What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 2002 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: 2002
December 2001 Happenings
The children’s surgeries went well last December. Joseph relinquished his tonsils and Rebekah her adenoids without complaint, and both felt chipper enough to sit through an opening-day matinee of the long-awaited Lord of the Rings that same afternoon.
January 2002 Happenings
Doug attended a medical conference in January aboard the world’s largest cruise ship, Voyager of the Seas, and took the family along for the ride. Granted, our cabins were the size of a walk-in closet, but the beds were comfortable, and the scopolamine patches we’d packed for seasickness helped with claustrophobia, as well. Besides, the close quarters provided a captive audience for David and Samuel, who roomed with Nana-n-Papa and staged nightly recitals on the bamboo violins they’d bought in the marketplace.
High points of this vacation included climbing Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, swimming with stingrays off the Cayman Islands, and snorkeling in Cozumel.
The low points were eating an interminably interrupted lunch at a certain restaurant/ gift shop, the name of which Doug has since forbidden the children to even mention again, and getting locked out of our van, thirty miles from port, half an hour before boarding time (thanks a lot, Mom) — even Jonathan’s Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook couldn’t get us out of that fix.
A Caribbean plantation worker showed our children how to scale coconut palms using a small, circular climbing rope; thereafter, every time we turned around, all five boys had scampered up the trunk of another tree and disappeared into the foliage overhead. We took several snapshots of them swinging from the branches like so many chimpanzees. These were about the only pictures we got of Joseph on this trip, as he turned camera-shy after the ship photographer showed up at dinner one night dressed in a pirate costume and brandishing a machete.
Of course, the cruise cuisine was fabulous. No telling how much weight Doug and Jennifer would have gained had the food on their plates not appealed so much more to Rebekah than anything on her own.
Rachel never found her sea-legs, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. She spent floor time propped on hands and toes, and had learned to crawl by the time we disembarked.
Jennifer gave us a scare on the drive home when she was suddenly struck blind in one eye. Her left pupil had blown to the size of a marble, and we were guessing intracranial bleed? Doug was en route to the nearest hospital before we made a connection between the rapid onset of this malady and the removal of her scopolamine patch. She must have rubbed some residue in her eye and caused it to dilate, a freakish condition that lasted (only) 24 hours!
February 2002 Happenings
February brought restored order to our happy household, although Jennifer suspects it had less to do with our new school schedule than it did with Nana’s prayers — undoubtedly more specific after our concentrated time together on that cruise!
David turned 10 this month and was promoted from trash-collecting to laundry-duty. He now processes 20 loads a week competently and cheerfully. His free time is spent reading books, playing tennis, and practicing piano (when he first began lessons, he couldn’t pass a piano without sitting down to play, but that early enthusiasm has waned somewhat).
Rachel began solids. She’s not overly-fond of baby food, but can swallow her weight in refried beans and guacamole.
Doug achieved his life-long goal of completing a marathon, and Jennifer was behind him every step of the way, literally!
Eternal optimist that he is, Doug convinced her the past 14 years of childbearing counted as “surreptitious training” and put her in prime cardiovascular condition (never mind the fact that when we started, she could scarcely trot ten yards without getting winded); so after an additional Six Months of Rigorous Training (not including January), we packed up our PowerBars and headed to Austin.
I don’t imagine what we were doing could properly be called running — it was more of a 20-mile jog plus a 6-mile cool down — but we nevertheless managed to cross the finish line, hand-in-hand, before they stopped the clock!
March 2002 Happenings
March found us scouring every thrift store in town for camouflage clothing, trying to piece together enough battle dress uniforms to send our boys to boot camp. Watching these thirty would-be soldiers in the field with their dads — running obstacle courses, digging foxholes, practicing marksmanship, and choking down ready-to-eat rations — one might think they’d joined a militia, but it was actually a hands-on history lesson, part of the WWII study our home school group sponsored this spring.
Lest the boys have all the fun, Jennifer took Bethany and the nursing baby to Jefferson the following weekend for three tranquil days of shopping, scrapbooking, and sight-seeing in The Bed & Breakfast Capitol of the World.
Whenever the kids work our house into an especial state of disorder, we say it looks like a tornado struck it, but in March one nearly did. It sucked the windows clean out of our cars and about did the same to our eardrums.
The accompanying power outage sent us scurrying for flashlights and gathering babies, but it wasn’t until we later ventured outdoors that we realized how close we’d come to meeting our Maker. Uprooted trees surrounded our house like a ring of toppled dominoes, but by God’s mercy, they all fell clear of us!
April 2002 Happenings
April took Doug to New Orleans for another medical conference, with Jon in tow. The two spent mornings listening to trauma lectures, afternoons absorbing the sights and sounds of Jazzfest, and evenings dining in five-star restaurants.
The rest of us stayed at home and (finally!) polished off the last of our Y2K provisions. I doubt the children will ever be as fond of sugarcoated cereals as they were before we purchased all those cases of Froot Loops off the clearance rack!
May 2002 Happenings
Doug drove to Houston in May for yet another conference. David tagged along this trip and learned to intubate a rubber dummy while Dad practiced the same fiber-optic procedure on fully-conscious volunteers. There was enough time between workshops to visit the zoo, go paddle-boating, and take in the new Spiderman movie.
Jennifer’s mother shared her best household hints with our home school moms this month; her cleaning tips came in handy the following week when Joseph slid a penny behind his nightlight, melted the coin, shorted the circuit, and burned a black blotch on the bedroom wall. It’s a wonder he wasn’t electrocuted. God must have extraordinary plans for Joe’s life, as often as it’s been spared his first five years.
We played some baseball this spring. Despite the aforementioned accident-proneness, our children are nowhere near as clumsy as Doug feared they’d be when he first took note of Jennifer tripping across DBU’s campus back in 1986!
On the contrary, they all have great hand-eye coordination and surprisingly strong throwing arms, as we learned when the police department stationed a computerized speedometer at the end of our driveway: it not only slowed traffic around our corner, but it allowed us to clock the velocity of our fast balls (try as we might, none of us could beat the neighbor boy’s 62 mph pitches).
Ben lost his first tooth. Ever cautious, he insisted Mom pull it as soon as it started to wiggle, to avoid choking on it later (this was no easy task, as the tooth was small, slippery, and only slightly loose).
Jonathan turned 14 this month and informed us he’d adopted a new motto: “If you want to be first in the kingdom of heaven, you’ve got to be servant of all” (a dramatic improvement over “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission!”).
He put the platitude to good practice by volunteering at ETMC again this summer, as well as donating time to the Red Cross and to the American Diabetes Association. His other interests include whittling hiking sticks, playing the guitar, studying Wilderness Medicine, memorizing the New Testament (2 books down, 25 to go), and earning money for the Jeep he hopes to buy when he turns 16.
June 2002 Happenings
We participated in the Mesquite Rodeo Bike Ride in June. Jennifer trailed the younger children on the 10-mile course, while Doug and Jonathan used the 20-mile route to break in new triathlon cycles.
Still too young to candy-stripe at the hospital with Jon, Bethany began volunteering at Green Acres Library, where she helped organize the summer reading program and led a weekly story time for pre-schoolers.
Rachel celebrated her first birthday on Father’s Day. She has a mouthful of teeth, but seldom flashes her sweet smile in public, being more apt to show strangers (especially photographers) a well-practiced poker face, instead, or a wrinkled-nose expression that seems to protest, “What is that horrid smell?”
She has learned to clap her hands, wave bye-bye, stand alone, and play peek-a-boo. The amazing thing is not that she’s developing right on schedule, but that each new milestone brings such unmitigated delight to the rest of the family, even the eighth time around!
Of course, we couldn’t let spring slip by without tackling some huge home-improvement project, so Doug arranged to have the interior of our house repainted this year.
To get an idea of what life was like during the twelve days it took to achieve that end, simply push all the furniture to the middle of your house, heap the contents of every closet, cupboard, and drawer on top of that, coat the surrounding walls with latex, drop a passel of youngsters in the middle of the mess, and do what you can to ensure they don’t touch the paint, topple the piles, or track the drips!
Our painters must’ve thought we were muy loco to expect them to work with ochos niños underfoot. They persevered good-naturedly, but we were all smiling when the job was done!
July 2002 Happenings
Rebekah figured out how to disconnect the hose to our super-capacity washing machine in July. It’s amazing how far seven cubic feet of water will go! It took six days to refinish the floors, but we left the contractor a house key and spent the week at Pine Cove in Crier Creek.
Family camp was great, though it wrecked the 5-hour-per-day reading streak Sam and David had maintained through the month of June (too many distractions). Upon our return home, Jennifer and Bethany began the Body-for-LIFE program, having been duly inspired by all the before/after photos plastered across the cover of Bill Philip’s best-seller. The girls found weight training less distasteful than distance running — they shed unwanted pounds, but got to keep their toenails!
August 2002 Happenings
By August, Rachel was walking and beginning to pair such words as, “Hey, ya’ll!” (spoken like a true Texan). Doug brought home a black Hummer 2 this month, demonstrating once again the truth of that old adage concerning the difference between men and boys. The kids pitched a tent in our backyard and camped-out for a week before school started, trying to pack as much fun as possible into the last few days of summer vacation. All too soon, Mom set them back to their lessons, heartless taskmaster that she is.
September 2002 Happenings
Rebekah turned three in September. Jon bought a box of cartoon Band-aids to use in bandaging her scrapes (she gets plenty trying to keep up with her brothers), but now she cries hysterically, “I need Scooby Doo!” at the slightest bump or bruise. We’ve had to switch back to the plain, flesh-colored variety to curb her hypochondria!
Rebekah loves to make up songs, paint her nails, and express contrary viewpoints (just try to convince her that grass is green or that she’s a person). She can be a mite stubborn, but we love her anyway and never tire of hearing her confess, “I luh boo, too!”
Joseph turned five this month. He enjoys cutting paper, sorting socks, digging holes, and playing Boggle Jr. He also likes to color and can stay inside the lines remarkably well, although doing so demands his full concentration and an inordinate amount of tongue action.
Our multi-talented Bethany had her birthday this month, adding a second teenager to our household equation! Despite the attendant hormonal fluctuations, we are thoroughly enjoying this new stage of our children’s lives. It is gratifying to watch them grow in wisdom and maturity, as they stand on the very brink of adulthood. They’re terrific kids, in our unabashedly biased opinion!
October 2002 Happenings
October was a banner month for Doug: he was elected president of his anesthesia group, soon to be 43 physicians strong, and was promoted to major in the Army Medical Reserves, effective June 2000.
On the down side, he also received special recognition from the Texas Department of Public Safety for having paid enough uncontested speeding tickets over the past couple of years to warrant a brief suspension of his driver’s license. Ouch!
Samuel turned nine this month. Our most enthusiastic fan of Mom’s home-cooking, he has a voracious appetite for knowledge, as well. Sam told us last spring that he reckons himself “one of the hundred smartest 8-year olds in the world” (he’s certainly one of the hundred most confident)! For fun, he and David like to search the dictionary for unusual words, then quiz one another on their meanings (this game, like countless others, eventually devolves into a no-holds-barred wrestling match, executed with the raucous gusto that will drive a mother crazy).
Ben-Ben celebrated his seventh birthday. When he’s not pouring over our Childcraft Encyclopedias, he likes to cuddle the baby, study maps, eat popsicles, and work jigsaw puzzles. He officially began first grade this fall, but his favorite subject is “craft time” with Bethany, the fruits from which are invariably dedicated to Mom, with love.
November 2002 Happenings
We traveled to Oklahoma for the Nobles family reunion in November and enjoyed some fabulous fall foliage on our drive through Mena. This was the first time we’d seen some of Jennifer’s relatives in about eight years, so it’s nice that Joseph and Rebekah, partners-in-crime, waited until we got home to chop off one another’s hair(!).
We spent much of this autumn immersed in the Middle Ages, this semester’s historical topic for our home school support group. We studied the Crusades, took sword-fighting lessons, made paper, learned the art of chain mail, sang Gregorian chants, designed a family coat-of-arms, and read The Canterbury Tales (though not in Anglo Saxon). We even drove to Plantersville to attend the Texas Renaissance Festival. We opted against wearing our woolen costumes since the day was unseasonably warm, but we counted several scantily-clad belly dancers parading around the fair grounds for whom the heat must have been a welcome respite.
December 2002 Happenings
Thus the year flew swiftly by. God willing, we’ll spend the holidays in Branson this year with both sets of parents, our sisters and their families. Perhaps we’ll even see that White Christmas of which we’ve so often sung.
Benjamin is praying for “a LONG winter… maybe even two weeks!” Doug and Jennifer are hoping for a mild one, as we are scheduled to begin building a new house in January and hope to finish before school resumes next fall. Add to that little project the fact that we have another baby due in May(!) and you have the recipe for a very full year. Pray that God gives us grace to meet all the challenges inherent in such endeavors. We pray, likewise, that 2003 will see you grow closer to our glorious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that He may be honored in everything you do. Let us hear from you soon!
With love from the Flanders –
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, Bethany, David, Samuel, Benjamin, Joseph, Rebekah, and Rachel
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).