What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 2000 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: 2000
January 2000 Happenings
We tossed out Joseph’s pacifier in January, hoping to wean him cold turkey, but he promptly confiscated Rebekah’s to use instead. The Girl was left with nothing to suck but fingers and toes. Having thus learned to comfort herself, however, she began sleeping through the night at four months.
Joseph remains a man of few words, although he once took the pacie out of his mouth at El Chico’s long enough to state emphatically, “Mommy! ‘Bekah hazzuh knife! She cud choke!”
He then replaced the plug and didn’t utter another word for three weeks.
What he lacks in verbal skill is made up in physical prowess. By 2½, Joe could ride a bike, roller blade, mount a trapeze, and scale a 6’ wooden fence!
Doug made partner in his anesthesia practice January 1st. Even more welcome than the increased income was the unlimited vacation, part of which he used right away to have a long overdue tonsillectomy. He was trading stocks at his computer within hours of the surgery, which must’ve kept his mind off the pain, because he never breathed a single complaint the entire two weeks he was home convalescing.
Doug and the kids took the wheels off our skateboards when it snowed this month and went snow boarding down the school slopes. I’m glad they seized the opportunity while they could — the children may be grown and gone before it snows in Tyler again.
February 2000 Happenings
Jennifer agreed to sing at her parents’ church in February. What she thought would be two-songs-before-the-sermon turned out to be an hour-long concert advertised in the local paper. Her father told her not to worry about her mistakes, as they served to put the audience at ease. If he’s right, then that crowd was as relaxed as they get! It was fun, but she won’t be quitting her day job anytime soon. Jonathan worked part time jugging birdseed for Wild Birds Unlimited this winter.
We thought he might spend most of his earnings before leaving the store, given his new employee discount, but he saved a good portion to use at Lowe’s, having lately become enthralled with carpentry. He built himself a workshop in our attic, convinced Papa to install some electrical outlets, and spent the rest of the year stocking it with power tools and scrap lumber. David turned eight this month. He loves to build, too, but his preferred medium is LEGOS. Our decision to spend spring break at Legoland, California, was due almost completely to his lobbying efforts.
March 2000 Happenings
With gas prices topping $2 a gallon, March may not have been the most economical time to take a 4000-mile road trip to the West Coast, but it was ideal in every other respect. Jennifer packed enough matching outfits to color-coordinate our entire family for two weeks.
Dressing alike and keeping the children between Mom and Dad when we were out (single-file, biggest to littlest) made it easier to count heads. We soon realized we weren’t the only ones counting, but didn’t fully appreciate what a spectacle we made until we were stopped on the crowded streets of Las Vegas by some tourists who exclaimed, “We saw your family at San Diego Zoo last Monday!”
We listened to books on tape while traveling and made frequent stops at whatever points of interest lay in our path, including Carlsbad Caverns, Hoover Dam, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, and every museum we could find that granted free admission to Discovery Science Place members.
Jennifer left a detailed itinerary with her mother, whose prayers we felt the whole time we were gone. Mishaps were minor and few:
Rebekah sunburned at the zoo and sported dreadful scabs across her nose and forehead for the rest of our trip.
Doug swallowed a gallon of salt water trying to surf at Carlsbad Beach, but looked terrific doing it in his $3 wet suit rental.
We drove to dizzying heights to see the Giant Sequoias, but unwittingly stopped a mile short of seeing the General Sherman Tree with its 36½ ft. diameter, having become distracted by the grazing deer, the melting snowdrifts, the glorious sunset…and the vomiting child in our backseat! (Ben got queasy on the way up).
We survived a 4-mile hike along Las Vegas Boulevard the night we were in Nevada. Totally mesmerized by the neon lights, Benjamin walked straight into a brick wall and fell flat on his back at the feet of a street person. The bedraggled gent hurriedly passed his brown-bagged bottle to our six-year old for safe keeping, bent over, helped Ben up, dusted him off, reclaimed his booze, and sent us on our way!
We did not do any gambling in Las Vegas, but couldn’t leave town without trying one of those sumptuous buffets. The children were told to eat anything they wanted. After surveying an endless assortment of smoked meats, seafood, salads, side dishes, and savory desserts, David contented himself with two full plates of maraschino cherries and lemon wedges!
There was snow on the ground in Williams, and the kids had a novel time staging snowball fights in their swimsuits around our hotel’s heated outdoor pool. We took a train to the Grand Canyon, but stayed a healthy distance from the edge the three hours we were there. Mercifully, Joe (who’d been voted most-likely-to-fall-to-the-bottom) slept through most of that stop!
April 2000 Happenings
Rebekah learned to crawl in April. The first thing she did after becoming mobile was to track down brother Joseph and snatch back her pilfered pacifier!
The pigeons nesting in our chimney deposited two more fledglings in our fireplace on Easter Sunday. We were thrilled, especially since Ash had flown away for the winter and not returned. We named these Coal and Ember. They ate from our hands and sat on our shoulders until they learned to fly, but were never so fond of kittens as their sister had been.
Joseph was determined to potty train this spring, despite Jennifer’s vain attempts to postpone it for a more convenient time. He changed from diapers to brother’s underwear every time Mom’s back was turned and spent his days trotting from toilet to toilet with his pants around his knees.
His persistence paid off, and by the end of April he actually had something to show for his efforts. What’s more, he figured it out for himself, right down to replacing an empty roll of toilet paper with a full one when he’s finished (wish he’d teach his siblings that trick)!
May 2000 Happenings
Doug got ringside tickets to the Tyler-Area Tough Man Competition in May — just in time for Mother’s Day! Jennifer has never been an enthusiastic boxing fan, but agreed to accompany him to the fights provided she could bring along her needlework. She mostly wanted to make sure he didn’t climb into the ring himself.
The five oldest went with their dad to Doctors Camp this year, but David got sick without telling anyone the final night, and the scene to which Doug awoke Sunday morning made him wish they’d come home a day early….
The little boys were pretending one afternoon this month when Jennifer overheard Samuel tell his brothers, “Look! Here comes Daddy! He’s walking on water!” This paints a fairly accurate picture of where Doug stands in Sam’s estimation.
His primary goal in life is to be exactly like his father — and he already has the obsessive/compulsive part down pat! Back in February, Jennifer found Sam’s favorite T-shirt folded neatly around a pair of his blue jeans, socks, and underwear, all squirreled away in the corner of a remote bathroom cabinet. She made the mistake of moving these items back to his dresser drawers, only to send Sam into hysterics the following morning when he discovered them missing from their hiding place. He fervently explained that that’s the outfit he was planning to wear for his birthday [8 months hence] and he wanted to make sure it stayed clean for the occasion!
June 2000 Happenings
We found out June 1st that #8 was on the way. Rumors to that effect had been floating around town since March, so it was nice to finally be able to confirm them.
Doug spent two weeks and shed twenty pounds in El Paso with the Army Medical Reserves. It is the longest we’ve ever been separated. On our fourth night without him, Benjamin approached Mom with a furrowed brow and solemnly asked, “Is Daddy dead?” Doug immediately made arrangements to fly home for the weekend. He could stay only 16 hours, but it was enough to reassure Ben his dad was still in the land of the living!
Jennifer’s parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary June 25th. Unaware of the surprise reception their daughters had surreptitiously planned in their honor, they were astounded to find a roomful of family and friends where a secluded restaurant was supposed to have been.
The event was an enormous success, although we ran out of punch cups toward the end of it. This, regrettably, did not faze the Flanders children, who found alternative means to slake their thirst, thereby earning an A for resourcefulness, but an F for decorum. Jennifer conducted an intense review of the rules governing proper etiquette as soon as we got home.
July 2000 Happenings
Nana, Papa and Aunt Kimberly’s family came to Tyler for the Fourth of July, boosting the attendance at our Independence Day block party to 55 this year.
We went on another “spring cleaning” rampage this month. Doug hired someone to help Jennifer paint the garage and landscape the backyard while he carted everything he could sneak past her to Goodwill.
We received unsolicited help decluttering when hoodlums stole three of our bicycles in a span of two weeks! One bike was later returned after Sam spotted it at the swimming pool and Doug followed the rider home to discuss the matter with his parents.
We got a new entertainment system to replace the TV we tossed out two years ago, but have avoided re-addiction (due largely to the fact that the equipment is so complicated, only Doug knows how to operate all of it). Meanwhile, we continue to read. We offered the children a quarter for every book report they wrote this summer, and they responded enthusiastically.
Bethany led the pack as our top earner, while her brothers vied neck and neck for a not-too-distant second. We got our first taste of the controversial Harry Potter when Doug read The Sorcerer’s Stone aloud this month, but the year’s best read was To Kill a Mockingbird, despite our having to call the kids down periodically for playing “Boo Radley” after dark or quoting Scout’s infamous lines at the dinner table whenever Mom serves ham.
The annual Cowan reunion was held July 29th at the aptly named Funny Farm. Some say our looniest members married into the family, but Doug actively proved the point by packing our suburban full of underage cousins after dinner and giving impromptu driving lessons in Uncle Jim’s pasture!
August 2000 Happenings
Rebekah was walking by August, and David enjoyed the distinction of being the one to whom she toddled first. He spent half the summer dressed in buckskins, and Rebekah was the papoose he toted on his back.
Lessons resumed mid-August, but the children still found time to hike through the woods and catch tadpoles in the creek. Jonathan and Bethany enjoyed longer excursions together, biking miles from home to browse through books at Barnes & Noble, snack on sandwiches at Jason’s Deli, or admire animals at Petsmart.
After spotting a particularly irresistible shepherd/collie pup, Jonathan emptied his bank account and brought the dog home. We named him Jinx, but with the exception of a few ill-placed puddles and an uprooted hydrangea, he’s been no trouble at all.
In anticipation of our upcoming addition, we ordered a 15-passanger van, bought three trundle beds plus an 18-drawer chest, and shuffled room assignments. Ben, Joe and Rebekah now share the yellow bedroom, which received a facelift when we painted the lower walls green and added a botanical border this month; Sam and David moved in with Jon; and the crib in Bethany’s room was reserved for the new baby.
But all was for naught. Jennifer miscarried at 17 weeks — a perfectly formed baby boy, whom we named Joshua Adam. It made us so sad to lose him.
When Doug brought Jennifer home from the hospital, the children consoled her with tearful hugs and kisses, homemade cards and bouquets, and the heartfelt pronouncement from David that (at least) “you still look pregnant, Mommy.”
This bittersweet reminder was fully intended to cheer Mom up, and strangely enough, it did.
September 2000 Happenings
Life marched on…. Jennifer and Bethany hosted their traditional Back-to-School Brunch in September, the same day Girlie-Girl celebrated her first birthday. Doug claims Rebekah looks more like her mother every day, but he’s usually staring at her dimpled thighs when he says it! No longer does she perpetually smell of sour milk, having finally outgrown the exasperating habit of spitting up as she’s lifted out of the bathtub, which had for 12 months been her knee-jerk reaction to smelling clean.
We wrapped up a study of the American Revolution with a two-week tour of the East Coast, leaving town on Bethany’s 11th birthday.
We had scarcely driven out of Texas when Jennifer discovered the diamond was missing from her engagement ring — an irreplaceable heirloom that had been in Doug’s family for generations. When our eagle-eyed David spotted it a week later amid cracker crumbs and crayons under the back seat, Doug dubbed him “Diamond Dave.”
Jonathan originally balked at the idea of dressing in Colonial garb to tour historic Williamsburg, as if doing so might embarrass him. (This, from the child who used to traipse all over Mesquite wearing mirrored goggles and a one-horned Viking helmet strapped to his head with a leather belt!)
He really got in the spirit of things once Mom finished the costumes, though, and didn’t want to take his off. We were stopped innumerable times by tourists who wanted to photograph or videotape our family.
Curiously, this phenomenon continued even when we were in street clothes. Foreigners would indicate in broken English they wished us to line up, then would snap several pictures, presumably to show folks at home what a typical American family looks like.
Rebekah didn’t travel well this trip, due to a lingering ear infection and emerging molars. It’s a good thing we had John Denver in the glove box. She didn’t care for any other song on the CD, but would immediately stop crying, cock her head to one side, and grin from ear to ear every time we played (and replayed) “Thank God I’m a Country Boy!”
We took Staten Island Ferry in New York to get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty. When we got caught in rush hour traffic afterwards, Jon and Beth reached under their seats, pulled out two scooters they’d smuggled from home, and coasted along the sidewalks of Manhattan next to our Suburban.
We signed up for a four-hour whale-watching expedition while we were in Plymouth and were treated to magnificent views of several humpbacks. Doug and the children seemed unbothered by the wild rocking of our boat, but Jennifer was eventually forced below deck to be closer to the trashcan. There she developed a new appreciation for those long months the Pilgrims spent at sea.
We found ourselves in Canada admiring Niagara Falls the day Samuel turned seven. In lieu of a birthday cake, Doug ordered snails, and with the exception of Jon and Ben, we all had our first (and probably last) taste of escargot.
October 2000 Happenings
We got home just in time for the Diabetes Walk in October. Jonathan raised $350 worth of donations in two days.
Jennifer’s sister waited until we were back in town to have her baby, so we got to meet Carolyn Cherree when she was only a day old!
Having resigned ourselves to the fact we won’t be needing that empty crib in Bethany’s room any time soon, we took it apart and moved it to the attic. Two days later we found out Jennifer is pregnant again — further proof that God delights in giving us the desires of our hearts!
Bethany was selected as a semi-finalist in a poetry contest she entered this month. Her poem, entitled “Daylight”, will be published next year in the Nature’s Echo anthology, but you can read it now by logging onto www.poetry.com.
November 2000 Happenings
By the first of November, our older children had assembled and distributed bundles of Bush/Cheney yard signs for the Republican Headquarters. Considering how these outnumbered area Gore signs 30 to 1, we never dreamed the election would be close, much less interminably disputed. Notwithstanding Gore’s tireless attempts to manipulate numbers in his own favor, we are prayerfully awaiting Bush’s long-overdue victory speech.
Meanwhile, Doug has taken Jonathan and Bethany to Guatemala for a medical mission trip. Beth measured 5’7″ when applying for her passport. (She was in tennis shoes at the time, but prefers her mother’s heels, which now fit perfectly, as do most of the clothes in Jennifer’s closet).
At Doug’s insistence, we learned Spanish before the trip and can carry on limited conversations en Castellano amongst ourselves, though it remains to be seen how they’ll fare with native speakers.
They’ll be home Dec. 2, provided none of Jonathan’s hi-jacked-plane predictions materialize. To be on the safe side, Jon advised Nana to save the receipts for his Christmas gifts, so she can return them if he doesn’t make it back.
And so ends another year. In a bustling household like ours, it’s easy to become distracted by such futile objectives as keeping the laundry hamper empty or the pantry full (for more than a few fleeting minutes at a time)! December provides a great opportunity to shift our focus back where it belongs — upon our beautiful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and upon the worthy goal of becoming more like Him.
Just as important as what we do is the attitude with which we do it. We are quick to remind our children of this fact, but sometimes forget to apply it ourselves, as evidenced by the knot of wrinkles periodically stationed between our eyebrows. Laugh lines are far more attractive, which is reason enough to “rejoice in the Lord always, and in everything, give thanks.”
Won’t you join us, as we commit anew to doing exactly that? We wish each of you a joyous and meaningful Christmas season and pray for you as for ourselves, that God’s love may abound in our hearts, conforming us to the image of his blessed Son….
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, Bethany, David, Samuel, Benjamin, Joseph, and Rebekah
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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.