Thursday, July 30, 2009

I’ll Have the Usual

Please make a note:  If you come to visit the Berkes, we will insist that you visit the Spam Museum.  We do, after all, live in Spam Town, USA.  So when John’s nephew and his girlfriend came to visit, we led the way to the local tourist trap.


Play Date 004They have this little station that looks like a diner, and the egg yolk is the mouse, and the butter is the clicker.

Drew and Ethan looked right at home.Play Date 003


  Play Date 007 And Ethan always enjoys testing his strength by pulling this rope to lift a huge crate full of Spam.  I think he now, at age 10, officially weighs more than a crate of Spam.  Victory!


And here are Meg and Drew, testing out a new career on the factory line canning Spam.  I think they enjoyed it, but I guess they are still heading off to college.

Play Date 014 Play Date 015

In fact, they left today.  We enjoyed having them for a spell. 

The kids did too, although they are glad to reclaim their space on the top floor.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Really Stinks

Good morning.  I am out of bed early—kicked out, really.  Gertie came in during the night, sardined me up against my husband, and I woke up with a kink in my neck, an ache in my shoulder, and a horrible smell being blown in by the fan in my window.

The Hormel plant is located about a mile west of our house.  We did know this when we moved into this house.  What we did not know, is that occasionally, the very thick smell of burning pork comes rolling straight to us on the breezes that blow by.  We were horrified by this, and I thought my husband was going to pack up all we own and move our family again.

That was back when we moved in.  And since then we’ve realized it is only occasionally, and for a brief period of time.  We’ve made it.  We’ve put it mostly out of our minds.

This last week, however, the air has been very thick again with that horrible smell.  For long stretches of time.  Gagging stretches.  Last night I was threatening to call the City and tell on Hormel.  Do you think they’d shut Hormel down?  I’m thinking they won’t.  Do you think they’d insist Hormel do something more environmentally friendly about their burning pork flesh emissions?  I’m just not sure they would. 

I have been reminded just recently that people around these parts call that the “Smell of Money.” Pew.

In other more fragrant news, we’ve had John’s nephew Drew and his girlfriend Meg staying with us this last week.  They are on their way from Pennsylvania (home) to South Dakota (college), and asked if they could stay with us and hitch a ride with us when we go back for the reunion weekend.  It’s been fun having them around, and they’ve been very helpful every time they’ve been asked to chip in.  I know my kids are very much enjoying having them around.  Especially Gertie.  Especially Ethan.  Especially Grace. 

We’ve (really Grace) also been watching a friend’s kids during the morning hours this week.  Gertie’s been loving having the playmates.  She’s tuckered out by bedtime.  And sometimes before. 

I need to take some pictures of all these goings-on.  I’ve put that on my list for today.

Ethan has his last baseball game of the season tonight.  I’m debating whether or not I should wash that dusty uniform from Monday night’s game or just slap it on him dusty.  It’s the last game.  (Does that really matter, it being the last game and all?)

I’ve put that on my list as well.

Grace got a new bike.  She keeps growing.  That really makes me mad.

I am so excited for our upcoming vacations.  The first is the South Dakota one where all of John’s siblings and their kids and their kids are coming for visit.  That is going to be so fun.  John’s mom turns 80 this year, the reason for the big celebration.  But sshhh.  Don’t tell her it’s all about her.  She doesn’t know that yet.

Then we head straight up to Northern Minnesota, for a much smaller reunion with my Dad and Stepmom and my sisters.  We’ve not explored Minnesota north of the Twin Cities at all yet.  I can’t believe that is true.  But I’m really looking forward to this get-together.  We have two full weeks of fun packed in right before school kicks up again.

Better get to that list.  It keeps growing as I sit here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Zip Line

P1330768Here we are before we start.  This is going to be fun!



 P1330789This guy was making all these funny faces each time he was in a picture.  But here is my sweet Abby.  Beautiful.

 P1330791 And my cool Uncle Dale.  Zip lining.  He is a stud.

P1330825I know these are too many pictures.  Many are the same, but it was my adventure, and I’m posting it in full.


  P1330828I thought this was a beautiful view.


 P1330830 P1330861 And here we are in the sky.

P1330857P1330854  P1330859 P1330858 

It was fun.  And the last piece of my Panama postings, finally. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gertie was hard at work today. This is important stuff. Let me know when you figure it out.
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grace is 13!

My Big Girl turned 13 last week. We had a super-successful slumber party. Fun was had by all. She deserves a better tribute than this, but I'm playing catchup again. This is what she gets.
My sister Julie had won some concert tickets that she wasn't going to be able to use. She passed them onto John, and he recruited Brian Kniffen. He brought his family with him, including wife Amy, which I was grateful for, because she kept me company through that super-successful slumber party. She definitely helped make it super-successful.

This is Colton. He had a lot of wisdom he passed around freely. I learned a lot.

We fished. Wyatt didn't really catch any fish, but he reeled in a stick or two.

And we jumped. It was some good fun.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009


So much has happened in this busy life of mine…school ended, I got away for two whole nights alone with my husband, Grace was great in the play, Ethan’s deep into baseball…

But I don’t have time to catch you up on all that.  Things have been good.  That will have to suffice.

The big deal is that I went to Panama to visit my sister.  I had the best time I possibly could have asked for.  I had asked my Uncle to go with me, and he obliged.  He treated us like princesses the whole time.  I felt so very blessed.  He drove us where we wanted to go.  He stopped to eat when we were hungry.  He saw what we wanted to see.  I hope it was over-the-top fun for him as well.

Most of you probably know, but my sister Abby lives in Panama.  She’s in the Peace Corp over there.  I really wanted to see her and know her in her own element.  And I got to.  She is a lovely young lady just seeped in the culture over there.  She loves them and they love her.  I was in awe of her ability to speak the Spanish language so fluently.  In awe. 

I tried to determine best how to do this post, and I guess I decided on a slideshow.  Probably boring at some points for even my two most devoted fans (Mother and Step Mother), but considering my time constraints, and the huge amount of pictures, I think that’s best.  **I just watched it, and it is slow.  I am sorry.  I am leaving it.  It took forever to create.  Don’t feel obliged to watch.  There will be no quiz. 


Now how do I blog out all my special memories?  I just don’t know.  I’ll try to hit only the high points.

Dale and I arrived in Panama City relatively early in the day, but we had the hardest time finding the hotel.  Finally Uncle Dale paid a cab driver to lead us there.  The upside is that I got to see so much of Panama City.  My first impressions were:  colorful, lots of trash, lots of people, wild buses, sky scrapers.

We finally found Abby, and it was so good to see her.  She looked good.  We were so hungry, so we found a nice restaurant.  Abby and Uncle Dale both speak Spanish so well, and I realized right then I was going to do a lot of smiling and nodding, as I had no clue what was being said.  But the smile was genuine.  I loved listening to them talk.

The next morning we hiked up to the tippy top of Panama City (these places actually have genuine names other than tippy top, but that’s how I remember them).  The city is beautiful.  The vegetation is so interesting and lovely.  I wanted to photograph everything.  Shameless tourist.

I found my favorite souvenir in the trash on our way home from this hike.  It is an old window, I believe, about three feet high, with the metal decorative bars running up and down.  Very shabby chic looking.  My favorite thing.  Shameless tourist.

We visited the canal.  Huge.  Really nice museum there in Panama City.  The Panamanians are very proud of their work with the Canal, and they should be.  Got a history lesson on how it came to be.  Loved the education.

We drove to the beach at Santa Clara and stayed a night there.  Not much time to spend, but it was also beautiful.  We had a stray dog in heat and her suitors that followed us everywhere.  Wonderful morning to wake up next to the water.

Very long drive to “Abby’s town.”  She always called it “my town,” so the name of her town never really sunk in.  I do know it.  But not right now.  The drive was tough because it was raining hard all the way there.  Six hours (or what seemed like six hours).  Uncle Dale had a meeting later in the week in Panama City and decided to take the midnight bus instead of drive back there.  I don’t blame him.

Abby’s town is small.  Her house is small, but cute.  I was shamefully scared of bugs and such, but I forged ahead.  I truly loved the adventure.  Abby has a dog named Lula that keeps her on her toes.  The town is basically all along one (or two) roads.  So different from the US. 

We visited a school and I took pictures of those adorable kids.  Irresistible.  See for yourself.  The school was hosting an environmental fair of some sort.  The kids had made these banners and they had a program of some sort (remember, I understood absolutely nothing.  Smile and nod.), and then they had a parade. 

We visited Cerro Punta.  My favorite place.  It was gorgeous farm country where they grow most of the area’s vegetables.  It makes a beautiful pattern on the hillsides.  Dale and I talked too deep too long, and Abby got fed up.  And the country was really worth some silence.  Strawberries and cream on the way home.  Absolutely delicious.  I hated not being able to finish it.  It followed a filling lunch.  Lots of good food on this trip.

Abby and I had the next day to ourselves.  It was a slower day, but I just enjoyed it with my sister.  I got to know her so well.  And I like her.  I knew I did, but I treasured this time.  I am so proud of her, making her way in this far off place.  We ate at the local restaurant.  The food was delicious.  I took a picture of the restaurant and the ladies that ran it.  They were too good to us.

We also visited the school that Abby works at.  I took more pictures of kids.  They loved having their pictures taken, and then looking at the pictures.  Sweet smiles.  I loved being swarmed by them.  The ants swarmed me and bit me too.  And I didn’t like that so much.  But those kids mobbing me was the best.  All I needed was a camera.

We went to Boquette the next day.  Uncle Dale came in from the bus at about 6:45am, and we said, “We need to leave in five minutes.”  He said, “Okay.  I’ll just grab some breakfast and change my clothes.”  We said, “No time for that.”  Bless his soul, he got right back in the car and headed off for the zip line.  I told you he was good to us.  The zip line was fun.  Those pictures will have to follow.  There were some fun ones.

Uncle Dale took us to a Peruvian restaurant in Boquette for lunch.  He wanted us to try some foods he knows to be delicious, and I did.  I wanted to try them, really.  I genuinely liked the cow’s heart.  I know that’s probably not that big of a deal, but I’ve never eaten the heart before.  And then some sort of fish that is “cooked” with lime juice and no real cooking.  It really wasn’t too bad.

And the next day it was basically time to head home.  We drove back to Panama City and stayed in a nice hotel close to the airport to avoid any mishaps.  All went well.

I learned I love to be around my sister.  My Uncle Dale is full of humility and grace.  He treated us better than we deserved.  Abby is strong and determined and graceful and beautiful.  I missed my family, and wanted to share all of it with them.  I couldn’t have survived without a Spanish speaker.  Thank the Lord I had two.  My first trip out of this country, and there wasn’t a bad minute for me.