Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

I woke to bright sunshine streaming through my window.  It was the perfect way to welcome Easter.  

When the kids finally rolled out of bed about an hour later, we had a little egg hunt in the backyard.  Jon decided to have them search one at a time for ten second intervals.  When the timer went off, the had to stop until their turn came around again.  It was great fun!

Away Natty speeds in a blur:

Then Lys and her untamed locks:

And finally Caleb.  Just look at that bed-head running, two eggs in each hand:

When all the eggs had been collected, they took them inside to inspect their contents.

Caleb came away with $10!

They cleaned up nicely for church.  A Handsome crew, though one among them desperately needs a haircut.  Not naming any names.

Beautiful girls in new Easter dresses:

Jon says this shot typifies them perfectly:

Alyssa deviled the eggs while Nat made Happy Easter cards for the dinner plates.  Then we stuffed our bellies with delicious food, discussing why Easter is important to us between bites.  We shared lessons learned from church meetings and blessings we enjoy because of Him.  What a splendid day.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Meet Me in Montana

What are the chances?  An eventful regional championship meet in Dad's small hometown of Helena, Montana?  We couldn't believe it either.  

The Independent Record, Helena's newspaper, reported it as the largest meet in Montana history.  And the venue (Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds) was only about a mile from Dad's childhood home, the very place where our family spends Thanksgiving every year.  Any regional championship is a big deal, but for us, this meet was an exciting homecoming.  Three of Jon's sisters traveled home to support Alyssa, and my parents also made the trek to watch her compete.

This meet conveniently fell during our spring break and we arrived in Helena on Wednesday evening.  Thursday morning, before a scheduled team workout at the meet venue, the girls went for a ride at the Great Northern carousel.  

They were the only ones there so each of them snatched the brass ring, which means a free ride.

But they would have to hold on to that free ride for later because Lys had to get to workout.  

Most teams wear matching workout leos for their regional training session.  It's tradition for our gym to give the girls a new leo just for this occasion.  (Coach Lauren made them matching bows, too.) Here are the AGC level 8-10s in their new Regionals workout leotards, getting ready for their training session:

Some fun action shots:

After workout, the girls wanted to use their free carousel rides, so Lys invited several teammates to go along.  We visit this Helena feature every time we come to town.  It was almost surreal to have so many friends from home there.  

The girls then got ready for our team dinner.  Since we were headed to Jon's stomping grounds, I thought it would be fun to arrange a dinner for Alyssa's level 9 team.  A couple of weeks before the meet, I started calling restaurants in the area.  The gathering slowly evolved and I eventually found myself planning a dinner to include all the gymnasts, some parents and coaches, too.  

I knew I wanted a location that was uniquely Helena and I happened upon Care Taker's Cabin.

The second oldest building in Helena, it was an historic cabin that has been turned into an intimate dining experience.  The restaurant holds a maximum of 35 people so our team easily filled the place.  The food was great and it turned out to be the most perfect private event.  The girls had a blast.

Team AGC--Levels 8-10
Back row from left: Nikki, Tenley, Kendal, Beth Ashley, Alexis, Savannah, Ali and Kayla
Front row from left: Shilese, Emily, Gracie, Sam, Maison, Emily, Alyssa and Karlei  
Not pictured: Haley

I got little notebooks for each of the girls to write good luck notes to each other.

The set-up could not have been more perfect.  The girls had this little room of the cabin all to themselves and the adults had a small room just through that doorway on the left:

On Friday morning, the competitions began.  First up was the level 8 team competition.  At level 8 only, the top eight scorers from each of the six states representing region 2 come together for a fun and rather raucous showdown.  Two level 8's from AGC were on Team Washington.  As spectators, we were encouraged to wear Seahawks gear.

The gymnasts wore the most adorable Seahawks-inspired leos and carried Seahawks logos during their march-in.  The meet is run in college format, which means scores are a bit inflated.  But both AGC girls did really well and little Karlei even earned a 10.0 on beam and floor.  She was amazing!!

Team Washington won handily and then it was time for the serious competitions to start.  After a quick bite at Staggering Ox, the girls had fun decorating cars to show team pride.

Then we went back to the meet venue to cheer on our level 10's.  All the while, Natalie and Caleb were playing with their Canadian cousins who had come to visit and watch Lys compete for the very first time.  My kids adore their cousins and they were the perfect distraction from so much gymnastics.

Alyssa competed on Saturday.  She's never entirely forthright with her emotions so it was impossible to tell how she was feeling as her competition was getting ready to begin.  If she was the slightest bit nervous, her typical cover-up masked it perfectly.  I, on the other hand, was nearly physically ill.  

She had a large group of supporters in the stands and I hoped she'd be able to perform her very best.  Also, I desperately hoped she would be able to qualify for her very first Western Championships--which is the next and final step in a season for a level 9 gymnast.

Lys got to hold the Washington banner for march-in:

She had a great meet!  She went 4/4, hitting all her routines.  I love watching her do her thing.

Her all-around score--a season high--and 5th place all-around finish easily qualified her for Westerns.  There she will meet the top level 9 gymnasts from the Western side of the United States.  She got fitted for a Region 2 leotard and warm-ups that she will wear for the competition.  She also received a new backpack, t-shirt, shorts and some headbands.  Exciting stuff!

Helena holds lots of memories for our family.  Now we've added a few gymnastics ones to the mix.  This will likely be the only time in her gymnastics career that she will compete in Montana.  How special that it was in Dad's hometown!

Congratulations, Lys!  We're unbelievably proud of you!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Natalie's 9th Birthday!

Sunday birthdays can be a bit of a bummer.  A Sunday birthday that also happens to be Fast Sunday is perhaps a slightly bigger bummer.  And a Fast Sunday birthday that also falls in the middle of a very busy meet season might be the biggest bummer yet.  She's still hoping for a party.

Natalie's birthday weekend started with her sectionals meet on Saturday.  It is at this meet that she qualifies for State.  She did great, earning her highest all-around ever!  

I get a teensy teary when I watch this and think about all she's overcome to get to this point.  Many may disagree with the amount of time our girls spend doing gymnastics, but her heart wanted to be there and her successful battle and ultimate triumph over fear is a powerful life lesson that I believe will serve her well in many aspects of her life.  I don't know how long her gymnastics career will be, but I'm so proud of her for pushing past this obstacle.

She placed fourth all-around and very easily qualified for the state meet.

Best gym buddy, Morgan, is just another reason to love this sport:

We went out to lunch with gym friends after her meet and then we rushed off to the first ever General Women's Conference.  I loved the meeting and loved being able to go with both of my girls.

Fast Sunday meant no big birthday breakfast, but Natalie anxiously opened a few presents as soon as she woke up.

She'd been begging for combat boots, so she was thrilled to get those from Mom and Dad.  She got money from Grandma and Grandpa Hatch and a new iPod from Grandma and Grandpa Seely.  Her gym sister, Maison, gave her some cute gymnastics pajamas. 

Natalie chose to have a chocolate fountain for her birthday treat.  No birthday would feel right without Emma, so the McInelly family came over to help us drench ice cream balls, berries, cream puffs and krispie treats in the luscious river of milky chocolate.

Mmm, mmm, mmm!!

There are simply no words to properly express how much I adore this baby of mine.  She's growing up so fast and I love her more and more every day.

Happy birthday, Natty!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

State Meet

It all comes down to this.

Any meet carries a certain amount of pressure, but it's the state meet that determines whether you advance in the postseason and decides your team's status against the other competitors in the state.

We knew Team AGC Level 9s had a great shot at winning.  Jon put together this fun movie trailer as a motivator:

And you know what?  They did it!  They became the state championship team, winning by more than 1.5 points.  That's a lot in gymnastics.

Front Row: Alyssa, Samantha, Maison (who wasn't able to compete due to injury) and Gracie
Back Row: Ali, Kayla and Julia

A team score is determined by using the top three scores of each event.  Alyssa contributed to her winning team with her bars and floor scores.

In her age group, she tied for 2nd on bars, placed 5th on floor and 6th all-around.  Here she is with her silver medal:

Here's that bar routine:

And floor:

Once the level 9 session was over, it was time to relax and cheer on our level 10s.

Our level tens were amazing and they also pulled out a state championship win.  Here's a fun video our gym put together of level 9/10 highlights:


I know winning isn't everything, but it sure is fun being on a state championship team two years in a row!

After each meet, the girls have a brief team meeting and the coaches choose one athlete to take the trophy home.  That gymnast then brings it to the gym where it is displayed for the rest of the season. Being chosen to take the trophy home (somewhat like earning MVP) is a special honor for the girls.  After the state meet, the coaches decided they couldn't choose just one athlete to take the trophy, so it was decided that each girl would take the trophy home for a day. It was determined that they would take it home in height order, so since Alyssa in the shortest, she brought the team trophy.

Way to go, Team AGC!

Now it's on to regionals...