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.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

State and Regionals

After wrapping up the regular meet season with a meet in Spokane, it was time for the Washington State meet.  It was here that Alyssa would try to advance to the Regionals competition, but for Natalie it would mark the end of her season--and quite possibly the end of her gymnastics career.

Both girls went into the meet having battled intense fears.  The sport of gymnastics is taxing on so many levels, but it's likely the mental battles that are the fiercest.  Natalie's fear of tumbling backwards was nothing new.  It's something she's struggled with off and on for quite some time.

For Alyssa, however, it came suddenly and unexpectedly.  As a level 7, Alyssa was a bars state champion.  In level 8, it was floor.  This last season, beam had been her event.  She'd just come off of a 9.55 routine in the last meet of the season.  But after trying to train through a bout of illness, she sustained a couple of scary crashes on her best event.  Self-doubt and painful memories of beam burns and bruises clouded her mind. For days she seemed stuck.  She couldn't seem to make her self do her acro series (back handspring layout) on beam.  

On the Sunday before her state meet, her heart was touched by this quote as it was shared in one of her lessons:
"In the strength of the Lord we can do and endure and overcome all things."--David A. Bednar

She printed the quote on a pieced of paper and posted it inside her gym locker.  She also decorated her school binder with pictures of her teammates and a Post-it on which she wrote, "I can and I will."

Beam was her first event.  It wasn't her best beam routine of the season, but it was still great and enough to earn her a bronze medal.

She placed 5th all-around with a level 9 personal best score of 37.0.

Alyssa and her teammates were level 9 state champions! Such a talented group right here:

Natalie competed the next day.  

She did well on three events, placing on all of them.  She didn't, however, compete floor.  The fear was just too much.  It was heartbreaking to witness.   But her vault was likely the best I've ever seen her do.  It earned her a bronze medal.

Her team was also the state championship team at level 6.

Her best gym buddy, Morgan, also succumbed to fear and only competed three events.  Walking hand in hand, they left a gymnastics meet together for the last time.  Morgan has moved on to cheerleading, and Natalie is currently on a break as she decides whether gymnastics is in her future.

Alyssa is adamant that gymnastics is definitely in her future and it was certainly in the immediate future as she moved on to Regionals (six states make up our region) a couple of weeks later.  

The theme was "I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar," which explains the jungle-theme decor.  It's not too often that you share the podium with a giant inflatable tiger!

Alyssa started the meet with a fall on floor.  But she came "roaring" back and ended up being regional beam champion!  Even with the fall, she did well and easily qualified for the Western National meet.

She and her favorite gym buddies got matching hoodies:

When all was said and done, Alyssa and Natalie came home from these meets with a combined total of 12 new medals.  Way to go girls!