Thursday, January 31, 2013

Deep In the Heart of Texas

Texas was good to us.  I was impressed with the cleanliness and charm of downtown Fort Worth with its landscaped sidewalks complete with Texas star adornments.

Our modern hotel--located directly across the street from the convention center where Alyssa competed--was absolutely beautiful with a perfect hint of rustic Texas cowboy.

Alyssa loved surrounding herself with down pillows on her very own "big" bed.  She more than once remarked how she would miss that bed, as well as the spacious shower with oversized shower head.

She also got room service one morning.  I think she was more taken by the experience of having someone deliver a meal to her door than the actual taste of the food.  She also thought the mini ketchup and Tabasco bottles were pretty great too.  She brought the ketchup home for Caleb as a souvenir.

We opted out of Texas BBQ but instead indulged in a daily dose of Tex-Mex.  It just may be my definition of heaven.  And you know what's great about it?  Alyssa's favorite meal of beans and corn tortillas never cost us more than $1.62.  Once it was only $1.25!

On Sunday we went to church--a Spanish ward.  Jon and I thought that was fun, Alyssa not so much.
Church was only a few blocks away from TCU so we decided to go look around campus.

TCU has had a bit of a rivalry with BYU so Caleb is not a fan.  We took these thumbs-down pictures for him:

But truth be told, I don't have anything against TCU and I really enjoyed peeking into their beautiful football facilities.

Next, we visited the Fort Worth Stock Yards for our most authentic Texas experience.  So cool!

Not often do you see a long horn right in the middle of the street.  Well, unless you're in Texas, I guess.

They also have their own version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

Such a fun little shopping mall at the Stockyards:

When in Texas, you must wear a cowboy hat, right?

The Candy Barrel was the favorite shop.  Lys loaded up on goodies.

We ran into a few of her teammates as we were waiting for the daily cattle drive:

Just look at those horns!

Then it was off to the livery to ride a horse.

The handler was busy roping a steer when we arrived.

Such a fun day.  Such a neat place to visit.

On our last day in Texas, we decided to see what Dallas had to offer.  Pictures can't begin to capture the size of the Cowboys stadium.  Mammoth!

Even their fan gear is oversized:

The Rangers park is really nice, too:

We were most interested in the JFK sites.

The monument below was actually located right next to the convention center where Alyssa's meet was held in Fort Worth.  The morning of his assassination, JFK gave a speech in this location before going to Dallas for that fateful motorcade through town.

The building on the left was once the Texas School Book Depository.  It was from the sixth floor window on the far right where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the fatal shot.

JFK's limousine turned right at this intersection into what is known as Dealey Plaza.  It is now a national historic landmark.

The plaza has this display to show the route the motorcade took:

This is the infamous grassy knoll:

X's in the middle of the street mark the location where the president was hit.

A few blocks away is the Dallas memorial to JFK.  It's supposed to be an empty room symbolizing that his remains are located elsewhere but my immediate reaction was, "This is it?" It just seemed like it needed something more.  Here's a view from the inside of the "room":

An outside view of the memorial:

The Old Red Courthouse where Jack Ruby stood trial for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald:

We purchased a short book called, "Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark" and Jon and I poured over its information.  Fascinating.  So many unanswered questions surround this tragic moment in our country's history.

Meanwhile, back at the, densely populated suburban neighborhood, Grandma was tending to the needs of Natalie and Caleb.  And let me tell you, her job was NOT easy!  We left for Texas right smack in the middle of Caleb's finals.  School is always stressful for Caleb but being finals week meant Grandma had to step in at the most stressful time of the entire school semester.  One of Caleb's classes had four finals.  Four finals for one class!  There were computer glitches with one and misunderstandings about when Caleb could complete some of the others.  I was in Texas trying to sort things out through email with the teacher.  He had to petition the district to reopen a final that had been closed and blah, blah, blah...the details are too stressful to even try to recount.  In addition to tending to all of that mess, Grandma had to help Caleb complete a ridiculous 220 question online final and help him study for a difficult science final, too.  Then on Friday Natalie learned she would be the next week's VIP and she had to help her complete a poster which included photographs to take to school on Monday.  See what I mean?  Stressful!

At one point in Alyssa's meet on Friday, I was overcome with nerves for her and worry for Caleb and Jon looked at me and asked, "Do you need a crazy pill?"  If he'd had such a thing, I'm sure I would've taken it!

Thank goodness for all of Grandma's help.  It all got done in the end.  Alyssa had her best meet ever, we got to see lots of new things and we left Texas with wonderful memories.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gymnastics--Morning, Noon and Night

Most people think we're crazy.  Heck, we even think we're crazy.  But I'm always amused by the look on peoples faces when they hear how many hours our daughters spend in the gym every week.  I am often asked about Alyssa's goals and expectations for her gymnastics future.  "Could she go to the Olympics someday?" is a question I'm frequently asked.  That's when I give my explanation about the odds of becoming an Olympic gymnast.  "Only 5 girls every four years achieve that dream," I usually say.  And those five girls have to be able to avoid injury, be of optimum age during the Olympic year (16), and most importantly, be insanely talented at a ridiculously young age.  So the answer to that question is simple: "No, she is not Olympic bound."

"What about college?  Could she get a scholarship?"  Well yes, she is on track for that possibility, given her age and current gymnastic level, but hers is a sport with so many variables.  Injury, burn out and the difficulty of skills yet to be acquired are variables that make it impossible to predict if Alyssa will become a collegiate athlete some day.  So while it would be wonderful were it to occur, we don't allow ourselves to look too far down that road.

So why do we spend an untold amount of time and money on gymnastics?  First and foremost, Alyssa has a deep love for what she does.  She wouldn't devote 22.5 hours to training every week if she didn't love it.  Second, the lessons learned from goal setting, time management, mental toughness, overcoming weaknesses, development of physical fitness and belonging to a team are skills she will carry with her for the rest of her life, regardless of how long her gymnastics career lasts.  And finally, we do it for the memories like those created on our trip to Texas.

Not only was she able to reap the fruit of her labors by having a successful competition, but she was able to spend time with teammates and was spoiled with Mom and Dad's undivided attention.  These are memories she'll have forever.  Opportunities like this are reason enough to be involved in something such as this, demanding as it is.

Alyssa, Gabby and Maddi--level 8 teammates

Alyssa competed on Friday and on Saturday morning we were back at the convention center to watch her level 10 teammates and later the level 9's.  It's fun to cheer them on while imagining if Alyssa might one day perform their big skills.  

After a quick bite to eat, we settled in for the NCAA meet between Georgia (#8), LSU (#6), Oklahoma (#2), Oregon State (#14) and Washington.  So fun and exciting!

Alyssa with some level 7 teammates; Ariana, Hailey and Emily.

While in the stands we spotted six-time world medalist, Rebecca Bross.  

Lys didn't have paper for an autograph so she asked Rebecca to sign her arm instead.  The ink is still there even after swimming in the hotel pool and many showers.

The Oklahoma Sooners ended up taking home the win.  Guess that's why they are the # 2 team in the nation.

The final event of our gymnastics-filled day was a gymnast party.  Alyssa had a blast with her friends but I thought it was much too unorganized to be deemed a success.

McKayla Maroney was at the party and Alyssa was lucky enough to meet her.

Many of her teammates were not so lucky.  After some frustrations related to the aforementioned disorganization, McKayla unexpectedly left at the exact moment that most of Alyssa's teammates reached the front of the 2-hour long line.  I had them pose in front of her sign and show their best impression of McKayla's famous "not impressed" face.

Yeah, we were not impressed with her disappearing act.

Dinner was supposed to be included but all of the food was gone when I got there and I wasn't even late.  I wasn't impressed with that, either.

But Alyssa loved the candy bar.

And the rock climbing, bounce houses, mini carnival rides and mechanical bull.

The girls posed for some fun pictures in front of the green screen.  And I had to get a shot of Maison and Alyssa together. They look so much alike when they're out on the competition floor, I sometimes can't tell them apart.

The DJ played music and kept the dance party going late into the night.  Somewhere around midnight, Lys and I finally crossed the street to our hotel room and fell into bed.  

So many memories.  So much fun.  What a long and exhausting but wonderful day of gymnastics!