Sunday, June 28, 2015


Truth be told, I think Natalie had a crush on her fourth grade teacher.  It was a positive year for her and she really enjoyed being in Mr. Richstad's class.

School was out at 10:40 am and by 11:30, Grandma had arrived to take Natalie and Emma to Great Wolf Lodge.  She was going to help with the Melody Lane Singers, who had a show planned at the lodge, and the girls got to tag along for a most perfect end-of-year celebration.

The next morning, I attended Alyssa's 8th grade celebration.  I've had a middle school student for the last six years, but with Alyssa promoting to high school, I will get a one year break.  

Is Alyssa that tiny, or is she standing next to a giant?

The students had to line up in alphabetical order with their first period class.  Each student was called up and shook hands with the teachers.  She said almost all of them mentioned encouragement in her gymnastics career in addition to their congratulations.

We got a picture with one of our favorites.  Mrs. Carnahan was Alyssa's (and Caleb's) social studies teacher and prepared her very well for our upcoming trip to Washington D.C.

And we also got a picture with Alyssa's favorite school buddies, Ana and Brianna:

I guess Lys really is that tiny.  But I swear the other kids are giants!

The ceremony ended with the principal officially declaring the students "freshmen."

And just like that,  I'm the mother of two high schoolers.

Heaven help me.


"Alyssa hurt her toe!" her teammates announced to me as soon as I entered the gym to pick her up from practice.  Her coach was helping her bandage up the bleeding toe that she had injured when she somehow punched a board with it curled under.  

We soaked and iced it, but when it still looked bad the next day and she was unable to bear any weight, we decided to pay our pediatrician a visit.

An x-ray showed a fracture and because of the all of the bleeding, the doctor deemed it an open fracture. So we were sent home with a prescription for antibiotics and a funny-looking shoe that Lys would have to wear for the next couple of weeks.

The next day, a squishy protrusion appeared on the ankle bone of Alyssa's injured foot.  It wasn't causing her any pain but it was unattractive and disturbing in both appearance and feel.  We didn't know what to call it, so we nicknamed it "Knobby."

On the left is Knobby and on the right is what a normal ankle bone should look like.

We went back to the pediatrician who decided this was beyond his expertise and suggested a visit to the podiatrist.  

Jon thought Knobby was due to the buckle of the shoe rubbing against Alyssa's ankle, so we taped it up trying to provide some cushion. (It had nothing to do with the buckle.)

The podiatrist seemed equally stumped as to what Knobby might be, but he suspected it was a ganglion cyst.  Because this was a very unusual place for a ganglion cyst, the doctor suggested an MRI.  So, the following day, we went to our fourth appointment in one week--curse you, Knobby!--to have an MRI verify that the fluid-filled sac was emanating from a tendon and it was indeed a ganglion cyst.  We decided to have the doctor aspirate the cyst even though he told us the success rate was low.

He numbed up Alyssa's leg and drained a fair amount of apple jelly-like fluid from Knobby.

The next morning Knobby looked like this:

Since the doctor explained that the next course of action would be to surgically remove Knobby, we were really hoping that it would not return.  But within 24 hours, Knobby looked like this:

If Alyssa wears a compression sock, Knobby's squish is gone and just looks like an enlarged ankle bone, but as soon as she moves around without the sock, Knobby fills right back up.

At our follow-up visit, the doctor said that as long as Knobby remains painless, we can leave it alone for the time being.  He has definitely overstayed his welcome and we'd really just rather Knobby leave already!  But for now we are putting surgery off and deciding on the "watch and wait" course of action.  

The toe, however, has healed and Alyssa is happy to once again be wearing two matching shoes!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Agony of Defeat

The Seahawks had a second Super Bowl victory sitting in the palm of their hand.  With less than a minute to play, they had three plays to gain just one yard to win the title.  They also have one of the league's best running backs so breaking that goal line seemed like all but a done deal.  But instead they threw the ball and we watched in disbelief as a repeat Super Bowl win slipped through our fingers.  It was a punch to the gut.  But the lingering misery of that loss was nothing compared to the pain of watching Alyssa experience her own personal agony of defeat.

How would it be if all of the Seahawks had won the Super Bowl except one player?  Only one player on the team lost and it was your kid.  I believe we know that feeling.

Of all the places the Western National Championships could be held, Spokane is not likely the most exciting.  But we were grateful to not have to fly anywhere and the girls can have fun anywhere.  The local mall hung a huge banner welcoming the gymnasts that would be coming from all states west of the Mississippi.

Lys had fun posing for pictures with her friends.

Jon and I designed the cutest shirts for Lys and her teammates.  On the front was a gymnastics wordle with each of the girls' names in it.  On the back we printed their nicknames.

Here are a few shots from the workout session that is held the day before competition starts.

That night, the girls were treated to dinner with their coaches.

It's tradition for the coaches to present the girls with a Pandora charm bracelet as a gift for qualifying to this level of competition.  Alyssa got her bracelet last year but added this year's charm, which was a silver apple.  Such an amazing gift!

Three of the girls competed on Friday and we were there to cheer them on since Alyssa and the remainder of her team didn't compete until Saturday.  They were absolutely amazing!  All three placed on multiple events and in the all-around.  While Alyssa was very happy for their success, she started to worry.  She didn't want to be the only one to not have a good meet. And though Lys is typically a steely competitor, the pressure got to her this time.

She started on beam, which has been her strength this season.  With her nerves unchecked, she fell on her acro series.  Then it was on to floor where she'd fallen at regionals.  Self-doubt led to a fall on that same pass she'd missed then.  She just sorta crumbled after that.  She was planning to do a new skill on bars but with her self-confidence in the gutter, it was impossible to pull it off successfully.

Meanwhile, the rest of her teammates were ripping it up.  One even went on to be a national champion in the all-around and on bars.  All placed well and on many of events.  All but Alyssa.  Her teammates earned the second most medals of any gym in the competition.  At the national level! That's how good they are and were that day.  All of the girls hit all of their routines.  All but Alyssa. All came away with giant medals.  All but Alyssa.  All finished with ear-to-ear smiles.  All but Alyssa.  Parents aren't allowed on the competition floor, but when she was finished, I called her over to the guard rail and reached over the bar to hold her sobbing little body in my arms.

She pulled herself together, as she always does, and was able to gracefully receive her certificate when her name was called.

The days that followed were difficult for all of us.  I have never seen Alyssa hurt that much.  The pain was real and it was deep.  She will have to wait 8 long months to redeem herself.  But thankfully, her determination is as deep as was her agony.  The best of athletes experience failure and rise up from it.  I've seen her do it before and she can do it again.

I'm proud to call you mine, Alyssa.  You make me proud in victory but even more so in moments of defeat.  I believe in you and what's better, I know you believe in you.  I look forward to what happens next.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Natalie Hits Double Digits

My poor, neglected youngest child never got a birthday party last year.  So it seems only fair that this year she got two.

Natalie and her gym sister, Ali, (who is on Alyssa's team) share a birthday.  Ali's mom planned to have several teammates, whom Natalie considers friends, surprise her at a restaurant for dinner on her birthday.  Since it's Natalie's birthday too, I invited the girls to come over to our house afterwards for cupcakes.

Natalie and Ali--birthday twins

Nat and Ali exchanged gifts.  Ali had so much fun shopping for Natalie.  She got her way too much, but Natalie was thrilled with the outfit she picked out for her.

After the candle was blown out, a celebratory conga line danced through the house with the birthday girl in the lead.

It was a great way to make Natalie feel special on her big day.

The next week, we had a real party with Nat's friends.  I just love parties.

Natalie had been wanting to have a birthday at the movies for quite some time.  The theater near our home no longer has party rooms, so we hosted lunch at our house and then went to the show.

Natalie wore the birthday outfit that Ali got her.  This girl is definitely not short on personality.

We had a great lunch of pizza, Italian sodas and chocolate cake.  It was so nice to be able to send Caleb to pick up the pizzas.  Having another driver can be so helpful!

After presents, the girls filled their treat bags at our candy bar before we headed off to the movies.

I had asked a friend to help me shuttle the girls to the theater where the girls would see the movie, "Home."  (Caleb still can't drive anyone but his siblings.) We got situated in our seats just as the previews were about to roll.  And they did indeed start rolling, but without sound.  What followed was an extremely annoying hour of technical difficulties.  In the end, we were given free movie tickets to use at a later date and had to be moved to another theater where we had to wait another thirty minutes for the show to finally start.  It was, however, a 3D showing of the movie, which the girls thought was great.

All's well that ends well, right?  The movie was cute and the girls had a good time.

Happy 10th Birthday, Natalie!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Easter Without Caleb

Immediately after school got out on the Friday before Easter, I dropped Caleb and his luggage off at the church.  Together with our youth leaders,  several of the priests and laurels from our ward were setting out on a trip to Utah for General Conference.  It was to be a very long but quick trip and because Caleb does not have a cell phone, I had no way whatsoever of reaching him the entire time he was gone.

It was our first Easter apart.  It was the first time I didn't have an Easter basket set out for him.  He was absent from our backyard hunt and our Easter dinner table.  It was hard.  I missed him dearly. And since I had no way of communicating with him, I had the thought, "this is what it will be like when he goes on a mission."

Caleb, however, was having the time of his life.

They made it to SLC on Saturday afternoon.  Caleb attended the afternoon session at the tabernacle. Later they went to see the Christus.

That evening, Caleb got to attend Priesthood session in the conference center.

He tried to blame me for the absence of his belt from his luggage, but since Caleb did all of his own packing, I refuse to accept any guilt.

One thoughtful mom made Easter treats for the all of the youth.  I was not that mom.  The group enjoyed their treats while watching the Sunday morning session in one of their host family's home:

The youth later attended the Sunday afternoon session at the conference center.  He did get to meet up with his BFF's--who now live in Utah--for just a couple of minutes before the session started.

When this picture was texted to me by Landon and Mason's mom I got all teary-eyed:

While Caleb was away, we tried our best to carry on with Easter as usual.  We would all admit that it just wasn't the same, though.

On Monday, after a tour of the church welfare facility, the group started on their way home.  On the way to Boise, where they would stop for the night, they visited the SLC, Bountiful, Odgen, Brigham City and Boise temples.

They made it the rest of the way home on Tuesday, with a stop at the Columbia River temple.  My parents are temple workers on Tuesdays and just happened to pull into the parking lot just as Caleb's group was preparing to leave.  It was so fun for Caleb to get to see them, evening if only for a minute.

I met him back at the church parking lot later that afternoon.  I could scarcely wait for him to get out of the car before wrapping my arms around his neck.  It felt good to have him home.  He's gone away before, but I do believe this was our first holiday apart.  We missed him, but I'm so glad he got such a wonderful opportunity.