And wouldn't you know it, only a week or two after that Skype call, things kinda took a shift with one specific girl I had been messaging. Truthfully, I wasn't expecting anything from it initially. Of course she was mega cute, but I treated it just like anyone else that messaged me because of the blog. Just to be a listening ear and encourage them that they aren't alone. But like I said, a little spark started to grow between us. After a few weeks of getting to know her, I decided that I wasn't gonna worry about the distance between us or anything else. She was seriously the most amazing person I've ever met (in person or online). I told myself "I'm gonna pursue this girl." To my pleasant surprise, it took some time, but I eventually won her affection.
That being said, of course after Sarah and I had started officially "talking," my phone randomly rang at work one day. I glanced down... 'Burbank, CA'....
"Hello?" I answered.
"Hey Seth! It's Alex!! I talked to our producers and we want you and your kids to be on a new show Ellen is producing! We want to focus on you being a single dad and to help you find someone! I'll get back with you later in the week to talk about specifics, and set up another Skype call with your kids!"
"Sounds good. Talk to you then."
In my head, I really didn't know what to do. Sarah and I had been messaging before I even got the first call, but things had progressed. I realized I had feelings for her, and they were only getting deeper. But we still weren't really official. We hadn't even met in person yet. Truthfully, I wasn't even sure my deep affections were equally reciprocated. Just FaceTime and texting were really all I had to go on. I needed to make a choice... Did I want to do the show about meeting someone or did I want to pass it up for Sarah? I prayed about it for a few days. I wanted God to give me a peace in either direction. Sure enough, the next day Sarah and I FaceTimed. Immediately, I felt that godly peace. Even the chance of being with her was more valuable to me than any free trip, TV show, or other opportunity. So I called them back and turned down the show. Alex was a little bummed. They had built that whole episode around me and my kids, but he was gracious and kindly accepted my decline.
About a month went by and I got another call at work. I look down ... 'Burbank, CA'... "Why are they calling me? I already turned down the show about me being single." Anyway, I answered it, and it's Alex again. "Hey Seth!! So the producers still really want the kids and you on the show. We want to work with you to get you here." I was shocked. "Ok, what did you have in mind?" Alex responded, "How about we do a show on you starting a new relationship?" Of course I was excited and said "Yes!" He also called and Skyped with Sarah and her kids to get to know them as well. Sarah was excited for me and the kids to get the opportunity, but was pretty adamant about not wanting to be on the show with her kids. (Sarah's a private, humble, non-attention seeking gal. Which I adore about her.) Plus, she had some big work event the weekend of filming that she had been talking about for awhile, so I knew she wouldn't be able to come. And that's as quick as I can summarize the backstory. (Fun fact: As I was writing this, I decided my New Year's resolution was to be more concise in conversations and blogging. Hahaha, so hopefully that will pan out for everyone's sake.)
The Trip and Filming the Show!!
Ok. The trip and show are on. I literally have no clue what to expect. All I know is that we'll be working with the Ellen team. They tell me there's a crew coming to film us in Georgia and then a week later, we'll be flying out to LA for the second half of the filming. I make arrangements with the kids' school, mark our calendars, and hope for the best. Hahaha.
On the morning of the scheduled shoot in our home, Alex texts me and tells me they are on the way. I'm waiting for Alex and a camera operator to pull up together in a little rental car. However the kids say "Dad. A minivan full of people and equipment are here... Wait, another car pulled up!... Ahhh, another car pulled up. DAD!! Another minivan just pulled up." Yup. 4 cars pulled up. They sent Alex, the production manager, the director, two camera operators, an audio guy, and SO MUCH equipment. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you MY. KIDS. WERE. FREAKING. PUMPED. They filmed me for awhile solo talking, then the kids solo, us cooking breakfast and getting ready for school, shots of the kids playing and acting crazy, us cooking dinner, cut away shots, etc. They were literally filming from about 7:30am- 5pm. I asked the kids to take some pictures so we could remember it, but they were too excited and forgot. It was kinda all a big blur, but my one vivid memory was Titus was so so so dead set on having whipped cream for every meal that day, and Neela walked around with a sound machine setting off fake farts behind all of the crew. Hahahaha (Side note: my kids are so cool.)
A week passes and it's finally time to fly to LA! My kids had never flown before so they were mega crunk. The folks at Ellen were so gracious to fly us out of our local Valdosta airport, so really there was no long drive or waiting. Stevie had the idea for us all to wear our Megow shirts so we could properly rep our family pride.
Not trying to brag, but I felt like we were the coolest family on Earth that day. We had never worn them all as a group before. It was so fun!
Olive held Titus' hand the entire takeoff since he was a little nervous.
We had a connection flight in Atlanta to LA. If you've flown out of ATL, you know it can be pretty crazy there. We had about 15 minutes to get to the farthest terminal for our flight. I know I exaggerate *sometimes* ;) but honest truth, we were sprinting through the airport to catch the flight to LA. As we were running, I hear Titus laughing hysterically. Still running, I say "Dude, what is so funny?!" Between his guffawing, he laughs out "Dad! This is just like in Home Alone! I love doing this!" The last 100 feet, I had to full on track and field sprint to the gate as they were about to close the door. But geez, we made it. I felt so relieved. "Just like the dad in Home Alone," Titus pointed out.
Olive got my phone and snapped a few pics of the second flight. Hahahaha
After a 5-hour flight, we finally landed and then came my kids FAVORITE part. We had a chauffeur waiting on us to drive us to our ultra fancy-pantsy hotel :D
Los Angeles county is big and takes awhile to travel across (especially during rush hour) and we didn't get to the hotel until dark. Given that they are 3 hours behind us, my kids were starving. We walked around downtown LA until we found somewhere to eat at some pizza place. Afterwards I asked the kids what they wanted to do and Titus perked up real quick. (Let me give you a spoiler about this weekend... Titus referenced the movie Home Alone like 17 times. Hahaha) His idea was to go get a ton of ice cream and eat ice cream in the giant comfy beds of a 5-star hotel. So we did exactly that. I remember really wishing Sarah (and her crew) were there with us. We hardly had anytime to text. Also, I didn't want to interrupt her throughout the day because of that big work meeting she had scheduled.
"Dad. I feel just like Kevin!" (From Home Alone) Hahaha
The next day we woke up early and walked around downtown some more to find breakfast. Afterwards, we kinda just hung out until the driver showed up to bring us to the filming. I didn't really take any videos but one. Here's the kids hanging in the lobby for the driver.
He was running pretty late so that's why Titus looks a bit annoyed. ;)
We took another nice, long ride to the filming spot. I was still pretty clueless about what was going on. We got there and my kids were wired. The crew was so kind and helped watch the kids while I got ready to film. The makeup lady brushed my hair and then put some light makeup on me. And my kids. lost. it. HAHAHA. Dad getting makeup on for filming is apparently the funniest thing in the history of mankind. After getting ready, Alex pulled me to the side and excitedly told me about the show. He said, "Ok... You are about to be interviewed by.... ASHLEY GRAHAM!!".... I pray I masked my utter cluelessness of who that was. Because as soon as I had a chance, I got my phone out and googled her. "Oh yeah ok. I've seen her before." I told myself. I read a tiny bit about her before they got the text that it was time for me to go up to the interview. We walked up the stairs and she was standing there waiting to meet me. Geez, there were also like 15 people in the room and so many cameras and equipment. We chatted for maybe around 45 minutes about single parenting, church, boiled peanuts (she's from GA!), and then of course Sarah. On the video (analyzing myself), I seemed pretty nervous, but I really wasn't. Most of the crap I was rabbit-trailing about probably just didn't fit the context of a show.
Ashley: "Hi Seth! So you're a single dad huh?"
Seth: "Yup! Wanna hear a funny story about us catching bullfrogs in the ditch by our house?"
Seth: *Not even waiting for a response*: "So there's this big ole, fat bullfrog that makes this farting noise in our ditch..."
Then after awhile of me rambling and telling funny stories about my kids, they said it was time to move to another room. In the next room, they showed me a little video of my kids. Ugh, they are just so so great. The video I watched in person was much longer than the short snippet that aired in that segment of the show. It melted me seeing my kids so carefree, not nervous at all, and of course hearing the sweet things they had to say about their daddy. Then to my surprise, Sarah was on the video! I was so excited to see her face! (Geez. She is gorgeous inside and out.) Hearing what she said in that little clip was my favorite part of the entire video. It's the only part I've watched more than once. Following the video, my kids came in and we chatted for a bit with Ashley. After admiring a full-sized stuffed crocodile randomly suspended from the ceiling, Neela took a few minutes to explain to the entire film crew the differences between a gator and a croc (because "everyone needs to know that"). They snapped a few selfies while we let my crew settle down for a bit.
She really seemed like a genuinely nice person. :) I enjoyed chatting with her!
Suddenly, Ashley told us they had a surprise and flung open the doors to reveal Sarah and her kids! I was floored. Seriously, I really was super shocked. Apparently, they had arranged to fly them out the same day as us. Sarah just rescheduled the work meeting, so she really had the perfect cover story. As excited as I was, my kids were probably more thrilled! They had been FaceTiming and chatting with Sarah's kids for awhile, but had never actually met face to face. I'll never forget Stevie's excited shriek, "Annika!!!!" (Sarah's oldest daughter.) Right after that, Ashley gave us tickets to Disneyland! So as Sarah and I did a few more minutes of filming, the kids got to play. Stevie and Annika became immediate besties. Seriously though, they all just kind of instantly clicked. It was such a neat experience to have captured on film.
They made some weird combination of food on a plate and walked around grossing out the video crew. hahaha
Then we jumped onto a giant 12 passenger party bus and drove to the Disneyland resort! To be honest, I was excited for the trip to Disney, but just the fact that we had both of our crews finally together was overwhelmingly joyful for both Sarah and me.
That's my look of pure bliss. I can't express with words how full my heart was in that moment.
Well, since this post is LOOONG (dang it, Seth. Errtime...), I'll split it up into two parts. Next time, I'll share about the second half of the trip: DISNEYLAND!
So before I go, I want to say THANK YOU to Ashley, Ellen, and the AMAZING team they had assembled. I made so many friends throughout the process, and I'm incredibly grateful for all of them!
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,