Thanks to these annual gifts from my mother-in-law, my family has developed a tradition of having new custom Christmas ornaments each year that show the current situation of our family. I always thought the ornaments were nice, but this year as we unpacked our ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree, it hit me how these yearly gifts actually told the story of my family, dating back to 2006, the year I met my wife Jennifer. So here it goes… learn the story of the Davis family via a display of Christmas ornaments!
We started 2016 by placing membership at Guntersville First Baptist Church. This was Jennifer’s home church growing up, and her mom, grandmother, step-grandmother, 2 of her brothers and 1 sister-in-law were all members there. We visited another church a few times, but ultimately we wanted to worship with family. We also really liked the group of young families there. While Jennifer and I both grew up in Baptist churches, joining one again was a bit of an adjustment after I spent the last 14 years in Restoration Movement churches (Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches). It was also a big change going from spending most of my adult life on ministry staffs to being regular members. We attended for several months and prayed at great length before we joined, and we ultimately knew that this is where God wants us to be right now. It has really turned out to be a pretty awesome thing because right at the same time we joined there was an influx of other young couples and families who all started coming too. We helped start a new Wednesday night adult group that I co-teach. All the new couples started a new Sunday School class together, and we have class parties throughout the year too. The whole group really meshes well, and it has turned into a wonderful situation for us. I also volunteer on Monday afternoons with the children’s choir. I have nothing to do with the singing, but I prepare and serve the snacks for everyone. Most recently I also started volunteering with the worship ministry running Media Shout during Sunday morning services. Volunteering is much different than being on staff, but it is also nice to help fill needs without having pressure or dealing with church politics.
After being a stay-at-home dad for a solid year and working part-time for my mother-in-law, that part-time job is going away, forcing me to find another way to supplement Jennifer’s full-time income. So this fall I started working like crazy to try and build an eBay home business (Click here to read more about that experience.), which has shown some promise but not been an immediate steady cash flow. Hopefully it will pick up as I hope to quadruple the number of items I have listed this spring. If I that leads to quadruple profits then it could be a pretty solid home business. If not, then I may have to find a job outside the home in 2017.
Jennifer continued working for her stepdad at the Upton Group LLC. She has taken on lots of new responsibilities this year, and she also traveled a few times for work, going to Las Vegas, Ohio, Tennessee and North Carolina.
We had 2 big family vacations this year. We took our annual beach trip with Jennifer’s mom, stepdad and brothers’ families. We have our favorite condo in Perdido Key, next door to the Flora-Bama, and we were there on the 4th of July this year. (Click here to see our view of the 4th of July Fireworks show at the Flora-Bama.) During Fall Break we went to Disney World with Jennifer’s Dad, stepmom and her brothers’ families. Of course this trip was a magical experience, and we are already anxious to go back again one day. I just recently got our Memory Maker photos downloaded, so I plan to go back and write a post next week about Disney World.
In addition to our big family trips, I took a few small road trips with the kids. We went to Chattanooga for 2 days, went camping at South Cumberland State Park in Tennessee (read about it here), visited my parents in Memphis a couple times and went camping at Rock Island State Park in Tennessee.
I also continued running in 2016, finishing the year by running my 6,000th mile in the 41 months that I have been running. Overall my mileage was down quite a bit this year, and I did not run any marathons. However I did take up trail running and ran my first trail race, the McKay Hollow Madness 25K Trail Run (read about it here) in Huntsville, AL. I also completely changed the way that I train, taking up low heart rate based running following the Maffetone Method (read about my experience here). I now run much slower, which is why my mileage is way down.
Will started 2nd grade in 2016, and he has continued to excel both at school and sports. He started the year with rec league basketball, averaging over 12 points per game, and he ended the year with basketball, now playing for a more competitive program with a local basketball academy. We have a basketball goal at our house now, and he is always outside practicing. He was going to play baseball, but he broke his arm (again) this spring. He played U-10 soccer this Fall, and he was the youngest kid in the league. I coached the team, and we had a great season together. Will really grew as a player, and I taught him (to the best of my ability) to play goalie. Will is good at offense, but he is a natural defender like I was when I played soccer. He hates to let the other team score goals, and he worked hard to be a dominant defender and aggressive, fearless goalie. Once the ball was inside the 18-yard box, he went after it hard as the goalie, even if it meant he occasionally got kicked in the chest or face. In addition to sports, he also sings in the church and school choirs, and he loves playing Xbox, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS XL.
Julie Beth once played indoor soccer in Indiana, and she wouldn’t really do anything during the games. She hated it, and I thought she would never play again. However with her brothers playing soccer, she decided to give it a try again. She and Sam played on the same team together, and I was their coach. Coaching 2 soccer teams kept me busy all Fall! She was actually really good and played smart and aggressive for her age. If she wants to keep playing, I think she could be a pretty good soccer player, but her true love is gymnastics. She is constantly doing cartwheels all over the house instead of walking. She wanted a trampoline for Christmas because she uses one at gymnastics, so now we have a trampoline in our yard, which has been a huge hit so far. She also got a small balance beam for Christmas. We did end the year with some very sad news, as her gymnastics instructor just found out she has pancreatic cancer and has to shut down her gym. She was also Jennifer’s gymnastics coach when she was a child, so everyone is pretty upset about that. Julie Beth has to go to a new gymnastics gym in 2017, so that will be a big change and a longer drive.
Besides sports, Julie Beth had a monumental year as she started kindergarten! She loves school, and she particularly loves art. When she’s not tumbling around, she can be found drawing and coloring for hours. She also started losing baby teeth this year, and she lost both of her front teeth in December. Her 2nd one got knocked out by Sam (it was already about to fall out) in a trampoline collision.
Because we requested that Sam and Julie Beth be on the same soccer team, they actually moved Sam into an older age group. We thought both age groups would be together when we made the request, but in reality Sam should have been playing with all 4 year olds. He was the youngest kid in the league, and it showed! He was a handful for me to coach, as he liked to basically do the opposite of whatever I said. He would purposely kick it toward his own goal in games, and he would refuse to go in the game when I told him to. He would also sometimes just lay in the grass when he was supposed to be up helping his team. I got frustrated, but he was just being a 4 year old. He wants to play again next year, and he wants me to be his coach again.
Sam had a big 2016 because he got to start going to school with his big brother and sister! He got into the Pre-K Academy at their elementary school, so for 1 year only, all 3 kids are at the same school together. This will not happen again for 10 years till Will is a senior and Sam a freshman in high school. This is the first year Sam has gone to school all day, or 5 days per week, and it has been bittersweet for me. Having all 3 kids in school till 2:15 lets me work on eBay during the day, but it is sad that I lost that special time I got to spend with Sam everyday last year while the other 2 were in school.
Besides school and soccer, Sam also really got into video games this year, and we spent many hours this summer beating every level with every character on Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. We accomplished 100% completion of the game, which was quite an achievement. He also got a 3DS XL like his brother and has started playing Pokemon Sun & Moon. Sam also loves to play with action figures and to build things with Legos. He especially loves Star Wars Lego sets, and he will play with them for hours. He got his introverted personality from me, and he rarely speaks to anyone at school or church. However at home, his mouth never stops running.
The Davis family story continued in 2017 with another great year with lots of proud moments. Jennifer trained hard this fall and ran her first (and only, according to her) marathon in December at the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL. She says she will never do it again! Even so, I am extremely proud of my runner wife and her accomplishments, and she says she will still run half-marathons and shorter distances in the future.
I did not run the marathon with her like I had originally intended. I trained for awhile and even built up to a 20-mile long run. If the marathon had been that day I could have finished it, but unfortunately I had Achilles tendonitis that just would not go away. So I stopped training a few weeks before the marathon to let my Achilles heal. Now that I am nearly recovered, I plan to take on some new endurance challenges next year. I was just gifted a nice road bike, and I hope to test the triathlon waters in 2018. I am not sure if an Ironman will ever be in my future, but I want to try some sprint and olympic distance triathlons and see how it goes.
Jennifer is still working for her stepdad’s insurance agency, and while not much changed for her in 2017, she is about to start studying to get licensed in health insurance. This will change her role with the agency, and it will be interesting to see where that goes next year.
I have continued to grow my eBay home business that I started 16 months ago, which allows me the scheduling freedom of a stay-at-home parent during the summer and holidays. Hopefully my profits will keep increasing so I don’t have to get a job working for someone else next year! It is not what I expected to be doing, but I love the freedom of being my own boss and making my own schedule. I also like finding rare items and reselling them for huge profits. Unfortunately I have to look through a ton of cheap junk to find the good stuff, but I enjoy the hunt.
My family back in Memphis had some rough moments this year. First my parents’ house (my childhood home) caught on fire in the middle of the night in August. They barely woke up and escaped before their room was engulfed in flames, as the fire started in my dad’s closet just feet from their bed. Pretty much everything inside the house was destroyed, and I went back to help them sort through their belongings for a couple days after the fire. I had to wear a face mask the whole time, and the lingering smell of smoke was suffocating. I still cannot get the black out of the shoes I wore in the burnt house. My parents have been living in an apartment the last few months while they rebuild their house, and hopefully they will have a house again by summer 2018.
Then my Dad’s mom (Grandma) passed away in November. She was my last living grandparent. While we were obviously sad to see her pass, we also felt a sense of relief for her because she had been in constant physical pain for the last decade. We all went to Memphis for the funeral. My sisters and I all spoke at the funeral, and I led the graveside service. This was the 1st time I’ve ever had to speak at a funeral, but it was a nice way to reflect upon all the great memories I had with my grandparents when I was younger. It gave me an excuse to talk about my love of all things Memphis Tigers in front of an audience because my Tigers fandom is rooted in my relationship with my grandparents. They had season tickets for Memphis Tigers football and basketball for about 30 years, and they took me to tons of games when I was a kid.
As I continue to try and let my kids see and explore the true beauty of God’s creation, I took the kids on 2 camping trips in 2017. First we went to Cloudland Canyon State Park in North Georgia. This was my first camping trip to Georgia, and it was an incredibly beautiful park with some great hiking trails. This summer we spent a few days at Fall Creek Falls State Park in East Tennessee. This was the 2nd time my kids have been there, and it is my all-time favorite park in the country. I went there countless times as a kid and in college with my friends. Hopefully in 2018 we will find some new parks to explore!
Jennifer and I had a very special trip this summer as we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary! We stayed at the Westin Resort on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. This was the first time we have been on a beach trip with just the 2 of us since our honeymoon. The last 10 years have been better than I could have possibly imagined, and I love Jennifer more now than ever before. God is good!
Life has been busier than ever for us this year. During soccer season when all 3 kids were playing on 3 different teams, we usually had soccer on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (oftentimes having 3 different practices on the same days). When you add in church on Sunday and Wednesday we would be lucky to ever have a day or night free.
Sam got a double dose of introverted from Jennifer and I, and he is definitely the most shy of our 3 kids. It takes him a very long time to warm-up to his teachers at school and church, but he has started to slowly come out of his shell this year, particularly with other kids. He loves to constantly talk about all the friends he has made here, and at home his mouth never stops going. Not only does Sam have lots of friends at school, but he is doing a great job as a student too. He especially loves math, and he is constantly asking me the answers to addition problems so he can memorize the answers.
Sam has really gotten into sports in 2017. He played soccer for the 2nd time, and he had a fantastic season. I coached his U6 team again, and since I also coached Julie Beth’s U8 soccer team, Sam participated in all of the U6 and U8 practices. Practicing with the older age group paid off big time, and Sam usually scored between 5-8 goals in every U6 soccer game. I was one proud coach and dad!
As you can tell from his 2017 Christmas ornament, Sam’s new sport this year was basketball. He loves playing soccer, but he has also been talking about playing basketball for the past year. He has been practicing dribbling and shooting on our driveway with Will for months, and he was beyond excited to go to his first real basketball practice. He plays in the 5-6 year olds league, and most of the kids on his team (and the opposing teams) are a head taller than him. He does a great job of dribbling the ball down the court and passing it off to a teammate, but he has not quite figured out how to sort his way through the mob of kids towering over him and get close enough to the goal to take a shot. Maybe next year when he is taller he will have a better chance at making some shots. Just like his big brother, Sam’s favorite basketball player is Steph Curry, and he loves his all his new Under Armour Steph Curry apparel he got for Christmas, especially his shoes.
Since Sam was 8 months old, both boys have always shared a bedroom. In 2017 we decided it was time to let them each have their own bedrooms, so we gave up our playroom and let the boys each have their own space. Sam was very sad at first to not be with his big brother anymore, but when he found out that 90% of the toys from the playroom would be in his bedroom he got really excited.
In 2017 Julie Beth continued doing gymnastics, and she played soccer again this fall. I coached her U8 team, and she did an awesome job, scoring several goals and playing tough defense. It is the only sport with a ball that she cares about, and she has no desire to play basketball like her brothers.
While Will is average height, and Sam is very short for his age, Julie Beth was in the 75th percentile for height and 90% percentile for weight at her annual check-up this fall! I am not sure where she gets the height, since Jennifer and I both come from short families, but she is taller than most of the kids her age.
One big change for Julie Beth this year was her braces. One of her front teeth was growing in at a bad angle behind her bottom teeth and much further back than her other front tooth, so the orthodontist wanted to straighten it out before the rest of her grown-up teeth came in. She only got 4 brackets, and they are being removed next month. It only cost a couple hundred dollars for the 4 brackets, but we had the eye-opening news of how much the full braces will cost. Multiply that cost by 3 kids, and then I can choose between buying a brand new car or giving all my kids straight smiles. We are not looking forward to that expense over the next few years!
Julie Beth has continued to go to speech therapy at school this year, and her speech has come so far over the last couple years. She is also a great student at school, and she can read really well for her age.
Some of Julie Beth’s favorites this year include everything JoJo Siwa, anything covered with magic sequins, gymnastics equipment (She and Sam love making his bedroom into a gymnastics room.), Liv and Maddie tv show, Full House / Fuller House, and she even got into Pokemon 3DS games like her brothers.
Will had a big year in 2017. We are very proud of how he has excelled at school and sports. At his new elementary school (for grades 3-5), he recently got 8th place at the school Spelling Bee and beat most of the older kids in his school. He also got an award for having the most AR (Accelerated Reader) points in the entire school. He got so many points because he read all 7 Harry Potter books by Thanksgiving of his 3rd grade year. This was a really fun thing at our house because every time he finished a book we would watch the next movie as a family. After reading all the Harry Potter books he tested at a grade 7.8 reading level. Will also got invited to be in the gifted student program at school, which he loves because they get to learn how to use 3D printers, build things and solve complex programs in groups.
Will continued to play soccer and basketball this year, taking on new opportunities and challenges in each sport. He is currently playing his 2nd season with a travel basketball team, and we really appreciate the kind of coaching he gets with this program. It is really amazing to watch how much his skill level has improved since a year ago. He also has some great friends on his team, and all the families spend a lot of time at the basketball courts together.
In spring 2017 Will joined a travel soccer team that was newly formed. Will started playing up to the U10 age group in soccer when he was still 7 years old, and the travel team he joined at 8 years old was a U12 team. Not only are his teammates mostly much older than him, but in the spring they practiced with a U14 soccer team ever week. He was a 2nd grader practicing with 7th graders! He played on the team again this fall, but now his team practices by themselves, which is much better for Will. Soccer season was a bit rough as the team did not win much, but all the parents were very proud of how hard the boys battled throughout the season. They were a first year team playing in the Division 2 State League against teams that had been playing together for 3-4 years. Will also has some great friends on his soccer team, while Jennifer and I have started getting to know the other parents well too because we spend so much time together at games and tournaments. Soccer and basketball keep Will very busy, but he did find time to run two 5K races with me this year, winning his age group in his 1st ever 5K race.
Some of Will’s favorites this year include playing Xbox One (NBA 2K18 is his favorite game.), Beyblade Burst shows and toys, Pokemon shows and 3DS games, anything Golden State Warriors (particularly Steph Curry & Kevin Durant), Steph Curry basketball shoes and tall basketball socks.
All in all God has been very good to my family once again in 2017, and we look forward to seeing what adventures He has in store for the Davis family story in 2018!