Laurie Hernandez Got the Nation’s Attention and New Jersey’s Respect

By Matt Alcalde

First and foremost, who do I have to talk to in order to get Ryan Lochte to meet with Laurie? If anyone on the Olympic Committee is reading this, please make the girl’s wish come true!

If you live and breathe gymnastics, you’ve most likely heard about Laurie Hernandez. But for everyone else in the US, who may not watch as much gymnastics as we should, Laurie gained our attention after her brilliant floor routine. For those of us lucky enough to live in NJ, we were ahead of the curve, thanks to local media, like NJ.com, giving a shoutout to all the Olympic Athletes from NJ heading to Rio.

“Hey, that’s the girl from Old Bridge!” has pretty much been spoken by every New Jerseyan. Let’s just say NJ is proud, and we have every reason to be. In a climate that tends to stereotype the younger generation as “lazy millennials,” it’s always great to see someone accomplish so much at 16. She’s someone that people, young and old, can look up to as an example of what it takes to win and, more importantly, how to keep your composure when things don’t go your way.

When Laurie wasn’t chosen for a spot on the Olympic All-Around, she could have allowed that setback to eat away at her. Instead, she understood that her life’s work has never been absent of challenges. In 2014, after a bad vault landing, Hernandez dislocated her right knee cap, tearing her patella ligament and bruising her MCL. Surgery was required to fix her knee, which included attaching a cadaver’s ligament onto her own. But she came back, stronger and more competitive than ever. When Laurie found out she didn’t make the All-Around in Rio, she likely realized that nothing in her life had been easy, so why start now.  Throughout the Olympics, she showed grace, rooted for her team and was rewarded with Gold and Silver.

Culturally, New Jersey is a very diverse state. As you can imagine the Latino population is 100% behind Laurie, a descendant of Puerto Rican grandparents. Born in New Brunswick, NJ, Laurie Hernandez is the first US-born Hispanic athlete to make the the US Women’s Gymnastic Olympic team since Tracee Talavera at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. As the Olympics are being held in a Latin American country, Brazil, she’s a guaranteed favorite among all that see her perform.

The future is definitely bright for the 16-year-old. Tokyo 2020 is already on the mind of many, including Laurie Hernandez, who as of the foreseeable future will be part of the US Women’s Gymnastic Olympic team. But that is still four years away, and there will be plenty of other things to keep her focused in the meantime. Now, Laurie Hernandez will be facing an entirely new test: how to stay focused when everybody knows your name. If her Twitter account has any reflection of the newfound fame she will have when she gets back to the States, it’s going to be a tough challenge. New Jersey isn’t worried. With that personality, it’s easy to have faith that Laurie will persevere. 

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Can you put the baby to bed tonight?

Dads, whenever that question is asked, your answer is always, “yes.” “Absolutely,” “You got it,” and “Would you also like me to change his/her diaper?” are also acceptable answers.

Here’s why. As challenging as it is to be a parent, it’s always exponentially harder to be a mom. How do I know this? To be completely honest, I don’t. I can never know what it’s like to be my wife – to feel what she feels – but I try as best as I can to empathize (not easy). I see how hard it is for her to balance work and family life – to spend time with our son, Jack, while staying on top of her work responsibilities. As tired as I am, I know that she’s even more exhausted than I can imagine.

Somehow, whether it be luck or instinct, babies are 10 times tougher on their moms than dads. When its time for me to eat, Jack is a dormant volcano. When my wife, Cathy, lifts her fork, he erupts, leaving her no other choice but to stop eating and hold him close. Putting Jack to bed is no different. He can already be passed out, but as soon as it’s time for bed, you best be prepared for a slumber cage match! Not surprising, he’s always a greater handful for Cathy, so when she asked me tonight to put him to bed, I said yes.

Now, so that it doesn’t sound like I’m some sort of saint, the full disclosure is of course I didn’t want to put Jack to bed. No one wants someone screaming in their face for 30 minutes. Seriously, try it sometime if you won’t take my word for it.

The kicker is I put Jack to bed and in less than 30 seconds, he’s already asleep. All I had to do was lay him down in his crib. I go into our bedroom to get ready for bed…my wife’s eyes lock onto mine.

“He was already asleep for you wasn’t he?”

“Yes.”

[EXPLETIVES]

Breakfast of (parent) Champions!

I eat right; I exercise. But sometimes, when you have two crazy dogs to walk, a babysitter to pick up and you’re already running late for a 9 a.m. meeting, you make due with a granola bar, Diet Coke and coffee.

And that pretty much sums up what it’s like being a new parent: making due. Like when you would love to take the time to grind the coffee beans and brew a fresh cup, but instead, you make due with a watered-down Keurig. Or when you’ve had a long day and would like an even longer, hot bath, but instead, you make due with a 5 minute sprint / shower.

Adaptation and acceptance are the best friends of any parent. Every day, my wife and I accept that the routines we had before baby won’t necessarily work anymore. And the quicker we come to terms with it, the faster we adapt to our new lifestyle.

It’s not all bad; we celebrate our little victories when it comes along. This past Sunday, we finally watched “Inception.” I had rented the DVD from Netflix – five months ago!  It felt like we would never have the time to watch the movie, particularly one with such a complex plot. So six hours after starting the movie – after stopping three times to feed the baby, make dinner and walk the dogs – the end credits came on the screen, and Cathy and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. Not only did we finally have our first movie-night date in forever, but we actually finished a movie. And yes, our egos were feeling rather large knowing that we actually understood it! Nothing like a quick minute of feeling normal to make you appreciate all those other moments you don’t.

And the Red Bull is now wearing off…