What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 1990 Flanders Family Christmas Update. To see a full listing, see Our Christmas Letters. For tips on writing your own family history in this fashion, follow this link. In the meantime, enjoy!

The Flanders Family Update: 1990

January 1990 Happenings

So much has happened to our family during the last twelve months. It has been a difficult year in many respects, but God has sustained us through it all. His grace indeed is sufficient. Bethany continued to suffer from severe colic in early January, crying inconsolably for four to five hours a night.

Some friends of ours witnessed one of these attacks and suggested Bethany might be allergic to the milk Jennifer had been drinking. Jennifer subsequently eliminated dairy products from her diet, and Bethany’s colic completely disappeared. This was no coincidence. All attempts to sneak a little milk or ice cream during the months that followed would bring the colic back full force, so Jennifer had to remain lactose-free until Bethany was weaned.

February 1990 Happenings

In early February, our entire family became infected with a virus which lingered for weeks. Though the rest of the family had recovered by the end of the month, Jonathan never fully regained his health. He frequently had abdominal cramps and was still very congested, which affected his speech (although by the first of March his vocabulary had grown to include over 35 words).

March 1990 Happenings

Bethany learned to pull up on hands and knees and to sit at five months. By March she was crawling. Doug had a two week break from school this spring, which he devoted almost entirely to painting the walls, building shelves in all our closets, and other such home improvements — our apartment manager loves him.

Jennifer’s Aunt Irene spent a week with us. She helped sew linens for our master bedroom during the day (curtains and a dust ruffle from a pink and green floral), then attended Bill Gothard’s advanced seminar with us each evening. Jennifer had to miss the last two days of this conference as Jonathan’s health worsened. His stomach pains had become more severe and were accompanied by nausea and vomiting. He had an insatiable thirst, drinking as many as six or seven full glasses of water in one sitting, which we attributed to the antihistamines he’d been taking for his congestion. Though we made frequent trips to the doctor’s office, it was still not apparent what was causing his problems.

April 1990 Happenings

We flew to Albuquerque the first week of April to visit Doug’s parents. This was their first time to see our little Bethany, hardly a newborn now at 18 pounds and 30 inches. It was our first time to see Dad’s new church. When we returned to Dallas on April 2, Jonathan’s weight had dropped sharply. Though he continued to drink large volumes of juice and water, he could keep very little on his stomach. What he didn’t throw up would quickly pass through as urine, completely drenching his diaper, pajamas, and bed linens seven to eight times a night.

We recognized the polyuria/polydipsia to be symptomatic of diabetes, but little expected that to be Jonathan’s diagnosis. After contacting our pediatrician again April 10, we took Jonathan, trembling and dehydrated, to be re-examined. Dr. Gray sent us immediately to Children’s Medical Center where Jonathan was admitted with Type 1 diabetes.

1990 Happenings - Jon with Kim and Jeff

During the six days he spent in the hospital, Doug never left his side. Though this was traumatic for all of us, Jonathan adjusted quickly to the shots and blood tests required to keep his diabetes under control (he now gets three shots and four blood tests a day). The staff did a beautiful job coordinating activities for the patients, including Easter egg hunts, visits from the Easter bunny, egg dying, painting, etc.

1990 Happening - Dying Eggs

This coupled with all the prayers, calls, cards, and visits from our family and friends made his stay at Children’s a much more pleasant one. In fact, the story of his hospitalization is now one of Jonathan’s most frequently requested bedtime stories. Only by the grace of God could such an initially terrifying experience be turned into such a fond memory in the mind of a two-year old.

1990 Happenings - Beth with Nana and Papa

May 1990 Happenings

By May, Bethany could stand up, clap her hands, drink from a cup, say “Mama”, and climb our entire flight of stairs (although it took much longer to crawl up than to roll down!). She cut her first two teeth and began eating solids. The weather was getting pretty enough that we could take the children swimming in the afternoons. A pair of “water wings” enabled Jonathan to be much more independent at the pool. Doug planted a bed of periwinkles in our “front yard” (the 3’x4′ patch of dirt outside our apartment door). Jennifer and the children kept them well watered, and we all watched with excitement as the first blooms appeared.

1990 Going for a Swim

Another welcome sign of spring was the one that had the words “Garage Sale” printed on it. God has used such sales time and again to provide for our needs, and He continued to do so this year. We’d hunt them as a family every Saturday morning, praying as we went, and seldom returning home empty-handed.

1990 Happenings - Jon in Toy Car

Some of our dearest friends, the Robbins, moved in across the parking lot from us toward the end of May, and by June we’d all begun attending the Family Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church of Dallas. This class has been such a blessing and encouragement to us. Parents and children meet together, and the fathers take turns teaching the class. It’s a mixed group — we have everything from a converted Jew to a charismatic Catholic attending — but they all love the Lord and are committed to worshiping Him as a family….

June 1990 Happenings

Jennifer and the children signed up for summer classes through the community center again this year. In addition to the “Read-to-Me Club” and “Mom-n-Totnastics”, we also took a “Kitchen Helpers” cooking class (Jennifer had almost as much to learn in that department as Jonathan did). Doug’s parents and sister came to visit us in late June, and then the seven of us flew to Corpus Christi to visit his grandparents for a few days.

1990 Happenings - Kids at Zoo

This was the first time our extended family has all been together in eighteen months! We went to the waterfront one afternoon while we were there and took the children for a ride on a paddleboat. Channel 3 happened to be on location filming a spot on tourism, so our family appeared on the evening news. We watched the footage on the airport terminal’s television – that certainly kept the children entertained while waiting to board our plane.

July 1990 Happenings

Doug began clinicals in July. His first rotation was a killer: Internal Medicine. It kept him at the hospital 60 hours out of 96, and we missed him sorely every minute he was away. Knowing this, he brought home a pair of gerbils to keep us entertained in his absence (though they could scarcely do the job as well as he), and later added a couple of goldfish to the menagerie. A more significant addition to our family came mid-month when Jennifer’s sister Kimberly married a godly young man by the name of Jeff Hancock. Unquestionably, it was “a match made in heaven”, and we were all thrilled.
1990 - Kimberly's Wedding

August 1990 Happenings

Doug and Jennifer celebrated our third wedding anniversary in August, so grateful to God for the life and love He has given us. Jonathan’s sensitivity to spiritual things became more evident this month when he began offering precious, detailed prayers without our even prompting him. One evening he was thanking God for the sandbox he had at Papa’s house (which Jennifer’s dad had built for his first birthday), when he asked if he could “please have a sandbox at Jonathan’s house.” Jennifer mentioned this to her parents on the phone that evening. Within 24 hours, Papa was in our backyard building a 7’x 4′ sandbox for Jonathan. Jennifer cannot recall when her dad has ever finished a project so fast. We are deeply indebted to him for showing our son that God does, indeed, hear and answer prayer!

1990 Happenings - Jon in Sandbox

Bethany began standing alone in August. Within days, she was walking without help. She learned to hug and kiss this month and would take advantage of every opportunity to express her affection to everyone around. She also began to use some two-word phrases and to obey simple commands. On September 20, she celebrated her first birthday. She is a “happy, happy, happy” girl and such a joy to have around.

1990 Kiss for Brother

September 1990 Happenings

Doug finished Medicine in September and began his OB-GYN rotation, delivering over 30 babies in the course of four weeks. You can imagine what exciting work this was for him-he absolutely loved it and would probably specialize in obstetrics were the hours not so unpredictable. Jonathan began children’s choir at church this month. His favorite song is “Funny Fat Frog”. Mom likes it, too, which is a good thing, since she helps teach the preschool class and the children beg to sing it (and sing it and sing it) every week. Jonathan visited the dentist for the first time this month, after a fall on the concrete loosened his front two teeth and one began tuning dark. The x-ray showed that the nerves to his top front teeth had died, putting the teeth at risk for infection.

1990 Happenings - Going for a Ride

October 1990 Happenings

Jonathan woke up one morning in early October with a completely dry diaper. Though we hadn’t really planned to begin potty-training just yet, Jennifer told him that if he could stay dry for the rest of the day, she would take him to get some “big boy pants” that evening. He was successful, so Nana went with us to get some Mickey Mouse underwear at Wal-Mart. We brought them home, tried them on, and Jonathan has not worn another diaper since. Such was the extent of his potty-training! It was also this fall that our family took up cycling. We got a pair of mountain bikes, attached a baby carrier to each, and bought helmets for the entire family. This has provided hours of fun and relaxation, in addition to promoting regular exercise, family togetherness, and fuel conservation. And God has kept us safe. Once we determined those flimsy kickstands can’t support a baby’s weight alone, we’ve had no accidents at all!


November 1990 Happenings

In November, our gerbils gave birth to six babies. This came as quite a surprise to us as we just happened upon the tiny red litter one morning while changing their water. They’ve grown quickly and will have weaned by Christmas, if any of you are in need of a last-minute gift idea or are interested in giving one a good home. They’d make an unforgettable stocking stuffer. Who could forget a gerbil? (Certainly not anyone who’s ever owned one of these nocturnal bundles of hyperactivity, that’s for sure!)

1990 Mom and Kids

We spent Thanksgiving in Oklahoma with Jennifer’s family and will spend Christmas this year with Doug’s. Jonathan had another dental x-ray the week after Thanksgiving, which revealed that the roots of both the damaged teeth had become abscessed. He is scheduled to have a root canal and caps put on both teeth December 17. He will be under anesthesia for the procedure. Please pray that the surgery goes well, free of complications.

December 1990 Happenings

Our Sunday school class had their annual family Christmas retreat at Mt. Lebanon the first weekend of December. While we were there, one of the children, Paul O’Keefe, Jr., suffered a severe asthma attack and died. He was only ten years old, his parents’ only child. Doug was with him when he collapsed and immediately began administering CPR. He kept this up for about half an hour until an ambulance arrived.

Although the boy’s breathing and pulse returned three separate times during the ordeal, he ultimately was unable to survive the attack. His death serves as a tragic reminder of how fragile and uncertain life is. Indeed, each of us is but a heartbeat away from eternity. And while little Paul knew and loved the Lord Jesus, there remain yet many who do not. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this holiday season, it is our prayer that those who know Jesus will cling to Him and that those who do not will call upon His name while they still have the breath to do so. God bless you every one and give you a truly meaningful Christmas!

With love from the Flanders –
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, and Bethany

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Do you prefer to do your reading offline? You’ll find more of our family’s embarrassing moments, hard learned lessons, and hilarious antics all in Glad Tidings, a compilation of the first 25 years of Flanders Family Christmas letters. It also includes a few favorite recipes, seasonal quotes, time-saving tips, and fun family traditions. Volume 1 is on sale now. We’re hoping to release Volume 2 in the year 2037.

Glad Tidings - The First 25 Years of Flanders Family Christmas Letters


  1. Hi there! I came across your website by reading a chore chart on a friend’s Facebook page. When I saw the title of this Christmas letter, I had to read it. My youngest child of 4, Caden, now 3, was diagnosed with T1D at 14 months. Very traumatic for us all! God has carried us all the way! Then when he was 2, he fell and loosened his 4 front teeth (love the similarity between him and your Jonathan!). All four nearly fell out, and his gums tried to push them out because the diabetes prevented healing. After 2 rounds of antibiotics and lots of praying, he only had to have one pulled. The other three are still hanging in there! Anyway…glad to have found you! I look forward to learning more of your story! Thanks for sharing!

    1. That is hard, Elisa. I’m so sorry. As you know from reading the letter, our Jonathan was only 23 months old when diagnosed; nevertheless, he has done exceptionally well (despite the roller coaster we were early one with respect to glucose levels) and in 24 years has never been re-hospitalized with any complications related to his diabetes. I pray your little Caden will likewise enjoy a lifetime of good health, despite the Type 1. Do you have a local support group? We didn’t for Jonathan, but have been blessed with one now that two more of our children have developed diabetes.

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