The End of a Chapter

I actually wrote this post last week, but I wasn’t ready to share it with the world yet.  It is something very personal for me. It may be a little long, but I couldn’t leave any of it out.  Writing for me is often like therapy and it helps me to get things out and to reminisce, so here it goes…

As I sit here to write this morning, I am filled with so many emotions.  My heart is hurting a little, and I am not sure how to deal with all of the things I am feeling.  Today, my oldest daughter will be participating in her last Junior Olympic gymnastics practice.  She has made the decision to walk away from her gymnastics career after all these years.  I know that it was a very hard decision for her and one that she was hesitant to share with us, her coaches, and her teammates.  We have known for a while that her heart just didn’t seem to be in it anymore.  Her body has grown and changed, and injuries and illness have set her back in the last year.  When she first admitted to us that she was thinking about walking away, my husband and I both were shocked as she has never wavered in her love and commitment for the sport.  We honestly didn’t think she would ever follow through. We thought that she would change her mind.  I think that maybe she would have had we not had this long break from real practice.  The 2-hour conditioning workouts as a result of the pandemic have not allowed her to do the parts of the sport that she really loves and, unfortunately, resulted in sealing the deal. It breaks my heart that her career ended this way.  

My daughter was born 3 weeks early weighing only 4 pounds and 8 ounces.  Her small size led to low muscle tone when she was younger.  Because of this, she was delayed in a lot of gross motor skills.  She was delayed in sitting up, pulling up, and walking.  She never really learned to crawl.  Instead she learned how to roll to get where she wanted to go.  Not long after her first birthday, her pediatrician suggested that we enroll her into a parent and tot gymnastics/activity class as well as have her evaluated for physical therapy as a way to improve her muscle tone and gain some strength.  We signed her up for her first class at a place called Rolly Pollies and for the PT evaluation around the same time.  Between the time she was evaluated by the physical therapist and the time she was supposed to start actually getting physical therapy, she began pulling up and walking.  It was only a matter of weeks and she was on the go and never looked back.  I have always atributed it to that gymnastics class.  She loved it so much that she wanted to do everything, so she made herself walk and climb.  She ended up never having to do physical therapy.  Of course, that class at Rolly Pollies was not a real gymnastics class.  It was basically just climbing, hanging, jumping, and playing back then, but I really do believe that is when her deep love for the sport began. 

When she was two and a half, we moved and left that sweet little gym that started it all.  At our new home, we enrolled her in a gymnastics/dance class at The Little Gym.  She would do 30 minutes of gymnastics and 30 minutes of tap and ballet all in one class.  It became pretty clear early on that dance just wasn’t her thing despite me trying really hard to make her love it. (I was a dancer back in the day.)  She would much rather be hanging on the bars and doing summersaults over dance any day.  Eventually we stopped the dance and just did an hour of gymnastics a week which she loved.  When she was around 4 years old, it became apparent that she had outgrown The Little Gym and really needed a real gymnastics class. That is when we enrolled her in her first class at a real gym.  At this point she was still just doing an hour class once a week in the smaller gym upstairs.  However, she loved watching the “big girls” downstairs in the big gym and longed to be out there with them.  Her dream finally came true when she was 6 years old and we received a letter in the mail saying that she had been chosen to be a part of the gym’s pre-team program.  Back in the day the pre-team program was basically level 2 and 3 without the competitions. They just did a little competition at the gym that was more of a showcase of their routines than a real competition.  Her love for the sport continued to grow. After two years on the pre-team, she finally made it to the real team. She entered the Junior Olympic sport as a level 3 gymnast. Even then, we had no idea where it would lead her nor any clue as to how our lives would quickly revolve around the sport.  She suddenly went from that one hour a week recreational class to 16 hours a week of training, and finally got to compete in her very first competition.  The rest is history.  

So many people tried to talk her out of the sport over the years because it ruled her life, but she never thought about quitting once until now.  That is how much she loved it.  She was committed. Over the years, she has trained under 3 different gymnastics programs due to our many moves, spent up to 25 hours a week at practice, learned from several different coaches and coaching styles, traveled all over the country to compete, made countless friends, and moved up to level 8 while training as a level 9 before deciding she was done.  I really think that her decision has been harder for me than it has for her.  Maybe that is because she had been thinking about it for a while before she told us, and I just wasn’t prepared.  Her whole life and identity has been wrapped up in gymnastics, and she has always been known as “the gymnast”. It is hard for me to imagine her as anything else.  I don’t want to think about her growing up and moving on. Had I known that the last time I saw her compete was going to be the last time ever, I would have savored that moment so much more.  I hate that her last season was cut in half by this stupid virus.  I hate that it forced her into the decision to walk away.  I hate that her last time with her teammates and coaches was over a dumb computer screen.  I loved watching her do the thing she loved more than anything for all these years, and I’m going to miss it and know that she is too.  Gymnastics has consumed so much of our life for the last 15 years.  It’s hard to imagine life without it.  I love all that this sport has taught her and the experiences she has had because it has made her into the person that she is today. 

Despite how sad this decision makes me, I am also more proud of her than I have ever been.  I know it was not easy for her, and it took courage to come to this decision.  I am also proud of her for stepping way out of her comfort zone and making the decision to try a new sport.  To start something new as a 16-year-old isn’t easy, but she has made the decision to join her sister in the cheer world.  I think she chose it because it gives her the best of both worlds.  She gets the thrill and excitement of something new, but still gets to tumble and use some of her gymnastic skills and strength.  She still plans to compete on her high school gymnastics team so she isn’t fully giving up the sport, but it will never be the same. 

As this chapter of her life comes to an end, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of the people in the world of gymnastics that have had such an important impact on her life, as well as ours.  To all of her coaches, thank you for devoting your time and energy into her and helping to raise her.  The lessons you have all taught her will carry her through many years to come. To my fellow gym moms, I don’t know how I would have gotten through some of those years without you.  Thank you for keeping me sane during all those beam routines and new skills.  To all of her fellow gymnasts, thank you for supporting her, cheering her own, and lifting her up during those tough practices.  I know she will cherish your friendships for life. I pray that you will all remain a part of our lives in the coming years as we embark on our new journey.  

While this may be the sad end of one chapter, we are starting to look forward to whatever this new chapter holds. Stay tuned…

Anchored in New Beginnings,

Chickens and Gymnastics: What?

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When I was standing at the school yesterday freezing to death as I waited for my youngest to get out of school, I heard a really funny conversation that made me laugh.  I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. It was totally a conversation that I could picture myself having with my husband.  A couple walked up behind me, and they were playfully arguing about chickens.  The man seemed to be trying to convince his wife that they should buy some chickens so they could have fresh eggs every day.   She was of course telling him all that would entail and how much work it would be. I even heard her say that he would have to be the one to deal with them because she wasn’t getting near them. Then I heard her ask, “You know that I don’t do animals, right?” This is the part that made me laugh because I can’t tell you how many times that exact thing has come out of my mouth.  For those of you that missed my post about animals before, I do not like them.  I don’t like animals of any kind.  I never have and probably never will. The woman went on to say, “You are more likely to talk me into getting a dog than you are into getting chickens and even that is a stretch!” Again, I chuckled.  As I am sitting here typing with our dog sitting right beside me, I am wondering how long it will be before the family wears the woman down and convinces her to get a dog or some other animal. I really wanted to turn around a high five her to let her know I was with her and encourage her to hold her ground.  Will she end up outnumbered like me and have to deal with a crazy animal in her house?

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It’s hard to get good quality photos in a gym with no flash. 

Last night was my oldest daughter’s first high school gymnastics meet.  She only competed on bars and pulled out fourth place behind 3 of her teammates.  Her team blew the other 4 schools out of the water and swept the competition taking first place.  I must say that high school gymnastics is a totally different world than the competitive club world we have been in all these years.  I saw so many scores that were lower than I have ever seen before.  I saw girls doing gymnastics that looked like they had never done it before in their lives.  I will be honest in saying that some of it made me cringe and want to hide my eyes because it was a little scary. Our team really had an unfair advantage with at least 5 girls that I know of being upper level club gymnasts. You could hear a hush over the crowd when our girls would perform and then a bunch of gasps and wows as they finished. It was clear that some of these parents in the stands had never seen that level of gymnastics outside of the Olympics.  It was a really neat experience. I love that those other girls that would never get the chance otherwise are able to get out there and try something new. I loved the excitement mixed with nerves in their eyes as they went out and gave it their all knowing that their scores weren’t going to be high up there.  I love the awe they had as they watched our girls go and still had the courage to get out there and do their best.  It was really inspirational in a way and a good lesson in perseverance and drive. If you really want something and you put your mind to it, you can do it.  You may not be the best at it, but the point is that you tried and had fun doing it.  You stepped out of your comfort zone and went for something that you dreamed of doing. That’s really what it is all about.  It’s the lesson I want to teach my girls.  You don’t have to be number one.  If you are, that’s great.  If you aren’t, that’s great too.  None of it matters as long as you put in the work, give it your all, and have fun. Isn’t that what we want for all of our kids…to reach for their dreams, to push themselves, to work hard, to not give up, and to enjoy life? I think so.

The other big take away from last night for me was getting to see my daughter out there laughing, joking around, and having fun with her teammates.  It is the reason that we agreed to let her try out for the high school team.  As a club gymnast, you often miss out on the school experience because you are always at practice.  You can’t do extra curricular things because you just don’t have the time for it. You don’t get to go hang at football games with your school friends because you are at practice. Club gymnastics can also be intense and really serious, and there isn’t as much joking and playing around. There is a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears.  Don’t get me wrong, she absolutely loves it, but it’s a lot of work. We wanted her to have the opportunity to really experience high school and get to make friends outside of her club team.  My daughter is awkwardly shy and has a hard time making friends outside of the gym.  It was really great to see her interacting with other kids and just having a good time. Yes, I know that these new friends are also gymnasts and some are also her club teammates, but it’s just different outside of the club gym.  I can’t really explain it. It’s a totally different atmosphere, and I think it is important for her to do this. My husband and I both feel good about letting her have this experience even though it means more money for us, more time spent in the gym, and more time given up for a sport she loves.

I know that this post is kind of random, but it’s my life.  My life is full of random events.  Chickens? Dogs? Gymnastics? Life lessons? It’s all good, right? Ha ha! I am now off to finish up the first 10 chapters of our book club book for this month, Educated by Tara Westover. I hope you have been reading along with me.  It’s not too late to join us if you haven’t.  I will post about the first 10 chapters on Facebook and Instagram tomorrow. Check it out and join the discussion. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

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It’s Worth It

When my oldest daughter was born, she arrived three weeks early and weighed only 4 pounds and 8 ounces. They believed that I had a partial placental abruption, which could have caused the low birth weight. She was super tiny but had no other issues and was able to go home within the normal two days. She did not have to stay in the NICU at all.  That alone was such a gift. Other than being tiny, she was perfectly healthy, or at least we thought so. When she was just 4 months old, she started running a really high fever that we were struggling to control.  She ended up in the hospital for almost a week because they couldn’t keep the fever down.  After running countless tests, they discovered that the reason for the fever was that she had a UTI and hydronephrosis (swelling of her kidneys due to a buildup of urine).  Upon further testing, they discovered that she had Vesicoureteral reflux, which is the fancy term for urinary reflux.  Basically, whenever she urinated, her bladder wouldn’t empty all the way, and instead, the urine would reflux or move back up the ureter into her kidneys. That was what was causing the infections.  She was immediately put on a preventative antibiotic that she took every single day for 2 years straight.  Every time she ran a high fever we had to take her to urgent care or the ER to make sure she didn’t have a UTI.  Let me tell you, she ran a fever a LOT.  She eventually ended up needing to have surgery to fix it all when she was 2 years old and has had no issues since, thankfully.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention that she also had acid reflux and threw up all the time.  She couldn’t go without wearing a bib or she would ruin every single outfit she had. Because of the reflux she hated being on her stomach. Every time we tried to lay her down for some tummy time, she would scream.  This resulted in her spending most of the time on her back, so she developed a pretty significant flat space on one side of her head.  In fact, I think she still has a slight flatness to that side of her head, but you can’t tell because of her hair.  We were so close to having to wear one of those helmets all the time.  I honestly don’t know why they never put her in one because she really should have worn it. It was that bad.  As a first time parent, it was all pretty overwhelming.

On top of all that going on the first year of her life, she was always extremely tiny and super skinny, and she has remained that way since the day she was born. It has just been in the last 2-3 years that she has shot up in height and is getting close to reaching me. She’s still crazy skinny, though. It’s certainly not because she doesn’t eat like my youngest. She eats almost anything and can put some food away like nobody’s business. Because she was so small as an infant, she had low muscle tone in her ankles and in her wrists. She was delayed at reaching a lot of milestones. She never really crawled like a normal child does. She didn’t even army crawl.  She rolled everywhere she wanted to go. She knew how to turn her body so that she could be facing the direction she wanted, and then just rolled where she wanted to go. It was the funniest thing. She was delayed in pulling up. She was delayed in standing, and she was delayed in walking. In fact when she was about 13 or 14 months old, her doctor referred us for a physical therapy evaluation. At that point she was barely pulling up, not taking any steps, and wasn’t cruising around the furniture like typical kids her age. At the same time, her pediatrician also suggested that we try attending a parent-tot gymnastics class so that she could maybe work on strengthening her gross motor skills. If you have never been to or seen a parent-tot gymnastics class, it is a class where the parents and little ones really just sing and “play” in a gym together.  They did things like rolling, climbing on mats, hanging from a bar, walking on a low beam, jumping into a pit of foam blocks, and more things like that. Well, let me tell you, within a couple weeks of starting the class that kid was walking on her own. She never had to go to physical therapy and never slowed down. I really believe that gymnastics was what encouraged her to walk. It has been almost 14 years since we went to that first gymnastics class, and gymnastics has been her love ever since. I’m not sure that she knows who she is without gymnastics. It has been her whole world for so long.

If you don’t know anything about gymnastics, let me be the first to tell you that this sport is no joke! She has put in anywhere from an hour a week at the very beginning to as many as 25 hours per week into this sport for over 13 years. She was even homeschooled for a little while so that she could train in the mornings.  Gymnastics is a lot of hard work. It requires discipline. It requires focus. It requires incredible strength. It requires sacrifice. It requires you to give up everything else, and I mean everything, in your life. It requires time, and lots of it. It requires a willingness to hurt and ache all over and still get up and go back the next day. You get knocked down literally and figuratively over and over again and have to brush it off and keep going. You have to truly love this sport in order to give up your whole life for it. My daughter even tried out for her high school gymnastics team last week and made the varsity squad.  What does that mean? More gymnastics! She will go straight from school to practice, practice for 4 hours, and then go straight back to her school (eating diner on the way in the car) to practice some more.  That’s insane, I know!

What do you gain from this sport? Why would you put yourself through it all? You have to truly love this sport in order to give up your whole life for it, right? I am here to tell you that my kid LOVES this sport. I don’t remember a time where she has ever thought about quitting. I can only think of a handful of times when she didn’t want to go to practice. This sport has taught her so many things. It has taught her to be strong. It has taught her to push through when things get tough. It has taught her how to be a leader. It has taught her how to fight for what she wants. It has taught her that winning isn’t everything because when you don’t win, you just get back up and work harder. It has taught her that it’s okay to fail as long as you pick yourself up and get back out there. It has taught her how to fight through obstacles and setbacks that get in the way like injuries or mental blocks.  Even though gymnastics is often an individual sport, it has taught her about the importance of teamwork and that supporting your teammates above all else matters. It has taught her to have drive and determination. Gymnasts are some of the toughest kids I know both mentally and physically. It has taught her about taking care of her body and the importance of exercise. It has taught her about dedication. Most importantly, it has given her some of the best friendships that she could ever ask for. Gymnastics has also given her some of the best role models to look up to. Not only are those role models current and former olympians (some that she has been lucky enough to meet), but they are also the coaches that have touched and shaped her life from that very first pre-team coach when she was 6 years old that just “got her”, to the coaches that pushed her farther than she thought she could go and those that just simply loved her. She has been truly blessed by this sport and the people in it. Despite all the bad you hear in the news lately about this sport, there is still so much good in it.There are hundreds of thousands of girls just like my daughter who truly love this sport and have been shaped by it in a good way.

Is all the time and sacrifice she has put into this sport and the sacrifice we have made as a family worth it? I think so. I really do. This girl has gone from a teeny, tiny peanut to becoming this strong, beautiful young lady that amazes me every day.  I don’t know how she does all of the work that she does with gymnastics, still manages to make good grades, and is such a fun, cool kid who makes me laugh all the time (She’s a true blond! LOL!). To all of you new moms out there who are overwhelmed by simply being a first time parent, I see you. I know it’s tough but you can do it.  To all you moms out there struggling with a child with medical needs or developmental delays, I see you. Don’t give up on your child.  Fight through it all and your kids will overcome and they will grow into amazing human beings. I promise you that they will surprise you. For all of you parents whose kids are totally wrapped up in their sport whatever it may be, I see you. I know the sacrifices you are making for your kids to do what they love.  I know how crazy and hectic it can be, but you’ve got this. To those of you that are in the early stages of figuring out what your little one loves, I see you. Be patient and let them figure it out on their own. When they do figure it out, strap in because it’s going to be a long, bumpy ride. You will make it through it, though. I never knew that tiny peanut that couldn’t walk, who was in and out of the ER all the time, and who had an odd shaped head would become this beautiful gymnast. I am so proud of the young lady my daughter is becoming and for the lessons she has learned from this sport. Will she ever go to the Olympics? No. Will she continue to push herself and continue loving the sport? Absolutely. Is it all worth it? YES!  I am thankful that this sport has given her the wings to fly. To all of you moms out there…Whatever you are facing, it’s worth it!

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