What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 2007 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: 2007
December 2006 Happenings
“What’s with all the hatchets and machetes?”
That’s what Jon wanted to know when he and Matti dropped by last December to find the entire family working in the woods behind our house. We’d been spending Saturday mornings raking leaves, clearing underbrush, felling trees, and hauling firewood.
Even Baby Daniel got in on the action by carrying small logs and kindling to the back porch. The newlyweds arrived just in time to watch Doug make assignments and distribute tools.
Jon was incredulous.
Pointing to a little sister hacking earnestly at a vine, he reminded his father, “You wouldn’t even let me carry a pocket knife when I was that age!”
I guess he’s right — times have changed. (Just wait until he sees all the Airsoft rifles his brothers bought this fall).
January 2007 Happenings
Progress was slow and the weather turned cold, so in January we hired professionals to finish the job.
Note to self: Next time warn the neighbor — the cardiologist’s wife next door nearly had a heart attack when she spotted all those strangers prowling around behind her property.
Some homemade muffins and spicy taquitos helped smooth the misunderstanding, and the men returned to work with fervor. Within three days, they’d raked every leaf, hauled off all the brush piles, and ground countless stumps.
David, Sam and Ben spent another three days meticulously spreading 200 bales of pine needles over the entire acre and a half. Whenever Mom or Dad grabbed a rake and tried to help, the boys shooed us away, preferring the more even results they achieved by sifting the straw through their fingers. The land looked pristine once they finished.
February 2007 Happenings
We found out in February that our first grandbaby was on the way! Matti got pregnant about a week after Jon’s insurance kicked in — how’s that for impeccable timing? She looked radiant, despite her terrible morning sickness….
David turned 15. He’s 6’5” now and solid muscle. He loves to swim, bike, run, read, and practice the piano — and believes the faster he can do those things, the better. He plays Mozart’s Turkish March a hundred times a day at such heart-pounding tempos that his fingers are a blur….
Doug took the older kids to Longview this month for the aptly-named Freeze Your Fanny Bike Ride. Mom kept the little ones home, where they snuggled before a roaring fire with a pile of picture books.
The family was reunited the following weekend when we went with Doug to Dallas for CME. We stayed in a swank hotel which was apparently hosting a cheerleading convention across the hall from the medical conference. The place was swarming.
I’ve never in my life seen so many pom-poms and pony-tails under one roof. Our boys nearly tripped over one another volunteering to fetch ice or towels or newspapers or suitcases — anything that would necessitate a trip to the lobby where the teams congregated.
March 2007 Happenings
We made our annual trip to Houston in March. Bethany stayed home and was sorely missed (particularly as we peddaled those six-seater surries down Galveston Beach — her strong legs would have been an asset when the little ones got tuckered out).
Worried her big sister wouldn’t get enough hugs and kisses while we were away, Rebekah gave her an extra helping of each before we left town. “I love Bethany,” she told us. “In fact, sometimes I think we adopted an angel.”
We had to agree, especially when we came back from our trip to find the table spread with a delicious gourmet dinner Beth whipped up in honor of our homecoming. Some token souvenir might’ve been better appreciated, but the only thing we brought home from the coast was a gastro-intestinal virus which the family juggled back and forth for six long weeks.
Ben, who was first to succumb, was also first to recover and rendered tender loving care when the rest of us fell ill (perhaps to assuage his guilt for sharing the bug to begin with). Our washer and dryers were kept in constant use to furnish enough fresh linens for the afflicted, as this illness generated a staggering amount of projectile vomit.
Joseph set the family record for distance (which Ben documented with a digital camera before a babysitting David dutifully mopped up), but Daniel exceeded everyone in sheer volume, drenching his mother so thoroughly and often that she took to rocking him in a raincoat.
April 2007 Happenings
April brought colored eggs and cotton-tails: A pair of wrens raised six hatchlings in the watering can on our back porch. We watched with rapt attention as the little brood ate its meals, got its feathers, and learned to fly. A rabbit family took up residence in our azalea bed, feasting on phlox blossoms all summer long. The bunnies thrived; not so, the perennials.
April also brought snow! The flakes fell heavily on Easter weekend, but didn’t stick — a good thing, considering Doug and the boys were in the middle of a 30-mile bike ride when the flurries began. True to his plan, Doug celebrated his 40th birthday by competing in the Las Colinas triathlon. In the end, he and Samuel opted to swim/bike/run the shorter Olympic distance (blame it on the three broken ribs Doug sustained during a race back in January), so David finished the Half-Ironman by himself.
The open-water swim was more unnerving than any of them anticipated, although they’d been warned by seasoned tri-athletes they’d need to slather petroleum jelly on their ankles to prevent other swimmers from grabbing hold! Even so, all three finished the course, and nobody drowned, for which we were most grateful.
Jennifer found out a few days before the race that she is indeed pregnant again, which made her feel as if she’d received a stay of execution. She wasn’t ready to compete, anyway, as she’d done no serious training since the onset of March’s Puke-Fest.
Our whole family was excited about this new baby, but none more so than Rachel, who immediately announced to her weekly kindergarten co-op that “Mommy’s expecting twins!” News travels fast, so Jennifer found herself repeatedly explaining to happy inquirers that, unless Rachel knows something we don’t know, that rumor’s just wishful thinking.
May 2007 Happenings
A friend divided her bulb garden this spring and called to offer us the culls. She had canna, day lily, iris, daffodil, narcissus, liriope — a can of each — so how many could we use? Picturing a few transplants in half a dozen coffee tins, Jennifer enthusiastically told her we’d take them all.
As it turns out, those “cans” were the 39-gallon variety, stuffed to overflowing with thousands of bulbs. It took the better part of May to get them all in the ground, but the blooms should be spectacular next spring, naturalized along the trails through our woods.
We finished in time to celebrate Isaac’s birthday. He turned four, but insisted he was five, being firmly convinced that his ability to pedal a bike without training wheels entitled him to skip a year. When Mom explained that, were we to add a year for riding bikes, we’d have to subtract two for wearing pull-ups, Isaac promptly changed into Spiderman briefs (which he’s worn successfully ever since) and agreed to keep his thumb folded down for another twelve months when anyone asks his age.
June 2007 Happenings
June took us to the Pacific Northwest. We traveled 6000 miles with no speeding tickets, even though Doug did most of the driving (much of it while examining his “vacation beard” in the rearview mirror — where did all that gray come from?).
Our route led through landscapes as varied as they were beautiful: snowcapped mountains, redwood forests, sandy beaches, sparkling rivers, and lush vineyards stretching in tidy rows over hill and dale. (We also spotted gas stations charging $4/gallon—but that was not a pretty site).
The kids bore well our long hours on the road. The only complaints we heard from the backseats were, “I’m starving again—give me something to eat” (from Isaac, five minutes after every meal), “Can we go to the hotel, so I can get in bed?” (also from Isaac, who loved the Spiderman sheets Mom made for his porta-crib), and “Pass me something to throw up in—quick!” (from just about everybody at some point along the way — we’d never have survived those tortuous mountain passes without our Dramamine and an ample supply of trash basket liners).
We hiked to St. Mary’s Glacier outside Denver. The snow grew deeper as we made our way up the steep trail, so everyone was glad Mom had insisted we wear our jackets. Besides keeping us warm, those slick nylon windbreakers were perfect for zipping down icy slopes and for building a makeshift stretcher to cart little ones back to dry land.
The boys couldn’t resist pelting one another with snowballs at every turn, and Samuel even ate several handfuls of the whitest crystals he could find, until a younger sibling demonstrated that when nature calls, it doesn’t really turn snow yellow—it rinses it clean….
We enjoyed a bountiful outdoor barbecue at Yosemite Park. Isaac was “still starving” after polishing off a hot dog, lemonade, eight slices of watermelon, and at least that many s’mores (maybe he confuses feeling starved with feeling stuffed?).
We stopped along the coast in San Simeon to watch the sea lions, but were equally enthralled by a colony of ground squirrels that flocked to our feet as soon as we stepped out of the van, darting between our legs, planting their little paws on our knees and begging for a handout….
Doug ordered a round of fruit smoothies at the fancy restaurant atop Seattle’s Space Needle. They were delicious, but the instant Isaac’s cup hit the floor, we remembered why we normally restrict the kids to water only — the resultant explosion splattered everything within a ten-foot radius, including a table full of remarkably gracious Japanese businessmen. Had our entire family not been wearing matching shirts at the time, I’m sure the older kids would have dispersed at once and pretended not to know us….
Back home in Tyler, we got a phone call from friends vacationing in Wyoming. “Did y’all stay at the Embassy Suites in Salt Lake City a few nights ago?” they queried.
It seems our big family had so impressed a little Asian couple staying at the same hotel that they were still talking about us days later, telling complete strangers at Yellowstone Park how well-behaved our children were. In fact, they provided such a detailed description (mom expecting eleventh child, oldest boy extremely tall, everyone dressed exactly alike, etc.) that our friends knew immediately it had to be us and called to let us know we’d become something of a legend.
Our reaction? We were just glad that couple spied us eating breakfast in Salt Lake City and not lunch in Seattle — our reputation might have been ruined!
July 2007 Happenings
We resumed school in July, to allow for a longer break at Christmas. It’s usually the scorching heat that drives us indoors, back to our books, but this year it was torrential rains (definitely atypical of Texas summers, though we had fun kayaking in swollen streams and surfing down spillways).
After turning six in June, our quiet Rachel officially began first grade, having already taught herself to read and write the names of everyone in the family — a feat which amazes older siblings who aren’t such natural spellers….
Time came to renew the inspection stickers on all our vehicles this month, so Doug drove to TJC to trade cars with Bethany, who was working freshman orientation.
Springing up the steps to the student center, he tracked her down, gave her a hug, traded keys, then left, at which point her friends came rushing over to find out who the cute guy was.
“You mean my dad?” Beth seemed puzzled.
“Your dad?” Her friends gasped, “But he looks so young! We thought he was your boyfriend!”
I don’t know how Bethany took this remark, but Doug considered it a tremendous compliment. He strutted around the house for weeks on end and worked the story into as many conversations as possible, however tangential the connection.
August 2007 Happenings
We celebrated our 20th anniversary in August by dusting off our old wedding video and showing it to the children. The years have been good to us. Except for a little extra padding, neither of us looks any different now than we did then — or so we flattered ourselves, until the kids set us straight. “Who are those people, anyway?” they wondered aloud. In their eyes we’re ancient. Rebekah marveled that the movie was even in color — and had sound.…
Daniel celebrated his second birthday this month. He’s finally started to talk, which has the whole family ecstatic.
Up until a month earlier, the only words he’d voice were “mom”, “dad”, “ball” and “bye” (and those very infrequently). Most of his communication was done strictly in sign language: “More milk, please!” or “Where’s Daddy?” or “My diaper stinks. Change me.”
He lets us know he’s awake in the morning, not by crying or calling, but by pushing a button to turn on his music box.As soon as we open the door to his room, he pops up with a smile, shuts off the music, and stretches out his arms to be held.
Who couldn’t love a baby like our little Diaper Dan?
September 2007 Happenings
We celebrated three more birthdays in September. Rebekah turned eight. She loves all things Little House: She names her dolls Laura, Mary and Carrie, wears her hair in two long braids wherever she goes, and wishes her Pa would grow his hair long and curl it, à la Michael Landon, although Ma prefers the clean-cut style Pa normally wears.
Joseph turned ten. He loves origami, computers, and gymnastics, but is also a whiz at math, earning straight 100’s on all his tests and homework.
Bethany turned eighteen. She stays so busy attending class, assisting in the biology lab, serving in student government, tutoring algebra and chemistry, and going to Bible study that we seldom see her at all anymore. Not only does she miss dinner and story-time more evenings than not, but she was unable to accompany us on either of our road trips this year. Bummer!
We do spot her occasionally at the track or in the pool — she, Ben, and Joe all trained consistently enough to complete their first triathlon this month, while Doug, David and Samuel finished their fourth.
Bethany also made a gallant attempt to revamp her mother’s dowdy wardrobe this fall, so if you spot Jennifer about town looking uncharacteristically chic, now you’ll know why!
October 2007 Happenings
Sam and Ben both had birthdays in October. At age 14, Samuel’s become a formidable ping-pong opponent, consistently beating the rest of us, even when he plays left-handed.
After our washing machine went on the blink this summer, Mom and Dad unwittingly helped Sam realize a lifelong dream by dropping him and Ben at the corner laundry with 25 loads of dirty clothes. When we returned later to help fold the dry stuff, Sam was psyched. “I’m so glad you let me do this!” he enthused sincerely, “I’ve always wanted to wash clothes at a Laundromat!”
At age 12, Benjamin is a bit of an extrovert. Somewhere along the way, our chubby-cheeked preschooler who seldom spoke evolved into a lanky adolescent who seldom stops. The doorbell at our house is constantly ringing, and nine times out of ten, it is some friend of Ben’s wanting him to play.
He’s just as popular with younger siblings, for whom he always seems to be planning some grand adventure or preparing a tasty snack (though few share his fondness for peanut butter cookie dough, which Ben mixes without the eggs, so Dad won’t freak out about salmonella poisoning — they’d much rather eat his short-order omelets, which he makes a great show of flipping in the air)….
The kids were all thrilled to become aunts and uncles this month when their sister-in-law delivered a beautiful bouncing baby boy.
After a very short labor (Jon and Matti made it to the hospital in time, but the OB didn’t), Aiden Kenneth William Flanders was born October 9, a healthy 8 lbs.14 oz. He has his father’s eyes, his mother’s smile, and the rest of us wrapped securely around his little finger….
More good news: After 15 years and two activations, the Army declared Doug’s obligation to the military fulfilled and discharged him as a lieutenant colonel on October 16.
Two days later, we hit the road again, meandering our way to Cape Cod, where Doug attended a conference geared to physicians who aspire to be authors, a goal he’s pursuing more aggressively having now turned forty.
The trip was relaxing and pleasantly uneventful: no one got stuck in the narrow passages of Mammoth Cave (although it was a tight squeeze for an 8-month pregnant belly), nobody toppled over the rail into Niagara Falls (although Rachel tried to mount it for a better view), and none of us broke our necks on the surf simulator at Great Wolf Lodge (although Doug cracked another rib trying to traverse one pool’s floating lily pads).
We reinforced our early American history studies with stops in Boston, Philadelphia, DC, and Williamsburg (colonial costumes in tow).
November 2007 Happenings
November found us heading home, the fall foliage and a visit to Plimoth Plantation having put us in the mood to celebrate Thanksgiving with grateful hearts. Since Jennifer’s impending delivery promises to make December even busier than usual, she’s mailing these updates extra-early this year.
We realize folks who receive our newsletter fall into one of two basic groups: those who roll their eyes and toss it on their nightstand to be used as a remedy for insomnia — as one of Doug’s partners, under the misconception that Doug writes our updates, conspiratorially confessed to Jennifer that he does — and those who savor every word and insist on reading it aloud to neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends — a reaction which leaves us baffled every time we hear it.
If you’re in the first group, you likely dozed off three pages ago.
If you’re in the second, you might be interested to know that we’ve posted all our old Christmas letters on a new website, www.flandersfamily.info, which we plan to update monthly as an experiment in keeping in touch with extended family, distant friends, and children who’ve moved away from home.
All this to say, if you don’t want to wait until next year’s update to find out whether #11 is a boy or girl, then check the site in January for birth statistics and pictures of our latest addition.
Meanwhile, we pray that Christ will be exalted in our home and yours this holiday season as our hearts joyfully resound, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15). May the Lord bless and keep you in the coming year. Write when you can.
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, Bethany, David, Samuel, Benjamin,
Joseph, Rebekah, Rachel, Isaac, and Daniel
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).