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.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunny Chicago

We've been enjoying a proper Indian Summer (as I was recently told, you first must have frost (which we had a little over a week ago) and then hit temperatures in 75-80 degree range). We took advantage of the sun, for an action-packed weekend.

Saturday we drove into Chicago, enjoying the beautiful Chicago Skyway toll booths, and headed to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Myrna was extremely excited to see a wild boar, and I discovered on Friday night that the zoo was lacking in wild boar, and we would have to settle with warthogs and/or pigs. But the animals were kind of the least of her concern. She was much more interested in snacks, running around in the sun, and the "Kid's Zoo" attractions. An 8 foot high system of platforms and mesh siding was the key attraction to all the kids. The problem was, of course, there was no way to "rescue" a stuck kid, and Myrna got stuck in a bottle-neck led by a terrified girl, being cheered on by a crowd of parents.

Myrna then found the zoo splash pad, for some mulching leaf collecting fun.

Even if we didn't see each and every animal, we wore Myrna out so she could nap and we could enjoy lunch at Goose Island Brewery.

She would wake up during a much anticipated Trader Joe's shopping spree. Then we made our way downtown to get coffee at one of the few Intelligentsia cafes. The Chicago Marathon was on Sunday, and the city was filled with runners carrying their grab-bags. Pre-Marathon race days always make me jealous. (Sunday was also the day of the Portland Marathon - and it was 10 years ago that I first ran that - how time flies). Myrna too was in "running mode" as she has adopted the UW football jersey as her "running shirt" and insisted on wearing it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday at the Orchard

We joined a group from St Andrew's to head out to County Line Orchard, for apple picking and more. Myrna found trouble as we waited for everyone to arrive, and tried hard to steal a staff cart (sadly it was empty, and not full of apple cider).

Then it was off into the orchard on a, as Myrna describes it, "really scary ride" (a tractor) "so scary that we needed to have a service man" (a priest). The big kids all got off for the corn maze, but we headed straight to the orchard to do some exploring. Immediately Myrna was picking apples off the ground to taste, and her parents finally gave into temptation and tasted a few off the trees (I needed to know what a Blushing Gold tasted like before we put some in our bag to buy). We didn't, however, break the rule "no climbing in trees," though we came fairly close, letting Myrna climb up on her dad.

We picked only 3 lbs of apples - 4 Jonagolds and 4 Blushing Gods - which set us back a good $5. Then it was into the Kid's Area for lots of playing in hay.

Chris and Myrna tried the hyped up apple donuts - and later that evening we enjoyed some apple pie (made by the orchard - not me). I think come lunch time, I'll be ready for another apple.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Indiana Dunes

We waited until a misty and cool Sunday to get ourselves to the giant Indiana Dunes on Lake Michigan. So, it wasn't a perfect weather day, but we had lots of fun. Myrna was a bit nervous at first

But in no time, she was frolicking in the water and stripped of her clothes (at which point our public sharing of photos stops). I guess it wasn't that cold, but we certainly were not looking forward to having to jump in the water to grab her.

And as an excuse for why we are so behind on the updates; after sitting through endless Myrna accounts, we're just tired:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

White Dresses, Cakes, and Dancing Shoes

An added bonus of moving to Indiana was that we were able to attend my cousin Becky's wedding in Peoria, Illinois - something that certainly would've been more difficult had we still been in Sweden.

It had been over ten years since I'd been back to IL, and entirely too long since I'd caught up with all the good folks on my Dad's side of the family. And so, in addition to going to the wedding, we had a great opportunity to spend some time with my grandmother, catch up with aunts and uncles, and sort of meet my cousins all over again as adults. The wedding turned out to be a very thorough family reunion, and Myrna got the full Burkhalter introduction in one quick weekend. This was, in fact, even her first time meeting my grandmother. Here's four generations of the Burkhalters:

Here's Myrna with the adorable Martin girls, inspecting Aaron's camera.

And a nice shot of Aaron and Norah with my grandmother ("G.G.," she's called these days).

Meeting the full Burkhalter clan wasn't Myrna's only first that weekend, either. She pulled her first fire alarm - but let's pass over that story for now. This was also Myrna's first wedding. In the month leading up to Becky's wedding, Kelly helped form impressions of all that a wedding is, and Myrna definitely took in the ceremony and reception with keen interest. Dresses, cakes and dancing seem to be the salient points she walked away with. She talks about these things often and in detail, and also pretends to talk with Becky and her husband Toby on the phone. They are usually invited over for dinner.

As for the dancing, well...

Ben even caught a video on his iPhone:

Myrna was doing this til about 11:00. She even got in a request (Rihanna's "Umbrella," one of her car stereo favorites). A month later, she still dons her pink dress and starts bouncing around the livingroom every time she catches a danceable rhythm. And she was quite irritated to find that, with all the records I have crowding the walls of our new apartment, there's not a copy of "Boogie Shoes" to be found.

The whole weekend was a great time, and we were so happy to be there for the wedding. We took a couple pictures during the weekend, but Aaron's are way better, so I've stolen some of his for this post. Further documentation can be found here.

We've also finally put up a few photos for August, which you can see here. We'll try to catch the blog up as we settle into the new apartment, job, etc., u.s.w.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Master Gardner

My grandfather has a beautiful garden and Myrna is extremely interested in it. She loved helping with the watering, composting, and daily (or more like hourly) she was on a hunt to find the bunny rabbit that calls the garden home. She is very insistent though that the tomatoes are for little girls, not bunny rabbits. If we were lucky, we might get a taste of the cherry tomatoes she would sneak off the vine.

Over our time there, she learned the names of the flowers (much more quickly than I did). In fact for a few days, the word of the day was hydrangea. There really isn't anything cuter than hearing a 2+ year old talk about petunias and hydrangeas with her great-grandfather.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

National Railroad Museum

While still in Seattle we stumbled upon my old photo albums. We found a photo of myself at 8 and my sister Christina with the caption "at the train museum in Green Bay." One of Myrna's favorite spots in Stockholm was the Transport Museum, so there was no question that we would be visiting the National Railroad Museum. I guess I don't really remember what it was like 25 years ago, but I'm fairly sure it got a lot bigger and a lot cooler since then. We were fans of the drumhead collection.

There were lots and lots of trains to run around in. Myrna tested out a sleeper car, but only after she stopped to take off her sandals, as shoes are not allowed in beds.

She's still learning how to work the engine, though.

And what trip to a train museum wouldn't be complete without a ticket for a train ride.

This was the first outing just the three of us took in the midwest, and we were thankful that Myrna wasn't too disappointed about the lack of non-parent-company. Keeping in the railroad theme, Chris and I enjoyed a late lunch at Titletown Brewery (housed in an old train station a few miles away) while Myrna slept off her train frolicking. Not quite sure which would be more (un)-comfortable: her stroller or that sleeper car.