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!
Our Davis family story continued in 2018 with another eventful, memorable year.
Here are a few highlights from 2018:
- Jennifer and I celebrated 11 years of marriage this summer.
- Also this summer we went on a big family trip to The Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas with Jennifer’s mom, stepdad and her brothers’ families. This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips, and we made countless memories. Will especially loved the tallest waterslides there, while Sam and Julie Beth loved the rapid river.
- I took the kids camping at Desoto State Park this summer, and my father-in-law joined us. The highlights of the trip were hiking to the bottom of Desoto Falls, where we swam in a giant swimming hole, along with cliff jumping and swimming at the Hippie Hole.
- This fall we went on a family trip (for the 3rd time) to Disney World with Jennifer’s dad, stepmom and her brothers’ families. Each time we go to Disney World it is always different because the kids are interested in different things each time. Sam is still too short to ride the Rockin’ Rollercoaster, but he can ride almost everything else now. So he had the time of his life. We are huge Toy Story fans (Toy Story Maniacs), so we loved the new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. We had some special passes and rode the Slinky Ride 4 times in a row, which made me pretty nauseous.
- Jennifer got licensed in health insurance this year, which has shifted her role at work quite a bit.
- Jennifer and I went to see Dancing With The Stars Live! in Huntsville. This was special for 2 reasons. First it was special because Jennifer LOVES Dancing With the Stars. Second, it was special because we were supposed to go see the live show last year, but then we had to miss it because Jennifer got appendicitis and had her appendix removed the day of the show.
Sam finished kindergarten and started 1st grade in 2018. As he has started learning the basics of math this year, he has become obsessed with numbers. He constantly asks me to add big numbers for him, and I can see his mind working trying to figure it out for himself. While it is all new to him, Sam is already showing how much he loves math, and he is picking it up very quickly.
Just like his big brother, Sam decided to cut his hair short and spike it this fall. Jennifer misses his longer, straight hair (compared to Will’s curly/wavy hair), but now all the guys in our house have matching haircuts!
Sam played soccer in the spring and fall, and I was able to coach his team both seasons. He is getting really good and scoring lots of goals, and since Will and Julie Beth both play for travel soccer teams now (with more qualified coaches), Sam is the only child I get to coach anymore.
Sam also plays basketball, and he is usually one of the shortest players on the court. Despite his height, I can already see major improvement in his skills from last winter to this winter. He shoots basketball at home on the driveway quite a bit with Will, and now he is actually scoring during real games. He usually makes a few shots per game now.
Sam ran in 2 (1 mile) “fun runs” this year at local races, and he is getting pretty fast for his age. Whenever he hears about a race, he always asks to run in it, so I guess he got the running gene from my family.
Sam picked his 2018 ornament because he got his 1st Xbox for his birthday. He plays a little bit of Fortnite, but he especially loves Minecraft.
Julie Beth had plenty of firsts in 2018. She is a cheerleader for the first time right now during basketball season. She loves it, and she especially loves that their coaches are high school cheerleaders.
Another first is that she joined a new soccer team, switching from rec league soccer to playing for her first travel soccer team. She joined a team of girls 2 years older than her for the spring season and played with them again during the fall season. She plays right defender and does very well for her age.
This year Julie Beth finished 1st grade and started 2nd grade. She still goes to speech therapy, and her speech is sounding really good these days. She talks with such a proper tone now that she often gets asked if she is British!
One fun thing about the new school year is that Julie Beth’s 2nd grade classroom is next door to Sam’s 1st grade classroom. Their teachers are best friends, and their classes go to recess together daily.
Julie Beth has developed a love for reading this year, and she has gotten very good at math as well. Basically Julie Beth just loves going to school everyday.
In 2018 Will finished 3rd grade and started 4th grade. He grew and changed in many ways this year. Appearance-wise, his biggest change was that he cut off his shaggy, wavy hair and got a short haircut with spiked hair.
Like just about every other boy in the world this year, Will spent countless hours playing Fortnite on Xbox this year. Fortnite has been the way that 3rd and 4th grade boys socialize around here. They play online together and talk for hours through their Xbox headsets. Sometimes Will would even Facetime friends for hours from his iPad while he played. Knowing what the pediatrician keeps telling us about screen time, we eventually had to set limits on Fortnite and the Xbox, but it was really only an issue during the summer. During the school year Will stays plenty busy with school, sports and church.
Will continued playing travel soccer with a team that is 3 age groups older than him. It has been quite the challenge for him as many of his opponents have already hit their growth spurts, but he holds his own on the field. He plays striker, and he goes up against many defenders that are close to 6 ft tall. We constantly get compliments from parents of other teams about how aggressive he is and how well he plays, despite being so much smaller than everyone else on the field. Half of his team is playing JV soccer in the spring, so Will is switching to a new soccer club in 2019. He will be playing for a much larger club in Huntsville, and while it will be a 45+ minute drive to practices, Will is finally going to play with a soccer team in his proper age group next year. He was starting to get burned out playing against older players, so he is looking forward to this change.
Basketball is Will’s other love, and he has continued playing with the same travel team that he joined in 2nd grade. The team has come quite a long ways, and they are experiencing a great deal of success on the court. It is exciting to watch, and Will especially loves it because he is such close friends with his teammates.
One fun basketball-related moment came when we went to see the Harlem Globetrotters in January. Will got tickets for Christmas last year, and it was a fun way to kick off the year. I saw the Globetrotters play/perform once when I was a kid, and now my kids can say they have also seen the show.
As much as Will loves his sports and video games, he had much more important matters at church this year. In May 2018 Will decided to give his life to Christ and became a Christian. I was able to baptize him, which was one of the greatest honors of my entire life. I was extremely proud of him for his decision, and I look forward to seeing what great plans God has for Will in the future!
2019 was a great year for The Davis Family.
Here are a few highlights from the year:
- Jennifer and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary.
- I traded in my 12 year old Jeep Patriot, which carried me through my final years of Grade School, the 1st 12 years of our marriage, the birth and early years of all our children’s lives, numerous moves and several jobs. This car survived delivering pizzas for 2 years, hundreds of drives back and forth from Guntersville to Decatur for my first ministry job after college, the 2011 tornadoes that destroyed Jennifer’s old car with a fallen tree that barely missed my car, and plenty of drives between Alabama, Indiana and Tennessee. It also served me well for 4+ years as a stay-at-home dad picking up the kids from school, shuttling them to all their practices and games, taking them on camping trips all across the South and making too many family memories to count. It was a great car, but in its dying days it had no air conditioning and made loud squealing and clanging noises everyday as I waited in car lines at the kids’ schools. It was pretty embarrassing all spring, and Alabama’s roasting hot summer was arriving fast. So we traded in the 2007 Jeep Patriot for a 2018 Dodge Journey. As I am known to do, I found the best deals possible on a new car. We found a dealer 2 hours away that had just changed ownership and was stuck with a huge overstock of 2018 Dodge Journeys because the previous owners bought about 75 too many Journeys. They needed to clear their lot and get fresh inventory in, so they offered every rebate they possibly could. Plus we always get employee pricing on Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler cars from Jennifer’s step-grandmother, so we ended up getting my new car for about $11,000 below MSRP. As you can tell, I love finding great deals.
- This summer Jennifer’s Dad and I took the kids on their 1st backpacking trip at South Cumberland State Park in Tennessee. We carried way too much food but not enough water. We survived by filtering water from streams and waterfalls. It was a fun but challenging experience. For Christmas we all got new backpacking backpacks, so we look forward to visiting some new parks and trails in the future.
- Jennifer’s job has continued to change as she has taken on more and more health insurance responsibilities. Lately health insurance has kept her very busy.
- I have still been a stay-at-home / work-from-home dad. I work on my eBay business for whatever hours I can when the kids are at school before my afternoons and evenings are consumed with sports practices. During summer break it seems like I spend half my day feeding kids, and then I try to fit in a little work whenever I can.
- I had my appendix removed in August. Besides the pain and discomfort of being sick and having surgery, the biggest disappointment for me was the fact that it forced me to end my workout streaks. I had run everyday for 167 straight days, and I had either run or biked everyday for 995 straight days before my surgery. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed to fall just short of 1,000 days on the run/bike streak.
- The kids and I attended our 1st ever professional soccer game when we watched Memphis 901 FC with my parents in July.
- We had a big Smith Family Reunion with my Mom’s family at Pickwick State Park on the Tennessee River. It is always great to catch up with all my cousins, aunts and uncles that I do not get to see very often these days.
- Jennifer and I taught RAs (Royal Ambassadors) at church the 1st half of the year, and this semester we led the 4th and 5th grade boys Wednesday night small groups.
- We took a short trip to the beach during Spring Break, and then we went to the beach for a full week during Fall Break. I have decided that Fall Break is now my favorite time of the year to go to the beach. It was still plenty hot in October to swim in the ocean or the pool, but it was not brutally hot when sitting in the sand.
- We did not go on any big summer vacations this year, but we spent many summer weekends on the lake riding jet skis and playing on the water trampoline and lily pad at Jennifer’s Mom’s house. The kids are obsessed with riding the tube behind the jet ski. Another fun thing about the lake as the kids get older is that they have friends that are also out on the lake, and sometimes I would drive Will on the jet ski over to a friend’s lake house or have friends meet us on the water to play on the water trampoline.
Continue reading below to see how 2019 went for each of our kids.
Sam finished 1st grade and started 2nd grade. Amazingly he ended up having the exact same teacher again as she switched grades as well. He loves his teacher, and because he is shy and slow to open up to adults, it really helped him to have a 2nd grade teacher he already knows and likes.
Sam continues to excel in math at school, as he is one of the strongest math students in 2nd grade. He has also come an incredibly long way this year with his reading skills.
I coached Sam in spring soccer this year in what might have been my last time to head coach any of my kids in soccer, but we will see what the future holds. Sam played U8 rec soccer in the spring, but even though he still qualified to play U8 soccer again in the fall season, we went ahead and let him move up to the older age group. He had done all he could do in U8 soccer and was not going to keep growing and developing in that age group again, and because Sam is young for his grade most of his soccer playing friends would be playing in the older age group anyway. Not only did Sam move up to U10 soccer this fall, but he also joined a new U10 travel soccer team with Marshall United Futbol Club. He was the youngest and smallest boy on his team, but he held his own and played tough defense all year. In rec soccer he was always one of my best goal scorers, so it was a big adjustment for him to play defense all season. He enjoyed it and hopes to keep playing travel soccer in the future.
Sam selected his 2019 Christmas ornament to be a soccer player with “MU” painted on it to represent his soccer club Marshall United.
Sam also loves basketball, and this winter he moved to a new age group (7 & 8 year old boys). He got on a really good rec basketball team, and he is loving it. They have played in 2 rec league tournaments already this season, and his team lost a heartbreaker in overtime of the championship game in the 1st tournament. His team won the 2nd tournament, and this was Sam’s 1st time to ever win a championship in any sports. His coach gave all the boys gold basketball chain necklaces, which he calls his trophy, and he is very proud of himself. Even though Sam is one of the youngest boys on the team, he usually plays point guard and rarely sits subs out of the game. He does not get to take many shots, but he is a competent ball handler who never gets called for traveling (something many of the boys struggle with at this age).
Here are some things Sam really loves this year… He does not play his XBox too much anymore, as he mostly plays his Nintendo Switch. For Christmas he wanted 4 main games this year: Pokemon Sword, Pokemon Shield, Super Mario Maker 2 and Luigi’s Mansion 3. Sam also started collecting and trading Pokemon Cards this year. Despite all the fun video games, outside games and other toys Sam got for Christmas this year, the funny thing is that he was dead set on getting one particular gift. He absolutely insisted that he wanted a wall-mounted automatic hand sanitizer dispenser (the foam kind, not the liquid kind). So we now have a Purell Automatic Dispenser on our kitchen wall. Thanks to the new Disney+ App, Sam also loves the movie Zombies and the tv show The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. His favorite new movies are Avengers Endgame, Spider-Man Far From Home and Star Wars Episode IX Rise of Skywalker.
In 2019 Julie Beth finished 2nd grade and started 3rd grade, which meant she moved to a new school. She also does very well at school, both in math and reading, and she loves anything artistic she can do. A big achievement for Julie Beth at school this year came from her hard work and studying… She won her classroom spelling bee, so she went on to the school spelling bee against all the best spellers from 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. I spent several hours with her going over the spelling bee word list, and she memorized all the correct spellings. Even though she is only in 3rd grade she finished in 5th place against all the older kids at the school spelling bee! She finally got out on a word that was not on the list she memorized, and we are very proud of her.
Another big accomplishment for Julie Beth at school this year is that she graduated out of the speech program. Because of major issues with her ears when she was a toddler, Julie Beth developed bad speech deficiencies, and a few years ago most people could barely make out anything she was saying. She has been going to speech classes every week since preschool, and after 5 years of speech classes, her speech development is finally within normal ranges for her age. It is amazing to listen to her talk now and then watch videos of her when she was younger. Graduating out of speech is one of the more proud moments of her life, and we cannot thank her speech language pathologist enough!
Julie Beth took the spring soccer season off, and she just concentrated on her tumbling through the spring and summer. She has been taking some private lessons this year as she tries to master her back handspring. She has gotten so much better at tumbling the last few months!
She played soccer again in the fall season, and she switched from her previous travel team that was 2 years older, joining a team of girls her own age this time. She absolutely loved soccer this year, and she has several really good friends on her team. The team was coached by the high school girls’ soccer team coach, and they had a really strong season. She and Sam both play on travel teams for the same club and the same U10 age group, so it was nice that many of their practices and game schedules coordinated well with each other.
A big first this year for Julie Beth came this winter. On the very last day of sign-ups just a few hours before registration closed, she informed me that she wanted to play basketball this year. She had never shown any interest in playing organized basketball, but the combination of playing on the driveway with her brothers and the fact that many of her soccer teammates were also playing basketball finally got her interested in trying it. So she is playing rec basketball for the 1st time ever, and she is actually really loving it.
She selected the girl basketball player ornament for 2019 to remember the first time she played on a basketball team.
The rec league had a player evaluation followed by a draft, and despite never playing before, somehow Julie Beth was the #1 draft pick! We were all shocked, but the reason she went #1 is because she is so aggressive and hustles nonstop. This is where soccer carried over instantly to basketball. She is a tough defender in soccer, and this made her play tough in basketball as well. Like Sam, she also plays point guard and rarely subs out of the game. She is actually a very good dribbler for her age, and she is an excellent defender. As the season progresses she is scoring more and more points. She struggled with shooting at first because she had gotten used to shooting on a 10 foot goal at home, but her age group plays on 8 foot goals. So she just shot the ball way too hard, but she is adjusting to the lower goal and getting a softer touch on her shots. In her last 2 games she scored 7 points and 9 points. In the 7 point game, she went 5-5 from the free throw line! So it looks like basketball might be a sport she keeps playing in the future, which means all 3 of our kids now play both soccer and basketball.
Here are a few things that Julie Beth is really into this year… She loves all things arts and crafts. She loves singing in the children’s choir at church. Her favorite tv shows are The Suite Life of Zack & Cody & Suite Life on Deck, and her favorite movie this year is Frozen 2. She enjoys working puzzles, squeezing squishies and cuddling with giant squishmallow pillow pets. She likes mermaids, unicorns and anything with magic sequins. She likes jewelry, learning how to wear makeup and taking bubble baths with bath bombs. It is common to see Julie Beth lounging in her bath robe, slippers and spa headband. She works hard and plays tough in sports, but at home she is quite the girly-girl.
Will finished 4th grade and started 5th grade (his last year before middle school!), and Will always does great at school. In 2019 Will took the PSAT with 8th and 9th graders and scored above average for the older age. A major highlight for Will at school this year goes along with Julie Beth’s similar accomplishment. While Julie Beth finished 5th in the school spelling bee, Will won the whole thing! Unlike his sister, Will did not study the words at all. Now he is going on to the county spelling bee next month. We are obviously proud of Will for this and for always doing so well at school.
Will’s 2019 Christmas ornament is a soccer player with “HFC” on the jersey.
The biggest change for Will (and our whole family) this year involves Will’s soccer team. This spring Will switched from Marshall United (the club Sam and Julie Beth both play for) and joined a much larger club called Huntsville Futbol Club. Rather than practicing in Guntersville, we now have a 50 minute drive to every practice and home game. Away games can be anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours away. On the surface this sounds a bit extreme, but it has been an unbelievably positive experience for Will and our family this year. It is considerably more expensive and time consuming, but for us it is worth it. Will has a God-given gift for the beautiful game of soccer, but a year ago Will was about ready to quit the sport. He had played 2 years with a travel team that was 2-3 years older than him, and his old travel team was actually pretty good for awhile. Then a few of the best players left for bigger clubs, and the older boys Will was playing against were all hitting their growth spurts while he was much younger and smaller. The last season with Will’s old team they lost nearly every game by 10+ goals, and it was an excruciatingly long season for Will. It was not fair to expect him to keep playing with a team so much older than him when he was no longer enjoying it or growing as a player. Will did not just want to quit that team, but he was ready to walk away from the sport altogether.
When it comes to sports we always have the same agreement in place with our kids… If you join a team for a season, you are absolutely committed for that season. If the season does not go well, you will still be at every practice and every game and keep the commitment you made till the very end of the season. If you do not want to play the sport next year, that is fine, and we will never force any of our kids to sign-up for a sport they do not want to play. We just insist that they finish out the season they are in and never quit in the middle of a commitment. Knowing that this was how our family operates with sports, I had to have a tough conversation with Will about soccer. I knew he was burned out and ready to quit, and I did not want to just force him to play another season. So I had a candid conversation with him. I told him that he has a natural ability, a special talent, a God-given gift for soccer, and I told him I would hate to see him throw that away without giving the sport one more try in a different situation.
There was no team for his age group with our local soccer club, so we had to choose between a few other clubs that were all 45-60 minutes away. Knowing this would be a huge commitment for us financially and that it would making our weekly schedule incredibly hectic, we offered to let Will join Huntsville Futbol Club if he would give the sport another chance and give it his all for just one season. If he played for one season and hated it or was just too burned out on the sport, then we would give up soccer for the time being and never pressure him to play again unless he decided to on his own. I could see in Will what he was unable at the time to see in himself, that he could do something really special in soccer if he was just in the right situation.
Will agreed to give it a try for the spring season and go from there. We got him transferred (Yes, you actually have to do all kinds of paperwork and pay the state league in order to transfer from one state league club to another.) to HFC, and Jennifer and I started taking turns driving him to Huntsville for practices. Finally he was on a team his own age, with boys his size. At practices they worked on more advanced skills than Will was used to, and they won most of their games in the spring season. When they lost, it was at least close and respectable. By midseason Will became the starting striker and biggest goal scorer, and with all the positive changes Will fell back in love with soccer. So he absolutely wanted to play again in the fall, which brought about even more positive changes. Right after the fall season started his team got a new coach, a dad of one of his teammates, and things got better from there. Will’s new coach once played for the Jamaican National Team, played college soccer for North Carolina and briefly played professionally. He had previous success coaching youth soccer teams, but stopped coaching teams to focus on his soccer training academy. He is a highly sought after trainer and coach, and he finally agreed to coach a youth team again because his son is on the team and because he saw something special about this group of boys. He also sees something special in Will and switched him from striker to start preparing him to play a position called right wingback, the same position he played at North Carolina. This fall with the new coach, Will’s soccer team really started clicking, and they ended up finishing ranked 4th in the state among Division 1 teams. For Will in 2019 soccer transformed from being a dreadful experience to being something that he wants to be a major part of his future. Now he dreams of playing college and professional soccer.
Will’s other love has always been basketball, and he continues to play with his same travel basketball team that he has been with since 2nd grade. They are a great team that wins most of their games with intense defense. His basketball team won several tournaments in 2019, and he has a nice collection of championship rings displayed in his room.
Here are a few things Will likes in 2019… He started collecting basketball cards and already has some good rookies, autographs and jersey patch cards. He got Apple AirPods this year, so now we are going through that stage where we have to tell him everything 5 times because he does not hear us over his headphones. Our family got a new Goalrilla Basketball Goal for Christmas, which Will now plays on constantly. Some of his other favorite Christmas presents are his Ja Morant Grizzlies jersey t-shirt, Pokemon Sword & Shield for Nintendo Switch, FIFA 20 for XBox, Legends of Zelda – Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch, and a memory foam mattress topper pad for his bed. His favorite new movies this year are the live action Aladdin and Avengers Endgame, and his favorite tv show is Stranger Things on Netflix.