Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Utah!--Part II

We always arrive in Utah with a mental list of places we want to go and people we want to see.

After getting Alyssa checked in at camp on Monday, we made our first of many trips to the BYU bookstore.  We bought t-shirts, hoodies and chocolate covered cinnamon bears--because it would simply be a crime to miss out on that deliciousness.  I dug into them as soon as I was finished with my Chick-Fil-A lunch from the Cougareat.  

That evening, we made our way to Mapleton to visit our dear friends, the Evans, who moved from Auburn a little less than a year ago.  They served us a nice meal in their beautiful new home and we had such a great time visiting the night away.  Before we left, we made plans to meet at Y mountain the very next morning.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love BYU?  I mean, I really love it.  And my son loves it even more.  When your affections are as strong as ours, hiking Y mountain is clearly a must--and it's good exercise, too. (Caleb and I would each hike it twice during our time in Utah.)

The hike is so much harder than it looks.  It's not long, but it's 10 steep switchbacks to the top.  The embarrassing sweat on my shirt is proof of the exertion expended in the climb, but the view is fabulous and worth the effort.  That's the Provo Temple to the right of my shoulder and LaVell Edwards Stadium to the left of Stephanie's shoulder: 

Caleb and his two lifelong best buds, Mason and Landon:

Nat and Lydia sitting on the Y:

We cleaned up and met at Brick Oven for lunch, Caleb's all time fav.  It wouldn't be a trip to Provo without Brick Oven pizza and red cream soda. 

Then we walked across campus to do some BYU bowling--also on Caleb's list of must-do.

The boys finished their final frame just about the time Alyssa was finishing up camp for the day.  We picked her up and returned to my aunt's house for dinner.  But because we still had a few hours left in the day, we had time to squeeze in more fun.  So we met the Evans at the Provo Beach Resort for a go at the ropes course.

Jacob, Lydia and Natalie did a little bit of karaoke and then we ended the night with a treat at Rita's.

Wednesday was spent at Seven Peaks water park with the Evans family.  I failed to take pictures to document the fun but if our sunburns were any indication, then the enjoyment was extreme.  Alyssa's gym camp spent the evening at the park, too.  The seven continuous hours baking under the hot Utah sun later led to a hideous peeling of an entire layer of skin from my face.  I even used sunscreen--just not enough, evidently.  

Seven Peaks water park as viewed from Y mountain

We had dinner at another Provo favorite, Los Hermanos.  (Jon and I frequented this restaurant nearly weekly in the early days of our marriage.)  Then we took Caleb and Natalie to the Evans' for a very rare treat--a sleepover!

Thursday was all about seeing old friends.  I failed to take pictures the entire day which is probably my biggest regret of the trip.

I started with lunch with one of my bestest friends from college, Sara.  We cheered together at Ricks and BYU, had the same major, which meant we had several classes together and our bond was strengthened by cinnamon bears and frozen yogurt.  We've remained close over the years and she's just one of those friends that when we get together, there's simply never enough time.

In lieu of a current photo, here's a throwback to our college days:

While I was passing the hours visiting with Sara, Natalie was busy making money.  She and Lydia set up a lemonade and cookie stand.  In no time at all they had earned $16.25!

I picked Nat and Caleb up from the Evans and raced to BYU to get Alyssa and Jon--Jon worked most mornings at his sister Sarah's office in Orem.  She dropped him off at BYU and we met him there.  Alyssa had just a few minutes to shower and change before we left for a dinner date with some other dear friends.  (Again no pictures--BOO!)

Alison is my oldest friend.  We met when we were six, our families were always close and her little sister was like a little sister to me, too.  We were roommates all four years in college and because she dated her now-husband, Brian, on and off for such a ridiculous amount of time--seven years!--I've known him for what seems like forever as well.  Brian and Alison invited us to come to their house in Daybreak for dinner.  Alison's parents and her little sister, Hillary, and her family were also included.  It was a really wonderful evening of catching up and Brian smoked a delicious pork roast.  Alyssa, who had been putting in long hours at gym camp and lots of play time for several evenings on end, was ready to collapse with exhaustion, but I had the hardest time pulling myself away from Alison's house that night.

All of these friends will always hold a piece of my heart and I fell into bed Thursday night basking in the fondness of their friendships.

What a great week so far!  Next up...Independence Day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Utah!--part I

Some vacations are so chock full of good memories and fun that it's impossible to document it in just one blog post.  It's also impossible to choose a favorite part.  Too many highlights packed into our two weeks in Utah, I tell you.

We arrived in Salt Lake City on a Saturday evening.  We'd been in the car all day--and by all day, I mean all day.  Though we would be spending the remainder of the next week at my Aunt Shauna and Uncle John's house in Orem, we'd decided to get a hotel room in SLC for that first night.  Jon booked a great room at a nice hotel with good reviews, but it also happened to be located in the heart of SLC's homeless district and across the street from one of its seediest parks.  Thankfully the outdoor pool was located on the third floor--well away from the bums on the street--because the suitcases had scarcely been hauled into the room before the kids started rummaging for their swimming suits.  A late night dinner followed and then we crawled into bed to rest for our Sabbath day on Temple Square.

First we attended sacrament meeting in the Joseph Smith memorial building.  When we arrived at the chapel we learned that Elder Oaks was presiding at the meeting.  The chapel was filling fast and as we looked for five seats in the overflow, Jon said, "Let's sit in that row right there by Elder Ballard."  Indeed there were some available seats directly in front of Elder Ballard and his wife.   

After the meeting, we explored all of Temple Square starting with a tour of the Beehive House.

We saw each of the visitor centers and watched the Joseph Smith movie before visiting the Christus statue.

Then we walked across the street to see the conference center.  

Poor Caleb's nose is like a magnet for the sun and extremely susceptible to deep shades of red.  Since the sunscreen had been left in the car, he spent the day shielding his schnoz with the sacrament meeting program.  

You know what else we forgot?  Belts.  Classy, right?  Jon also forgot his dress shoes but thankfully you can't see that fashion awesomeness in this picture.  Nice backwards tie, though.

 The Church History Museum was our last stop before heading to my aunt's house in Orem.  After a nice Sunday dinner, the kids relaxed in front of the TV while the adults went to the Marriott Center to listen to Laura Bush as the keynote speaker of the Freedom Festival's patriotic service.  It was a delightful end to a wonderful day.

So much fun and we were just getting started...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Two Worlds Collide

There are two main worlds in Alyssa's universe.  Many other smaller bodies are included in the continual orbit, but gymnastics and church are the major planets in the solar system of her existence.  Those two worlds make up the very fiber of her being and are the basis of her identity.  Both are often misunderstood and/or unappreciated by those not of that world.  Outsiders question decisions, commitments and the value of each world's importance in her life.  Isn't it human nature for us to desire a sense of belonging?  To be understood?  To be surrounded by those who "get" us?

For one beautiful week, Alyssa's two worlds came together in a sort of cosmic perfection.  Suddenly she was surrounded by others who understood BOTH of her central planets.  And she had the time of her life!

Ready to get the camp started!

BYU was magical for me and even now, 20 years later, just walking across campus leaves me feeling entirely twitterpated.  My cheer squad used to practice once a week in the gymnastics gym.  It was a bit surreal to drop my daughter off in that same place.

Cosmo was there to kick things off.

Alyssa is not know for her displays of excitement, but after that first day of camp, the spring in her step was undeniable.  She came bounding up to me to say, "Mom! [the head coach] said she wants me here at BYU!"  I, being the emotional antithesis of my daughter, did my best to contain my excitement as I asked questions of the day's events.  Alyssa said that after watching her train, the coach asked her age, graduating class and whether or not she was LDS.  She also asked where she was from.  After all questions had been answered she then said, "Yeah, I want you here at BYU."

Throughout the week, the coach would mention to others that Alyssa was from Auburn.  We're so grateful to belong to a gym that is well known and respected as highly competitive in the gymnastics community.

Every day of camp was a delight and a love affair with the Cannon Center also ensued.  They do an exceptional job of accommodating the gluten-free eater, which only added another layer of understanding to the whole BYU experience.  Alyssa could be herself on every single level.  

After lunch each day, Lys would spend the rest of her lunch break playing cards and hanging out in the dorms of some of the other girls.  (She's already decided that next time, she will stay on campus like most of the other campers did.)

Friday came and it was time to say good bye.  She wanted to get a couple of pictures with some of her favorite people of the week.  (Unfortunately the only camera I had with me was my phone and I think it takes crummy pictures.) 

Cathy, from Vancouver BC, and Alyssa became friends on the first day.  They were the youngest in their 9/10 training group and they stuck together.  Ashley and Raquel were her favorite coaches.  Both are former BYU gymnasts and Raquel even has our same last name!

Then Lys asked Dawn, half of the husband-wife head coaching team, for a picture.  Dawn said, "I'd love it!"

She posed and smiled and as soon as I'd clicked the image, looked me square in the eye and stated, "I really want her here at BYU."

My heart all a flutter with pride, I did my best to control the octave of my voice as I replied that "It is her dream to do gymnastics at BYU!"

Dawn explained that she wanted me to go online and fill out a recruiting form.  As she was telling me where to go and how to find it, I started to panic.  I wanted to get all the information right, so I reached in my purse to take out my notepad so that I could write down what she was telling me to do.  When I asked her to repeat her instructions, she said, "Just call my phone right now so that I will have all of your information.  I watched as she entered her information below my name in her contacts:

Alyssa Hatch

Then she said, "If you give me her meet schedule, I will come watch her compete."   And just before we left she turned to Alyssa and said, "You just keep working hard."

We couldn't have asked for more.  Two worlds collided to provide a wonderful week of belonging, appreciation and value.

Oh BYU, I love you!  But Alyssa, I love you SO much more!  You make me proud, Babe.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Western Nationals

We've been to a lot of gymnastics meets.  But from the minute we stepped into the arena, this one just felt different.  Something about competing with some of the nation's top talent made it feel like more than just any other meet, I guess.

USA gymnastics divides the country into eight regions.  A level 9 gymnast qualifies for her regional meet at the state competition.  It is at regionals that she qualifies for westerns.  Four age groups are determined on a national level and the top 12 from each age group advance to the western national competition.   That means 48 level nines from each region come together to comprise the competitive field.  Westerns includes regions 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Most of Alyssa's teammates arrived by air, but since Westerns was held in Boise, ID this year, it was a doable road trip.  A seven hour drive is a piece of cake for Jon's inner trucker.  We had fun decorating the car for the occasion:

Before getting to gymnastics, we paid a visit to Boise State to check out the blue turf.  This was the highlight of Caleb's trip.

Cougar Caleb fighting the bronco:

That afternoon we went to Century Link Arena, the meet venue, for the region 2 workout session. Look at these cute and amazingly talented girls scoping out their competition:

These girls make up a very cohesive team.  They understand one another on a level that is difficult to explain.  One team member, Maison, was injured at the regional meet and though she qualified for westerns, was unable to compete due to the injury.  The girls carried her picture around all weekend in honor of her.  Here they are putting her in the middle of the team picture:

Left to right: Ali, Gracie, Alyssa, (Maison), Sam and Kayla

A fun action shot from the workout session:

The muscle definition in her arms amazes me:

The workout ended with some silly hand-clapping region 2 cheers.

After getting cleaned up, the girls met their coaches for dinner at P.F. Changs.  We parents went to dinner too but sat on the other side of the restaurant so as to give our girls their space.  The owner of our gym generously picking up the bill for all of us!

While at dinner, the coaches presented the girls with beautiful Pandora charm bracelets.  Wow!  Gracie and Sam are both second year level 9's and were given bracelets last year so they got this year's charm to add to their bracelets.  Each girl got the letter "A" for Auburn (though it's so convenient that it's also Alyssa's initial) and a clover in the color of the Idaho state gem, coinciding with the location of this year's meet.  What an amazing gift to celebrate the achievement of qualifying for western nationals.

They actually forgot to bring Maison's photo to the restaurant, so they did this pose which is evidently a Maison pose?  Her absence was felt every minute.

At westerns, each session is comprised of only one age group.  All of the AGC girls were in different age groups so they competed in five different sessions.  Gracie competed first thing in the morning and then it was Alyssa's turn.

Here's the videographer ready to document Alyssa's skills:

All gymnasts wear the same attire at westerns.  Something about it adds to the big-time feel of this meet.  The regions are distinguished by the accent color and sequin numbers on their leos.

They also have competition numbers pinned on their backs.  That never happens at any other meet.

Each region is divided in half, flight A and flight B.  One half competes on one set of equipment while the other half warms up on another set.  Here are the flight A region 2 girls from Alyssa's session:

Left to right: Elizabeth (OR), Hannah (OR), Jordan (WA), Alyssa (WA) and CeCe (HI)

It wasn't her very best meet, but I think Alyssa handled the pressure of the competition beautifully.  It's hard to express how meaningful it was to watch her compete at this level.

Love this focused look as she prepares to compete bars:

Natalie got to be a runner which she thought was a blast.  She worked bars during Alyssa's session and floor during Ali's session.  She had so much fun running scores between the judges.

A few of Alyssa's supporters:

More fun action shots showing her front layout front layout combination:

And I thought this next shot was so fun with the official westerns sign in the background:

She made a couple of great saves on beam.  It's surprising she didn't come off, but she fought for it.  Here's her whole meet in one short video:

Only the top ten of the 48 girls place and Lys didn't come close to placing on anything, but each gymnast was called up and presented a certificate to celebrate the achievement of qualifying to compete at the national level.  Valeri Liukin presented the certificates.  (That's Nastia's dad and coach of multiple olympians.)

Alyssa was blessed to have many family members come to watch her compete.  They each made long drives to support her.  Here she is with Grandma and Grandpa Hatch and Maureen, but my parents also made the trip.

Once she was done competing, she had fun supporting Ali, Sam and Kayla in their meets.  The girls all did great!  Kayla ended up third in her age group which is really exceptional.

The region 2 girls exchanged little good luck gifts and all of Lys' teammates gave her a little something too.  She came away with so many fun things.

Jon designed the cutest shirts that we gave to the girls.  When our level 10's prepared for nationals the next week, we presented them with shirts as well.  

Team AGC--level 9 and 10 national qualifiers
Back row: Gracie, Shilese, Kayla, Alexis, Kendal, Ali and Haley
Front row: Maison, Sam and Alyssa

The back says this:  "My friends know me well...but my teammates have seen me with no make up, sweaty, bloody, chalky and on the verge of puking yet they never let me down or leave me side."

It really is a special experience belonging to a team.  It's heartwarming to see the way they love and support one another.  Competing at nationals together just deepened their bond.

It was simply a wonderful experience from start to finish.

Congrats on a great season, Lys!