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...

Friday, March 28, 2014

SoCal Fun!

With a successful gymnastics meet out of the way, it was time to have some California fun!  

First, we visited Sea World.  The shows are easily the best part of this theme park.  However, the last time we came to see Shamu, we severely underestimated the power of his tail.  He sprayed us so intensely that infant Caleb was drenched to the bone and our video camera ruined.  We didn't make the same mistake on our most recent visit.  We sat well above the splash zone, but still were close enough to enjoy the majesty of the killer whales.  Amazing!

The dolphin show was also spectacular!

And the sea lions show was clever, comical and highly entertaining.

We also enjoyed the penguin and shark exhibits.

There are lots of fun rides, too.  The sky ride gives a great 360 degree view from the sky.

The kids loved the new roller coaster, The Manta.  That's Natty in the back car with her hands in the air:

Journey to Atlantis is also really fun.  It comes with the potential of getting a little wet, though.  I'm OK with getting a little wet, but I really dislike getting soaked in my clothes.  Earlier in the day, against my better judgement, I rode Ship Wreck Rapids, a water ride, with the family and got repeated washed in giant waves of water.  Boo!  I never did totally dry out.  So when the rest of my family wanted to ride Journey to Atlantis one last time at the end of the day, I opted to sit out.  I couldn't stand the thought of getting any more wet.  

I wanted to catch a picture of them coming down drop at the end of the ride.  I missed their boat, but I did catch this spectacular San Diego sunset:

That evening, we made our way to Burbank.  When planning our vacation, we discovered that purchasing CityPasses was the most cost effective way to visit both Sea World and Disneyland.  Universal Studios was included in the pass so we decided to check it out since it was no extra cost to do so.

Natalie has an obsession with palm trees.  They looked especially pretty on this day.

Walking the red carpet:

Those are the Warner Brothers studios in the distance on the right side of this photo, taken between the upper and lower lots of the theme park:

Jurassic Park was a fun ride and just the right amount of wet.  Lots of the Universal Studios attractions involve darkness and/or 3D glasses, both of which are bothersome to Caleb.  So, he rode Jurassic Park over and over while we the rest of us explored those types of rides that he doesn't like.

The 3D glasses are only needed for a short portion of the studio tour, so Caleb came along and just covered his eyes for the 3D portion.  The girls rocked their glasses:

The 45-minute studio tour was my favorite part of Universal Studios.  We saw some fun movie sets that included the Bates Motel from "Psycho" and Whoville from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

The destruction that was staged for the film, "War of the Worlds" was interesting:

It was fun seeing what Universal Studios had to offer but we eventually just got too anxious for our favorite of all theme parks, so we left just after lunch for The Happiest Place on Earth.

Oh Disneyland, we love you!

This was the third Disney visit for Natty and the fourth for the big kids.  It's so interesting to me how different each visit had been as the kids get older.  One advantage of having older kids is that we can take advantage of single rider options.  Disneyland was super busy during our visit so it was nice to be able to ride single whenever possible and thus bypass lots of long lines.

The kids aren't much into characters anymore, but the girls did pose for this cute shot with Pluto:

One thing that hasn't changed is our favorite ride.  Well, for everyone except Caleb, that is.  We love, love, love Tower of Terror!  We rode it over and over again. 

Just look at our gleeful faces:

Toy Story Midway Mania is one of Caleb's very favorites.  He especially enjoys trying to beat his dad, but Dad always wins!

Splash Mountain is also a favorite for Caleb.  He would ride it 11 times in the three days we were there.
He actually enjoys getting wet and once came out absolutely soaked.  

Once when Lys got the "unlucky" front seat, she got soaked as well.  She wasn't as thrilled.

Star Tours is great fun and Alyssa always seems to be chosen as the spaceship's spy.

Natalie is partial to Autopia.  She's not quite tall enough to work the gas pedal, though.  So I push the gas and she loves to steer.  

We prefer the non-swinging gondola on Mickey's Fun Wheel:

Can I just say that when it comes to accommodating special diets, NO ONE does it better than Disney!  It's so wonderful to have restaurants bend over backwards to help my "special needs eater" (that's an inside joke) feel like a normal kid.  At any Disney eating establishment, if you mention a dietary need, they send a chef out to talk with you and often they will prepare something specifically designed just for you!  I'm telling you, it's amazing!

We decided to try the all-you-can-eat BBQ at the Big Thunder Ranch.  It was delicious and Caleb discovered that he loves ribs.  And the chef did just as I described above and came to our table to talk to Alyssa about her food.  The corn bread that was part of the BBQ was not gluten-free but they had GF rolls to substitute in its place.  She didn't have to go without anything that the rest of us were eating.

You know what else is really good at Disneyland?  Caramel apples!  Sure, they're expensive, but they are to-die-for!  I think we shared four of them in three days.  Their Mickey and Minnie designs are just too cute:

Even when you've outgrown autograph books and character visits, seeing Mickey in his movie barn at Toon Town is a must.

Mickey's house is so cute and riding the nearby Gadget Coaster is fun, too.

The new Cars Land at California Adventure is really cute too.  I love Disney's attention to details.  But the crowds for the signature ride, Radiator Springs Racers, are ridiculous.

We rode the Racers twice, both times riding single rider.  Even in the single rider line, we had to wait 30-45 minutes.  It really is a fun ride and I'm grateful we didn't have to wait in the two-hour stand-by line.

Selfies while we wait in line.

California Scream'n is a favorite for our entire family.  It was Alyssa's last wish as we were leaving the park at the end of our vacation.  She wanted to ride it one last time before we left.

Such a perfect place for family fun.

What a great California vacation!