. Credit also goes to Money Saving Mom who has been an inspiration for literally years to make a plan to implement your goals.

So, as I said, I have A LOT of goals swirling around in my head. 🙂 Personal, family, home and financial were the categories we set goals in. I’ll be sharing more in depth soon. One of my personal goals was to get more consistent about blogging. I plan to blog at least once a week. I’m not sure how intentional the blog posts will be. For this month at least I’ll probably continue sharing about goals. I know the grandparents check in for pictures so I’ll try to add a few of those, too.

Next up will be my plan for books I want to read in 2011. I may post that later today but if not at least by next Saturday.

The main thing

It’s absolutely crazy at my house right now. We’re having a hard time finding a new “normal” since Jesse’s arrival. Schedules are totally out the window.

A good friend of mine told me recently to keep the main thing the main thing.

Hmm. I’ve pondered on that quite a lot. The obvious “main thing” is Jesus. I know I must keep him first and foremost. I know I cannot do this job by myself. I know I must have Him walking beside me or even carrying me as the famous poem suggests.

But beyond that. On a daily basis. The practical. What is the main thing? I think there are several:
1. Feed Jesse.
2. Love on Sophia. Life is hard for a 2 year old with a new baby in the house.
3. Always speak with kindness and love to the other children.
4. Pray for the gift of patience — all day — every day.
5. Basic home maintenance — dishes, laundry, floors clear, bathrooms clean.

I think that may cover it. It doesn’t sound so overwhelming now that I can see it in black and white. 🙂

New posts coming soon

I know I’ve neglected my poor blog for some time. But I’m carving out some time tomorrow to upload pictures. Lots of fun things have been going on in the B. household lately!! A new school year, 2 birthdays with another right around the corner, visits from godparents, etc.

So tune in again tomorrow for some timely updates!