The 1999Christmas Kazette

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1999 started out with us avoiding a cold New Year's Eve and staying in with our 7/12 month old baby, Erika! We were going to go to Mystic CT’s First Night Celebration but had a warm evening in front of the fireplace in New London, instead.
Later in January we were warmed by the presence of old friends! My hometown friend, Karen, came to visit. Karen had recently been out of the country, in Fiji (!) With the Peace Corps. It was the first time Doug and I had seen her since before she left and we also got to meet her new husband, Dana, who she met in Fiji. It was also obviously the first time they got to meet Erika. We were joined that weekend by  mutual friends, Lydia & John, who told us that they were engaged to be married! It was a very exciting weekend.
February brought us some more cold weather and knee surgery for Doug. The third time is apparently the charm. So his knee stopped hurting, but my Magical Medical Mystery Tour pulled in for another stop. Last year it was 'gall bladder' trouble (which went away totally, by the way), this year it is my wrist. Carrying Erika around apparently strained something and I have been wearing a brace since March. They would have put me on steroids to relieve the inflammation but I am nursing and can't risk passing them to our baby. With Doug's knee healing and my arm in a restrictive brace, we then started preparing for our move. That's right, the move we ‘warned’ you about last year came to pass, and in March we packed up and headed West! We put one driver and a little body in each of our two cars (Erika being one little body, our cat, Little Bear, being the other) and packed WAY TOO MUCH stuff in the rest of the empty spaces and car top carrier, and in about 4 days relocated to Nebraska. That's right, Doug's still in the Navy and we are stationed in Nebraska. Doug actually works at STRATCOM, which is short for Strategic Command, at Offutt Air Force Base. Ask Doug what he does.
Our arrival here and 2 subsequent exploratory road trips made the total number of states that Erika had been in before she was one year old a hefty 17.  Wowsers!
We knew we were entering a difficult rental market in Nebraska (for houses that is, apartments are fairly plentiful) so we started hunting right away. We actually looked at 2 houses in the space of 4 days, and took the 2nd one.  The one bad thing about the 2nd house was that it would not be available to rent until 01 May, and it was still March. (The first one was available right away, but was far far away from the base. Doug's commute is about 6 12; miles.) We wound up staying in Air Force temporary housing (there's not enough paper or holiday time for THAT story) and a hotel for the 4+ weeks until our house was ready. Thankfully the former tenants actually hurried out and we got in a few days early. That was nice.
We started a class for Erika but to call it a swimming class wouldn't quite be accurate. It is designed to get young children accustomed to the water and to try to teach them, if they fall in, to get to a side, wall, ladder or the like and HANG ON until someone can help them. Doug and I were both allowed into the pool with her and we all had fun. Erika never became good at going underwater, but can hang on to the side or an adult very well! We go to open-swim type nights often and she now can also jump/fall off the side into our arms.
May brought Erika's first birthday as well as our first rent payment (almost $300 LESS than our CT rent... I LOVE it here!!!) And we celebrated by letting her FINALLY have a wheat product and milk; I made her an ice cream cake in an oreo cookie crust. Yum! Erika also started walking around her first birthday. Yeeaaahh and OH NO! all at the same time. May also brought Erika's first cousin on Doug's side of the family. Joe and Laura welcomed Emily Marie to the family on 27 May, giving her the same initials as Erika.  We kept our fingers crossed for a 3rd one, since Bob and Susan were expecting in December, but....      (first...)
June brought our first visitors. First came Doug's brother and sister-in-law, the above mentioned Bob and Susan, and right on their heels were my parents. We enjoyed showing them what sights we knew about (mainly the awesome Omaha zoo!) but left plenty more to see, not necessarily intentionally. It's just that there is tons to do and see here! And of course we ‘discovered’ more things right after our guests left. Like the Eugene Mahoney State Park where I wound up getting locked in the bathroom! Other than that incident, it really is a terrific park. We also went to the College World Series which is hosted here in Omaha. Our personal game highlight came when ESPN zeroed in on a ‘sleeping’ Erika... but she was BREASTFEEDIING! I was being so discreet the
camera man never even realized it until after he turned off the camera! He stammered and blushed and apologized but we were delighted. (Thank you Motherwear!)
In July Doug started classes. He is pursuing an M.B.A..  Classes are at the base but are through the University of Nebraska, Lincoln campus. Who'd a thunk Doug would be a CornHusker? He generally goes to class twice a week from 5 pm to 9 pm.  Can you say “long day”?
We also finally found a babysitter which was a big relief. We've gone to the movies and a play and its just so LIBERATING!! We do enjoy bringing Erika to the Drive-in in nearby Iowa, though.
August brought more summer hot weather and lots of prayers of thanks from me for the central air conditioning in the house!  And much to my surprise, many of the schools in Nebraska started up around mid-August! This seemed wwaaayyy early to me. One of the hottest weekends in August coincided with the Offutt AFB Air Show. We went out both days, Saturday and Sunday, and saw very good shows! The Stealth Bomber even made an appearance. We had almost given up on it and were heading home so it wound up flying RIGHT OVER US! Yipes!
September is when my sister's kids should have gone to school but a much publicized Rhode Island area teacher's strike kept them out until about a month after the Nebraska kids started!! Also in September, Doug's parents came to visit. They stayed about 2 weeks and also got the zoo tour, and we went to the SAC Museum and a  “Star Party.” The sky was beautiful that night! Erika was good for several hours and it's hard to be mad that her fussing was the major reason we finally packed up the telescope around midnight and headed home.
October brought more visitors (I'm so happy! Who'd have thought we'd get practically the most visitors ever in
Nebraska?) A friend of ours from RPI, Frank, dropped by on his way to the West Coast. He and a friend were driving someone's car coast to coast to accommodate a confusing set of moving and job circumstances. Frank and Jim were here less than 24 hours but we enjoyed that time immensely. The highlight was standing out in the neighborhood park with our telescope and watching Erika chase a random cat all over the field! It was like watching 2 magnets... just as Erika would get close enough to touch the cat, it would scamper out of reach but remain close enough to tantalize Erika. Giggling was heard from more than our baby girl.  Earlier that day, Frank and Jim drove up as we were carving our first pumpkins. We were following the lead of our neighbors, many of whom had Halloween decorations out in early October. I LOVE Halloween so this was all A-OK with me!
I wanted to be home for our first Halloween in the new house, but my high school put on a ‘Great Reunion’. All alumni were invited, which sounded like tons of fun. Doug and I had been planning a trip East about a week later anyway, but Doug couldn't break away any earlier than we planned. I then had a tough decision to make. Consequently Erika and I went to the reunion (It WAS fun!) and Doug joined us afterwards. It was Erika's first plane ride... Whoopiiieeeee! She did rather well; at least the other 10 or so passengers didn’t throw us off the plane or give us dirty looks as they disembarked. This left Doug home alone for Halloween. He had the house all decked out, as is our custom, and it was well worth the effort. He estimated that he had about 175 Trick or Treaters! Somehow we still had leftover candy, though.
Doug flew to Newark and joined Erika and I for an enjoyable visit with family. Doug's Mom had her traditional early Thanksgiving the first weekend in November.. My family came, his family was there, as were other ‘in-law’s’,  for a grand total of 26, I think. And the day before that fest we Showered Susan. Who knew that Margaret Jan would join us about 3 weeks later, instead of in December when we were all ‘expecting’ her? Susan had her the day before Thanksgiving, which probably meant that Susan had Jell-O for her Thanksgiving meal. Yum?
Doug had a wonderful 4 day weekend for Thanksgiving. We ate turkey, we put up outdoor Christmas lights, we went shopping. Aaaahhhh!
Which brings us to December. We are planning to stay here in Nebraska and not travel during the holiday season. This is NOT because of Y2K, but because I don't relish the idea of crazy crazy plane travel with 9 million other
We expect to be in Nebraska for about 3 years total. Come and visit! There is plenty to see and do here. Doug and I are surprised at how happy we are here. Its a great place to raise Erika. For those of you who can't or won't come in person, feel free to visit electronically.

                     Happy Holidays !!

More about Erika! I put this last so those of you uninterested in other people's children's development could skip this. Believe me, I remember when this stuff was boring!!
Erika recently had her 18 month Well Baby check-up. She weighed 23 lbs and was about 32 inches tall. This puts her somewhere in between the 25th and 50th percentile, which has been 'normal' for her.
She's pretty much in 18 month size clothes, with some 24 or 2T items entering her wardrobe (like sweatshirts.) She just graduated to size 5 shoes, though I suspect 4 1/2 would fit better if such a thing existed.
Some of Erika's favorite things are: Sesame Street, especially Elmo! VeggieTales, which are videos with a Christian bent to them. They are HILARIOUS and I highly recommend them for all ages. She used to like the PBS show "Zoom" but lately has not been as interested in it. One of her favorite shows is "Win Ben Stein's Money". (On Comedy Central) I kid you not, she watches it and claps and laughs at appropriate times. OK, she does those things when the audience does... but still. The whole Pooh bunch also captures her attention. She likes Pooh books better than Pooh videos, though.
As for her eating habits... well... she eats just about anything. She may not have much of it, but she will try most things. Her favorite food of all time is black olives!! (sliced) She also favors mushrooms. Cheese is big in her diet. She prefers cheddar and american over swiss, and also likes mozzarella. Mac 'n cheese is a favorite. She is a fruit and veggie gal, especially watermelon. One of the only 'junk foods' she specifically asks for (by pointing and "Eh eh eh"-ing) is Oreos! She has long been an independent eater. She hated being spoon fed and mostly refused to be spoon fed when most kids her age were eating mushed up jar food or the equivalent. She liked her hands then, and now that she has discovered forks, refuses food if we hand it to her, but will eat the same item if she can use her fork! This goes for Cheerios, which she used to gobble daily with her hands. Now Erika will try to spear them with a fork. Try it sometime! It isn't easy, but she is actually successful sometimes! She is also getting the hang of spoons, though turning them the right side up is still a challenge. She does best with spooning ice cream. Hee hee! Finally, something she has in common with me! She's been eating yogurt, through a straw, for many months now. She has 1/2 to one full container almost every day. As I said, she is independent and will not take it from a spoon. And I'm not quite ready to just give her a spoon and the cup of yogurt.
She is also still breastfeeding. I started out with the goal of 1 year, and now I have the goal to quit before she is 2 years. We shall see. There are still so many benefits to it for both of us that I'm not in a huge hurry to quit. A new study even shows that breastfeeding can decrease the chances of your child getting leukemia! And breastfeeding beyond the 1 year mark has been shown to increase IQ. Not a bad start to give your child.
She enjoys playing with her stacking cups, and likes to sit in our laps while we read her cardboard books. She likes to turn the pages. For some reason she will turn them when Doug is actually done reading them, while she tends to put me on a speed reading rampage. We have a playground nearby and she loves to swing! She is also getting proficient at climbing the ladder for the slide, though I stick with her 'just in case'. She goes down the slide all by herself! She is also getting better on the see-saw. She used to slide off the back, but now hangs on much better.
She is a huge ham and usually gives you a winning smile AFTER she sees the camera flash. She gets very caught up in the video camera. We have a model with the little pop out screen that you can turn around so you can tape yourself, and Erika LOVES this function, loves to watch herself on the screen. I like to confuse/amuse her by zooming in on her nose or finger or ear.
When it's not convenient for her to walk, we almost always put her in her backpack carrier rather than a stroller. She gets a better view of everything and we don't have to worry about stairs, escalators, rough terrain or stores that aren't stroller friendly. So far she hasn't tried to steer us by pulling on our hair or ears. hee hee!
Well, obviously I could write all day and night about her, but those are the highlights. Did I forget something? E-mail us!