2019 Update: The Story of My Family Told With Christmas Ornaments

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.