Saturday, April 18, 2020

Learning About Love and Loss

In the past few years, there have been several things that fueled the balanced development of my son’s emotions.  We do our best to encourage disciplined thought, but not detachment from the joys and pain that come with living.  I suppose as parents we don’t really know how we’re doing until our kids have matured and we see how they deal with various situations in life.  In Paul’s case, there have been events that highlight to me how he’s developing a strong emotional balance, and a kind heart.  First a real-world event, then I’ll share his reaction to scenes from two movies.

Until we bought the two Corgis we currently own, every dog Steph and I have had in the years we’ve been married have been rescues.  Jazz was an odd mutt with a strong personality.  She was never mean to Paul, but she never really liked him.  We’re not completely sure why, because she was also legitimately protective of him if she felt someone or something was a threat.  Overall, she preferred for him to just leave her alone.  We rescued Jazz from a vet, where she was abandoned along with several other puppies from the same litter.  As Paul got older, it troubled him that Jazz didn’t really care for his company.  He did his best not to irritate her, and was fantastic at accepting it was best that he just pet her when she’d tolerate it.  She had no patience at all when he’d try to snuggle her.  As she got older, she got grumpier.  Late in life she contracted cancer and finally the time came that we needed to end her suffering.  We set the appointment with the vet, leaving time to allow Paul to say goodbye to her at home.  While we gave him the option to come along, it didn’t surprise us he preferred not to.  The time came for him to say goodbye, and our hearts were warmed that she let him sit down on the floor with her, give her very warm, big and gentle hugs—he all but held her in his arms—and then he spoke quietly and calmly to her.  His words broke our hearts.  Tears quietly ran down his cheeks and after several kisses and hugs, he whispered:  “Dream of me, and walk with me in your dreams.”  Steph and I were wrecked at his poise and maturity, and the love he continued to show a dog that didn’t really love him.  He sent her off well, and we couldn’t have been prouder of him.

In 2012 we took Paul to see the movie “Rise of the Guardians”.  We’re not sure, but we think he still believed in most of the magical “guardians” that surround childhood—Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc.  This movie was about the spirit behind these stories, and put a cool perspective on what kids can learn from them, by gently reenforcing that what they represent continues on with those who believe.  Meanwhile, those who quit believing may very well also lose an appreciation for what the actual point was—caring, giving, etc.  At the time Paul saw the movie, he was having periodic nightmares.  As kids do, he would wake up afraid, then need to seek out Stephanie and I to quiet his nerves and remind him the nightmares aren’t real.  A big part of the storyline of the movie revolved around the rational and confident defeat of nightmares.  This spoke loudly to Paul and convinced him he needed to continue to believe in the positive aspects of these characters, and to purpose not to fear the bad dreams that come from uncertainty and an active imagination.

At the end of the move, we asked him what he thought.  Paul said, “Some tears were shed because now I know they (the Guardians) will always be in my heart.”  There were a few tears during the movie, and he was right on the edge of tears when he said that. The message of the movie had a real impact on him and I think it surprised him how empowered he felt to know he is in control.  It was all him. He told us a little later they were happy tears because he knew that as long as he believes, the Guardians will always be in his heart. 

Then just recently we let Paul watch the western Tombstone with us.  He quickly got into the characters, the point of the story, and the action (of course).  Late in the movie, Doc Holliday is at the end of his life.  Laying in the sanitarium in Colorado, he’s dying, and the scene comes when he orders Wyatt Earp to go away.  Wyatt respects his friend’s wishes and as Doc lays there alone, the camera angle lets you look from the end of the bed, past his feet to his face.  Doc quietly says “I’ll be damned; this is funny.”  What isn’t explicitly stated is that he’s lost feeling in his feet as a sign of his imminent death.  While it’s clear to any adult watching that he dies, they don’t really emphasize this.  Paul knew what happened, and was weeping for this antihero, as he appreciated the gravity of the scene.  He also grasped this was the end of the relationship of respect and deep friendship between these two men—the same as the loss of a family member as the story is told.

In the end, we’re so proud of the balance Paul is developing across all things in his life.  As all parents do, we constantly assess where he is with all facets of life, and balance between sheltering him and overexposing him to things.  We seek to find and stay on that line where we’re doing our best to develop him into a young man of reason, who isn’t afraid of his emotions, but isn’t driven by them alone.  These little instances, in this case related to love and loss, give us little hints we might be succeeding.

It’s great to be a dad!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Campouts! (Sort of...)

"Secret" campouts!

Until very recently, they were a thing, and my son loved having them.   The only reason they’ve stopped is because he’s outgrown his interest in them.  What are these, you might ask?  They’re totally easy and fun dad and lad events, and for us, they were my son’s creation.

All this began when he was toddler.  He was sick and I ended up sleeping in his room next to his crib on the floor whenever he was sick enough to warrant an extra set of eyes or ears nearby.  Honestly, I have to admit more often, I was a nervous dad and wanted to be close to him as he slept, in case he needed something.  I’d have felt horrible if he was in some sort of real distress and I didn’t know it.  But the original idea was his—a fun way for him to have company while I got to monitor him.  As time passed (and I settled down as a new parent), the need to be right with him when he was sick diminished.  But across those early years, he became aware that there were times when he was sick that he’d wake up and find me sleeping in his room nearby.  That’s when the fun began.  He started asking for me to come sleep in his room just because he wanted the company—not because he was sick.  A quick tangent here:  other than by very rare exception (less than you can count on one hand), he has never been allowed to sleep in our bed with us.  We’ve always wanted him to know he has his own bed, and to feel comfortable in it.  So this wasn’t replacing anything like that.

This little arrangement turned into a game we began playing.  He’d tell me to tell Steph that I had “computer work to do”, then I’d bring my pillow and sleeping bag into his room and we’d hang out while he fell asleep.  Funny thing was, we went for several years where I’m pretty sure he really thought Steph had no idea that we were having a “secret campout”.  We enjoyed letting him think this way.  It made the whole thing more exciting: more dramatic.  More years passed, and he figured out there was really nothing secret about the whole thing, but we continued to play the game.

Here’s what it’s become, and what we do.  It would be bedtime and we’d tuck him in.  Most recently, then he would text me and asked for a secret campout (or an SCO).  When it’s bedtime for me, I’ll head back to his room and gently wake him up to let him know I’m there.  Sometimes he’ll want to talk about any number of things, but talk or not, he’d always end up sound asleep again within a very short amount of time.  These little SCOs became a wonderful way to continue fostering that special bond between the two of us:  moments of trust, comfort and fun.

Maybe more significant in the long run are the “regular campouts” we have.  These aren’t actual outdoor campouts either though.  (Some day I hope we get to share those too.  He’s a bit reluctant to be that close to nature, although I see his curiosity and sense of adventure starting to overshadow his uncertainty.)  Instead, we gather up a couple sleeping bags and pillows, make some popcorn, grab some sodas, and head back to the playroom for some solid dad-n-lad time.  We play video games and usually end up watching something of mutual interest on Netflix or Amazon.  We tell jokes and make all the sounds and grunts that boys make when we know we’re not going to get “that look” from mom.  And these also became the times when he felt he can talk to me about anything because he knows the time is protected.

When we do this, the playroom becomes the best fort ever, or a spaceship, or a secret base—any place he wants it to be where we’re alone together.  Now he’s moved through the pre-teen years, and as an early teenager, the secret campouts have all but ended.  He’s older and busier, and has interests that hold his attention in the evening other than time with me.  But he still talks about our SCOs, and for the most part, we’ve replaced them with occasional dad and lad outings for lunch or dinner.  As he continues to grow and mature, my hope is our dedicated times together continue through other activities.  What I’ll always work to protect is what really has been behind our SCOs for so many years:  dedicated time for the two of us deepen our relationship as father and son.  Both Stephanie and I have done our best to let him know he’s always allowed to talk to us about anything, individually or together, and that those conversations are safe.  For these years so far, and for the years to come, we’ll do what we can to reinforce and encourage that kind of open communication for those times when it’s needed.

It’s great to be a dad!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Kids and Dogs

Dogs!  They’re just plain cool, and for most kiddos, they’re great companions and playmates.  They provide an opportunity for kids to take responsibility for something living in addition to their other chores.  We had dogs for most of my growing up years, and I’ve had one for most of my adult years.

When our son was born we had a pup in the house.  She had already been with us a few years, loved Paul as a baby, but as he got older and big enough to play with her, she got grumpier.  Almost entirely a jealousy issue.  She was never out of line and never caused him harm, but really didn’t want to participate in his fun and games.  In her later years as an elderly dog, she became plain old grumpy.  It saddened my son that he didn’t have a dog that wanted to play, and our promise to him was to get him a dog that would be his when the sad day came that our old dog moved on.

That day came and we were all heartbroken.  Even Paul was crushed by the passing of the pup even though she really didn’t like him.  The plan was to take some time off, let the wound of the loss heal, then find a pup that would be his.  Among just a few others, his preferences included a Corgi.  Our old dog was a rescue and a mutt, and part Corgi, so that probably fueled some of the desire.  Not to mention Corgis are a crazy cool breed with lots of energy, and a personality two or three times their physical size.

As things sometimes do, we became aware of a litter of Corgis right at the time we lost our old dog.  We were pleasantly surprised that this struck us as a comfort in spite of the recent loss, and we decided to take a look.  A quick visit later and we were hooked.  To make it better, the pup we ended up with was weened and available to come home right around our son’s birthday.  What a present!  And we joined the ranks of the Corgi owners.

As mentioned, I’ve been around dogs my whole life.  They’ve all pretty much been mutts, and most of them I’ve had as an adult were rescues.  Oh man, this Corgi is a different breed!  (Pun intended.)  This critter does things I never saw my other dogs do.  We’re in a social group with other Corgi owners locally, get the little rascal out for periodic gatherings at nearby dog parks where he can run with others of his kind (including many of his family!).  I’ve made these observations and asked these questions of that group too, but I think it’s probably therapeutic for me to put them here was well.  Any who knows, maybe some of you have Corgis and will sympathize and laugh along with me…or at me.

  1. These are 30 pound dogs that think they’re 60 pounds.
  2. They don’t know they have stubs instead of “regular” length legs.
  3. They shed like massively shedding monsters.  I don’t know how a critter can shed more fur than they actually have on their body at any given time.  It may be a miracle.  Or something akin to a freak of nature.
  4. These are mouthy dogs, in two ways.  First, they’re not a drooly breed, but they seem to have very wet mouths and noses.  They like to get your attention and “hold hands” with their soggy mouths.  When our pup plays with a toy, it gets soaked.  Second, they chew on things, a lot:  toys, baseboards, irrigation system emitters, cardboard boxes, just about anything in the bathroom trash can, etc.  Some stuff can’t taste good but it goes in the mouth anyway.  Even some of my son’s modeling putty.  Gads.
  5. They are smart and stubborn.  Really smart, and really stubborn.
  6. Related to #4, I can’t tell if sometimes they genuinely don’t get what you’re telling them or training them to do, or they totally get it and want to be sure you know they’ll listen when they feel like it.
  7. Going along with the stubborn streak, if the dog wants to make a point, it seems peeing on the floor is an approved acceptable method in his mind.  We’ve had this knuckle-head for almost a year now and he’s definitely housebroken.  But if he gets mad or frustrated, he’ll pee on the floor to make his point.  He’s even done this within sight of the door to go outside.  At least once he’s done it right after he came in from the back yard.
  8. Related and finally, it seems typical for this breed to pee when they’re nervous or excited.  I give up and accept peeing is a form of communication (beyond marking territory) for these little dudes.  Have your paper towels and cleaner readily available.  One time, there was this killer balloon—but that’s a story for another post.
All said though, these Corgis are very cool critters!  I never thought I’d like a breed of dog as much as this keeping in mind, most of the previous dogs were mutts and rescues.

Best of all, this little giant dog is definitely our son’s dog, and Paul is the dog’s boy.  They are two peas in a pod.  The pup pouts when Paul’s not around.  They play together and Paul’s bed is the one piece of furniture the dog is allowed on.  (We had to buy a little set of stairs so the pup could get up there though—so funny!)

So the boy is happy, the dog is happy, and therefore the parents are happy!

It’s great to be a dad!

Friday, November 16, 2018

ATA Worlds!

This past July my family and I traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas for the ATA World Tournament and Expo.  While this is something we thought we’d attend at some point, to see the Expo and associated ceremonies, etc.), if you had asked me a year ago if this was something we’d attend for Paul to compete in after the 2018 season, I would have said no.

With the need to learn the new open hand (Shim Jun) and weapons (Gum Do) forms as 1st Degrees, we assumed any shot at going to Worlds to compete in the Tournament of Champions would have to come in 2019 at the earliest.  The time it would take to learn the new forms well enough to perform at a competitive level took us out of play for the first 4-6 months of last season.  Even so, we talked about going to “see Worlds” and cheer for our friends if we could afford the time and expense. Last March, however, we realized Paul just might qualify to compete in 2018.  Then the surprise of surprises happened when Stephanie told me I was ranked in the World standings and it looked like I’d be eligible to compete.  I honestly thought she was pulling my leg.  (She wasn’t.)  With the potential for both of us being able to compete, we began to plan to go!

For those who aren’t familiar with ATA, the season basically runs all year, with the bulk of the competitive season occurring from August through May.  There’s a small pause as all the State and Provincial champions and top 10 are determined, then each District holds their Championship in June.  At the same time as the State top ten are determined, the top ten in the world for each division are finalized.  That group of top ten in the world are qualified to register and compete for a world title.  Added to that list is anyone who wins a gold medal at their District Championship that isn’t already qualified for Worlds.

When the regular tournament season ended, Paul missed being ranked for Worlds by just a few points.  We were so proud of him though, for how well he did basically only competing for half the season and still making it so far!  I remained qualified to compete in Traditional Weapons, and so off we went.  

It was surreal being there to compete, thinking when that day came I would most likely be there cheering on my son, but not competing myself.  As it turns out, I was the competitor and Paul was the one cheering for me.  Honestly, his ring full of young athletes is incredibly more difficult than mine.  It seems the pack thins quite a bit for those of us in the 50s.  My ring had 11 men in it.  It was an incredibly fun and busy week.  Two days before I had to compete in the Tournament of Champions, I had the opportunity and privilege to train under Chief Master Raimondi and certify in the Gum Do (Level 1) form.

Then competition came.  I went into the ring ranked 6th in the world in Traditional Weapons.  When it ended, I was humbled to stand on the podium with a Bronze Medal around my neck, ranked 3rd in the world in Traditional Weapons for 1st Degree Black Belt men (50-59 years old).  It meant so much to me to have Stephanie and Paul there to cheer me on, along with a significant number of friends from our school who were also there to compete.

Then another tournament happens the two days following the Tournament of Champions.  This “Worlds Open” tournament kicks off the new season.  Two days later as the new season began, I entered the ring again to compete and when the dust settled, I took 1st Place!  What a great way to start the new year!

Just as important as the competition itself though, was the time we spent with our martial arts family.  So many of our friends were there from our District!  We celebrated the end of the tournament having an awesome dinner with our chosen family, we took pictures at the Gate, we strolled the gardens with the kiddos and learned about some of ATA's history, and we spent long evenings together in the hotel enjoying the pool, pizzas and friendship!

We’ve been competing for several years now and this was definitely the pinnacle of our experiences so far.  Worlds was huge, well run, and there was a constant and high level of energy.  We enjoyed everything about the tournament itsefl, seeing some of ATA’s history (including the beautiful H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden), and even the fellowship at the hotel each night where several of our own school’s families were staying where we sat and told stories late into the evening.  We had a wonderful time competing, cheering for friends, and making new friends and when it was over we returned home very content and tired.  We knew as we boarded the plane, Paul and I would do what we needed to do this year to return to Worlds in 2019—this time with the intent for both of us to compete for world titles.

It’s great to be a dad!

Monday, May 14, 2018

His First Big Trip

Just a few weeks ago Paul went on his first big trip without mom and dad.  His class from school made a multi-day trip to the Pali Institute, in California.  As other parents before me have no-doubt experienced, this involved a wide variety of feelings for me. The excitement of seeing him go somewhere for two nights without us.  And the nervousness of seeing him go somewhere for two nights without us.

I was in 4th grade when I made my first big trip like this, and still remember it vividly as our class got onto a bus and drove for about seven hours from Colorado Springs down to Mesa Verde National Park.  We spent two nights away from home, and learned about the people who lived there and built the amazing cliff dwellings.  I remember feeling grown up on that trip, and didn’t feel any uncertainly or worry that mom and dad weren’t right with me.  Talking to my son after his trip, it seemed he was the same, with his entire focus on the adventure and not being away from home.  I’d like to think that reflects on having done a sufficient job preparing him for being away from us at that point, but there was still all the nervousness in me as a parent, having him that far away.  Here’s how it all played out in my simple, fatherly mind.


As mentioned, the trip to Mesa Verde was exciting for me, and based on Paul’s stories when he came home, Pali was just the same for him.  It seems everything about the trip was fun:  the adventure of the bus ride, being with his classmates outside of school, everything he learned about and did, etc.  He even raved about the food and ate things there that we normally have to push him to eat at home.  We were excited as parents because he never showed any fear or reservation about being that far away for several nights.  I have to believe that a big part of what prepped him for this was that he’s spend more than that many nights away from home.  They just weren’t out of town.  If anything ever went wrong or he decided he wanted to come home in the middle of the night, we could have just gone and picked him up—no problem.  Whether Paul has stayed at a friend’s house, or with his grandparents, he’s never asked to come home early for any reason. 

And nerves!

But this trip took Paul away from the local area without us.  If he got sick, had a horrible time, or anything else went wrong, it would have been a drive to another state to get him.  Not a crisis of course, but this was the farthest away from us he’d been.  Steph and I had been away from him longer than two nights before, but when that happened he was always with his grandparents.  This time he had no family nearby and it honestly made me nervous.  I know that doesn’t make me special or unique, but I had finally hit that point in the parenting timeline when those nerves came into play.  I managed this by focusing on the excitement and adventure he was experiencing, and by openly admitting to my wife (probably too many times), that I missed him and was nervous.  I also knew he was with two teachers—both of whom we obviously trust a great deal.

In the end, dad and lad both came through just fine.  I was reassured by all the stories he had ready for us when he returned home, and by the fact that nothing went wrong.  To add to easing my mind, his teacher periodically texted all the parents photos of what the kids were doing—something that my parents never could have benefitted from when I was in elementary school.  Frankly, short of a phone call, there was no word about the progress of my young trip to Mesa Verde.  But thanks to today’s technology, we could get amazing updates for Paul and his classmates as the trip unfolded.

So with that hurdle cleared, I know the next one will be easier.  Right?  Riiiiiight?  (Okay, I’m a big enough man to admit in advance, I’ll probably still be a little bit of a wreck…)

It’s great to be a dad!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Family Achievement

You’ve seen the earlier posts:  just about four years ago Paul began his journey to earn a Black Belt.  Within a month, I joined him on the mat and a month or so later, Stephanie joined us both.  Paul’s journey became a family journey.  

Here’s what’s happened since my last post (over two years ago, please forgive me!) when we passed our Blue Belt tests.  This past June we all passed our tests for our First Degree Black Belts!  Like all of life, the challenge of testing didn’t come without a few hiccups, but in the end we celebrated as a family.

Right on track with his goals, last year Paul competed for a full year to include at the ATA Spring Nationals 2017, became the 2017 Nevada State Champion (Color Belt, 9-10 year old boys), and was the Silver Medalist at the ATA 2017 Districts Tournament (Nevada, Arizona and California).  

And suddenly it was time for Black Belt testing!  We all tested on the same day.  Paul went first and we cheered for him, then Steph and I tested together with the adults and Paul cheered for us.  We felt it was the perfect culmination of a three year journey.  After working so hard to test for each belt, we faced the toughest test yet.  All the work that led to that point was to allow us to take the toughest test so far rather than to just be awarded the belt.  In spite of all the prep, a 10 session set of dedicated classes for the folks testing for their decided rank, when the day came, we were all confident but nervous, and the test seemed harder than it probably was.  It was also definitely more exciting as the head of Victory Martial Arts nation-wide sat in front of us and judged our performance as it related to the standards.  When it was all over, we had passed.  

We celebrated the end of the beginning that evening in a candlelight ceremony where we we shared in the significance of the Black Belt, and entered into the small community of those who’ve earned the privilege of wearing one.  And we celebrated the opportunity to look forward to the beginning of a new journey.  As I’ve been told and read in the context of the Black Belt across several martial arts styles, the Black Belt represents the mastery…of the basics.  I think it’s true.  After all the work, memorization, struggles, nerves, failures, injuries, and incredible successes, it’s at that time you realize just how little you really know or are truly proficient at.  And so we found ourselves at the beginning of a journey once again—now to begin to hone the body as a weapon, to move beyond the basics.  Learning the basics was difficult.  Building on that foundation is more difficult, but we’re on to learning the 1st Degree Black Belt form called Shim Jun.  With 81 moves and more difficult techniques, it’s the longest, most complex and challenging form we’ve had to learn so far.  Make no mistake though:  it’s fun!

Paul and I have also learned the traditional Black Belt sword form called Gumdo, associated with the Korean equivalent of the well-recognized Japanese katana.  With the sword as his weapon, now he has to perform this traditional form each time he competes in order for his XMA sword form to count for points.  While Gumdo is relatively short, it’s a highly technical form.  It’s performed very deliberately and slowly compared to most other weapons forms, making even the smallest mistakes very apparent.  The precision and accuracy required to do the form well is a very real challenge.

For Paul, we couldn’t be prouder:  the competition in his ring as a new Black Belt this year has been amazing.  These kids are all incredible martial artists who bring their A-Game every single tournament.  Each one of these young athletes has my respect for being a part of the circle of friends that continue to motivate my son to always do his best.  Because of the time it took to learn these new forms, he didn’t have a shot at making State Champion this year, but he’ll finish in the top 10 and qualify to compete at the District Championships!

There are many people that deserve significant thanks, but I have to recognize two people in particular at this point in our family adventure:  

First, Mr. Guerrero, our Chief Instructor.  He has been Paul’s instructor from his first day Paul started as a White Belt.  He’s also the gentleman responsible for challenging Paul to start competing several years ago during a slump in his journey to Black Belt.  Mr. Guerrero has continued to instruct, mentor, correct, encourage and champion Paul’s efforts.  Without you, sir, I don’t know how this journey would have happened.  We’re a part of your Victory Summerlin family, but you’re definitely a part of our family too.  I can’t imagine our experience, and especially Paul’s, could have been any better without you.  

Second, Miss Noonen, who came alongside us this past year and has changed the way Paul approaches how he performs XMA.  She’s been a picture of honesty and grace, and taken time out of her schedule to teach and coach Paul specifically in the context of competition with a sword.  Ma’am, your timing was perfect as Paul moved into the significant challenge of competition as a Black Belt.  I can’t imagine anyone else who could come alongside our regular instructor and form such a perfect team to move Paul forward in his journey.

You both encourage, inspire and compel our son to exceed his own expectations, to set new and high goals, and then to realize they’re achievable.  And both of you have warmed his heart with a phone call, a hug, or a hero shot during those times when the goal isn’t met.  We can’t thank you both enough.

One final thought:  How many parents get to legitimately tell their kids to go play with a sword?  We are those lucky parents!

It’s great to be a dad!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Success Follows Failure

My last post covered how my son failed to pass a belt test.  Afterwards, he told us “that won’t happen again” and he’s worked incredibly hard.  Since then he’s passed the tests for his Green Belt (Decided), Purple Belt (Recommended), Purple Belt (Decided) and Blue Belt (Recommended).  As he went through earning his Purple Belt, he learned the associated phrase representing the meaning of the color of the belt:  “Coming to the mountain.  The tree is in mid-growth and now the path becomes steep.”  At Purple, he was half way to earning his Black Belt and was learning expectations are higher and what he’s learning is more difficult.  He also knows he’s now within a year of earning his Black Belt if he perseveres and continues to pass his tests.  It’s not just an idea he talks about now; it’s something he sees he can achieve.  As his parents we see this having a very real impact on his life.

Last Spring Paul competed in two events at the Las Vegas Victory Martial Arts Inter-School Tournament:  XMA Weapons (Sword) and Traditional Forms.  He was holding in third place but then a three-way tie for first eliminated his chance for a medal.  Then he tied for third in traditional forms but after performing again for the tie-breaker, he took fourth and lost that medal too.

While these aren’t failures by any means, to have two medals slip from his fingers was a disappointment for him.  We were so proud of his attitude and for how hard he tried, then for his heartfelt willingness to encourage all of his friends, and to celebrate with the ones who did well enough to take medals home.  We encouraged him to take a break and enjoy how hard he had worked, but with the intent to reset, re-focus and shoot to improve at the next tournament.  In the most recent Fall tournament, he competed in the same two events:  XMA Weapons (Sword) and traditional forms.  This time he tied for first place with his XMA Weapons form and ended up taking second after performing again to break the tie!

His practice of a martial art has also had an impact outside of the discipline itself.  For a second year now, Paul remains on the Victory Martial Arts “A-Team” as a straight-A student.  We certainly have to guide and encourage him to consistently apply himself at school (with the attention span and focus of an 8 year old constantly working to undo his fledgling habits of discipline), but more and more he’s telling us how he needs to apply himself differently or better, or telling us how a particular life skill from Victory served as a reminder to stay on task at school.

Related, he was recently presented with his school’s award for Academic Excellence in All Subjects.  Steph and I looked back to confirm what we thought we remembered, but this is his third year in a row earning this award.  

Now the journey continues, in martial arts and in life at large.  We’re so proud to see our son and his friends who he’s sharing this journey with, as they genuinely work hard and struggle with achieving very real goals—goals that once achieved will have a lifelong and comprehensive impact.

What’s next?  Maintaining the incredible work he’s been doing during the second half of the school year, and the chance to test and advance to Blue Belt (Decided) in just a few weeks, in which “the tree reaches for the sky, toward new heights.”  He’s also been invited to join the Competition Team and is now training for the upcoming ATA Spring Nationals in Las Vegas, where he’ll compete in Creative Weapons (traditional Sword) and XMA Weapons (Sword) form.  You know what he tells us about all this?  “YES I CAN!”  His goal:  First Place.

In spite of the progress of these individual mountain top moments and successes, there’s also been a bit of a mental slump in the overall routine.  A three year goal is difficult to stay focused on for many adults, and it’s a lifetime away for an eight year old.  I’ll write about that next time.

It’s great to be a dad!