Friday, March 27, 2015

Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm has big rides.  Lots and lots of them.

We had a blast riding every single one of them with our friends, the Turners.

I'm usually game for just about any coaster, but I have to admit, I had to be coaxed onto this one:

I asked the girls to pose for a picture which led to a slew of photo ops throughout the day.

For every thrill ride at this amusement park, there is an equal number of creepy statues.  The girls felt the need to pay a visit to each one.

My only disappointment of the day was that Jon gave into Natalie's intense desire to play arcade games.  Twice.  The thing about it is, she wins every time!  I don't want any more cheaply made stuffed animals in my house!

Especially enormous Clifford-like red dogs!  Jon strapped him onto his backpack and carried him around the park like this:

After a fun day of fun and games, it was time to return home.  Clifford came on the airplane with Jon, too.

Besides going home with that dumb dog, Knott's Berry Farm provided a delightful way to end a great weekend in California.

We would spend four whole days at home before loading our bags for our next trip...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Heart of a Champion

"Never underestimate the heart of a champion." --Rudy Tomjanovich

"The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles." --Garth Stein

We'd only been home from Arizona for one week.  The suitcase had scarcely been unpacked before it was time to load it back up for the Heart of a Champion Invitational in Pasadena, California.

Caleb didn't come along on this trip, but he too had a plane to catch.  He flew to Tri-Cities to spend a couple of days with his cousins.  I really can't think of any place in the world he'd rather be.  Plus, his trip included a BYU basketball game in Portland where he got to witness Tyler Haws become BYU's all-time leading scorer and a Cougar win.  He had the time of his life, I tell you.

We landed in Burbank on a Thursday evening and decided to make Hollywood our dinner stop.  We found a California Pizza Kitchen and then wandered the area for a bit.

We ran into one of Alyssa's teammates on the Walk of Stars.

Natalie didn't compete until later in the evening the next day, so we spent our morning at Santa Monica Pier.

We rode a few rides and Jon set new high records on a couple Ms. Pac-Man machines.  Oh and Natalie used her uncanny winning-stuffed-animals-at arcade-games ability to bring home two new friends.

Then it was time for Natalie to compete.  The doctor cleared her to remove her splint just two days prior to our departure.  She was able to compete vault and beam.  

She did respectably and earned two new heart-shaped medals for her 11th place finish on both events.

We slept in the next morning and took it nice and easy while waiting for Alyssa's meet to start that evening.  We ate lunch with teammates and Jon and I visited the Rose Bowl.  Being the avid sports fans that we are, when we travel, we really enjoy seeing local sporting venues--especially those with a storied history like this one:

I was a bundle of nerves when it was finally time for Alyssa to compete.  She was just coming off of a very disappointing competition in Arizona and had only had a few days of training before arriving at this meet.  Our level nines and tens were scheduled to compete at the same time but on opposite sides of the facility. To make matters worse, the meet directors had also split our large level nine team into two different competing groups, one starting on bars while the other started on floor.   This spread our coaches very thin and left the girls wondering if their usual event coaches would even be available when it was their turn to present their skills to the judges.

As if that wasn't enough, while our gymnasts were warming up for competition, our gym owner called all of the parents outside and explained that in the previous sessions, he'd felt there had been gross injustices in scoring.  He'd filed a complaint with the meet referee and with the support of his staff who agreed with this sentiments, made it very clear that if things did not improve in this session, he was going to pull our girls out of the meet in protest.

I felt physically ill.

The girls, however, know just how to get down to business, no matter what obstacles are in their path. They were all smiles as they prepared for team introductions:

This girl keeps me sane:

It's either my love for her or my nerves that had me nearly squeezing her guts out.  Or both.

Though this invitational's name refers to proceeds being donated to a foundation that services kids with heart disease, it seemed so fitting that it was here that Alyssa would come roaring back from her shortcomings in Arizona to prove that she indeed has the heart of a champion inside of her.

Her first event was bars.  The very place she'd started and crashed in Arizona.

Not today!  She hit her routine and scored a 9.225 and placed third.

Then it was on to beam.  She nailed that too--9.45, third place.

After every event I worried that at any moment the coach would pull the girls.  Alyssa was doing so well, I desperately wanted her to be able to finish.

She did a great floor routine--9.35, 2nd place.

She even placed on vault--8.875, 9th place.

All of that adds up to a level nine personal best all-around of 36.9!  She got second place by one tenth!  One tenth!

She helped lead her team to a second place finish.

They presented her with the team trophy for her performance, as well as for determination to battle back from adversity.

Way to go, Lys!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Some Serious Mid-Winter Fun

So maybe the gymnastics portion of our Arizona trip wasn't quite as successful as we'd hoped, but the rest of the trip was dreamy.  And by dreamy I mean crazy-fun!  

It's hard to stay too disappointed when you've got views like this:

This was the third year in a row that the girls competed in Arizona.  Being able to visit our dear friends, the Biddulph's, is without question the best part about this meet's location.  And since the meet coincided with mid-winter break, we got to stay in the sun for a few extra days.  

We couldn't have better accommodations if we stayed at a 5-star resort.  I mean, really, a game room with Ms. PacMan?  What more could Jon wish for?

And Caleb declared their foosball table the nicest one he'd ever seen.  We had a movie night one night and it looked mighty impressive on their massive movie screen.  

Their whole ginormous house looks like something out of a magazine.  Caleb had his own room with a comfy queen bed and a ceiling fan that he loved to turn on the highest setting.  The girls each had nightly sleepovers in Brinkley's and Kennedy's rooms, which was ridiculously fun for them.

Jon and I stayed in their beautiful casita.  It's across the courtyard from their front door.

It includes a full kitchen, living area and everything you could possibly desire for a comfortable stay.

The backyard is stunningly gorgeous!  Caleb couldn't get enough of their basketball court.

The girls enjoyed every moment they had together.  They took lots of selfies:

One night, Jon and Brian took the big kids to the Gilbert Temple.  They had a great time and Jon was really impressed with the temple's efficiency.

Natalie and Kennedy took great care in preparing a dinner theater for us one night.  They were so thoughtful in their decorations and entertainment preparations.

Their dances were adorable.

One portion of their show encouraged audience participation.  Brian and Jon's moves left me in a fit of laughter with tears streaming down my cheeks.

 Madi and Caleb even got in on the action.  Such a fun, fun night.

One afternoon, we went to ASU to watch a gymnastics practice with some of Alyssa's teammates.

These are my gym-mom besties.  I really love them:

And their daughters, Alyssa's teammates, are her dearest friends.  They had a blast swimming together once their meet was over.

We spent President's Day driving/riding ATVs in the desert.  To say it was fun is a gross understatement.  It was daring, dirty, high-flying adventure.  This sort of activity epitomizes what it's like to spend time with our friends, the Biddulph's.  

We each had to wear massive helmets and goggles:

Look how huge those helmets look on those tiny bodies!

Kennedy and Natalie rode in the back of the ATV driven by Brian and Madi.  Jon and Caleb shared a two-seater.  Caleb loved see how fast he could make his go.

Tracy and I took turns driving the yellow one, with Alyssa and Brinkley as our passengers.

Brian got a little crazy and decided to do some donuts in the sand.  It didn't take long to roll his ATV. Natalie thought that was a total blast!

We took a break after a couple of hours to eat some Subway sandwiches mixed with just a little bit of dirt.  The weather could not have been more perfect.

The girls' hair was so wind-blown that they each wanted their hair braided before we headed back out for more racing through the desert.

Have a peek at this extreme fun:

We each rated this activity a 10 out of 10.  It really was an epic day!

For our last hurrah in Arizona, we visited Top Golf.  It's a three-story, golfing-meets-bowling kind of thing.  Each player takes turn hitting balls and scoring points depending on which target your ball lands in.  

We are all really bad golfers.  Except for Dad, he's quite good.

Natalie favorite thing were the doughnut holes that came with syringes of chocolate and bavarian creme, used to inject the filling into the middle.  Yum!

Can you believe all that fun?  It's always hard to go back to reality.  But back home we did go, though only for a week.  Pasadena and Alyssa's big comeback were awaiting us.