Saturday, March 28, 2009
At the karate studio, everyone has to bow when a black belt walks in the door. We bowed for Mathboy we he came in tonight after his test, but we warned him not to get used to it at home.
Do I feel safer now that I know that there is a Black Belt in the house? Maybe not. But I am impressed. He really worked hard today.
The test started today at 1 pm. Perhaps foolishly, we had made dinner reservations at the restaurant of Mathboy's choice for 6:30 pm. There wer 8 kids testing, and there was no way, I thought, the test could go past 4 pm--or 4:30 at the latest. I mean, what can they have to do for more than 3 and a half hours?
Well... let me tell you what they did. This was like the Final Exam for karate. The Bar Exam. The Medical Boards. These kids had to show everything they learned in karate class over the past 4+ years of classes. And, as you may expect by now, it went past 4:30. Way past. These kids were finally presented with their new belts and sparkly new uniforms at 6:30 pm. Then there were pictures, and a lecture about how with great power comes great responsibility. So ...we are going to the fancy Japanese restaurant tomorrow night. It gives Catgirl one more day to get ready (when she first saw the menu for Fuji, I think she cried. She gets pickier everyday.)
These kids did 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 jumping jacks, then they did technique drills for about an hour and a half, then they did laps of kick drills, then forms, then sparring. Then they did the breaking drills.
Mathboy broke this slab of concrete with the heel of his hand. And it is real concrete--I had suspected the karate school of using some kind of soft quasi-concrete, but thi is real. Then Mathboy elbowed and kicked his way through a slew of boards. At one point, Catgirl turned to me and whispered, "We should have brought a bag for all the boards, Mom." She was right. Mathboy had quite a pile to carry to the car at the end of the day.
The final task of the day was that they had to do push up position, on their knuckles, on the concrete pieces that they had previously broken, for FIVE minutes. There were some tears by the end, but they all made it. During the last minute, the teacher walked around and put each candidate's specially embroidered black belt in front of them so that they could focus on what they were working for.
This is Mathboy's name and the karate school name in Korean. The other side is embroidered in English: Mr. MathBoy, if you please. All the lower belts at karate will have to refer to him by Mr. from now on.
In other news, I finished the vest for Mathboy. I don't have a shot of him modeling it, but here it is in repose:
This turned out great. I used the Dr. G's Memory Vest from Through the Loops,and Cascade 220 Heather yarn. I did go down to size 6 needles to get gauge, and I liked the way the knitted fabric looked on 6s anyway. It fits him very well, but there is sufficient length and stretchiness from the dense spingy fabric that it should fit him next year as well.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Our excellent adventure in New York was last week. It's hard to believe, but I really think that Mathboy had an even better experience this year at the Montessori Model United Nations than he did last year. We stayed with my friend Elyse and her family, and were very grateful for the chance to stay with them.
We actually went up to NY a day or so early, and were glad that we did because we beat the 8-12 inches of snow! On Sunday, we met Elyse and her family at the New Victory Theater in NY and saw an amazing production of Henry V. The kids seemed to understand enough of it that they claimed to enjoy it as much as we did. Mathboy saw Times Square for the first time, and was pretty impressed ("such enormous TV screens!").
On Monday, when our schools were closed and everyone was scrambling to figure out how to get to NY, we were already there! Mathboy got to play in the snow with Elyse's son, who also had a snow day, and then we took the train in and spent several hours at the Museum of Natural History.
He finally got to see the Primate family tree that we had told him about last year. His favorite thing was the cladogram and the dinosaurs and mammal evolutionary display on the 4th floor. We were there for hours. Then we had to buy ourselves a transit map so that Mathboy could plan our way home to Elyse's house, as well as our travel for the rest of our visit.
On Tuesday, we went to the hotel in Brooklyn and met up with the group from school. A couple of the kids could not make it at the last minute, one being Mathboy's best friend at school and the other being his partner on the Security Council. Without a partner, Mathboy ended up being the sole delegate from the U.S. on that committee. That also meant that he would have to "wing it" on the topic for which his partner had been responsible: the situation in Sudan. Mathboy's first motion, once the committee really got started, was that they do the topic of Nuclear Weapons (his topic) first. His motion passed, and they spent the entire first day debating his topic. This was a great start for him, and he ended up being closely involved in the debate all day.
He wrote much of one draft resolution, and got to read it to the committee a couple of times. He had to field questions from the committee. He also had to deal with the fact that, personally, he was not entirely in agreement with the position of the country he was representing. This is good experience. Interestingly, the model seemed to imitate life, in that this delegate from the U.S. never seemed to get along with the delegates from France.
On the last night, after a full day of caucusing, the kids got to vote on their draft resolutions in an actual meeting room in the United Nations building. We were told that there were over 600 students and more than 300 parents and teachers in attendance--and I can believe it, judging by how long it took to find everyone a seat. Here is how it looked from the heights of the gallery, where the parents were:
You can't see the delegation from the United States among the throng; they scrounged up some seats at the back of the room.
During the voting, the president of Mathboy's committee asked if anyone would like to say a few words about their draft resolution--yes, would anyone like to stand up, without any notes or preparation, find a working microphone and explain in a few words to this group of 900+ people what the resolution was about?
So ... can anyone guess whose hand shot up? The Delegate from the United States, of course. The delegate who did not care that his mother was having a heart attack up in the gallery. He ended up doing a fine job. In fact, he did very well throughout the entire MMUN. The president of his committee praised him to the group at large as "an articulate young man," which was very nice to hear. He also took Mathboy aside at the end of the day on Tuesday and complimented him for his hard work and for doing such a good job handling the tough questions from the committee.
All in all, Mathboy had a wonderful time. He did not mind that he was not staying in the hotel with the group--it may have helped that his good friend at school wasn't there, so he did not have anyone at the hotel that he truly missed being with. We had the group eating lunch together both days, so he got to see them at that time, and they went to the United Nations together on the last day. He also enjoyed playing with Elyse's son and he liked riding the train and the subway.
As for knitting, I actually did not get that much done. I had been working on a pair of Garter Stitch mitts that I had planned to give as a thank you to Elyse, but since my grafting looks like garbage, I put them aside and instead gave her the lovely Lace Ribbon Scarf that I finished after Christmas. I did finish the Garter Stitch Mitts when I got home, but with such lousy finishing I am keeping them for myself.
Not my best work. In addition to the crummy grafting, they are a little loose because I made the larger size. If I were to do this pattern again, I would use a bulkier, smoother yarn--both to give them a bit more heft and spring, and to make the grafting easier! I also would adapt the pattern somewhat to come up with a medium size to fit my hands, I'd have to adapt it with the bigger yarn, anyway, so what the heck.
My knitting time in NY was limited because I spent a lot of the time walking around between the various meeting rooms in which our school's kids were caucusing. I got to see a couple kids give their speeches. One boy spent a lot of time with his head down, apparently sleeping! Adorable as it was, we were a little worried about him, and there usually was at least one parent in his room trying to keep an eye on him. So I turned the heel on a sock, but that's about it.
Since our return, however, I did get started on the "Dr. G Memory Vest," which I am making for Mathboy:
The yarn is actually a lot grayer than it is in this picture. It is a really cool steel blue color of Cascade 220 Heather, and it is showing the cable pattern very nicely. I had to start this project. I was having cable and twisted stitch withdrawal after finishing Inishmore. So far, this pattern is really pleasant to knit: the stitch patterns were ridiculously easy to memorize, and the yarn is very nice to work with. It's a vest, too, and in size XS, so it should be a relatively quick-knit.
In other news, Rich and Catgirl did fine while Mathboy and I were away. Rich took her to the Big Hill to sled on the snow day, because he is so much more fun than Mommy. (This is the truth. Mommy would have persuaded her that she would have as much fun making snowmen with the neighbors, because Mommy does not really like going to the Big Hill.)