THE 2001 Christmas KAZETTE
(some links may not be available)
The past year was one of many changes for our family, mostly for the good. As usual, we got to travel a bit, although most of it was ‘near’ home. And our biggest change is coming soon... Yes, ANOTHER change of address. The Navy is sending us to HAWAII!! But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
Nebraska obliged with lots of snow throughout early 2001. We had one wonderful storm in January that then seemed to last for months.
Building a snowman
As soon as the driveway was clear, it’d dump more. And to say the driveway was clear? Well, an exaggeration. I’d do Doug’s side and kind of power my way out of the garage in my Jeep. Gotta love 4 wheel drive. We took advantage of our many area memberships and visited the Zoo, the Omaha Children’s Museum, the Strategic Air Command Museum and the Durham Western Heritage Museum, both to escape the cold weather and throughout the year as all have changing exhibits.
We also tried taking Erika to her first Orchestra concert with very limited success. Any and all shows we have brought her to have been ‘failures’. She spends the entire time with her face buried in one of our shoulders. This is true of movies, concerts, Santa, et. al., book/TV/movie characters, laser shows, etc. We don’t know why she avoids these things, but suspect the amplified sound has something to do with it, since she starts hiding just BEFORE each show, not after they start.  Doug and I, on the other hand, have had a great time with our season tickets for the local community theater.
We also had to stop going to restaurants around April of 2001; our streak of having a child who could always eat out with us was coming to an end. I’m not complaining, though, because with 2 notable exceptions she was AWESOME up until that time. Plus, dining in for 6+ months really saved us a bundle! Okay, okay, we went to McDonalds a lot! However, 1 visit to OutBack pays for a bunch of Happy Meals!  And about the same time she actually started sleeping through the night (in her new way cool bunk bed!) which was a WONDERFUL change. Hhhmm, restaurants vs. sleeping. Is that really a choice?
Erika's bunk bed
We went on a very nice Spring trip to Orange City, Iowa for their annual Tulip Festival. The town was pretty, the parade was huge, and there were even carnival rides where Erika took her first Ferris Wheel ride! We weren’t sure she’d like it, but she took to the whole experience like a duck to water. We ended up on a lot of rides this year, partly due to this trip.
I joined the local library's bookclub and have enjoyed it immensely! So far my favorite book has been "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, but I also enjoyed "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Among others we've also read "Like Water for Chocolate", "Memoirs of a Geisha" "Bee Season" and "The Pearl Earring". We have one guy in our group, the rest are all ladies. We meet once a month and I will miss the group when we leave.
June brought one of the year’s biggest milestones: Erika and I stopped breastfeeding! It wasn’t an easy process, Erika was still enthusiastic about our 1-2 times a day and I’m sure would have done more if I let her... but it was time. Now, 6 months later, she doesn’t seem to have ANY memory of it. When I explained that my friend’s new baby would be fed that way, she said, “No, Mommy. Babies drink COW’S milk!”  Go figure.
One of our other trips this year was camping in Indiana with Doug’s parents. This trip went
remarkably well (I worried about a 3 year old in the woods, with fire, etc) and we had a very good time. Our site was BEAUTIFUL and SHADY, so it didn’t matter that it was hot; I was just happy it didn’t RAIN on us!
Doug peppered the year with business trips (TDY’s) throughout the year, visiting places like DC, CO, HI, WA, and FL among others. He did this while also going to school and in August we CELEBRATED his terrific accomplishment of graduating from U of NE, Lincoln with an MBA.
Doug graduates UNL - nice lei!
All that school on top of work and trips away wasn’t easy for him, he deserves a round of applause!! Hurraayyyyyy, Doug! He also completed 14 years of active duty service with the Navy, so we are getting tantalizingly close to that 20 year retirement mark.
We also went to several State Parks, fairs and carnivals all summer long. The Nebraska summer was quite HOT so most of these trips were at night or not very long. We went on another camping trip, near Des Moines, IA, when our niece, Kayleigh, came out to visit. *WE* had a good time, I think Kayleigh did too, although it was, as I mentioned, HOT!! I especially enjoyed the meteor shower while staying up late talking to Kayleigh. Along with us for the camping trip were Teresa & her daughter, Erika’s friend Brittany. Teresa, who’s my age, had her first REAL S’more! I feel privileged to have shared that moment with her.
Fall brought Preschool for Erika. I really had no plans to enroll her, long story short; we did, and she goes mornings, 2ce a week; I think I love it more than she does, other than having to get out of bed to get her there! I am amazed at the stuff she does there, the teacher is awesome and I love the projects she brings home. She is with about 6 other 2 and 3 year olds and they go on field trips and everything. I can’t imagine finding as good a place in HI.
Halloween was a blast, as usual. Erika was a banana and we had a pumpkin carving party the night before and really went nuts in the yard with 10 jack-o-lanterns and plenty of other decorations (plus scary music!).
Banana costume for Erika^    ^     ^ Pumpkins we carved!
We took 2 Fall trips, one to Mall of America and the other to the East Coast to see family and friends. The Mall of America trip was SUPPOSED to be divided between shopping and Camp Snoopy (indoor amusement park in the center of the mall), but we did rides rides rides rides rides... and a little shopping.
1st roller coaster ride for Erika
That’s ok, it was a BLAST! As for the East Coast trip, the flying went well, all things considered, and we FINALLY got to see my sister’s ‘new’ house.
Hey Al, WE LOVE YOU!4 cousins
She’s been in it a year, it’s about TIME we got out there. It is so cool, and perfect for her family of 5. Erika enjoyed seeing ALL of her cousins throughout our 10 day trip, and had fun visiting my hometown as well. She REALLY liked the train station/trains there!
Friends of Madison Train Station logo
We returned home and finally, actually got our orders to Hawaii. It still doesn’t feel quite real. We are supposed to be there for 3 years and expect to have lots of visitors. See you there? In the meantime we have many preparations to make, as we hope to make the move in mid to late February.
    Happy Holidays!     Scroll down for more 'news'!!

Family Portrait 2001

/////Our Bodies, our 'elves'\\\\\
Just like the mischievious mythical (?) beings that populate this season, our bodies decided to play a few tricks on us this year. I wound up having my 3 remaining wisdom teeth out in July. The extraction process was MUCH better than when I got my first wisdom tooth removed, but the recovery process was very hard on me. Thank goodness Doug was around, I basically laid in bed for 2 days, and then was very weak and in a lot of discomfort for a long time after that. Long story short,  6 WEEKS LATER we 'found' a packing still in one of the extraction sites. Can you say, "Eeeewww?"
As for Doug, his newsworthy medical accomplishment, or lack of it if you will, has been to try to pass a kidney stone. We discovered he HAD the kidney stone as a byproduct of some other routine tests that were being run for a physical, and at this writing, 2+ weeks later, he has still not passed the stone. There is a Dr.'s appointment on Thurs, Dec 20th that will hopefully clear things up.
Dr.'s update: Doug's kidney stone *has* moved, but is not out yet. We're still hoping it will come out on it's own. If not, Doug can choose surgery anytime between now and late January.
Update to the update: The stone came out on 07 Feb! Analysis to follow.
----> On to more pleasant things.........------->

*~*~The Erika Extra!~*~*
The moon and 'our star', ErikaErika and the moonThe Moon and 'our star', Erika

Yes, here are all the extra kiddy tidbits that got left out of the 'official' newsletter, to spare those who don't want to read about such things.
Let's see...... Erika turned 3 this year in May, and was about 32 inches and 30 lbs, I guess. (I am guessing!) Now she's more like 38 inches and 36 lbs! Growing fast, indeed. Many people remark that she looks older than she is, and that she seems tall for her age.
We've had a lot of fun watching and have been in awe of Erika's development. Her vocabulary is quite good, though the number of words she understands far exceeds her spoken vocabulary. She and I enjoy the produce department at the grocery store, where I ask her what each fruit and vegetable are. She invariably ends up holding an item like a cantaloupe or bunch of bananas throughout the store and then has a FIT when we have to take it away long enough to check out! Watch Out if the bagger gets ahold of it and puts it in a bag. Poor me, I have a child who's grousing for fruit to eat in the car on the way home from the grocery store.
Erika loves to greet all other children.... in stores, at the playground, wherever! Around June she would finally answer anyone who asked "What is your name?" and now usually adds while pointing at us, "My name is Erika. And this is Mommy and this is my Daddy. What is your name?"  Unfortunately, she doesn't see this as a means to an end, and will repeat to anyone who will listen, "My name is Erika, what's yours?" The 8 year old kid behind us at Newark Airport in the hour long x-ray line got tired of that FAST!
Erika enjoys 'reading'/being read to, playing on the computer, watching TV, and any Arts & Crafts projects that I or her preschool teacher will let her do! She seems to tire of crayons, or just plain coloring, fairly quickly, but likes to paint very much. She has done several projects, including a Father's Day gift, that involve handprints; she LOVES doing those!
We have a terrific public library with an extensive children's videotape section. Some of Erika's favorite tapes are the "Spot" & "Madeline" series, though she enjoys Richard Scarry, Big Comfy Couch, Bear in the Big Blue House among others.
As for TV, we're still PBS fans, and have added the morning Disney shows to Erika's 'allowed to watch' list. I appreciate the lack of commercials.
Erika's computer skills have improved very much. She started out picking out letters and numbers on the keyboard, and now can handle a mouse quite well. We have a nice selection of preschool software for her, including Sesame Street Search & Learn and Magnadoodle, both of which we like very much. We have a few other titles that she cycles through. Recently she learned how to do jigsaw puzzles on the computer and that's her current favorite computer activity.
Going to the playground to use the swings and the slide, and playing with her t-ball in the backyard rank among her favorite outdoor activities. She got one of the grow-with-me basketball hoops for her birthday and she likes that too! She had a ball this fall when I raked up the leaves into a huge pile and let her jump in them with the kids next door. Unfortunately for my arms, she insisted I remake the pile after each and every jump!
We have been very proud of Erika on our camping trips. She has a tent that connects to ours and for the most part she sleeps in it, in her own sleeping bag, with no problems. She did a great job hiking with us on our Indiana trip, and was good and careful around the telescope when we camped in a friend's farmyard in Iowa one clear summer evening. Erika likes looking at the moon and stars but doesn't really do well with the telescope, yet. She does just fine with 'just' her eyes, though. She had a great time camping near Des Moines with her 14 year old cousin, Kayleigh, and her 3 year old friend, Brittany. Erika seems to have a healthy respect for the campfire, and also seems to enjoy sitting around it at night. I look forward to more family camping trips.
I love watching the learning process. I wonder how she comes up with words like "beltseat" when she is talking about her seatbelt. She talks about spelling, and knows that the letters S-T-O-P are on a stop sign, but I know she doesn't really understand what spelling and reading are. I LOVE to watch Erika and other kids at the playground make up their own games, though it's sometimes hard to stop myself from interfering and showing them the 'right' way to do something.
As mentioned above, our restaurant days were numbered this year. Erika would sit and color for about 5 or 10 minutes, if the food came quickly she'd eat a little something, and then she was ready to go. We put her in highchairs for as long as we could but even that didn't help as she didn't just physically try to get out of her seat, she added talking, then yelling and crying. This left Doug and I about 5 minutes to eat our dinners and there was nothing relaxing about that. So, it was McDonald's Playland and other 'kiddie' places for a while, as well as more meals home. Recently, though, we've had more luck. She is not only more willing to sit through our dinner, but is also more interested in her own food. Though she, like most 2-3 (and 4, 5, 6?) year olds, seems to subsist somedays on a teaspoon of this, a sprinkling of that, and air, other times she will gobble a meal, a full adult sized meal, and be asking for a snack of carrots 20 minutes later! When she does eat, Erika generally favors 'good' foods; fruits, veggies, cheeses, etc. To most candy she says, "Too sticky!" and takes it out of her mouth and hands it to me. Her biggest vice is apple juice, which is her liquid mainstay. I guess she gets all her sugar from there.
There's no good place to end my talking about Erika; I could go on and on and on. I enjoy being her Mom and Doug and I are both quite the proud parents.
~Season's Greetings.~