Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in Mt. Morris

Once we'd made it through the Christmas weekend, we hopped in the car and headed for Grandmother's house to stretch the holiday a little further. We had another terrific visit, with laughs and delicious desserts and Myrna bouncing off the walls. My grandma recorded a reading of The Night Before Christmas for Myrna on one of those electronic recordable story books. Myrna listened to it over and over while we were there, and continues to do so now that we are back home. She recites along with Grandma's voice now, and is well on her way to having the whole thing memorized.

Grandma also introduced Myrn to a Burkhalter holiday fixture: her reindeer Kenner, which friends had made for her some time ago. Myrna really wanted to ride on it, and probably wasn't too big to try, but only her new teddy bear was allowed climb onto Kenner's back.

We also drove down to Princeton, IL to meet the Gamages for pizza. This was the first time we'd seen them since Becky's wedding this summer, which Myrna remembers all too well. Myrn talked everyone's ears off, and the adults did some catching up too.

I'm sure Grandma's house is still recuperating from Myrna's very hands-on explorations, and we've come home with a couple more Myrna-vetted recipes. We had such a great time. It's so nice being only a car-trip away!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Myrna had her Christmas Pageant debut this year - as a beautiful angel. She was extremely excited for the chance to dress up, and took her role very seriously:

She referred to her other angels as her "flock of angels"

After the pageant (at the Gospel reading) the kids all took off their costumes and returned to the service - well all the kids except Myrna, as she continued to play the part of an angel. We finally got the costume off of her as we were leaving, convincing her that she should show off her new Christmas dress, that she so carefully picked out herself in Chicago (the key requirement of the Christmas dress, according to Myrna, was that it needed flowers).

We had a leisurely two days of opening presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Myrna is at the stage where she wants to play with each present before moving on to another. She was intent on getting her mother "a thousand nutcrackers" but settled on just the one:

If Santa really had his act together, he would have had the entire Nutcracker battle scene reenacted under the tree for Christmas Day, but that idea came a little too late for the elves to carve all the soldiers.

And what Christmas Day could be complete without some kicking of the new "outdoor" football? My parents bought the soccer ball when they were here at Thanksgiving for us to give to Myrna at Christmas. The only problem was that Myrna spied the ball shortly after they left, and has been asking about it since then....

Friday, December 23, 2011

All Smiles for Santa

Yesterday we took a train to the North Pole (known to most, as Chicago) to see Santa. Myrna was very excited, especially after Santa had called her on the phone and informed her that he liked ice cream sandwiches too. We've been seeing lots of pictures of kids crying on Santa's laps and Myrna remembered being scared last year - but this year was different.

More photos of our Chicago adventures are on the December Picasa page.

Friday, December 9, 2011

At Long Last...

In the morning, Myrna asks, "Is it snow today?" After lunch, she asks, "Can we play outside when it snows tonight?" Before bedtime, she asks, "Is it snowing yet?" This has been going on since around Thanksgiving.

And so Myrna was exceedingly pleased when she looked out the window this morning.

Just a light dusting, but fun all the same. We enjoyed it this morning til the tears started, and we had to rush Myrna inside for some warm lunch. Looks like most of it'll be gone by the end of the day, but I'm sure we're due for more soon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Trees and Gingerbread Houses

We are in full Christmas decorating mode here. Saturday we ventured out to find that perfect tree (well, we didn't really venture out, but instead got as far as our local Home Depot). But finding a tree suitable to me is quite a challenge, as I'm a bit picky - not too bushy, must be taller than me, nice needles, etc. Myrna did her best to help, but she soon was distracted by the hot chocolate.

Then it was off to Target to get the necessities, like lights and a tree stand, two items that got thrown out when we left Seattle. It was way too easy to put up our tree (usually we can't get it straight or it doesn't quite look right and some bickering is involved). Myrna was really excited to decorate it (partly because she got to stand on a chair) - and frequently asks when we can decorate it some more.

You may notice the Nutcracker scene on the tree - we are in a full Nutcracker obsession over here. Myrna can't get enough of the Mouse King, and we've watched the American Ballet Theatre's rendition multiple times now (the one from 1977 starring Mikhail Baryshnikov).

Also on the weekend list was gingerbread house making. In elementary school I always missed the Christmas party in school (back when you could still have such a thing) in which we made gingerbread houses, as our trip off school to Santa's Breakfast seemed to always conflict. And the few times I tried to make one myself, they ended in a disaster. So I was really excited that there was going to be gingerbread house making on Sunday after church. I was even more excited when we arrived to see that all the houses had been assembled, and we were left with only the fun part - decorating. It certainly was hard for that end in a disaster.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Green Bay Thanksgiving

We broke our 5-year Thanksgiving drought this year - we missed the last 4 by living in Germany and Sweden (in case you have forgotten, Turkey day is not a worldwide celebration) and in 2006 Chris and I passed on trying to juggle various family dinners and spent the day by ourselves. So we had a little catch up to do. My parents were here in Valpo for Myrna's birthday and after the birthday celebrations we all drove up together to Green Bay for Thanksgiving with my grandfather and the Benos. We enjoyed many of our Green Bay favorites, like the fish fry dinner at Van Abel's and coffee at Luna. But mostly we had fun playing - as Myrna and Nick were still the best of buds.

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner over at Grandpa's, and since the Packers were still undefeated by the time dinner was served, we were all in great spirits.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Myrna Is Three

From Myrna - November 2011

Myrna's third birthday was a big one. Has been a big one, I should say. The gifts keep coming, to the point that when Myrna hears noise from the outside stairs, she no longer asks, "Is that Mom?" but sing-songs, "Could be a package!" To my thinking, #3 is the first birthday that really counts. #1 I'm sure just confused her, and while she wholly enjoyed #2, I don't think she really understood what a birthday was until the presents and cupcakes and candles were all laid out in front of her. This year, she knew it well in advance. Several days before the big day, she put in a request for an ice cream cake, and she even discovered one (exceptionally poorly hidden) birthday present. A second reason that #3 seemed bigger is that it's her first birthday back in the U.S., and gift-giving no longer comes with the problem of packing it across the ocean on a plane. Those things Kelly and I vowed to provide for our child once our living situation was more stable? We were ready to get them. So come Sunday, it was "Bring on the presents!"

As a special treat, Kelly's parents flew out for the weekend, in advance of the trip we all made to Green Bay for Thanksgiving. Saturday was action-packed with taking in the local sites and, mostly, Myrna soaking up some grandparent time. Saturday evening was my Dad's birthday - number 60, if he doesn't mind my saying so - and so we had a good Skype talk with my parents. For dinner, the five of us feasted on paella and wine, and even broke out the fine china for the first time in ages (they'd been in storage). Kelly still had the wedding gift tags bundled with the individual place settings, and we each mentally thanked our dining benefactor.

Sunday morning Myrna discovered that a red oven had "just appeared" in the living room, and that kept her busy for most of the morning. She wore new birthday clothes to church, and after that we're a little jumbled on the precise timeline. There was ice cream cake with M&M's, balloons, party hats, picture-taking, and lots of presents. There were dancing dresses to try on and puzzles to assemble and new toys to try out. It was a big day. And Myrna is pretty darn proud of herself for being three. A frequent topic since her birthday is when she can get back on an exercise bike she encountered last month in the basement of one of Kelly's colleagues. Myrna's legs had been too short to work it. But she was two then -- and now she's three!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween Fairy Princess

We had a full week of Halloween fun. Much to my dismay, I was not one of those parents that made my kid an awesome costume, and we waited until the Tuesday before Halloween to browse the aisles of Target. Myrna immediately fell in love with a pair of wings and wand that she could wear with her tutu, and I joined on in on the fun and too got wings. I think Chris and I had an agreement about how we would wait until Thursday (the day of her first party) to break them out (for fear that she might destroy them), but at 6:55 am on Wednesday, I gave in and the wings had their debut.

Myrna's first Halloween party was at her library story time. She was very excited to don the whole outfit, and since it was an indoor party, she could fully enjoy the costume with out a coat.

She got her first taste of trick-or-treating and was hooked. In addition to candy, she got some awesome glasses, to pair with her pre-7 am costuming.

Friday afternoon, the downtown businesses were giving out candy and the main street was closed to cars. It was definitely the social outing, as most every kid was there. Myrna used her cute little charm to avoid standing in lines (she really is German). Almost as exciting as the candy was the fact that she could run down the street, something that is never allowed when cars are around. I sadly didn't get to debut my wings as I had come straight from the dentist for a pre-Halloween double filling.

Once Monday finally came, Myrna was thrilled. I had fun wearing wings to school, though about 5 minutes into my first lecture, I realized that my wings were attacking me, so they had to be removed. That evening we joined the festivities on Washington Street. Remember how there was always that really cool neighborhood everyone went trick-or-treating at? Well, in Valpo that neighborhood is the street we live on, so there was no shortage of decorations and trick-or-treaters. At the second house we visited, Myrna's wings got hooked on a smaller boys pumpkin bucket, and within a minute he had let go and Myrna had successfully stolen his loot. She wasn't shy about running up to houses while we waited in the street, and as soon as she was heading back towards us, she was announcing what type of candy she got. Most exciting, though, was a little jar of playdough. She warded off the scary teenagers trying to scare kids with skulls, by announcing that "they looked like her grandparents" (which we really couldn't figure out) and they were laughing too hard to continue.

It's been almost a week since Halloween and the wings are still a daily phenomenon - she's even managed to rope me into the wing wearing for our evening dance parties. Though, on Thursday the theme at Library Group was "Kings, Queens, Castles and Knights" and Myrna is now more interested in the role of "Princess Knight."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Selbstporträt in Grün

It's been a while since we've shared any of Myrna's artwork. Here is my favorite of her recent drawings, a picture of herself that she sketched on Monday. She was very satisfied with it, and I was too, and so we agreed that I should draw a frame around it.

A Weekend in Mt. Morris

Last weekend we made a long, long overdue trip to Mt. Morris, IL. Now that we're in Indiana, that destination could be reached in just a few hours. I think the last time I was in Mt. Morris was around the time I'd finished college. Kelly and Myrna had never been - though of course they'd both met my terrific grandmother.

We were spoiled the moment we arrived. In the week leading up to our visit, Grandma had baked a pie, brownies, and a batch of snickerdoodles. But even before those were on offer, Myrna had warmed up to Grandma pretty well on her own, sometimes calling her "G.G." (as K.K. and Abbie do) and sometimes simply "Grandma." Myrn roped her into reading stories, and had most of the livingroom upended by the end of the day Friday. Grandma had picked out a fine pumpkin for us too and after dinner that night, Myrna carved her very first jack-o-lantern. We named him "Jack," and he's since followed us back to Valparaiso, where he sits in our window.

Saturday we took in some of the local sites. We looked in on Lorado Taft's 125-foot Black Hawk statue, and even forded the river at the White Pines Forest State Park.

Grandma graciously did not kick us out after Saturday's Illinois - Ohio State game (Kelly being something of a Buckeyes fan), and Sunday morning we all attended St. Bride's Episcopal Church, where there were more than a few familiar faces. St. Bride's is also my grandfather's resting place, and it was nice to bring Kelly and Myrna around for a visit.

We had such a fun weekend with Grandma. And Myrna's been talking about her ever since we got back to Valpo. Of course it helped that Grandma loaded us up with cookies and brownies as we headed back Sunday, but I know Myrna's fondness goes much further than that.