Saturday, November 15, 2014

Living the gymnastics life

Brandon's life revolves around gymnastics. Workout is every single day but Sunday, for 4 hours each day, with an extra two hours on Saturday for a private lesson...which equals to a grand total of 26 hours weekly. He has one and a half hours home in between school and gym, and then doesn't arrive back home again till 9:45 that evening. Obviously the kid is committed.

So this brings up a few different thoughts.
*Any time we want to do anything as a family, short of Saturday nights (his workout is in the morning) or Sundays after church, he has to miss gym. And we can't make it up because he is already working out the full amount of days and hours they allow. Brandon doesn't like to miss gym. Which means we have precious little family time. But with three teenagers, maybe that's just a given.

*People ask if maybe all this workout time is doing Brandon a disservice. How does he get his homework done? When does he get to hang out with his friends and just be a kid? These are things I sometimes worry about myself. He informs me that though he has plenty of friends in his classes and kids to eat lunch with, his best friends are his teammates. When he's at the gym, he's hanging with his buddies. And because he's not interested in climbing the social ladder at school or cares even remotely about what others think of him, he tends to not use his time in class chatting with his seat neighbors overly much which leaves him plenty of time to focus hard on getting his work done in class before it becomes homework. At least that's the conclusion I've come to. And seeing as the kid has a 3.7 GPA, clearly he's staying on top of things.

*I do A LOT of driving. I drive Brandon to Bountiful every day, Monday through Friday around 4:30 PM. On Saturday mornings if I can get him to Fruit Heights by 7:30 AM, his coach will drive him the rest of the way to the gym. Two days a week I have a carpool that brings Brandon home in the evenings...but the other four days, I'm back in the car at 9:00 PM (or 3:00 on Saturdays). I'm not going to lie...driving back and forth that much gets really old. I hear of other parents who complain about having to drive their kid to some sort of sport or extracurricular activity on the other side of town 2-3x a week with no carpool and what a burden it is, looking for sympathy. I just want to laugh at them. But then, Brandon has teammates who come to gym just as frequently as he does but who live even further away. Regardless, its a sacrifice. For our whole family, really. And sometimes I have to remind Brandon of that fact when he starts getting testy with me when I'm running late. There are times I have to take Brandon to gym extra early so I can get back (fighting rush hour traffic at that time of day, unfortunately) to get Lilian to piano lessons or run Julianne somewhere. Sometimes I have to yank Lilian out of playtime with friends or watching a TV show here at home to make the drive with us solely because no one else will be home to babysit while I make the 40 minute roundtrip drive. And that sometimes feels really unfair to her.
But despite all of this, gymnastics is Brandon's world. He eats, sleeps and breathes gymnastics. And Bryan and I (and to a slightly less extent, his sisters) facilitate this because we agree that gymnastics has taught Brandon so many important things and has been so wonderful for his development. Beyond the skills learned on floor, pommel, rings, high bar, vault and parallel bars...Brandon is learning about endurance, health, unity, respect, determination, healthy competition, and hard work. His coaches and teammates come from all sorts of different backgrounds, many of whom do not share the same beliefs. He is learning that those who believe and act differently than he does are still good people. He's learning exactly what he stands for and to push those roots down deep into the ground so as to be able to hold his own and not be swayed even when he is faced with ideas and actions that are perhaps contrary to how he lives his life, what he believes. And these other teammates love and respect Brandon for what he stands for, even though it sometimes differs with their own view on life.
Brandon will be competing as a level 9 this year. Tough stuff. He works very hard. This is more than just a fun extracurricular activity to him. Gymnastics is intense and time consuming...and there is no off season. But he continues on because its an integral part of who he is. He loves it. And unless he has a major shift of attitude about the sport, or gets injured (knock on wood) gymnastics will likely be what takes him to college. Unfortunately for me as his mother, there are no mens gymnastics teams in any Utah colleges which means a gymnastics scholarship will take him to an out of state school. (Whimper.)
Though gymnastics workouts continue year round, meet season is during the winter. January and February see most weekends either spending the whole Saturday at a "local" meet (usually down in Utah County so still a bit of a long drive for us) or traveling to an out of state meet. The state meet is in March, Regionals in April and Nationals in May. This past meet season Brandon competed as a level 8. He skipped level 7 entirely so it was quite a jump physically and mentally as he wrapped his brain around the intensity of his first year as an "optional." (Making up his own routines from a list of accepted skills rather than competing with a set routine.)  We traveled to meets in Las Vegas, Houston and Long Beach. Regionals was here in Utah, thankfully. It was a tough meet season, but an extremely instructive one...and overall, a really great one.

 Las Vegas meets are fun because not only do you get play on the Strip....

....but also meet some of your gymnastic heroes/Olympians. These guys are amazing to watch, but are also great about sharing encouragement with their young gymnast fans. Jake Dalton thought it was especially cool that Brandon was wearing a shirt with his face on the front....
(Jake Dalton, Danell Leyva, John Orozco, and Chris Brooks.)

And then to cap off the weekend, Hade and I dragged the boys away from watching even more gymnastics for a quick visit to the Hoover Dam before starting the long drive home. It was fascinating!

In less than two months Brandon's level 9 meet season will begin. Among the in-state meets we'll also be traveling to Las Vegas, Long Beach and Dallas. Regionals and Nationals may play into the travel schedule as well if qualifying scores are reached. I'm looking forward to watching my boy do what he loves!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Halloween 2014

I didn't used to love Halloween. When I was a kid, of course I did. Because what kid doesn't love playing dress up and getting free candy? (I especially have fond memories of the Halloween costume parade at school. Neither of the two elementary schools that my kids have attended have allowed costumes on Halloween. It makes me sad for them.)
But when I hit the ripe old age of you're-too-old-to-trick-or-treat, Halloween became a lot less appealing. When you are a teenager Halloween is all about haunted houses and scary movies with your friends. And though hanging out with friends was desirable, the spooky activities were less so.

So it was only when I had kids of my own did the appeal return. Turns out that dressing up my littles in Halloween costumes was equal to the fun of dressing up myself when I was a kid. That Halloween was back!

Strangely enough, the magic has only grown as the kids have...despite three of them being full-fledged you're-too-old-to-trick-or-treat teenagers. And that has everything to do with the neighborhood that we live in. The whole place turns into a street carnival...haunted houses, themed houses (Lord of the Rings this year), houses with bonfires and handing out hot chocolate, over the top spooky decorations, etc.  It doesn't matter if you are 4-years old or 18, you are welcome to trick-or-treat here. Even the adults are out in force, and not just to shepherd around younglings. They want to be a part of the revelry too....often in costumes of their own.

So without further ado...

The title on the costume package said "Arctic Princess." The marketers ain't fooling nobody...she's an Eskimo. And happy to be so.

Brandon came home from his gymnastics workout with two teammate buddies in tow...

Julianne's big Halloween debut was a week ago at the high school Halloween Dance where she and her date Jackson, dressed up as a little old couple. (More pics coming soon...) On the actual night, she rummaged through the costume box and came up with the makings for Little Bo Peep so she could go to a "costumes required!" Halloween party at a friend's house.

Rebekah stayed in Logan for Halloween weekend and sent home this pictures among stories of a basketball game/Halloween party, an Institute Halloween dance, a themed dinner with the guys that live across the hall and then games till all hours of the night.

One of my very favorite Halloween traditions states that Heather and her clan join us for all the spooky neighborhood Halloween fun...this being our fourth year. And within that tradition, a BFF picture on the front porch.
Heather claims she was not going to dress up but at the last minute her daughter Morgan made her up into an "evil enchantress." Which I thought went well with my "Maleficent." Can I just say I'm glad I don't have horns in real life? Cause those things just get in the way. Wings too.

Heather convinced me to go through Shadows of Fear, the haunted house in the neighborhood that raises money for charity. In its third year, it only gets more popular each Halloween. So far, though I've enjoyed the atmosphere of it all, I haven't ever had the guts to go through. But I was informed that if we had a "princess guide" with a super, special glowing wand, we could go through the haunted house in a less scary, kid version tour where the creepy monsters don't jump out at fact, many of them will give you high fives and comment on the awesomeness of your Maleficent horns. That being said, the place still scared the crap out of me. Lilian too. That is one seriously impressive haunted house! My favorite part? When the creepy monsters took a break from scaring people and came out front to do the "Thriller" dance in the street. It's not Halloween without Michael Jackson's "Thriller"...just saying.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Geriatric Halloween

Just like Rebekah during her junior year, Julianne and her friends decided to make the girls choice Halloween Dance a wardie adventure. So Julianne, along with her "core four" buddies Taylor, Lauren and Jessie asked four fellow wardies Jackson, Jordan, Jacob and Austin.

Their costumes of choice? Escapees from the retirement home, aka the geriatric crew, aka old people. They all looked fabulous and I've heard from numerous sources that they kept up their geriatric routine all through the dance.

At their day activity they carved pumpkins because well, Halloween. But they also went to Johnny Rockets, an old timey themed diner. And the night of the dance they had fondue for dinner and then played Bingo after the dance, all in honor of their elderly personas. Sounds like they had a great time.

 Jessie and Austin, Julianne and Jackson, Jacob and Lauren, Taylor and Jordan