Excuse me while I boast, but the kids are watching Star Trek and I must find something to distract myself from the painful experience. (We're back at the lake briefly. This place is not big enough for me to avoid it entirely unless I go outside, and it's barely 10 degrees right now so I boast instead.) Today at the dojo we had a great little in-house tournament for the 12 and under crowd. Both Middle Daughter and Youngest competed, which is not something they get to do all that often given that they are young (7 and almost 6), and I don't believe in pushing kids that young too hard. But they were keen to do this smaller, friendlier tournament, and they both did well. Youngest won gold for forms in her division, and Middle Daughter got bronze in point fighting, fighting about as well as I'd ever seen her, including getting back in the game after a solid (but thoroughly legal and fine, fair-play-wise) kick to the ribs that sent her straight to the floor. Her eyes watered and they gave her a minute to regain her composure but she went back in there and kept going as strong as she could. You bet I was proud.

It's a fine balance, at that age. Unlike Eldest, who's on the competitive team and as such trains most days of the week and who is expected to work hard. She's nine (and a half) and she's the one who bugged me for two years for permission to join the team. I wouldn't let her do it until last fall, when she turned 9, because I didn't think she was ready for the kind of intense workouts being on the team would require. And I believe I was right. She would not have been ready earlier. Even now it's not always a done deal; I often have to remind her that she committed to this training and that means working hard even when you don't feel like it. Or rather, *especially* when you don't feel like it. That's when you really make progress.

That's just not the kind of commitment and effort I can ask a 5- or 7-year-old to make, so for the younger kids tournaments are still a healthy mixture of fun and practice. I make them work on their forms, but I don't expect them to work out for an hour without breaks. The level of intensity is very different, as I believe it should be.

Middle Daughter, who'll be 8 at the end of the summer, is starting to show signs of wanting to join the competitive team. By which I mean: She talks about it and says she would like to join, but she's not super keen on hard training yet. You can't get the former without understanding and committing to the latter, so for now I wait.

I'm very pleased so far with their progress in karate, including the competitive aspect. Now if only I could do something about their love of Star Trek...