I fell in love with Tyler the first time I saw the azaleas in full bloom.

I had no intentions of ever leaving my native Dallas, but I remember a surprising thought fleeting through my mind as I drank in all that vibrant color during a springtime visit: If I ever have to move, I hope it’s to a place like Tyler.

A few years later, when my husband finished his medical residency and joined an anesthesia practice in East Texas, I got my wish. That was 19 years ago, and living here has been every bit as lovely as I’d imagined it would be.

Tyler is a wonderful place to raise children. That’s a huge plus in my book, because I have 12 of them.

Yes, you read that right: 12. No twins. No triplets. No blended family. Just a dozen single births to the same two parents over the course of a quarter century of childbearing.

Of the 12, our youngest seven were born in Tyler. So were our six grandbabies. We love our life here and are thankful to call Tyler home.

Given this love for family, life, and our hometown, it makes sense that I would agree to write for the Tyler Morning Telegraph’s new Family + Life section. I’m thrilled they asked!

In the future, this column will feature fun things to do for families of all sizes, as well as life hacks, parenting pointers, money-saving ideas, stories of local interest, and maybe even a few of my favorite recipes. But for today, I wanted to give readers a glimpse at where I’m coming from.

My background is in math. My father insisted I wouldn’t be allowed to marry until I had my first degree, so I rushed through college as quickly as possible, taking as many as 27 hours in a single semester. I wanted to make sure there were no holdups once Mr. Right materialized, which he finally did a few weeks before graduation.

I’d say I put my math degree to good use: I got married and multiplied! It has also come in handy homeschooling our children, as I’ve taught them everything from counting to calculus.

Our five oldest are now grown and gone. One is an ICU nurse. Two just graduated from dental school in San Antonio. One is in his fourth year of medical school in Houston. Another is preparing to take his MCAT at the end of the summer.

Their studies have taken them all around the globe - England, Europe, Nepal, Guatemala, Honduras, Qatar, Japan - but no matter how far from home they roam, they carry a little piece of Tyler in their hearts.

And slowly, one by one, they’ve begun returning here to work and live and raise families of their own. Because Tyler is a great place to do that sort of thing.

In addition to being passionate about her faith and family, Jennifer Flanders loves to read, write, sing, and do handcrafts of all kinds. You can find her online at lovinglifeathome.com or www.flandersfamily.info.

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