Sunday, July 17, 2016

2016 US gymnastics Olympic trials

Back in 2012, I had made a pact with a few of my former teammates to meet up at the 2012 Olympic trials which were to be held in San Jose, CA. We thought it would be a good place to have a mini reunion and catch some phenomenal gymnastics together. 

And wouldn't you know, after months of anticipation of meeting up with my girls, it was official, we'd be moving the first weekend in June to our new home in China. 

The same weekend as trials. 

I had to pass up the reunion-- while sad about not seeing some familiar old faces before I jetted cross the world, I was excited to get to China and find out what our new life had in store for us. 

When we moved back to California last year, I found out that the 2016 Olympic trials for women's gymnastics were going to be in San Jose again. 

Score!

I got to work wrangling up a few of my besties and we ordered tickets last summer....and then we waited and waited and waited for the next 10 months to pass. 

You guys, I had so much fun. I mean--more fun than I've had in a long long time. Nick manned the troops at home while I got away for the long weekend. 

Friday night was the preliminary round. I had an extra ticket in my purse and happened to run into one of my former competitors from when we were level 9's just trying to make it to a college team. Turned out she didn't have a ticket, so she bought my extra and we got to catch up sitting next to each other night one.  It was such a fun surprise to see her after twenty years!

       Friends since 10th grade- reunited!

Our seats were great! Right in front of bars with a great view of floor and vault. There were lots of nervous mistakes made by many (even Simone!!) but the level of difficulty coming from these teen girls is unbelievable. Simone's difficulty could outdo the men. For someone 4 foot nothing, she is amazing. Perhaps more than the top five televised girls ( Simone, gabby, aly, Laurie and ragan), I enjoyed watching the other seven phenoms that rounded out the competitor field. Here these girls were at the pinnacle of their elite career, having made Olympic trials, and most of America would never know their name. It's such a shame. 

        B   MyKayla Skinner- bars 

Saturday started at the crack of dawn, grabbing breakfast with my old teammate & trials roommate, Holly, before heading into the convention hall to put in a full day working at the GK elite wear booth. 

Working at the GK booth paid off! So many former Olympians and gymnastics-famous people came through. I don't tend to get star struck, but I did sweet talk Amanda Borden of the 1996 Mag 7 into a photo. 

Pics of her may or may not have covered my younger self's walls 

               My Jamie, love her. 

The day was a flutter of lots of little gymnasts running around in search of their idols to take a selfie with (how times have changed!) or have them sign a leotard. I remember those days (my coach took us to the 1991 world championships-a trip I will never forget) so vividly. It made me smile seeing another generation of girls so excited about the sport. 

 Met this one the 1st day of college practice and have been friends ever since 

Saturday night was dinner with another former roommate/ teammate, and a parade of Olympians. Over 100 former Olympic gymnasts dating back from 1950 were in attendance. Scotty McCreary, Kathrine McPhee and some Disney star put on a concert. I loved seeing my one time idols up on stage. 

Sunday gave me my first opportunity to sleep in sans kids since the birth of Sal!!!!! You better believe it enjoyed it. After a leisurely morning and hotel gym workout,
I met up with more teammates for a lunch gathering before finals. 

       Go Aggies! Gymnastics reunion. 

    Dawn, Jen & me- finals


While I had to leave finals early to make the drive home, what I saw was amazing.  Most of the nerves had been worked out, and Simone scored a near perfect vault score. A phone call from my girlfriend confirmed the team selected for me, and while the team selected didn't immediately make sense to me (Maggie Nichols wasn't even selected as an alternate despite the meet of her career), I get it now, and can not wait til August 7th and seeing the new fab 5 in Rio!

Anddddd, your 2016 Olympic team (+ Alts): Ashton, Aly, Madison, Gabby, Laurie, Mykayla, Simone and Ragan. 



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Camping {in a tent}

I'm alive! 

We're alive!

We just completed our first camping trip with kids in tow. Before kids, NZ and I would camp at least once a year, but a move overseas and having babies have stalled camping trips up until now.


We joined a couple of Nick's cousins at Jalama beach last Sunday and stayed through late Thursday night. I admit, I was a buzzkill for a good portion of the trip. It wasn't dirty kids that got me stressing-it was the heat and long term exposure to the direct sun that we had overlooked when planning this trip. An easy fix for next time will to bring an easy up / canopy so that we can escape the sun without having to hunker down in our tent or search for shade trees on the camp ground. 





The older kids had so much fun galavanting around the campground with their cousin. They spent hours on the beach, digging for sand crabs, making drip castles and fishing with their dad. Gino spent a lot of time eating sand and battling yellow jackets (next time we will bring yellow jacket traps) but I think he still enjoyed getting dirty and following the big kids around. 


Naptimes were tough-I finally figured out that wearing Gino was the only way we could guarantee at least an hour of midday rest for the littlest guy. We brought our pack and play, which is later transfer him into if our tent wasn't too hot. Carla and Sal enjoyed snow cones and playground tag every afternoon with all the kids at the campground. 


We split dinner duties with the other two couples. It was nice to only have to prepare dinners a couple times! 

Now we're back and unpacked and trying to catch up on missed sleep. We've also got chapped, wind / sunburned faces, but a whole lot of memories to go along with it. 




Thursday, June 9, 2016

Carla, lately.

Current age: 2 years, 5 months 

My sweet little sass is starting "school" this month! It's just one morning a week, for 90 minutes, but she can't wait! She's been asking to go since she turned two, but I used potty training as leverage, telling her she couldn't go until she wore skivvies. She took it to heart and has been day trained for the last month. She still poops outside, but that's another story. 


She wants to do everything Sal does, whether it be riding skateboards or building a Lego house. Her Lego houses are always horsey houses- built for her horse figurines she totes around in her backpack everywhere we go. 


Carla loves to sing " twinkle twinkle" and " you are my sunshine", which she just calls "sunshine song". She will tell me to be quiet when I sing in the car, and has no shame in telling us to "turn dat song ooooooff!" followed with her request that I play "widing duty" (riding dirty). 


While she still follows Sal around with admiring eyes, she's developing quite the mischievous relationship with Gino. They're my little Bonnie + Clyde. Double trouble, partners in crime. It's fun to watch how she balances the little sister and big sister roles. With Sal, she does the grunt work. Anything he tells her to do, she does. When she's with Gino she gets to test out her bossy voice and assert her place in the sibling chain.


She loves to wake G up in the morning, so earlier this week, she asked to wake him while I was still in bed. I told her she could go in and play with him while I got out of bed and dressed. A few minutes later I walked into a butt pasted crib and kids. Lesson learned. Never, ever trust a toddler.  

Especially when they're this cute!


Carla Denise, thanks for keeping us on our toes and adding some sweet sass to our household. You ARE my sunshine. 





School is out for summer


As of last Friday, Sal is officially on summer break and looking forward to beginning the preK program in fall. 

He may not have grown a lot this last year, size wise, but his speech has improved and he has a knack for puzzles and pattern making. He can write his name (but won't), and he recognizes most of the letters in the alphabet and can sound out the majority of them. 

He loves all things scientific--choosing to watch "How it's Made" and YouTube videos of wastewater treatment plants over cartoons these days. He's enamored with manhole covers and storm drains and nothing makes his day more than figuring out how things work. 


He and Carla have a special friendship, that is somewhat love/hate but mostly love. They play for hours on our upper terrace, digging dirt and playing make believe. 

Four is a fine balance of emotional meltdowns and quirky conversations. We talk about life, friends, sewers, cats, when he was a baby, and everything else under the sun. I love listening to his chatter. The flip side is dealing with meltdowns and his emerging sense of embarrassment following said meltdown. If we are in public and he realizes people may see him (say, we are on our way to school drop off), he tries to suck his quivering lip up and get himself together because "I don't want them to see me cry, mama." A few deep breaths and a knock knock joke later, he usually redeems himself and we get on with our day. At home though-it's no holds barred. Tantrums go on and on and on.  That's tough. It's the only part of four I'd like to fast forward through. The rest of it is so much fun. 


He's still working on riding a two wheel bike (he realllly doesn't want to-but we keep trying), and he has been more tolerant and receptive to swim lessons this summer. He put his whole face in the water today--that's HUGE for a kid who spends all morning on swim lesson days lamenting over having to go to swim lessons later. 

I'm looking forward into soaking up summer with him and joining our local library's summer reading program. While it's nice to have him busy three mornings a week during the school year, I am happy to have a break from school drop offs and having to get out the door on time. 

Here's to summertime!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gus


Meet Gus. 

Our new kitty joined the family last week. His mama was a rescued feral (pregnant at time of rescue), and I called dibs on a kitten before they were even born. 

We scored well with our first feral rescue, Earl, and as you can see, our kids can't get enough of him. We thought adding one more might give Earl a break from the endless pats, scruff carrying, tail pulling and chasing our kids seem to put him through on the daily. 


Welcome to the family, Gus! 

Friday, May 6, 2016

The one before



I've long pondered how much I wanted to/ should tell my kids about the one that came before them. I've read my fellow baby loss mom's blogs and realized that we all have our own level of comfort in talking about our losses to our children. 



I've always released balloons for Denise on her birthday (which is coming up quick). Sal has always been a part of it, and Carla was present, but not a participant last year. With another balloon release on the horizon, I wondered if they would ask questions this time, since they are older (and Sal is very inquisitive). 

Sal and I have had discussions in passing about Heaven (which he actually thinks is someone named Kevin's house in the clouds), but being that we aren't religious at all, I kind of just stopped at ,"Heaven is a place we like to think that good people go when they die." He seems okay with that, and actually named some of our deceased relatives and told me they're at Kevin's. 

Perfect. 

I have talked about Denise here and there over the years. We have a few " D" ornaments for our Christmas tree, and there's a few keepsake pieces of jewelry in my jewelry box with her initials that he's asked about. 

He knows his mom and dad had a baby before him, and that the baby wasn't healthy enough to stay alive and come home. He knows we let balloons go on her birthday in hopes that they reach her in Heaven and let her know we love her always. But that's it. He's never seen any tangible evidence of this said "big sister". 

Until last night. 

I keep baby books for my kids. They're up in our linen closet, stored just a bit higher than my fingers can reach. Last night Sal asked to see his baby book as we scrolled through my Instagram feed reminiscing on all the good times we've caught on camera...I could just barely get my fingers on the book, and as I pulled it out, all of my albums fell down at our feet. Sal helped me pick them up and put them back away, and asked me about each book as he handed them to me (yes, before the era of iPhones, we actually took pictures, developed them and arranged them in albums...I've got scrapbooks upon scrapbooks of mama 'fore she was mama). He came across one with a Z in the little square frame on front and opened it. 


He saw little footprints and asked if they were Gino's. 

" No, honey. Those are Denise's footprints."


"Mama, they're so small!"

"Mama, what's this? (Pointing at her ultrasound pictures)...is this Denise in your belly?"


"Yes, that is a picture of her in my belly."

"When she was alive,mama?"

"Yes, when she was alive."

"But then she died because she was sick, right mama?"

"Yes, baby. She was sick"

" But not me, right mama? I'm healthy. That's why I'm alive."

"Yes, honey." 

"Good. Cause I don't want to go to Kevin's without you."

***conversation over because I couldn't contain my laughter at his mention of Kevin, yet again ***

So yeah, we're getting through life after loss, and I suppose this is what it looks like while explaining it to a four year old, seven years later.

 I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, or if there really even is a right way to teach kids about life and loss. I'm just letting my kids lead and I will follow. While there are many people who would try to protect their kids from the ugliness of life, I feel like age appropriate discussions will keep conversation going as they get older and have more questions--at least that's my hope!

And on this Mother's Day, where I feel more than lucky to have my three healthy babies here on earth, I miss the one that made me a mother first. 


Friday, April 29, 2016

Yosemite 2016

We took our annual trip to Yosemite National Park a couple of weeks ago. Every year, my husband's side of the family makes the trek up there for a long weekend of hiking, climbing, biking, cribbage playing, reading, eating and hanging out together. This year, a grand total of 34 of us were there. That's a pretty good turnout, considering most don't live in state anymore. 

I won't lie. I was anxious about how well five of us would be able to share one hotel room without killing each other, but to my surprise, our kids did an excellent job calming down and being quiet when it came to nap and bedtime. Gino even slept through the night every night there (don't get excited....he hasn't slept through the night since!). 

                             
    

This year was magical for Sal. He's been twice before, but this year, the magic of Yosemite clicked. He wanted to climb every rock, see the waterfalls, dig in the dirt, and spy on some wildlife. He'd run from Boulder to Boulder requesting we take his picture on top of it. It was so cool to watch him enjoy nature. 

                              

                             
            
    
Carla was a trooper, tagging along behind Sal everywhere he went, but she was still more interested in playing in the hotel room with her cousin Gianna. I had taken some activities for the kids to keep them busy in case of poor weather (which was forecasted), but thankfully, we had no rain or snow--just some chilly mornings. Gianna and Carla hit it off and spent most of our trip asking for one another when they had to be apart. I love that our kids have a chance to get to really know their extended family.

                             

                              
    
    
Gino had started walking about a week before we left, so that changed the game a little, as he wanted to walk everywhere versus being carried or put in a stroller. We let him down to explore a bit, and he was all over climbing the logs at one of the picnic sites. 

                           
   

We took a few family hikes-one was easy, and the other kicked our ass. We did The hike to the bridge at vernal falls with the two big kids in the double stroller and Gino in my ergo. It was one steep climb! After many, many stops to catch our breaths we finally made it to the bridge and it was well worth it. I've never seen so much water in the falls as I did this year. We also vowed to get in better shape if we ever plan to push a stroller or carry another child on that hike again. It was no joke.  The easy hike was to Mirror lake. I packed lunches and we found a nice sunny spot to sit and eat before heading back to the hotel for naps. 

                  
                                        [ gorgeous. It gets me everytime ]
   

                  
                                        [ family hike to the lake for lunch]
    
Every evening one family would take charge of the main course. We took on Thursday night, and Nick made a family recipe, named " Dego" burgers.  These Italian sloppy joes, topped with mozzarella were originally created by his grandmother many moons ago when Nick's grandfather requested something "different" for dinner and all she had was Italian sausage, tomato sauce, cheese and bread.  They've been a Zentil family hit ever since. It was really cool to listen to the stories from Nick's dad, aunts & uncles that had to do with their mother and the creation of these burgers. 
            
                            
                                        [Carla & a few of her "girl" cousins]

I say this every year, and I'll say it again. Having a family that loves each other enough to keep coming back, year after year, is so so special.  Many of us have children-mostly school age, and jobs. Time off isn't easy for anyone...but to have so many people willing to do whatever it takes so we can all be a part of each other's lives and carry on such a fantastic tradition is not lost on me.

I'm already looking forward to next year!