Every year we get new family Christmas ornaments that reflect the state and interests of our family that year. Click here to see our full family history dating back to 2006.
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.
Something else that was really fun for our family this year was the new boat house that Jennifer’s mom and stepdad built. They are in the process of building their new house on the lake, but they built the boat house first so we could have fun on the lake this summer. So we spent many summer afternoons zooming around Lake Guntersville on jet skis.
Will started 2nd grade this year, 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.
One big accomplishment for Will this year is that he learned how to ride a bike! Click here to see him ride.
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. Another big accomplishment for Julie Beth in 2016 is that she learned how to swim! Click here to see her swimming like a fish.
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. Like his sister, Sam also learned how to swim this summer. We are very proud of how well he swims for a 4 year old! Click here to see some underwater videos of the kids showing off their new swimming skills. 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.
CLICK HERE TO READ MY FULL POST, WHICH TELLS OUR ENTIRE FAMILY STORY TOLD WITH CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS YEAR BY YEAR.