What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 2008 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: 2008

December 2007 Happenings

Jennifer spent most of last December wishing “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” Baby #11 was two weeks late. When our OB finally tried to schedule an induction, we were originally turned away because there was “no room” at the hospital. But the charge nurse took pity and, when Jennifer showed up on the doorstep in active labor, scrambled to find a bed for her. Just half an hour later, at 6:07 a.m. on December 21, our precious little Gabriel Arthur made his way into the world. At 10 lbs 6 oz, he tied Jon as our biggest baby yet, a fitting conclusion to what had also been the easiest pregnancy and quickest delivery.

Gabriel's Birth

January 2008 Happenings

Doug resolved in January to devote more time to writing. To that end, he scheduled a week off every month to work on his novel, which he could have finished by now had life not kept getting in the way — but at least we got to enjoy having him at home…

Not all our New Year’s resolutions were so ambitious: Samuel and Benjamin determined to speak only the Queen’s English this year. For five days on the trot every word out of their mouths was delivered in a distinct British accent. The lads might’ve kept it up, too, had Pops not thrown a spanner in the works by fubbiddin’em t’talk ‘at way’t chutch on Sunday….

These two also worked overtime preparing for our homeschool group’s Geography Bee this month. All the practice paid off: Samuel took first place, and Benjamin came in second.

February 2008 Happenings

In celebration of David’s sixteenth birthday, we hosted a father-son log-splitting competition in February. Since several of those sinewy boys now tower over their dads (including one of our own), we thought the odds might be in their favor, but mass won over muscle in the end: bigger beltlines bested bulging biceps.

David laid aside his violin this year to spend more time at the piano, where long arms and large hands are more of an asset than a liability. Photography is another of his favorite pastimes: He is constantly darting out of the house with Mom’s camera, tripod, and telephoto lens in hand to snap pictures of some woodland creature he’s spied through his bedroom window. He’s captured some stunning images of birds, bunnies, toads, turtles, raccoons, one very long (non-venomous) rat snake and also — much to our surprise — a whitetail deer that came to nibble on the grass we laid behind the tree house this spring.

2008 Happenings - Whitetailed Deer

March 2008 Happenings

March 1st found our entire family donning spandex suits to take “before” photos (we won’t be publishing those on our website) prior to starting P90-X, a rigorous workout regimen that promised to whip us into shape in just three months. Enthusiasm ran high. The master bedroom was transformed into an aerobics class as young and old alike lined up every night before dinner for calisthenics, plyometrics, and kempo karate. We lasted almost two weeks before we ran out of steam, which means that those of us who didn’t already have a “beach body” didn’t get one in time for our trip to Hilton Head this summer.

Doug’s folks came to visit the end of the month. We took them to Caldwell Zoo, Goodman Museum, and the Azalea Trails, where we discovered the world’s best lemonade stand (fresh-squeezed!) on the corner of College and Shaw. Grandma and Grandpa stayed six days (at our house, not at the lemonade stand), but managed to escape without catching the stomach virus our little ones were passing around at the time.

April 2008 Happenings

Doug drove David, Samuel, and a van load of teenagers to the state capital in April for a week-long hands-on government practicum. They loved getting to participate in mock legislative sessions held in the actual House Chamber. Too young for TeenPact, Ben and Joe stayed here and helped Mom hold the fort at home.

April brought glad tidings to Bethany: She was named “TJC Tutor of the Month,” was offered a summer job working for Pine Cove at Crier Creek as a life guard and family camp counselor (which she accepted), and was chosen to participate in a physics program hosted by NASA (which she declined, since it conflicted with an honor society convention in Philadelphia). The only thing that would’ve made her month any better would be getting her acceptance letter to Texas A&M, but she waited on pins and needles another six weeks before that good news arrived.

May 2008 Happenings

Isaac turned five in May. He wanted cobbler instead of cake for his birthday, so we all grabbed our buckets and hiked through the woods gathering juicy wild blackberries. Mmmm! They were delicious, and the timing was perfect: When we returned to harvest more the following week, there was not a berry to be found.

In honor of being such a big boy now (he’s almost caught up to Rachel in height), Isaac was given a place at the table for our family Spoons tournament. Now Daniel alone must serve as Game Marshal, making sure there are “no shifty eyes, no twitchy fingers.” Spoons provides good character training for our little ones, who are all such serious players. They get so focused on their cards that they forget to watch the spoons, and it takes a great deal of self-control for them to quell their disappointment when they lose. The older ones sympathize (and sometimes slide them a spoon so they can stay in the game), because they’re learning the same lesson themselves shooting hoops. Every night after dinner, they line up on the driveway with Dad for a quick round of Knock-Out.

Learning to win graciously and to lose with dignity has sure taken a lot of practice! Anyone who fails to control his (or her) temper during the competition gets invited to be Guest Speaker at Bible time afterward and read aloud selected passages from Proverbs for Parenting, a topical arrangement of Scripture under such headings as anger, pride, patience, and humility. (Sad to say, even Mom and Dad have had to take occasional turns reading choice verses). The nightly games of Knock-Out ended once the pool opened, which conveniently coincided with Doug’s finally winning a round (and establishing a new rule that, thenceforth, all losers must greet the victor by crying, “Hail to the Champion”).

Then it was on to new things: Rachel, Isaac, and Daniel learned to swim this summer under the expert tutelage of their beloved sister-in-law, who is also a certified swim instructor.

2008 Happenings - Rachel in the pool

While Matti worked with the little ones, the big ones tried to outdo one another performing tricks off the diving boards. Even Mom learned to do a back flip, thanks to the enthusiastic coaching she received from Dad and the boys. She’d do about three flips a night (to prove she wasn’t chicken), then would spend the rest of lesson time poolside, lounging with our grandbaby in her lap. With his sun-bleached hair, bright blue eyes, and golden tan, Aiden looks as if he were born wearing a swim diaper — and he’s every bit as happy in the water as he is out of it.

June 2008 Happenings

Sweet Rachel turned seven in June. She’s as quiet as a mouse, but full of surprises. Would you have guessed, for instance, that Rachel can do more chin-ups than almost anyone else in our family? In perfect form, too, which is why we’ve started calling her “Muscle Girl”.

She brushes her teeth eight times a day and would take as many showers if we didn’t draw the line at two or three. Rachel loves to read, read, read — and you should hear her quote Scripture! Loud and clear, without a hint of timidity. She and Isaac were both baptized this summer as testimony to their faith in God.

2008 Happenings - Rachel and Isaac are baptized

Gabriel learned to crawl this month, so now there’s no stopping him.He’s a happy boy, with a habit of sucking on his upper lip that gives him an adorably elfish grin, wide enough to accommodate all ten fingers at once. He enjoys being outdoors, especially if it means being strapped in the baby seat on back of Mom’s bike.

2008 Happenings - Rodeo Bike Ride Jennifer took the kids to Mesquite for the Rodeo Ride this month, and Gabriel slept contently through the entire thing, including a spill Mom took while trying to coax our preschooler to pedal a little faster (even after Isaac stopped riding his brakes, we averaged only 2 ½ mph, making us grateful we’d taken the five-mile route).

Samuel pumped Daniel and supervised Rachel; David kept up with Rebekah and Joseph; and Benjamin served as a liaison between tortoises and hares, even jogging back after he’d finished the course to push Isaac up that last long hill. It was fun, but we missed Dad, who was on call that weekend and unable to join us….

2008 Happenings - Another grandbaby on the wayJonathan’s growing family moved into a new rent house this month after a finicky septic system rendered their duplex uninhabitable (in Matti’s opinion, at least, who’s expecting our second grandbaby and must appease a hypersensitive nose whenever she’s pregnant). Jon also switched employers this year, having found a job with better hours and higher pay working as a pharmacy tech. He’s still taking classes at TJC part time, slowly but surely knocking out his pre-med requirements.

July 2008 Happenings

Beth completed her duties at Crier Creek in July and flew to Hilton Head to meet the rest of us for a week of biking, beach combing, kayaking, and consuming crab legs, clam chowder, and key lime pie. Since Bethany would be leaving for college shortly after our return home, Jennifer was determined to take our Christmas picture while we were all together.

2008 Happenings - Hilton Head Kids

This was easier said than done. Glaring sunlight, low batteries, cranky babies, and background bikinis conspired against our getting a decent shot. Consequently, every time we turned around, Mom was re-dressing us in our not-so-white shirts and khaki shorts (“Don’t worry, nobody will be able to smell them in the picture!”) and dragging us back to the beach for yet another attempt. She finally thought to pray for God’s blessing before the third photo shoot and was granted success, at last. I’ll bet you can’t even tell by looking that one of us has his shirt on backwards — to hide all the ketchup stains on front.

2008 Happenings -  Lounge Chairs

August 2008 Happenings

2008 Happenings - SpidermenMotivated by the book Do Hard Things, David and Samuel spent the rest of their summer racking up college credits by taking CLEP exams. They’ve already tested out of college algebra and psychology, and are now studying for pre-calculus and freshman compostion.

Daniel turned three in August. He is the spittin’ image of brother Isaac, especially when both are dressed in their matching Spiderman costumes. Even we had trouble telling them apart before Isaac gave himself a burr recently (he started the haircut; Mom finished it).

Daniel’s partner Ben sees that he’s dressed neat as a pin whenever we go out — hair combed and parted, shirttail tucked in, socks and shoes on the appropriate feet-but invariably by the time we reach our destination, Daniel’s clothes are on inside out and backwards, since he prefers to dress himself and insists on practicing constantly.

September 2008 Happenings

2008 Happenings - Daniel and BenjaminDad, David, and Sam signed up for scuba diving lessons in September. They found it unnerving to take their final exam in a murky lake thirty feet below the surface where they could scarcely see their hand in front of their face, but all three passed the course and are dreaming of their next undersea adventure, preferably in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.

Our vibrant Rebekah turned nine on the ninth. She loves horses, full skirts, and cowboy boots and has recently learned to quilt, crochet, and play the harmonica. Joe turned eleven on the eleventh. He is into astronomy, math, botany, and Bionicles, though not necessarily in that order. He and Rebekah both got road bikes this year and now ride to breakfast on Saturday mornings with their dad and older brothers. All six wear matching jerseys and call themselves Team Molasses (they’re slow but sweet). Those who aren’t slow-of-necessity are slow-by-choice, making sure no stragglers get left behind (besides, if they leave Dad in the dust, who’ll pay for their pancakes?).

2008 Happenings - Team Molasses

Doug volunteered Jennifer to paint a street market mural on the wall of Gilbert’s El Charro this month. About 90% of the work had been done by someone else over a year ago, but progress had obviously come to a standstill. Seeing this, Doug summoned the manager to our table.

“My wife is an artist,” he told the man authoritatively, “and she’d be happy to finish your mural in the style it was begun.”

The manager called the owner, who smiled at Jennifer but directed his questions to Doug. “How much she charge?” he wanted to know.

Doug told him she’d do the work for free-if he liked it, he could buy our lunch. So he agreed, Jennifer finished the painting, the kids helped her do it, and our entire family feasted on free fajitas from one of our favorite local restaurants.

2008 Happenings - Painting El Charro

When Jennifer later ribbed Doug about calling her an artist, he defended himself. “What did you expect me to say? My wife is OCD… and those pencil marks are driving her crazy?” (He was kidding, of course. It was the gesso that messed with her mind). The children did such a good job on that little project that Mom put them to work painting another mural at home. Next time you’re here, you’ll have to check out all the blossoms and birdhouses that now adorn the wall of our classroom bath.

October 2008 Happenings

2008 Happenings - Samuel and IsaacSamuel turned fifteen in October. Except for playing the piano and ultimate Frisbee, Sam does just about everything one-handed, including gathering trash, watering ferns, mixing orange juice, and fetching mail. That’s because the other arm is usually supporting Gabriel on his hip, which is where his little brother begs to be most of the time. Everyone loves to hold the baby when he’s happy, but Samuel’s willing to tote him around when he’s cranky, too.

Benjamin turned thirteen this month. He is all about house plans, whether it’s drawing blueprints with his new drafting set, sketching elevations with colored pencils (one of his drawings won first place at the fair), designing dream homes with Lego Creator, or pouring over the latest issue of Tyler’s Home and Land Guide. Ben also has a knack for winning stuffed animals out of those “electronic claw” machines. We’ve even seen him pull out three at a time on a single quarter, easy as pie.

David and Sam spent a week at World View Academy this month, stopping in College Station on the way to visit their sister. We all miss Bethany terribly, but I think she misses us even more. After living eighteen years amid the hustle-bustle of our active brood, her little townhouse must seem deafeningly quiet, even if her roommate is a like-minded Christian who loves to talk.

2008 Happenings - Kids at Zoo

We pitched our tents and spent the second week of October camping out in Big Sandy, surrounded by homeschool families as big as our own. It was delightful. The fellowship warmed our hearts, and the campfires warmed our toes. Brrr! Those nights were chilly!

Dad and David struck camp early to catch a train to Illinois for the Chicago Marathon. David finished the race in under five hours; Doug didn’t finish at all. He was so stiff from sleeping on the train that he barely made it past the start line before throwing in the towel and heading to the breakfast buffet and, after that, the Runner’s Expo. That’s where he bought our new bathroom scale, which analyzes every limb of your body for muscle mass, bone weight, and body fat composition, then assigns a physiological age based on those readings. It told Doug that he has the body of a thirty-something, so he naturally brought it home. Jennifer wishes he hadn’t; she was happier not knowing that her body belongs in a nursing home!

November 2008 Happenings

No doubt inspired by the speed with which his little nephew is getting around these days, Gabriel took his first steps in November. His healthy development is just one of countless blessings for which we offer thanks this season. We live in changing times, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. For that, we are especially grateful.

We hope your family has a very merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year. May God keep us all in His tender care and may Christ reign in our hearts, come what may.

Flanders Family at Hilton Head in 2008

With love from the Flanders –
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, Bethany, David, Samuel, Benjamin, Joseph
Rebekah, Rachel, Issac, Daniel, and Gabriel

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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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