Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Place All Around!!!

February 7th marked one of those moments in life that just don’t come along very often. As we shuffled Riley off to her first-ever gymnastics competition, it never even dawned on us that she, the only kindergartner on the team, would place. Months earlier, we painfully forked over the extra dough required for GIJO (Greater Illinois Junior Olympics) to give Riley an idea of what competition is, and the opportunity to see if this is something she really wants to do. All we hoped for was a good experience for her.

Man did we get it. She rocked! She did awesome as the first child to compete on vault as soon as the meet started and her 9.0 totally got her fans juices flowing. Grandmom and Granddad, Nana and Tony and Grammy and Jim were all there to watch with Daddy, Logan, Finn and me. Riley even invited our good friends, the Marienthals – I think she must have known that she was going to give us a show!

As soon as she completed floor, her third event, I figured I’d tally up the scores. She had the second highest scores on vault and beam, so I wondered if she might be in the running for anything. I think I went into some kind of shock when I realized that she was neck in neck with two other girls, with one event left. When she put up an awesome vault and her 9.3 was displayed, I knew.

This was the craziest thing ever. I am not a nutty gym mom. I don’t sit there gossiping about other kids or pay for private lessons. I really just want Riley to have fun and as long as she’s having fun, we’ll make it happen for her. But I have to say I lost all my faculties when I realized my pipsqueak daughter, who turned only 6 one week before the meet, took all around first place for 6 to 8 year olds at her level. This must be what it feels like to win the lottery or something. I know that’s totally over the top, but it’s true!

I turned to Mike and whispered what I thought just happened, and he couldn’t even comprehend initially. By the time the news got around to her other fans in the crowd, most of us were crying. And ten minutes later when the scores were tallied and the trophies awarded, a very shocked pipsqueak was called to the top of the podium to accept her trophy for the Sweetheart Classic. For real, it was one of the most exciting moments of my life.

I’m sure it was for Riley, too, but she’s so reserved you’d never know. Three days later she told me in confidence that it was pretty awesome, but that was the extent of her outpouring. From the moment we arrived home that day, she continues to practice and perfect, but doesn’t talk about it much. It’s no big deal to her you see – she just loves it!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Robert Joseph Hajicek

My earliest memories of my Uncle Bob are of a kind of nerdy teenager who came to visit us in Omaha with my Grandma and Grandpa. He was lots of fun, at only thirteen years my senior, how could he not be? I loved his visits and was so happy as he married and had a family; my big kid status allowed me to spend a lot of time with them in those early days.

There was one point I gave up liking him for about a year. It's true. When I had become the akward 'tween, he jokingly pulled out my chair from under me at a family holiday dinner. He thought it was hilarious, and in hindsight, it was. But then, not so much!

My uncle had a crazy work ethic and loved his family. He was a whiz with tools and I'm thrilled to have a hutch he built in my dining room. He was so wonderful with my kids, always happy to have them on a knee or to listen to his latest joke. He was political, let me tell you! When he believed in something, there was no wavering. He never drank, never smoked. He was strong and he was a good man who left us too young.

My Uncle Bob lost his three year battle with brain cancer last night at the age of 51. We're told he is the longest-lived survivor of his type of cancer on record. I am sure I know why. Uncle Bob was a man so solid in his faith that I have no doubt it kept him going. He truly believed that he would be okay, no matter what happened, because he knew that God would take care of him. And He did. He was blessed to die peacefully at home with loved ones.

He will be missed by so many, his wife Dawn who took such good care, his children, his family and friends, co-workers and the Knights of Columbus, his church community. But more than all the missing him we'll do, there will be welcoming up above. Surely the heavens are rejoicing his arrival. Surely his suffering is over and his body and mind are in peak condition. Surely he's having breakfast with Grandpa and catching up on so much lost time. Surely.

I love you Uncle Bob.