What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 1996 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: 1996
January 1996 Happenings
New Year’s Day found Doug in bed with the flu (his only day off all month!); nonetheless, he chose that day to begin reading C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia aloud to the family. It took us four months to finish all seven books, then three more to read the lesser-known but masterfully written Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.
January marked the beginning of a couple of other “just for fun” projects, as well. Doug and Jennifer collaborated to create a little comic strip, “Dr. Zork“, which now appears monthly in Anesthesia Airways (the departmental newsletter which Doug edits at Parkland). We also began collecting marriage advice from couples who’ve been married 50 years or longer, for a book we hope to publish in the near future. If you know anyone who qualifies, please help us out by passing along a copy of the enclosed survey to them. They’ll be in good company should they choose to participate — our most recent responses came from George Bush, Billy Graham, and Charlton Heston.
February 1996 Happenings
February brought snow, which thrilled even the biggest “kids” in our family. We built two squatty snowmen in the front yard and did some cardboard sledding on the bank of a nearby creek. We must have played outside too long, though, because three of the children came down with ear infections the following week. Bethany’s tubes had fallen out, and she became so congested she could barely breathe.
The series of visits to Dr. Kirkham which ensued ended two months later in the operating room: Bethany had her tonsils and adenoids out, new tubes put in, and a frenulectomy for good measure (although, she’s always talked so much, few people would believe she was ever “tongue-tied” in the first place). David’s tubes and tonsillectomy followed in May.
As if we hadn’t enough ENT trouble already, our two-year old Samuel lodged a Lego up his nose this month, then got a raisin stuck in the same nostril a week later. Fortunately, Mom was able to retrieve both items herself, thanks to a steady hand and Sam’s patient cooperation, but we were told that Doug’s dad crammed a tinker-toy up his own nose at that age and had to go to the hospital to get it out!
March 1996 Happenings
March took Doug to Florida for an anesthesia conference. We arranged for our oldest four to stay with family and friends, so that Jennifer and the still-nursing baby could fly to Orlando and join him for the weekend.
Benjamin’s night-time colic summarily erased any illusions we might have had of this being a “second honeymoon” (it’s a good thing the first one’s never ended!), but we had a delightful time touring EPCOT and MGM together.
Doug’s anesthesia class elected a new chief resident while we were out of town. Doug was one of five doctors nominated for the position by the faculty and staff, but he didn’t get the spot. His initial disappointment over the news soon gave way to relief over not having to shoulder the extra responsibility during what already promised to be a hectic final year.
April 1996 Happenings
Doug cut a sweet deal on some fresh horse manure in April-ten dollars for a heaping truck load! The stench was a little stronger than we’d anticipated, and we had to remove a few corn cobs when we spread it on the front yard; but our neighbors forgave us once the air had cleared, and it did make for a plush, green lawn this summer!
Our impatiens were magnificent this year — Jennifer finally clued-in to their need for regular watering, and it really paid off.
Benjamin began “combat crawling” (elbow over elbow) this month. Dragging his belly on the ground didn’t seem to slow him down a bit, but it eventually forced into retirement most of the hand-me-downs which had served his three older brothers so well. We realized we could spare his clothes all this wear and tear by letting Jonathan teach him to use that skateboard. It might have worked, too, had the baby’s fingers not gotten tangled up in the wheels. It took four months for his nail to grow back!
Our almost eight-year old Jonathan began giving his own insulin injections this month, after meeting a diabetic girl his age at the playground who does the same. This, and the near-constant attention he gives to keeping his hair neatly combed, reminds us that his childhood is steadily slipping away. He was baptized April 21 (his mother’s 31st birthday). His favorite pastimes include leading “Bible Clubs” for his siblings and neighborhood friends, working out with his dad (in their matching muscle shirts), and hand-feeding the nearly-tame squirrel who visits our pecan tree several times a week.
May 1996 Happenings
May got off to a trying start: Doug worked horrendous hours doing cardiac anesthesia. Jennifer developed laryngitis and lost her voice for two weeks. Our dog Jenny bit a carpet cleaner and had to be quarantined at the city pound for ten days. Our toilet overflowed with the regularity of Old Faithful. And the kids juggled ear infections, runny noses, conjunctivitis, and a stomach virus all month long.
Despite these and other setbacks, we managed to make a few fond memories this month and enjoyed a little culture at the same time: Jennifer’s parents joined us for a free, open-air concert presented by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Arboretum. Doug and Bethany attended the Fort Worth Ballet’s performance of Cinderella after a father/daughter dinner date. And our entire family took a historical tour of downtown Dallas in a horse-drawn carriage.
We returned later for a closer look at the impressive herd of bronze cattle which now stampedes through the heart of our city. It was here that Jennifer, in a spectacular show of grace and coordination, fell headlong into their watering hole. She avoided drowning, but could not escape the embarrassment of having onlookers cheer and applaud as she clambered out of the pool soaked to the skin!
June 1996 Happenings
We spent the first weekend in June camping out. Doug was on call at the VA and couldn’t leave town, so we stayed in our own backyard. All seven of us piled into a new “four-man” tent, snuggled beneath our quilts, and drifted off to sleep after listening to Doug read several chapters of Watership Down by lantern light.
The older kids finished baseball practice and spring swimming this month. David (now four) was old enough to participate in both sports this year, much to his delight, but his biggest accomplishment of the season was beginning to read. He got a crew cut this summer (as did Doug and Jonathan) which, coupled with an inch and a half sudden growth spurt and his post-surgery weight loss, caused more than one neighbor to stop and wonder who the new kid on the block was.
David’s energy and curiosity are as boundless and insatiable as ever. He reminds us of Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi, the bright-eyed little mongoose whose motto is “run and find out”. His career plans currently vacillate between firefighting, zookeeping, doctoring, and exploring space, but of one thing he is certain: when he gets big, he wants to grow a mustache.
July 1996 Happenings
Jennifer was invited to sing the national anthem at an Independence Day parade in North Dallas in July. The children decorated their bicycles with red, white and blue streamers and joined in the procession, wearing patriotic T-shirts they’d made the week before. Doug marched, too, pulling Ben in a wagon, despite the fact he and Jonathan had stayed out until 2 a.m. the night before, watching a midnight showing of the newly released ID4.
We missed seeing much of the Olympics this year, but we staged a few summer games of our own, including a competitive round of cherry pit spitting which Doug won easily with a distance of 39 feet. While our summer activities may not have garnished us with any gold medals, they were not without their rewards:
- The kids earned a stash of books, swim passes, rodeo tickets, golf games, and free yogurt and hamburger coupons through the library’s summer reading program.
- Doug was given a handsome bonus for scoring 97th percentile in the nation on the seven-hour anesthesia boards (his second year in a row to do so).
- Jonathan and Bethany won $20 cash in the State Fair’s folk art competition and $75 merchandise from Crossings for their original book illustrations.
- David got a free copy of Disney’s Aristocats video in a Dallas Child drawing.
- Samuel won four tickets to Six Flags and a 10-piece chicken dinner in a Grandy’s coloring contest.
- Jonathan received free passes to Ringling Brothers Circus through a Subway promotion.
- And Jennifer won tickets to a Dallas Stars game at the grand opening of Baylor Mesquite.
August 1996 Happenings
Doug had a week off in August, so we drove the family to Arkansas, bringing our child-care reinforcements (a.k.a. Nana and Papa) with us. We spent three lovely days in Hot Springs golfing, boating, shopping, hiking, and seeing the sights.
Our antiquated 386 suffered a major malfunction this month, giving Doug the excuse he needed to upgrade our computer system. Jennifer’s Uncle Herbert was later able to resurrect the desktop, but Doug had already bought a portable Pentium by then. The timing on this purchase was really providential, as just a couple of weeks after we got the new system online, we were given the opportunity to begin evaluating educational software for a Dallas radio station. Jennifer may now be heard live every Thursday night at 7:30 on KSKY (660 AM) or via the Internet at cyber-line.com. In exchange for her (extremely brief)weekly program, “Schooling with Software”, we get to keep all the programs she reviews.
Thus it happened that David was sitting in his mother’s lap one evening, trying out a new CD-ROM, while Samuel stood patiently at his elbow, watching and waiting for his turn. After so passing a tranquil half-hour, the silence was suddenly shattered by hysterical wailing from both boys. David insisted his brother had bitten him, unprovoked, and pointed to the teeth marks on his arm as proof. When Jennifer questioned Samuel, all he would say (between sobs) was, “…but, Mommy… I wanted… something… to eat!” Evidently, he had fallen asleep on his feet and dreamed it was dinnertime (thought you can tell by looking he hasn’t slept through many meals).
Next to creating large messes and telling knock-knock jokes, feeding himself is Samuel’s favorite hobby. He offers the same earnest prayer before every meal (“God… thank you that we’re eating!”) and devours everything left within reach. We already consume seven gallons of milk, ten loaves of bread, and 20+ pounds of produce every week. How will we ever keep the pantry stocked once these boys reach their teen years?
Sam’s not the only one with a hollow leg in this family, either. One afternoon, not half an hour after lunch, David came in from outside munching on a suspicious looking bread roll. When Mom asked where he’d gotten it, his little eyebrows shot up in excitement and he answered proudly, “Molly [our dog] brought it home. It’s good!” Happy as we are that these little ones aren’t picky eaters, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if they were a little more discriminating in their tastes.
September 1996 Happenings
Doug’s long hours had begun to catch up with him by September. One week after a family dinner at Chili’s, post-call, he excused himself to go to the restroom. He washed his hands and waited five minutes for a stall to empty before realizing he’d entered the ladies room by mistake! You can imagine his complete embarrassment when the person he’d been waiting on turned out to be a woman!
Actually, Doug’s school schedule did not demand as much of his time this month as his job search did. Although graduation is not until next June, many medical groups are hiring early. Doug had nine interviews, each of them lasting six to eight hours. (Some of these practices were so large, it took that long just to make the rounds and meet the partners).
Bethany turned seven September 20th. She still has a passion for reading and writing, and continues to spend most of her spare time in one of those pursuits. She also loves to sing and to be sung to, and believes that no day is complete without a back rub and a lullaby before bed.
October 1996 Happenings
Our little Sam-I-Am turned three in October. He has definitely reached that age where it’s important he do things all by himself. To this end, Doug took him shopping for some Velcro shoes he could fasten without help. Who but a man would buy size 12 shoes for a size 8 foot, thinking they’d be easier to get on and off? Jennifer wasted no time in exchanging them for a better fit, and Samuel can still manage to put them on without our assistance.
Benjamin celebrated his first birthday and received his first haircut this month. Mom had to trim it a little shorter than she’d intended, after Samuel planted a juicy wad of chewing gum in the middle of baby’s crown. Walking early gave Benjamin a new sense of independence, but he keeps a firm grasp on Mother’s apron strings, rarely letting Jennifer out of his sight without a fiercely indignant protest. Despite his being such a Mama’s boy, the first word to cross his lips was “Daddy”. That hardly seems fair, considering all the stinky diaper changes and late night feedings Jennifer’s endured, but she’s tried to be mature about it and forgive him this show of ingratitude.
November 1996 Happenings
November found us struggling again with raspy sore throats, insane work schedules, and backed-up plumbing. Fed up with the frequent floods, Doug finally installed a brand new toilet in our hall bathroom. This one works like a charm. (Would that America had reacted similarly at the polls this month to the mess that Clinton has made of things!). Doug turned down four job offers in Dallas this month to sign with a group of anesthesiologists in Tyler, Texas.
We’re excited about living in Tyler, but sad to be leaving behind our wonderful family and friends. We want all of you to come visit us once we have settled into our new home. If you’ll drive out in April when the azaleas are in bloom, you’ll understand why we fell in love with this town the first time we laid eyes on it.
December 1996 Happenings
December is here, and it looks as if we may actually finish this residency and live to tell about it We’re keeping our moving plans and preparations on the back burner until after the holidays, but come January we’ll be putting our house on the market and beginning to hunt for a new one. If you know anybody who’d like to live on a cozy little cul de sac in Mesquite (the tenth safest city in the United States, by the way), have them give us a call.
Doug’s family will be spending Christmas in Mesquite with us this year, as we spent Thanksgiving in Oklahoma with the Cowans. This will be Jennifer’s first attempt at preparing a big holiday dinner, so keep us in your prayers! She’ll probably play it safe and serve pot roast, be it that she’s working with a culinary handicap. If that doesn’t satisfy everyone, we could always turn Molly loose and see what kind of grub she can rustle up! But for now, we send our most sincere wishes to you for a merry and meaningful Christmas and pray God’s richest blessings upon you and all of yours throughout the New Year.
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, Bethany, David, Samuel, and Benjamin
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.