What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 2010 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: 2010
December 2009 Happenings
In what is becoming an annual Christmas tradition, our family spent another December holed up at home after an inadvertent exposure to chicken pox forced us into an eight-week quarantine last year. Five of the nine-kids-still-in-the-nest broke out in spots, despite the fact that all but the baby had been previously vaccinated against them. Gabriel was hardest hit — even his pox had pox — but the older boys tied for a close second.
David came out of the ordeal with a thick beard, as a chin covered in crops gave him all the excuse he needed to swear off shaving for the weeks we were shut-in. The normal hustle-bustle of the holiday season completely bypassed us again, although we did venture out one night to watch A Christmas Carol at the local drive-in. Our kids were so grateful to get out of the house, they just snuggled together in back of the truck and didn’t complain about the cold or the itching.
January 2010 Happenings
Bethany spent an uneventful winter break on lockdown with the rest of us. She taught Mom how to use Facebook while she was home and even set up a “Flanders Family Fan Page”. Nevertheless, I think she was relieved when it finally came time to return to College Station in January.
Samuel got his driver’s license this month. Now David has help chauffeuring siblings about town and making eleventh-hour runs to the grocery store, but when it’s time for school, the boys normally just ride their bikes and leave the Tahoe at home. They took a full load of dual-credit courses at Tyler Junior College before graduating high school this spring and transferring to UT Tyler, where they continued to compete for the top grade in all their summer school classes.
Samuel was named “TJC Chemistry Student of the Year” after besting his big brother by a single point on the final. On another particularly difficult Anatomy & Physiology exam, David earned the first raw hundred his professor had awarded in over 25 years of teaching.
February 2010 Happenings
February brought snow, snow, and more snow, which the kids used to erect an enormous, nine-foot snowman that weighed more than all of them put together.
The colossus remained standing long after the rest of the snow had melted, a testament to dogged determination, clever engineering, and brute strength….
Jennifer’s new book, Love Your Husband/Love Yourself, was released just in time for Valentine’s Day, and she had her first book signing this month at The Scroll here in Tyler. She was a little nervous that customers might avoid eye contact or veer to the opposite side of the store when they spotted her table, but was pleasantly surprised by the warm reception she received. There was even a (short) line of customers waiting for her when she arrived. She sold 22 books in three hours — one of them to a complete stranger, even! Sales picked up a few weeks later when Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies discovered the book and began promoting it at all her women’s retreats (and ordering in lots of 100).
March 2010 Happenings
March took us to Dallas for a medical conference, a visit with Nana, and a little fine dining. We took the kids to The Melting Pot, and they loved it — especially the chocolate fondue strawberries, which Rebekah and Rachel have since learned to make at home for a fraction of the cost.
Our big boys attended a formal banquet this month, and parents were invited, too.It was the first time Doug has donned a tuxedo since Jennifer’s sister got married twenty years ago. He opted to purchase rather than rent, in anticipation of needing one every couple of years or so now that our kids have begun to reach marriageable age. We’ve no weddings in the works at the moment, but as Edna Mode would say, “Luck favors the prepared!”
April 2010 Happenings
Abigail Rose joined our family on April 20th, the day before her mother turned 45. At 10 lbs 8 oz and 22¾ inches, she set a new family record for both weight and length. We considered naming her “Abigella Varicella” in memory of the months our family spent battling chicken pox and shingles this pregnancy, but we’re glad now that we opted against it.
Gabriel immediately dubbed her “Baby Rose,” which is a nicer nickname than “Abby McScabby” would’ve been and sounds especially sweet when Gabbers says it.
Of course, there’s something intrinsically irresistible about everything our cheerful little two-year old says. He has trouble differentiating the question “How are you?” from “How old are you?”, so he flashes a thumbs-up and a peace sign at everyone he meets and answers both inquiries before they can even ask: “Me good. Me two.”
He wakes up bright and early each day and comes trotting down the hall with a pat, pat, pat of his little feet (except when he tiptoes). “Morning, Mommy,” he chimes, “Me happy! You happy?”
At which point Jennifer whisks him into her arms and replies heartily, “I am now!”
May 2010 Happenings
Isaac turned seven in May. He learned to do front and back flips off the diving board this summer and lost five teeth in a single week, but we think that was just a coincidence. Between the snaggle-tooth smile, his wiry cowlick, and the smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose, he closely resembles Alfalfa of Little Rascals fame and acts like him, too.
There are about 1001 things Isaac would rather do than sit still, unless he’s parked in front of a computer, in which case he could remain motionless for the duration. It’s a good thing Dad restricts him to 15 minutes of screen time a week.
Jonathan’s wife, Matti, delivered our third grandson, Benjamin Chase, on May 28. He was their biggest boy yet—10 lbs. 7 oz. of pure sweetness — and it didn’t take long for him to catch and pass his Aunt Abby in weight. Per usual, they had their baby on a reliable schedule much sooner than we did ours.
Abigail slept great at night, but nary a wink while the sun was up unless cradled in her mother’s arms. This stalled Jennifer’s progress on most of her summer projects. There’s just no good way to trim hedges and nurse a baby at the same time. Multi-tasking has its limits!
June 2010 Happenings
Doug was invited to speak in June at a Father’s Day breakfast for the senior living center where our boys regularly volunteer. He talked about how children need their dad’s provision, protection, presence, and pride. Patience would’ve made a nice addition to the list, but since many of the attendees had rather short attention spans, it probably would’ve tried theirs for Doug to include anything more.
Rachel turned nine this month. She is still very quiet, although the mischievous sparkle in her eye has become more pronounced with age. She has a dry sense of humor, cracking us up with original riddles and brainteasers. She also has a competitive streak, which invariably surfaces anytime there is vertical climbing or mental math involved.
Jennifer received her first negative review this month, although it wasn’t so much an evaluation of her book as it was a rant against her husband. The critic disparaged Doug’s character, his profession, and his appearance. Not only did she give the book just one star (which, according to Amazon, means “I hated it”), but she even tried (unsuccessfully) to convince a reviewer who had given it five stars to lower her rating! Who’d have thought that a little book about love could stir up that much animosity?
July 2010 Happenings
David sliced his foot open at the pool in July and had to have six stitches, which Doug put in at home.
Three of our kids were taking Anatomy & Physiology at the time, so we discussed the possibility of using this as a “see one, do one, teach one” opportunity, but since our resident physician was out of local anesthetic and unable to numb the area before suturing, David insisted we get it over with as quickly as possible.
When Rebekah found out Chick-fil-A gives free food to any customer who comes dressed as a cow on the second Friday in July (a.k.a. “Cow Appreciation Day”), she stayed up late making costumes for our entire family. Of course, David’s crutches would have ruined the effect entirely, so while the rest of us dressed like a herd of Holsteins, he went as a cowboy who’d been trampled in a stampede.
The costumes were a hit: The manager told us to order whatever we liked and wouldn’t let us pay for a thing.
One of our neighbors hired Ben to clean their pool while they were on vacation this summer and gave our family permission to swim there while they were gone, which we gladly did.
Benjamin even staged a mini-triathlon for his younger siblings, complete with goody bags and “medals” for all participants. They biked two laps around our circle drive, jogged up the hill, then swam across the neighbors’ pool. Daniel won, despite the fact he’d only been riding without training wheels and swimming without a lifejacket for a few weeks.
August 2010 Happenings
We celebrated our twenty-third wedding anniversary in August. Jennifer’s always credited the success of our marriage to God’s unfathomable grace, plus lots of love and prayers, but she overheard Doug confiding to our young neighbor, Nick Neal, that “the real secret to a great marriage is marrying someone super-awesome, like Mrs. Flanders… did.” Ha! Doubtless, that helps too!
Nick spent so much time at our house this summer that we unofficially adopted him as our thirteenth child. Mom even assigned him chores, which he did faithfully and cheerfully until school started and he moved back across the street to study. (If only we could get him to take his shoes and socks home, too!)
Bethany finished her Bachelor’s in biology and graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M this summer. Whoop! She spent the fall semester tutoring her younger siblings in chemistry and zoology and preparing for the DAT, which she’ll take in December before applying to dental school next summer. Meanwhile, she’s scheduled to spend the first six months of 2011 in South Asia working with special needs children in the foothills of the Himalayas. How cool is that?
September 2010 Happenings
For a family who doesn’t keep pets, we’ve had all sorts of animal-interaction this year. The doe in our woods returned this spring, bringing a buck and a fawn with her. In addition to (or possibly because of) the burgeoning population of squirrels, birds, and lizards that inhabit our land, a red-tailed hawk has begun standing sentinel atop our fence post every morning. And a bright-eyed raccoon shows up nightly to nibble the bedtime snacks our kids leave on the porch for him. He drinks milk from a cup and is especially fond of licorice and peanut butter.
Joseph expanded his dog-walking business this summer: By the time he celebrated his 13th birthday in September, he was walking six miles a day and getting paid good money to do it.
This has allowed him to save for the future while still being generous in the present. He loves to lead his younger siblings on bike excursions to the pizza parlor, the pet shop, or the corner gas station, where he often treats them to Twizzlers and Icees.
Joseph attended his first real dance this fall. His older brothers coached him beforehand on the proper way to request the pleasure of a lady’s company on the dance floor. “What if she turns me down?” Joe wanted to know.
“Don’t worry,” they assured him, “it’s never the first one you ask.”
But it was! The very first girl at the very first dance! Joe just swallowed his disappointment and bravely asked another, who graciously accepted.
Rebekah turned eleven this month. She loves to bake as much as she loves to read, so she spends a good deal of time pouring over Mom’s cookbooks and has become, among other things, “an accomplished maker of pancakes.” Her cranberry-walnut short stacks are absolutely scrumptious—and the blueberry aren’t bad, either. She has also learned that it’s more fun to make a mess in the kitchen than to clean it up. After a year of KP duty, she recently confessed that she isn’t “very fond of loading the dishwasher” and is counting the days until we change chores in December. We’ll soon see if she likes doing laundry any better!
October 2010 Happenings
Although it meant missing the first day of Family Camp, Ben was determined to run Tyler’s annual half-marathon again this October, just as he’s done every year since it started. He imagines that someday they may even interview him: “Benjamin Flanders, age 97, is here today running the Tyler Half for the hundredth time.”
Sam’s not so sure. “Really? You’ll be 97 and running for the hundredth time?” he teased.
“Of course not,” Ben admitted, “I’ll be 112—but I’ll only look 97.”
David ran, too, and finished ahead of his younger brother who by mile eight had come to regret skipping the porta-potty station at the starting block, long line or no….
November 2010 Happenings
That novel Doug finished writing last fall? We are happy to announce that, after an additional twelve months of edits and revisions, The Prodigy Project was finally released in November and is now available in both Kindle and print editions through Amazon.
Next he’ll write the screenplay, as the storyline will make a blockbuster movie—something along the lines of True Lies meets Cheaper By the Dozen. Doug also finished leading a Bible study this month based on David Platt’s book Radical, which was the most challenging book we’ve read all year, if not the most controversial.
About thirty friends came to our house every Thursday evening for eight weeks to brainstorm: How can we most effectively share the radical love of Jesus with those who don’t know Him? We’re praying God will give us wisdom and boldness as we seek to do that very thing in the months and years ahead.
Our family was blessed to have a young Chinese student named Yulong stay with us over Thanksgiving break. We took him to the zoo, the science museum, two church services, our kids’ choir concert, a harvest dance, a Thanksgiving potluck, and a 5K Turkey Trot, which he finished in 23 minutes, just seconds behind David and Bejamin.
We also shared meals, rode bikes, shot hoops, hauled firewood, painted T-shirts, played ultimate Frisbee and dodge ball, and tested the apple launcher David and Sam built for their physics project. Talk about total immersion! Yulong hardly knew what to think of so many siblings in one family, but he seemed to enjoy the ten days he spent with us and has promised to come back again soon.
December 2010 Happenings
And that brings us again to December. We have a friend from Great Britain who recently wrote to wish our family a happy Christ-mass. He uses that term deliberately, he says, for although he is an atheist himself, he finds “the Americanism ‘Holiday Season’ very annoying in its avoidance of history.” Yet Christmas means so much more to us than a historical event! When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the fact that God wrapped Himself in flesh, came to Earth, lived a blameless life, died on the cross, paid the penalty for our sin, and rose from the grave so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. We pray that your hearts may be filled to overflowing with this life, as well, and that God’s richest blessings will be yours in the New Year.
With love from the Flanders –
Doug, Jennifer, Jonathan, Bethany, David, Samuel, Benjamin, Joseph,
Rebekah, Rachel, Isaac, Daniel, Gabriel, and Abigail Rose
<< last year next year >>
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).