Owl Knowledge

On Friday after Thanksgiving I wanted to get Quinn (and myself) out of the house.  It has been a rainy week and today was sunny and cool. 

Quinn and his buddy Elias and the two moms headed to our local parks visitors center for a program on owls.    There was a nice small group and the park ranger was really good. 

One advantage owls have in hunting is that they can hear and identify where the noise is coming from all around them.  They did an experiment where one kid was blindfolded and the other one made a noise with 2 spoons. 


As you can see, humans have a harder time hearing where the noise came from. 


Then it was on to dissecting owl pellets.  Owls generally swallow their prey whole, digest the meat and other parts, and then regurgitate the bones. 


It was a little bit gross.   The pellets are baked to kill any bacteria but everyone still preferred wearing gloves. 


Quinn found a couple of skulls and lots of little bones. 


Each kid earned a junior ranger badge.   The tweens participated in the badge ceremony but this might be the last time.  


Our Mighty Black Belt

When Quinn was in the 2nd grade he came home from school one day and said he wanted to sign up for taekwondo (TKD).  At that time Quinn did not enjoy sports or physical effort but he had seen this TKD school perform a demo during school lunch and he thought it looked super cool.

So we immediately signed him for up TKD.  He was given a uniform but no belt.  Once he learned a set of rules he needed to follow at home, school, and in TKD he was given his belt.  


Flash forward 3 1/2 years and that decision he made landed him here.


He worked very, very hard over those years and he earned each belt along the way.


Once you earn your 3rd degree red belt you are eligible to go through Black Belt Qualifications.  Black Belt Qualifications is led by Grand Master Yong Shin (GMYS) and it consists of going through 2 hours of testing for 3 consecutive Saturdays.

Quinn initially went through qualifications in May 2019 but GMYS did not think Quinn was ready.  Quinn took it in stride and vowed to work harder.  Quinn's main instruction, Master Stolsig, really worked with Quinn over the next 6 months and Quinn attended class 5 times a week.

Fast forward to October qualifications and Quinn made an impression.  GMYS said he looked stronger, sharper, and more focused.

On to testing...

Warming up.


The whole group.


There are 4 stages to testing:  curriculum (punches and kicks), forms, sparring, and breaking boards.

Forms, or taeguek, are "routines" using all the moves from curriculum that are also moves you would use to defend yourself.  Each part of the form has a purpose.

There are 8 different forms and they learn one new form with each belt.  To put it in perspective, Quinn had such a hard time learning the first form so we got him a private lesson.   Once he got it, he got it and it stuck.  But he still had to work hard with each new form.

Each form has 12 - 16 moves so it's alot of remember.  Here's the group going through all the forms.  Another challenge is that the group has to stay together and finish (mostly) at the same time.


After forms it's on to sparring.  Not Quinn's favorite but it's a requirement.

At a previous tournament, Don connected with a black belt named Darrell and asked Darrell to give Quinn some coaching.  Coach him up!  Darrell was at black belt testing and gave Quinn some words of encouragement. 


Quinn has a sparring move that I love and it's a quick jump on his opponent.  Sometimes it's enormously effective.  


Some good kicks.



Then on to board breaking.


GMYS asks the kids to sit down and face away from the audience.  He asks them to reflect on how they achieved their black belt and what it means to them.  In the meantime the parents get their kids belt and surprise them with it.  Seeing Quinn's face was the full reward.


He was so happy and so proud.  I  have never been more proud of him.  He persevered and worked so hard to earn this belt. 



The group from the Thousand Oaks studio.   Some of the adult black belts volunteer and support the younger kids.  


Master Ocampo.


Master Stolsig.  He really stuck with Quinn and gave him the guidance and encouragement Quinn needed to achieve his goal.  


Grand Master Yong Shin.  


And now Quinn is moving on to 2nd degree black belt!

Weekend in Anza Borrego

Quinn has the whole week of Thanksgiving off so we decided to take a long weekend at Anza Borrego State Park which is north east of San Diego -- about a 4 hour drive from us.

As we approached Anza Borrego we looped over the mountain and across this amazing vista.  This huge bowl made in the dessert that is 330 feet below sea level and was once the sea itself.  



We stayed in a great VRBO home for 3 nights.



Did I mention we brought the buddy?


Thanksgiving/Christmas scenes in the desert.


One of the reasons we chose to go to Anza Borrego is because it's a "Certified Dark Sky" location which means it has very little light pollution.  The night we arrived we went to a Night Sky Viewing that was run by the Park Rangers.  It was just incredible how many starts you could see in the sky.   A great kick off to our weekend.

On Sunday we went hiking in a Slot Canyon.  A slot canyon is a long, narrow,  and deep channel or drainageway with sheer rock walls that are typically eroded into either sandstone or other sedimentary rock.  This particular canyon was about a mile long.

Quinn was eager to find some rocks to climb.



 It's getting narrow!



Our skinny boy led the way.


It wasn't quite as easy for the not so skinny parents.


The suspended boulder.  





At the end of the trail it opened up.  A park ranger had told me that if we continue to follow the trail and climb up some rocks we would be rewarded with a view of the California Badlands.


Don made it up first and captured a picture of Quinn and I complaining down at the bottom.  


I decided to make the climb.


Then the kid walked up very begrudgingly.


Heading back down.


Tween Mood:


That night Don and I went out into the middle of the golf course fairway to see and shoot the Milky Way.   This time of year you can't see the Galactic Center (or big white areas) but it was still pretty impressive.


And a look down the fairway.   So many stars!!


One of the other reasons we chose Anza Borrego is because there are about 25+ metal sculptures all over the desert.   They were really fun to explore.



I really wanted to shoot the T-Rex and the Milky Way one night.  But in order to get here we had to take the dirt path near the chain link fence and drive about 1 mile down this dirt road and navigate to it.  Not something we would want to do in the pitch black in the middle of the desert.

But it was pretty great during the day too.






Then we drove about 40 miles out to the Salton Sea.  This is what's left of the sea that used to cover the entire valley.  It was an interesting drive out there through a moonscape like environment.  The area between Borrego Spring and Salton City seems to draw alot of campers with their ATV's and dirt bikes.

I had read and had people tell me that the Salton Sea wasn't worth our time but my curiosity was piqued.


Such an inviting sign.  At the end of this road was boarded up houses with lots of graffiti.  In St. John USVI there is saying.  The only people that live there are the wanted....and the unwanted.  I think the same could apply to Salton City.  Time to go home.


We dropped Quinn off at the house and Don and I went out geocaching.  We started with caches hidden in the sculptures and kept going until dark.

The most impressive sculpture was this Sea Serpent that is actually in 5 pieces.  3 on this side of the road and 2 on the other.


It was difficult to capture it's magnificence.


Don went off to collect a geocache and by the time we headed home it appeared that the serpent was breathing fire.  A spectacular end to our weekend.