What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 2006 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: 2006

December 2005 Happenings

It’s a good thing we mailed out the Christmas letters early last year—our assembly-line would’ve been short-handed had we waited any longer, since Jon was hospitalized after Thanksgiving for the first time in 16 years. A severe staph infection took three weeks of IV antibiotics and lots of prayer to overcome, but he was discharged in time for finals at TJC and passed with flying colors despite his absences—another answer to prayer.

2006 Happenings - Kids on Christmas

Both our extended families gathered in Grapevine for a few days of sight-seeing and fine-dining before following us home for Christmas. Isaac loved the gift he received from his big brothers — a one-piece, spandex Spiderman suit which fastens up the back. He wore it constantly, layered beneath pajamas and play-clothes alike. Such preparedness may save time for superheroes, but it tends to make diaper changes unnecessarily difficult.

January 2006 Happenings

Resolving to spend more time with the family and less at the office, Doug tendered his resignation as president of East Texas Anesthesia Associates in January. The vice-president agreed to take over early, but claimed that “succeeding Flanders feels like following Babe Ruth at bat.”

As per our custom, the kids swapped chore assignments for the new year. Samuel got laundry duty, giving him a better appreciation for that never-ending task. He’d been washing three loads a day for a week when Mom caught him playing football with his brothers in the backyard one crisp winter morning wearing nothing but a T-shirt, underwear, and a skateboard helmet. When she questioned the scant dress, Sam explained, “I didn’t want to waste my clean clothes!”

February 2006 Happenings

Our 6’4” bottomless pit turned 14 on February 20. No longer content to polish off a full box of cereal or carton of eggs as a midnight snack, now when David gets hungry after dinner, he’ll bake ten loaves of bread and eat two while they’re still warm. You wouldn’t know it to look at him. He stays fit riding his bicycle, pedaling over 80 miles at a stretch.

Our entire family logged some good mileage on foot this month in preparation for the Cowtown Half-Marathon. Doug, Jennifer, Jon, Bethany, David, and Samuel stretched their long run to ten miles, while the little ones joined us for shorter runs, riding on bikes or in strollers. We made it to Fort Worth just ahead of a thunder storm. It raged all night and was still pouring at race time next morning, so we decided to forfeit. The boys were terribly disappointed; the girls were secretly relieved (but don’t tell).

March 2006 Happenings

We joined an organic vegetable co-op in March which specializes in crops we never knew existed: white radishes, purple kale, black bell peppers, yellow chard, and a variety of greens we still can’t identify but have grown to like. Of necessity, Mom’s cooking skills have been stretched to the point that our family eats almost all our meals at home anymore, usually without complaints.

Doug’s willingness to forgo restaurant dinners may be due in part to his preoccupation with a little construction project he and the boys tackled on his days off. They designed a massive tree fort with three stories, which Doug jokingly dubbed the “family practice level, the orthopedic level, and the neurosurgical level” (referring to the kind of specialist we’d need should anyone fall from a given deck).

In the end, better judgment prevailed and they stopped with two, the second of which is kept secured with a combination lock when not in use. Still, it’s a nice place to read a book or gaze at the stars, and it makes a terrific launch pad for the zip line Uncle Chris installed last December.

April 2006 Happenings

That project complete, Doug was even less interested in moving than he’d been before. Our house showed a few times in April, but we took it off the market when it hadn’t sold by summer, which explains why we’re still here, and happily so. Doug re-instituted story-time now that he is home most evenings. He read Swallows and Amazons aloud to the children, then sent them to bed and swapped interesting excerpts from other books with Jennifer while soaking in the tub. Favorite picks this year include Mark Kurlansky’s Salt, Jared Diamond’s Collapse, Ann Coulter’s Godless, John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, and Milo Frank’s How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less (which we’ve successfully applied to everything but Christmas letters).

May 2006 Happenings

The indefatigable Isaac turned three on May 22 and inherited the Davy Crockett costume that Mom had made for Jon’s third birthday. It has been passed from brother to brother for the past 15 years, but the latest recipient wore it only two days before reverting back to his Spidey suit. Isaac loves to help around the house, so Dad showed him how to use an electric paper shredder to dispose of junk mail. In retrospect, this was a bad idea. The stack of “pre-approved credit” offers ran out long before Isaac’s enthusiasm for the task, so he cracked open the permanent files and began shredding Doug’s tax receipts!

2006 Hqppenings - Jon and Beth

Our two oldest graduated from high school this month and received their diplomas during our home school group’s annual commencement exercises. It was early for Beth, but she’d been doing the same coursework as Jon since ninth grade, so it made sense (at least until Mom realized she’d be leaving for college in a few months and began to second-guess the decision). Bethany independently arrived at the same conclusion — that 16 is too young to move away from home—so she postponed applying to Dallas Baptist University in favor of spending her first two years at Tyler Junior College, where she was awarded a full presidential scholarship and a job as a biology lab assistant.

Jonathan decided to stay at TJC, as well, not because he has any qualms about leaving home—he’s been planning an exit strategy for months now—but because he can’t bear the thought of living more than ten minutes away from his fellow Red Cross volunteer and sweetheart of two years, the lovely and loveable Matti Jones. He grew a goatee after celebrating his 18th birthday (May 31). It served as a good visual reminder for us to treat him like an adult.

Learning to let go has been particularly challenging for Mom (who distinctly remembers crying when Jonathan was four days old, because he was growing up so fast), so Doug made her practice repeating, “Okay, Sweetie. Have fun. I love you. See you when you get home…” until she could say it in her sleep. That has actually helped. Do you suppose this will get any easier as our last ones leave the nest?

June 2006 Happenings

2006 Happenings - Fort BlissOur radiant Rachel turned five on June 16. This little monkey enjoys climbing, singing and (especially) drawing. She can occupy herself for hours given a copious supply of paper and a ballpoint pen.

She loves her mommy, but she adores her big sister — so much so that she once asked her siblings, “Don’t you wish Beth could be our mother?” When the others urged her to recant, Rachel remained adamant: “But Bethany’s so nice — she gives us candy, her face is prettier, and she draws better!”

Jennifer took it in stride. If she’d had a big sister like Bethany at that age, she might have felt the same way….

The Army Reserve called Doug up for another four months, this time to El Paso, so our whole family piled in the van and headed west for the summer.

It was a trick to fit all twelve of us into the 500 sq ft apartment he was assigned (an area roughly the size of our back porch), but it was carpeted, so Daniel finally learned how to crawl cross-pattern, instead of the belly-swim he’d been doing across our hardwood floors back home.

2006 HappeningsWhite water raftingThe kitchen, which we shared with another soldier, had only enough room for a card table and single chair, so we ate our meals at a picnic table across the parking lot.
Our only three-pronged outlet was in the tiny bathroom which consequently doubled as our home office. We had to squeeze between sink and shower sideways to reach it, but once there, we could sit on the toilet, spit in the sink, and check our e-mail, all at the same time.

An aquatic center two blocks away afforded a roomier way to bathe the kids and was a welcome respite from the heat. All the children from Rebekah up joined the swim team and practiced daily.

Doug had weekends off, which provided a great opportunity to explore the American Southwest. We spent spare moments museum hopping, rock climbing, mountain biking, white-water rafting, sand-dune sliding, spelunking, and sampling lots of spicy Mexican food.

The children’s requests to dine at familiar chain restaurants fell on deaf ears as Doug insisted we scout out every mom-and-pop establishment west of the Rio Grande in an effort to “soak up local culture” (he was not opposed to sharing a little culture of our own, however, which explains his volunteering Jennifer to sing Mozart’s Queen of the Night Aria with an amused but accommodating mariachi/karaoke band).

2006 Happenings - Jon, Bth, and David in Costa RicaJon, Beth, and David spent three weeks at language school in Costa Rica this month, so they enjoyed the added adventure of going on canopy tours, sea turtle rescues, and lobster dives. Eager to have them home, we arrived at the airport a day early to meet their plane and were crestfallen to discover they weren’t on it (nor were they supposed to be). Rebekah even cried.

2006 Happenings - Jon, Bth, and David in Costa Rica

July 2006 Happenings

2006 Happenings - Doug and JenniferEven as the drought at home was turning our lawn a crispy brown, El Paso was getting more rain than it had seen since the 1800’s. Parts of downtown had to be evacuated in August when the Rio Grande overran its banks and a dam across the border threatened to unleash another six million gallons of water on the already distressed city.

Our family was confined to Fort Bliss until after the storms subsided, but Doug came up with a capital way to combat cabin fever. He’d drive us around the base until he spotted a tempting puddle, then slip on his sunglasses (despite heavy cloud cover), rev the engine (pretending to challenge any oncoming traffic or hapless pedestrians), and peel across deserted streets and empty parking lots, leaving a wall of water in his wake. The wife and kids would roar with laughter and beg him to do it again and again.

Once the sun came back out, we worked double-time to fit in all the sightseeing we still wanted to do before Jennifer and the children headed for home. We toured pecan farms, grape orchards, turquoise shops, salt flats, Mexican markets, National Parks, a glass factory, a candy plant, and several zoos. Benjamin helped conduct electricity for a Tesla coil demonstration, Mom and Dad wrestled a 120-pound boa constrictor during a reptile show, and the twelve-and-under crowd earned a bunch of badges in the Junior Ranger program.

We were received warmly everywhere we went, with the exception of one museum in Las Cruces, where the little old ladies who served as volunteer docents seemed completely unnerved by our big brood.

“Get away from that exit! You’ll set off the alarm!”
“Don’t pet the cows!”
“Two at a time on the see-saw!”
“For Heaven’s sake, stay away from that display — it’s an antique!”

We were called down for various offenses no less than six times before Jennifer, red with humiliation, packed up the kids and drove back to El Paso in tears. She hates getting in trouble.

August 2006 Happenings

2006 Happenings - in Las CrucesDoug’s tour of duty lasted another five weeks after the family moved home to start school, so he missed our wedding anniversary and several birthdays, to boot.

Daniel turned one on August 16: A curly-headed boy with a winning smile, he has eight teeth now, three of which he cut in El Paso while battling a horrendous case of thrush. Breastfeeding would’ve surely gone by the wayside had there been any other way to keep baby quiet behind those paper-thin walls of the bachelor barracks. Jennifer spent several nights sleeping in the van with him, as it was.

September 2006 Happenings

Rebekah turned seven on September 9: In addition to a strong will and sharp mind, she has her mother’s gift for music. She began piano lessons this fall, rehearses faithfully, and thinks having-to-practice is as urgent a reason to postpone bedtime as needing-to-potty.

Jennifer’s parents drove out to surprise us on Rebekah’s birthday, bringing a book of Sudoku puzzles with them. We had fun racing to see who could finish first (Samuel and Bethany won by wide margins).

Joseph turned nine September 11: He is creative, resourceful, and brave about trying new things. Now that Jon’s moved upstairs to the guest room (fewer distractions when he’s trying to study), Joseph and David have a room to themselves, unless you count Crystal, Joe’s little stuffed dog and constant companion. Joseph’s skill with a needle and thread has turned that pup into quite the clothes horse.

Beth turned 17 on September 20: She’s a bit of a clothes horse herself, although much of her wardrobe no longer fits. Her long hours at the gym have finally paid off, so instead of gaining fifteen pounds her freshman year, she dropped forty….

The Tyler Morning Telegraph ran an article on home schooling this fall and sent reporters to our house to get pictures for the story. Doug and Jennifer spent two hours fielding questions about why we do what we do.

Short answer: No, we’re not reacting to some bad experience in our childhoods. We loved school, loved our teachers, and are grateful for the education we received in the public school system. But we also love our children, love learning, and enjoy doing it together. Home schooling is not the only way to fulfill the Biblical injunction to teach “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), but it’s certainly a rewarding way to do so, and fosters family friendships, besides….

David took the training wheels off Rachel’s bicycle this month and taught her to ride without them. He has become the little ones’ go-to guy for bike help, as well as first aid. Doug, Sam, and Ben have begun joining David on treks with the Tyler Biking Club. The four ride to Bullard almost every Saturday morning to eat breakfast at Sherry’s Kitchen.

But life is not always so idyllic. Three short months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, Jennifer’s father passed away on September 20. It was a shock. None of us were ready to lose him, but by grace through faith, he was ready to go.

They say that children tend to view God in the same way they view their dad. Perhaps that is true. My earthly father was wise, benevolent, and completely trustworthy, so it has never been difficult for me to trust implicitly in the wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness of my Heavenly Father. And that’s a rich heritage, indeed.

Nana and Papa

October 2006 Happenings

But time stands still for no man. The day after we buried Papa, Jonathan paid off the wedding set he had chosen for Matti and, with the blessing of both sets of parents, proposed in October.

Yes, they’re young; yes, they’ll face hardships; but life is short; and postponing marriage often presents challenges of its own. Jon and Matti both love the Lord and are committed to building their home on His Word, so we are excited for them. They opted to make it a short engagement — just six weeks — which means they’ll be on their honeymoon by the time you receive this letter!

Our sober-minded Samuel turned 13 on October 2 and joined the ballroom dance class, something he’s wanted to do since his older siblings started lessons a year ago. In true Renaissance fashion, he plays the violin and tennis and throws himself into his studies, as well.

Samuel loves the sciences and would rather read ten biology texts than a single work of fiction. He also loves the baby. At his request, we attached a child-carrier to his bike, so he can pump Daniel around the neighborhood in the afternoons and keep him from getting underfoot while Mom cooks dinner.

Incidentally, the baby took his first step this month and is now walking everywhere. It is so sweet to watch him toddle around the house with his arms outstretched and a smile across his face. He is understandably proud of the accomplishment, as are we all….

Benjamin turned 11 on October 16. A hard worker, he considers any amount of physical labor a good excuse to strip off his shirt and flaunt his “six-pack.” Ben is gregarious and loves to be on the go, but has become much more focused in his lessons this year after learning that Joseph might catch him in a couple of subjects — there’s nothing like a little sibling rivalry to light the fire under a procrastinator (at least, that’s how it worked when Jennifer was in school — she’d never have graduated summa cum laude from DBU had she not glimpsed those straight A’s her sister Kimberly kept bringing home)!

Jon and Matti's Wedding

November 2006 Happenings

The weather turned decidedly cooler in November, making us grateful for the ample supply of firewood Doug and the boys laid up this fall. They cleared all the dead trees off our property using Dad’s new chain saw and Papa’s old axe, and then raced to see who could split the logs the fastest. Neither Jonathan nor Samuel could bear being bested by a 14-year old brother, and their repeated attempts to out-do David got the job finished in short order….

Unwilling to wait for January, Doug made “Reformation Day Resolutions” this year. In addition to writing, exercising, taking vitamins, and religiously tracking calories, he has sworn off caffeine (again), refined sugar (except gum), and fried foods (not including maple-flavored bacon).

He is busily training for another triathlon, having set as his goal being ready for the Half-Ironman in Dallas on his 40th birthday. Several of our kids plan to compete in various events that same weekend, but Jennifer is hoping to be pregnant by then, which will give her a good excuse to sit this one out.

That wraps up our news for another year — it blew by so fast that our heads are spinning. As December turns our thoughts back to the birth of our Savior, we pray Jesus will reign in your heart and home this Christmas and grant you peace and prosperity in 2007. Let us hear from you soon!

With love from the Flanders —
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, Bethany, David, Samuel, Benjamin,
Jospeh, Rebekah, Rachel, Isaac, and Daniel

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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

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