Brian is a Black Belt!

After 2 years, Brian achieved the rank of Recommended Black Belt in May. Since then, he has been preparing for official Black Belt testing, which finally arrived last Thursday. During the Testing, Brian had to perform his current and past form, develop and perform his own form to music and break two boards, all in front of all the Black Belts, numerous Moms and Dads and the owners of the TaeKwonDo school.

The most nerve wracking part of the Testing is the board breaking. If you fail to break your boards within three attempts, you don’t receive your belt. You must break two boards utilizing an elbow strike and then a flying side kick. In the last week of classes, Brian practiced breaking his boards, but he wasn’t successful all the time, even with numerous attempts, so I was quite nervous for him. During the early stages of Testing, I couldn’t bear to watch, and I chose not to take any pictures.

The first girl in the Testing program broke her boards on the first try. Brian’s turn was next.....he jumped the gun a bit and started to break the board without first asking permission (part of the formality of the board breaking process). So he asked for and was granted permission to break his boards. Positioning himself by the board, Brian wound up his elbow and swung down at the board - and it broke! The crowd roared to encourage him on to the flying sidekick. Brian ran and planted his foot in the center of the board, and it broke as well! I was so excited for Brian - I could see the joy in his face and step as he shook the board holders’ hands and ran to me for a great big bear hug.

The remainder of the Testing program consisted of less exciting events - Form performances and technique review. My nerves had calmed down so I took some pictures of Brian and others going through their Form:

Here is Brian getting his new belt tied on (thanks to Ethan's mom for helping us out):

And Ethan congratulating Brian:

Here is our Black Belt!


Vacation Part 2 - NY and Niagara Falls

After Cedar Point, we drove to Syracuse for Phase two of our summer roadtrip. En route, we passed through our old stomping ground, Cleveland. Scott and I met in Cleveland while working for GE Lighting, our first jobs fresh out of college. We have lots of fond memories of Cleveland – fun Fridays in the Flats, good food in Little Italy, hot wings at Pacers, culture in University Circle and crazy Browns football in the Dog Pound (well – Scott has memories of the Dawg Pound – I got to sit in “real” seats). We only passed through, and after 17 years, most of it is now pretty fuzzy. And a lot has changed – the new football, basketball and baseball stadiums in Downtown and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just to name a few. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Dead Man’s curve on I90 in Cleveland. Oh yeah – and the bad roads.

While in Syracuse, we relaxed at Nai Nai’s house. Last year, Nai Nai planted several raspberry bushes in her backyard garden and this year the plants bore plentiful sweet berries.

We enjoyed several bowls each morning. We also enjoyed the 4th of July Fireworks along Oneida Lake.

On Friday, we headed back to Illinois and took a side trip to Niagara Falls. This was Scott’s idea, heavily influenced by the Travel Channel’s feature on the Falls highlighting several of the sights and attractions. We arrived around noon and enjoyed lunch at the Wild Mushroom Sports Bar and Grill. Then we got our first up close and personal Falls experience while on the Maid of the Mist.

Several hours later, the afternoon sun hit the mist of Horseshoe Falls, creating a beautiful arcing rainbow, and I then understood why the bridge that traverses between the US and Canada is named Rainbow Bridge.

We finally descended on our “Journey Behind the Falls”, taking us down 150 feet to tunnels that run behind the Horseshoe Falls to two viewing portals of the crashing water. The observation platform is as close as you can get to the Falls without putting yourself in danger. The kids enjoyed this attraction more than the Maid of the Mist, as they got wetter and could hang out on the observation platform, and attempt to “use The Force” to hold back the water from the Falls.

Here is a picture in front of one of the viewing portals behind the Falls:

Picture of the Falls from the Viewing platform:

We had dinner along Clifton Hill, the main tourist area and enjoyed the beautiful evening. We didn't ride this Ferris wheel - it is similar to the wheel at Navy Pier and the one in Nanchang:


Summer Vacation, Part 1 - Cedar Point

Vacation’s all I ever wanted
Vacation’s a time to get away
Vacation’s meant to be spent in love
Vacation by the Go-G0's

How appropriate for that song to come up on the iPod as we were driving from Illinois through Ohio en route to New York.

As 2007 has been already dubbed the year of the Roadtrip, we added another 1,900 miles on to the Tahoe during our week long vacation. This trip took us back East to visit Scott’s mother in Upstate NY. In the past, we have flown there and then onto Boston, but since we will see my side of the family in August, we decided to go to NY only and take the Interstate instead of the Airways.

By driving, we were able to take advantage of stopping along the journey. Our East bound stop was the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. The park claims to be the Roller Coaster Capitol of the World, with 17 of the thrill rides. Scott and I last went to Cedar Point in 1990 when we lived in Cleveland - we had a great time back then and expected this return visit would not disappoint.

The plan – arrive Saturday afternoon, hit the water park, Soak City, that evening and spend all Sunday at the main park. The weather Saturday evening was warm and perfect for the water park. After 6pm, we had the water slides all to ourselves – no lines – just tons of fun.

The tracks of the Magnum 2000XL coaster weave through Soak city, giving us a taste of tomorrow’s adventures. It was almost too much for Erica to bear watching – she wanted to ride that coaster and knew she had to wait another 12 hours. But once she realized that the water slides were fun, she stopped obsessing about the roller coaster. We raced down the water slides, rode the family tube ride and frolicked in the wave pool until park closing time at 9pm.

Day 2 – Cedar Point

We were able to enter the park an hour before the general public (one advantage to staying at one of the Cedar Park Hotels). Mommy and Daddy first rode the Raptor coaster – an inverted suspension coaster. Erica had never ridden a looping coaster and did not want this one to be her first one, so she opted not to ride. But we would have to wait until 10am for many of the main rides to open.

That first family ride was the Magnum XL 2000 – [flash to the past] – this ride was Cedar Point’s fastest, tallest, newest coaster back in 1990, and the first ride Scott and I experienced. The coaster is over 200 feet tall and travels up to 72 mph. The ride was as exciting and fun as we remembered it. Back in 1990, we only were able to ride the Magnum two times due to the ride’s popularity. [Fast forward to 2007] – Erica rode the Magnum 6 times, 5 times with Mommy and 1 time with Daddy. Brian rode it twice. The longest we waited was 15 minutes.
We also rode the Gemini, the Mean Streak, the Miner Coaster and the Iron Dragon. Erica conquered her fear of inverted coasters and rode the Corkscrew coaster – and after the ride was over she commented – “is that it?”. I guess going upside down wasn’t so scary after all.

Daddy waves at the end of the Iron Dragon (Brian's Favorite)

Here is a picture of Scott, Erica and Brian in front of the Corkscrew –

Towards the end of the day, Erica and Daddy waited 45 minutes to ride the Millennium Force – at 310 tall and traveling at speeds up to 92 mph, this was Erica’s favorite coaster. Mommy and Brian will ride it the next time.

We did enjoy other more relaxing rides – the Sky Ride, the Swings, and the Antique Cars – and some thrill rides – the power tower and bumper cars. Mommy and Erica got drenched on Thunder Canyon and we had to buy Erica a new outfit (that was an expensive ride).

Our day ended at 10pm as we dragged our cold, sore bodies back to the hotel. That is always the goal - open up the park and close it down.



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