This has been a great year for trying new things. January found Bethany sporting a new hairstyle, after she used a pair of Mom’s sewing shears to snip off her curls at the root! Doug began the year with a new job, having taken a six-month leave of absence from his anesthesia residency to practice general medicine three days a week. His new schedule provided plenty of time for family, with hours left over for working on secondary goals, which Doug summed up in the motto “READ, WRITE, AND RUN”.
David turned two in February. For several months prior he’d expressed an interest in toileting, so we gave him some training pants for his birthday. Size 4T, they fit loosely enough that he could get them down all by himself, a skill he took great delight in demonstrating. His first day in the new britches, Jennifer took the children shopping. Going out with so many little ones in tow can sometimes be very taxing, but on this particular occasion all four remained unusually calm and quiet. They were so beautifully behaved, in fact, that their mother couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride as she wheeled her way through the store. Heads turned on every aisle as she strolled past, and she could almost hear what all those smiling customers were thinking: Look at those angelic children! How does that dear mother manage them so well? Just as Jennifer was about to be swept away by a deluge of imagined praise, an elderly woman drew her attention to the fact that David (who’d been partially hidden from Mom’s view by brother Samuel) was standing in the shopping cart with his pants around his ankles! He’d been mooning the entire store (thank God he was still clean and dry)!
Doug and Jonathan flew to Albuquerque to visit Doug’s sister Priscilla the first of March. The trio spent two days on the slopes in Sante Fe (the boys’ first time to ski). When asked how they enjoyed it, Jonathan told us, Dad was pretty good, but not as good as me.” (He’s not only honest, but humble, too!) We signed up for spring classes at the community college which began this month: Doug took a novel writing course, and Jennifer studied writing for children. Doug’s grandfather was hospitalized briefly mid-month, so Doug flew to Corpus Christi with David to visit him. A week later, the entire family gathered there for Easter. We stopped in San Antonio on our way to the coast and toured the Alamo, visited friends, and spent a day at Sea World with Doug’s parents. It was a wonderful and long over-due vacation for us.
By April, Samuel was crawling, saying “mama”, and eating solid foods. Spurning all the cereals and strained foods we proffered, he opted instead to cut his teeth on Nana’s pot roast.
David was talking more by this time, but the word we heard most often was “outside?”. He learned to climb our chain-link fence this spring. Quick and agile, he could be out of our yard, down the alley, and over a neighbor’s fence in a matter of seconds. We built a wooden swing set/fort in an effort to interest him and the older children in staying in their own backyard. The ploy was successful; in fact, it interested the neighborhood children in staying in our yard, too. David also learned to operate the switch to our automatic garage door opener this month. One bright Saturday morning, his Daddy heard a cry for help and, upon investigating, found David hanging by his fingertips from the ceiling of the garage! He’d apparently caught a ride up on the moving door, but was uncertain how to get back down. What a handful this child who was such an easy baby has suddenly become — making up for lost time, no doubt!
Doug and Jennifer attended the Home School Book Fair in May. We continued schooling the children through the summer, and by fall both Jonathan and Bethany had completed 100 Easy Lessons and were reading well. We took a quick trip to Oklahoma mid-month to visit Jennifer’s grandmother and great-aunt. Jonathan turned six and had his yearly check-up the end of May, but his pediatrician was concerned he hadn’t grown enough (Bethany was a full inch taller). Since this is a sign of poor diabetes control, we increased his number of insulin injections from two to four daily and began testing his blood more frequently. His new endocrinologist was very pleased with this regimen and asked that we keep Jonathan on it permanently, which we have done with favorable results.
Bethany won first place in Albertson’s coloring contest in June. (Coloring is her favorite pass-time, next to reading and playing dress-up). Doug and our brother-in-law Jeff ran another 10K this month. Jennifer, impressed by her husband’s fabulous physique, decided to follow his example and began jogging herself. By the end of the summer, the two of us had lost a combined total of 50 pounds (25 each).
On the subject of losing things: five short weeks after the appearance of his first tooth, Samuel lost his balance while standing alone, fell, and knocked it out. Ouch! David fell off a riding toy earlier this year, fell, and killed the nerves to his top two teeth, turning them gun-metal grey; and, of course, Jonathan lost those same teeth subsequent to a fall on the sidewalk when he was two. Apparently, perfect teeth were just never in the plans for these little boys of ours!
In July, Doug extended his leave from residency and signed a contract with University Medical Group for 50 hours a week. (His plan is to delay the specialty training until our school loans are paid off). He staffs a clinic in the heart of Fort Worth’s cultural district two days a week, so Jennifer and the kids began riding out with him a couple of times a month to tour the area museums while he worked. This makes for some long days when Doug is kept late on his 11-hour shifts, but has been very educational. We spend most of our time at the Museum of Science and History, but have also visited the Kimball, Amon Carter, Cattleman’s Museum, Log Cabin Village, the Botanic Gardens, Museum of Modern Art, and Trinity Park, where we rode the zoo’s miniature train.
The older children took swimming lessons this month. After just two weeks of instruction, Jonathan was jumping off the diving board into ten-foot water, and Bethany was sliding down the flume into the five-foot end. The younger boys played in the splash area during lesson time. David learned to hold his breath under water, and even Samuel gained a sense of independence by cruising the inside perimeter of the wading pool…. We took the training wheels off Bethany’s bike this month so she and Jonathan could accompany Doug when he ran. She soon tired of it, but Jonathan persevered, biking up to four miles at a time with no break. He is cautious enough that we now allow him to ride from home to Nana and Papa’s house unsupervised. (Speaking of Nana and Papa’s, Jennifer’s parents finished remodeling their formal dining room this summer, and it is exquisite: deep burgundy walls with lacquer stripes, white crown molding, plush new carpet, floral window treatments, and some of the most beautifully ornate furnishings we have ever seen.)
Doug and Jeff stretched their running distance to eight miles this month, but Doug laid aside his hopes of being ready for December’s White Rock Marathon, as further training for it would prove too time-consuming. Jeff was in agreement with this decision, since he’d been working overtime himself after a recent job promotion and was currently spending his spare time house-hunting with Jennifer’s sister, Kimberly.
Toward the end of July, our dog Molly delivered six puppies. This was not entirely unexpected, since two months earlier the children had let a stray poodle into the yard, thinking he would “make a good friend for Molly.” Moments later, an hysterical Bethany ran screaming into the house that the dogs had gotten tangled up and that Molly was about to be killed! Jennifer went outside to remove the offending pooch from our property, not realizing what an impossible task she was undertaking. After various and vain attempts to separate the two, and despite the clever coaching we received from our watchful neighbors, we left the dogs to work it out on their own (no pun intended). Their healthy pups arrived 59 days later and quickly captivated the hearts of our children. There were five blondes and one black; we kept the odd one (Jenny), thinking she would “make a good friend for Molly.”
Doug and Jonathan attended the Institute of Basic Life Principles in August. This was Jonathan’s first time, and we were very pleased with all he learned during the week long seminar. The following week, Doug returned to Corpus Christi — this time, it was Nanny who’d been hospitalized and Bethany who accompanied Dad on the “friends fly free” flight. Doug’s sister, having moved back to Bandera this summer, drove down and surprised Doug by picking him up from the airport. Doug made it back home in time to celebrate our seventh anniversary. He took Jennifer shopping for her gift — a new bathing suit – then we enjoyed a quiet dinner (alone!) at Outback Steakhouse. Jennifer’s dad’s family came to town mid-month for cousin April’s wedding. As we made our way from the church to the country club for the reception, we spotted Jennifer’s tuxedo-clad uncle standing at the corner of a busy intersection waving a tattered cardboard sign at the passing motorists. Its hastily scrawled message read, “NEED HELP. DAUGHTER JUST GOT MARRIED AND I’M BROKE. CONTRIBUTIONS APPRECIATED.”
September got off to an emotionally traumatic start when Jennifer inadvertently left David at a garage sale (she had strapped him into the van seat, but he somehow slipped back out unobserved as she was loading the other children)! We’d driven halfway home before it was discovered he was missing.
Suddenly, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, with the exception of Jennifer’s heart, which had by this time gone into fibrillation. She spun the van around and started back toward the scene of the crime, weaving her way through traffic that was neither cooperative nor sympathetic, all the while praying at the top of her lungs and envisioning the horrific things which could at that instant be happening to her precious child. Meanwhile in the back seat, Jonathan sat in stunned silence, dumbfounded that his mother could pull such a prank, while Bethany sobbed repeatedly, “Oh, Mommy! David was such a good brother, too!”
Praise be to our merciful God, when we finally made it back to the sale, we found David alone and unharmed, playing merrily in the front yard. He hadn’t seemed to notice his abandonment (nor, thankfully, had anyone else), and was truly the calmest one among us. His poor mother, on the other hand, was permanently shaken and breaks out in a nervous sweat upon every remembrance of the incident!
Bethany turned five on September 20. She began tap and ballet lessons this month, as did a home-schooled neighbor, Caitlin Comer. This little girl was the topic of a short creative writing assignment Bethany did which was subsequently published by the Dallas Morning News in an article devoted to the topic “best friends”.
We drove to Heavener, Oklahoma, the first weekend of October for Jennifer’s mother’s family reunion. Samuel turned a year old while we were there. He’d been walking barefoot for two months by this time, so we gave him a pair of new shoes for his birthday. Shortly after our return home, we were visited by a couple of car thieves, although we didn’t realize it until the Mesquite Police rang our doorbell at 5:00 one morning to inform us they’d arrested the culprits. The thieves had been through both our cars and the garage, but had only taken the automatic door opener and Doug’s electric razor. The latter was recovered by a keen-eyed neighbor who’d spotted it down the street while taking his morning walk.
Doug’s dad took a few days away from his new pastorate in Burnet, Texas, this month so that he, Mom and Priscilla could come visit and attend the State Fair with us, though our outing was cut abruptly short by torrential rains. For the first time in seven years, Jennifer was neither pregnant nor newly post-partum at fair time, so she was finally able to enter her wedding dress in the fair’s sewing contest (the bride must model the gown for the competition). Having spent hundreds of hours tediously hand-sewing 12,000 pearls and sequins on the gown, it always seemed a waste to wear it only once. She was glad for an opportunity to put it on again, even if the back did get buttoned a bit crooked-y in that crowded dressing room. There was a record number of dresses competing this year, but Jennifer’s took first place. She suspects this was not really because hers was any prettier than the others, but because the judges were so impressed that she could still squeeze into it after giving birth four times over!
Doug’s grandfather passed away November 7 at the age of 89, just three weeks after suffering two massive strokes. He was a wonderful man and will be missed terribly. Doug renegotiated his contract with University Medical Group for 40 hours a week effective this month (Wednesdays and weekends off); however, between his frequent trips to Corpus Christi during Poppie’s illness and the 24 hours of continuing medical education conferences he’s had to attend to keep his license current, it was several weeks before we “realized” any extra time together.
Jonathan and Bethany continued playing soccer this month on teams from our home school group, although flooded fields and runny noses caused them to miss about half of the season. In anticipation of the upcoming holiday entertaining we would be doing, Doug and Jennifer got busy and completed a few projects we’d not had the prior motivation to finish. Doug glazed the ceramic tile floor he’d laid earlier this year in our hall bathroom. Jennifer sewed some swags for those bare living and dining room windows and made half a dozen new pillows for Bethany’s bed. We also got rid of our dining room table and the four chairs which regularly fell apart whenever we’d lean against the backs of them, and purchased a sturdy oak set which will seat ten to twelve comfortably and safely.
div align=”justify”>Jennifer found some clearance fabric for 73-cents a yard and used it to decorate the boys’ room. She covered blankets for the crib and both bunk beds and sewed shades for the windows in blue plaid with bright yellow lining and cherry red accents. She also painted a mural of Noah’s Ark over the crib (to cover the spots where the plaster peeled off the wall after she removed the posters she’d previously hung there). The boys were thrilled with the lively new colors after having lived so long in a pale blue and white striped nursery full of little lambs!
We spent the week before Thanksgiving decorating the house for Christmas. We found two small trees for the children’s rooms at a garage sale (25 cents each), so the kids trimmed those themselves while Mom put up the big one. Thanksgiving Day took us to Mema’s house in Oklahoma. All but three cousins were there this year–including nine great-grandchildren who had an absolutely tremendous time exploring hills of rocks and sand together and playing ball with their dads and granddads.
After much agonizing over whether to go back and finish residency training or to stay out and pay off school loans, we received crystal clear direction from God, via the Army, and Doug will be returning to Parkland’s anesthesia program in January. Having been responsible for treating as many as 66 patients a day at the clinic, he is really looking forward to working with just one at a time again! Meanwhile, we have this one, last, “call-free” month of December to enjoy together, which we plan to do to the fullest! We hope each of you will savor the season as well. May God grant you all a joyous and meaningful Christmastide!