Gaffigan, a governor, and Aaron turns five

We’ve had a busy, busy week here in Omaha mixing work and fun and family all together — with a little bit of gorgeous weather along with it.

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First up was Unite, a huge event held by the Archdiocese of Omaha. The Pope Paul VI Institute, where I work, was one of about a dozen organizations invited to showcase their work to several thousand Catholics who came to participate at the Qwest/CenturyLink/CHI Center in worship, mass, and fun. Our booth was the result of six months of planning, with graphics and banners and eight keynote speakers at our corner of the concourse. I was on hand to take loads of pictures for several hours, so I definitely got my “steps” for the day.

As a reward, Vivian and I got to see a performance by Jim Gaffigan in the afternoon. We’d seen several of Gaffigan’s routines on Netflix previously and were well versed in his food-related humor (specifically Hotpockets). I was also aware he was a Catholic, which was likely part of the reason he was recruited as the “draw” for this event. His set included a few jokes specific to Omaha, including comments on the Runza (and how its name tells you what it gives you). We got seats fairly close tot he front, and I was even able to smuggle in my camera to get a few halfway-decent snapshots for the blog.

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Then on Sunday after church we had a birthday party for Aaron with some friends at Elmwood Park. The weather went from mid-90s to 70 literally overnight, so the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for playing on swings, slides, and sand toys during the afternoon, getting a little exercise before getting sugared up.

A bunch of Aaron’s little friends were able to join us, as were mom and dad and Uncles Nathan and Jonny. Donna and Vivian had prepared a birthday cake decorated with characters from “True,” Aaron’s current favorite show on Netflix, which we cut into around 3:30 (and even lit candles on for a few seconds). Then Aaron got to open a few presents before calling it a day.

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In the meantime, Wildewood Church is having a week-long VBS with the theme “In the Wild.” Because of Aaron’s birthday (and sheer exhaustion) we weren’t able to attend the opening night. We were able to drop in on Monday, which was a lot of fun. They had some outdoor activities and crafts that parents and kids were invited to participate in, as well as songs with crazy hand motions that felt more like 80s-style aerobics. They also had a bible story and a snack sandwiched in the middle. I wasn’t entirely sure if we’d have the energy to participate with all the other stuff going on this week, but the kids seemed to have a lot of fun, and Vivian and I wound up crawling on the ground on all fours along with them.

This was actually the first VBS I’d actually attended since I was a kid, and I was amazed at the amount of work and energy the volunteers must have put in to pull it off.

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Then on Tuesday I got to meet Steve Bullock, Democrat Presidential Candidate and Governor of Montana, over my lunch break. His meet-and-greet was held at Barley’s in Council Bluffs, of course, which has become the go-to place for Presidential candidates for reasons I can’t quite understand. He spoke briefly with reporters (and Tom Becka) outside on the sidewalk before speaking to a crowd of a couple dozen inside afterward. He hit a bunch of fairly standard Democrat talking points, such as climate change and “women’s health” (AKA abortion), and he emphasized his work as a lawyer with the IBEW union.

The crowd was largely friendly, and I shook his hand afterward telling him that I hoped whoever becomes President in 2020 can help heal the divide in our country.

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Then that evening we celebrated Aaron’s actual birthday with pizza and presents with the family. I got three large pizzas from Papa Murphy’s for dinner, partly to ensure leftovers for a couple days, and we ate with Pop-Pop, Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle Jonny. Then Aaron got to open a few more presents, which included a glowing dinosaur nightlight from Uncle Jonny, a soccer ball from grandma, a cornhole game from Grammy, a marble chute construction set, a singing Baby Shark from Hannah, and a periscope from Grandpa (which Hannah immediately seemed to take possession of).

We also had a second cake, this one being decorated inexplicably with Hannah being eaten by an alligator while Aaron looks on with a shark (I still don’t get it).

We’ll have more fun forthcoming this week, and hopefully I’ll have the chance to catch my breath soon. Maybe for Father’s Day.

Summer schooled

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Summer vacation doesn’t seem like it’ll be happening this year, as we suddenly find ourselves busy every moment of the activity between work, school, and summer activities together (and also some time at the park hunting for mushrooms). Grammy is taking off for a month-long trip to see family in California, so we had her over for one last haircut and then a goodbye dinner with the kids before she left.

In the meantime, both Hannah and Aaron are going to be in summer school full-time for around a month. This is a whole new public school experience for both of them, but we thought it would be a good experience to try something new, at least for a few weeks, to see how it goes. They both seem particularly happy about riding the bus to school, and mommy and daddy have been watching them take off every day this week.

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Then on Tuesday, we spent an evening at Lauritzen Gardens with the Mills. The Bellevue Public Library was hosting a free event showing us a variety of “wicked” plants and letting us plant our own venus flytraps, which was particularly fun. At the same time, an oldies cover band called the Greasers was playing to several hundred gray-haired Boomers who seemed to cover every free space of green in the patio area out back.

Once we were done with our plants, we walked right past and spent an hour or two exploring the gardens, looking at the trains, gnomes, and usual sights such as the children’s garden, the Japanese shrine (and dance hut), and a rose garden in full bloom. It was a quieter night than we’ve ever spent, and it felt very much like we had the gardens to ourselves.

This next week, we’ll have a trifecta of events to bring summer busy-ness to a fever pitch — namely Arch Omaha Unite with Jim Gaffigan on Saturday, Aaron’s birthday, and a week of VBS filling every other spare moment. Maybe when that’s over I’ll have another blog update for you (but not before)!

Memorial Day Weekend

We’re having a lovely spring, with baby bunnies running through our yard and the lilac, peonies, and hostas all in bloom. We had a couple thunderstorms as well, one of which blew out the side panels in our deck and knocked a tree down across the street. Fortunately, they haven’t done much worse — or interrupted any of our fun, outdoor activities.

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First up was the first outdoor movie of the year at the SumTur Amphitheater (AKA the “Movie Park”). Some middle-school age kids were giving some kind of performance with the “House of Music” through much of the evening, playing some cover songs as the kids got to run around on the grass for a couple of hours.

Then, (well) after the sun went down, we got to watch Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, an animated film that featured various incarnations of Marvel’s web-slinger. It was a fairly interesting movie, though it was played several decibels too loud for my liking and was far more violent than I expected from the Dove review I’d checked out.

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I got a good deal of exercise over the weekend cleaning gutters and mowing my parents’ lawn. We also had dinner with our friends the Lenarts on Saturday and spent Sunday afternoon swimming at the Kroc Center to cool off.

Then on Memorial Day, we broke out the American flag and walked the kids to my parents’ house to have beef ribs (and cobbler). Jack and Donna joined us, as did as my two brothers. After we ate, Grandma brought out some old photos to show Hannah her grandpa in his army uniform. We’d told the kids the meaning of Memorial Day, which Hannah managed to illustrate in her sketchbook later on.

We enjoyed the outdoors a bit more in the afternoon, playing some ball with the kids and uncles in the backyard and then playing a few other games indoors before calling it a day.

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In other news, the kids will both be attending all-day summer school through the month of June. This was an elective decision on our part to give them both time for intense socialization in a public school environment without making a full-year commitment. As such, we had one last lunchtime rendezvous at “daddy’s park,” giving the kids the chance to swing and splash about in the recently-activated fountains by the spire. I even brought along a chance of clothes so I could join in with them. We won’t be able to do this again until July or so.

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Then on Thursday night, I dropped by St. Luke’s in South Omaha for a town hall with Congressman Don Bacon. He holds these types of events regularly (unlike his predecessor), so I try to take advantage of the opportunity whenever I can. The room was about half Republican and half Democrat, if my gauge of the applause and boos are correct. Everyone had the chance to submit a question, which were pulled at random from a box. My question was what he though he’d be ale to do with the other party controlling the house. “We need to do better at that … It’s a frustrating thing,” he responded.

There weren’t too many fireworks, but I was surrounded by constituents who were grumbling, sighing, and even yelling out their own opinions out of turn throughout the event, so it was a bit difficult for me to bite my tongue and stay silent. Still, it was a good exercise in self-control, and it felt good to know we live in a country where you’re allowed to yell at your congressman without getting thrown in prison.

Parks and Politics

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Well, we’re getting a taste of summer in the midst of spring, with temps going from 90 to 55 like they just saw a state trooper. As such, we’re taking advantage of every opportunity when the weather’s gorgeous to take the kids out for quality park time, running up the Keystone Trail, swinging on the playground, and getting a semi-serious family selfie like we’re ready to drop an album.

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Then after park time, I dropped by DJ’s Dugout to hang out with some Young Republicans. I’m a bit too old now to be a YR myself, but I was still invited along to hear a few words from Mayor Jean on the state of the city. A few other local Reps were also on hand, such as Congressman Bacon’s communications chief Kyle, to give a few updates.

Mickey Manley (whose party affiliation I’m unsure of) was also there to encourage the youngster to join his Facebook group called “500 Millennials of Omaha,” which seems to be a lively place on social media to say the least.

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On Saturday, we had a fun outing with the kids to Mahoney State Park, which had free admission for the day. We took an obligatory trip to the top of the (perpetually shaking) observation tower to get a good look at the Platte River together and get a few goofy photos). Then we explored the forest near the river down at ground level afterward (and climbed a tree or two), as well as the lodge. We spent more time down at the newly-refurbished playground, trying out the rope bridge, merry-go-round, racing snail, and family swing.

We drove a few miles north to Ashland and had a quiet lunch at Breadeaux Pizza afterward. We walked up and down Silver Street just long enough to look at some meat before stopping by another playground just until some rain clouds came moving in.

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Then that evening, we watched Aquaman and planted a garden the next day. Then on Monday, I dipped into the political waters again to have dinner with the Governor down at the Garden Cafe. Gave a 40-minute talk to a handful of the River City Republicans to talk about on-going relief efforts from the massive flooding we had back in March, which included rebuilding major roadways and bridges. He also talked about taxes, specifically two bills in the legislature that will likely be raising them if they manage to pass.

There was some brief Q&A afterward, and I got to talk a bit with Ricketts about his recently “kicking over the hornets nest” posting support of pro-life bills in Alabama and Georgia. He’d recently been told by some left-wing groups that they were planning to protest him over it, which didn’t seem to phase him in the slightest.

Mother’s Day Weekend

So Spring is still here, which this year is including far more not-blistering-hot and not-still-snowing days than last year. It also seems to include far more birthdays, for reasons I can’t fully understand.

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We kicked off the weekend last week with a trip down to Stinson Park with the kids after work. We mostly avoided the Heart Walk preparations, which were happening at the same time. Our friend Ryan was in charge of that, so Tamra brought Quinn (and grandpa) down while that happened.

Our kids got in some quality swing time and running around, and I tried unsuccessfully once again to introduce them to dim sum for dinner. Hannah seemed to like the Vietnamese spring rolls, but Aaron only wanted the fortune cookies.

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The next day, our friend Kate celebrated all three of her girls’ birthdays simultaneously down at the Armbrust YMCA. We got to have cake and ice cream with a veritable herd of other little ones running around (and getting sugared up). Then we managed to fill an Olympic-sized pool for an hour splashing around together with mommies, daddies, and siblings.

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This year, Vivian and I decided to split Mother’s Day between our two respective moms, which meant I took my folks out to dinner at Roma’s on Fort Crook. It was a decent family-style restaurant just down the street from us with giant portions of Italian-American standards, like the chicken parmigiana, which I had (and bread rolls). Vivian stayed home with the kids, negating the need for a babysitter and giving me some rare one-on-one time with the folks.

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The next day, of course, was Mother’s Day. After church, Vivian and her mom spent the afternoon together shopping at both the World Market and the Old Market (no relation).

I stayed home with the kids, helping them prepare a homemade Mother’s Day card for mommy, which included one from Zoey. Jack was busy making some ribs and potatoes for dinner, and I contributed with some roasted broccoli and my first-ever loaf of homemade bread. I had to scramble to find a recipe that didn’t require five hours of “proving” to have it ready in time, but it turned out surprisingly well, with a nice, hard crust that I knew Vivian liked. We ate together with the kids and then let mommy open a few of her Mother’s Day presents before breaking out the chocolate cream pie Grammy brought with her.

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The next day, we had a belated birthday party for our little friend August. A cluster of his little friends (and their moms) gathered at the reclusive Twin Ridge Park II between Ft. Crook and Highway 75. The kids had fun spinning on the merry-go-round before and after getting sugared up with a tasty camping cake, courtesy of Donna. I stayed long enough to get a few pictures and then went to tear up our garden at home in preparation for a season of home-grown tomatoes (and other produce, probably).

Cinco de Mayo Weekend

It seems like we’re always busiest when we’re having fun, and even though I’ve been plenty busy at work lately, it doesn’t compare to our non-stop activity all throughout the weekend.

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On Friday morning, Aaron had an end-of-year “spring concert” with his little friends at Spring Lake. They sang a handful of songs for us, complete with the motions (and egg shakers) you’d expect with any children’s song. They also had displays for every class showing some of their activities throughout the year, including visits from Grammy and the raptor handlers from Fontenelle Forest. Mommy, Hannah, and Grammy came along as well, and I came just long enough to snap some pictures before heading back to work.

Then that evening Vivian and I finally watched Avengers: Endgame over a big old bowl of popcorn. We are now spoiler-proof!

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Then on Saturday morning, I took Hannah down to 24th and G to watch the Cinco de Mayo parade in South Omaha. We hadn’t been there for a couple years, and we discovered there are now barricades all along the parade route. The parade itself had the standard Mexicans dancers, costumers, horses, and Hydraulic Bouncing Lowriders. There were also numerous Halloween-themed participants, which was even more bizarre than the guy in a kilt. There were a few politicians as well, and I gave Mayor Stothert props for picking up a stray plastic bag that skittered its way across 24th street. Hannah was able to fill a big with so much candy she had trouble carrying with us back to the car.

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I returned home with enough time to catch my breath before heading right back across the river to see Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. A couple hundred people (and some vendors) showed up to Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear him prattle off platitudes like an old-timey preacher, but what impressed me most was his Q&A, where his first question was from a guy wearing a Gadsden Flag as a cape (and a “Make Taxation Theft Again” hat). That took either guts or complete ignorance. He also answered a question in both English and Spanish, reminding me of how I liked Marco Rubio being able to bring a message home to Spanish-speaking Americans.

Beto stuck around for photos with everyone afterward, but I didn’t get the chance to shake his hand or way hello — I had to stay on schedule!

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I returned home for a quick bite to eat and then headed right back out again for a free night at the Zoo! It had been a while since we’d all gone as a family. so it felt good to be back among such familiar sights as the giant globe and gorilla statues. Many of the animals seemed to be sleeping, though the bats in the jungle area were wide awake (and pooping on everyone). The aquarium was still open as well, making for as lovely as walk-through as always. We got to see a handful of monkeys, birds, and otters hanging around, and we also went through the butterfly pavilion before wrapping things up. Hannah finished our visit by chasing a peacock around before we headed on out.

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Then on Sunday, we went back to the La Vista Sports Complex to fly a kite with Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Jonny after church. This has been a family tradition for a couple years now, and we almost missed it thanks to a line of thunderstorms that were nice enough to pass us by. Dad let me assemble the kite and get it airborne this year. The wind was strong enough to make it fairly easy, and we even got to tie Tinkerbell to the center strut to spend some time in the sky. It was just about as perfect an afternoon as you could ask for, and the kids even got to have ice cream before we headed home (courtesy of Uncle Jonny).

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I got some food from Aldi for Cinco de Mayo and then headed home to give the lawn a quick mow before it started raining (for the entire week). We were lucky to have lovely weather almost all weekend long, giving us a chance to enjoy our briefly-blooming tulips and lilac, even Zoey the Cat got to spend some time outside.

Vivian made up some tacos for the kids, which Aaron helped her to make. Then once the kids were in bed, we had some tasty tilapia ceviche together, devouring two pounds of fish between the two of us while watching the Three Amigos together, a film I hadn’t seen since I was a kid (and didn’t find as funny as I’d hoped).

It was a busy, busy weekend, but now I have a week back at work to rest up before the next round of fun!

Springtime Fire pit

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On Monday last week, Hannah celebrated her last day with her Classical Conversations classmates for the year. The students and teachers (AKA “tutors”) gave a brief presentation for the grown-ups of the various memory work they’d done that year, and then each the students got a certificate before breaking for refreshments downstairs. I have to admit after two years of homeschooling, I’ve found it has lot more schooling outside of “home” than I expected. Between our two home school groups, Hannah’s been able to enjoy multiple field trips, special guests at her co-op, and extra classes to learn things like sewing outside her standard curriculum. This year, Vivian and I even managed to prepare a real yearbook for all the students (which thankfully we finished in time for them to sign). Aaron still has a few more weeks to go.

Springtime weather seems to be hanging on, despite a cold snap that brought more snow to other parts of the country. As such, I had our first lunchtime rendezvous with Vivian and the kids on Wednesday, taking them to Elmwood Park to play for an hour or two (as Stinson Park is currently being renovated). I got to take a few nice, long lunchtime walks on other days, making my way past some lovely blossoms (and less lovely geese) on the Keystone Trail just to grab some flavored coffee in time for Cinco de Mayo.

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Our own yard had been in bloom as well, with an explosion of tulips we’d planted last October adding to the color of our yard. We also have some lilac ready to bloom in the backyard, which only lasts about a week when we get it (if it blooms at all).

Then on Friday night, we burned off the various branches and sticks that had fallen over the past year in a lovely fire pit. We invited our friends the Mills over to grill hot dogs and roast marshmallows (or vegetables) over the open flame while the kids ran around and played together. Aaron was especially tuckered out, crashing both Friday night and again Saturday afternoon.

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In other news, Hannah and Mommy had a lovely time at the Prims’ Princess party, which happened on Saturday. I’d write more about that if I couldn’t, but it was a girls’ only event. Maybe Mommy will update her blog and tell you more about it.

Dave Rubin and Easter Weekend

The trees are blossoming, the daffodils and tulips are coming up, and the Johnson Family is as busy as ever, mostly having fun with warmer weather and celebrating Easter with our family — and according to my calendar, it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

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On Tuesday, I went to the lats Men of God event at Wildewood of the year, which included boneless pork ribs, which I ate entirely too much of (i.e. two). Then on Wednesday, Dave Rubin — a “classical liberal” and host of the Rubin Report — came to UN-O courtesy of Turning Point USA. He was the first major speaker for the newly-created campus group, and at least 100 packed one lecture hall about a mile from where I work to hear his talk.

I’d been listening to Rubin’s “long-format conversation” talk show for a couple years now, so it was exciting to see him in person. He talked for about an hour and then had an hour of Q&A from the audience. I had the opportunity to recommend one of my favorite films to him, Brazil, as an example of the best “libertarian” film out there. I saw many familiar faces in the crowd, which was largely friendly, and most attendees stayed to meet and greet Rubin afterward (including me, of course). Special kudos to Matt Anderson for pulling off his first major event for the TPUSA Omaha chapter.

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The next evening, I went to RiffTrax live to see the awful rubber-suited Octaman. Most of the usual crew couldn’t make it, save for Ben Peet, so it was a fairly quiet event, though I did get to use Richard Burney’s seat for extra space, which was nice. Then at home, I brought out some matzo crackers I’d gotten for Passover, which Vivian and I had with some kosher wine.

Then we kicked off a long Easter Weekend with some friends from the Bellevue Area Christian Homeschoolers (BACH) in a newer “suburb” of north downtown. They had a live sheep on hand (for petting) and a table full of bible-era food for us to eat together (and a campfire for s’mores). Our hostess also gave a long talk about Passover, Good Friday, and scriptures relating to it, but our kids seemed more interested in the play area until the food was ready.

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The Easter fun continued Saturday morning as we drove down to Lincoln for an Easter Egg Hunt and party — at the Governor’s Mansion of all places! We parked right next to the Capitol and joined a couple dozen other families for fun in the Governor’s backyard (literally) — face painting, cookie decorating, live ducks, an Easter Bunny and a little egg hunting, of course. Gov. Ricketts was also on-hand to meet and greet guests, getting pictures with nearly everyone in the process.

It was a fun event, and the weather couldn’t have been better. It was also free, with only a request for canned goods for the local food pantry. I’m not sure how we managed to get an invite, but I’m glad we were able to come, since our usual Easter egg hunting venue (Bellevue Christian Church) was cancelled in lieu of flood relief work.

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Of course, we also had to walk across the street for a quick look at the Capitol afterward. I showed the kids the statue of Abraham Lincoln and showed Hannah where our State Senator works. We spent most of our time up in the rotunda, though, taking in the view from the highest point in the city. We grabbed a little lunch on our way out of town, which included spring rolls and beef pho from Pho Nguyen.

That evening, after cleaning house a bit for Easter, the kids got to color and decorate some eggs together at our kitchen table before calling it a night.

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Then came Easter Sunday! We all dressed up for church (including Hannah’s dolls) and stopped on the way by grandma and grandpa’s house to hide some licorice jelly beans from the “Easter Bunny” (which they found afterward). Then back home, we let the kids hunt for eggs in the front and back yards as Grammy and Pop-Pop came over to watch. We had a few Easter cards appear in our mailbox in the process, as well as some special additions to our yard.

We had some hors d’oeuvres inside afterward, and then Vivian made a glazed ham with her dad for Easter Dinner, among several other things. My mom and dad dropped by later with Uncles Nathan and Jonathan, and the kids set the table for us to eat shortly after four. There was plenty of food, and I managed to stuff myself without even going back to seconds of anything. Of course, there was also dessert — fudge and shortbread cookies (which the kids helped make) as well as frozen pies from Village Inn and Marie Callender.

It was a long, fun weekend, but now that spring is underway and summer is almost here, we’ll have lots more going on before we can take a breath!

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Happy Easter, everyone!

Fish, Lions, Spaghetti, and the Mads

It’s been another crazy, busy week at work and home for the Johnson Family (fueled by avocado toast), but at the end of it, we finally have a car once again, which was a relief. I was able to use it for several errands, including a lunchtime rendezvous with Vivian, Grammy, and the kids.

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On Friday, we had our second fish fry of the year, this time landing at our traditional haunt, St. John Vianney. Our kids braved a cold and windy evening to play on the playground as we waited for our friends the Mills to arrive. Then we braved a shorter-than-usual line to get our annual dinner of fish, French fries, grilled cheese, tomato, and pancakes. Guitar Guy was there, as usual, to lead us all in “bah bah baaing” along to Sweet Caroline. When the food was gone, there was still time for some silly photos, and even Frank stopped by to frighten everyone with a new profile picture.

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On Saturday morning, Hannah had an appointment to “read” a book with a sweet therapy dog named Gillian at the Bellevue Public Library. Then we stuck around for a performance of martial arts and Chinese Lion dancing courtesy of the Jing Mo Tong Athletic Association (from Lincoln). I’d never seen a performance like this before, which involved throwing tangerines and lettuce at the audience, among other things. We hung around afterward so the kids could touch a few of the lion costumes before heading home.

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I took the kids out for some park time that afternoon. Then that evening, I dressed up went to see MST3K veterans Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu (AKA “the Mads“) once again for their third annual visit to the Alamo Theater. This was my third time seeing them riffing life, and my dad, brothers, and Richard Burney all came along as well. The movie of the evening was “The Creature Walks Among Us,” the third film in the “Creature form the Black Lagoon” trilogy, and the Mads’ riffing helped us get through some of the more tedious moments of the film, of which there were plenty (90% of them involving slow-moving boats).

Of course, I hung around afterward for the meet-and-greet, since getting a selfie with the villains from one of my favorite shows is always a thrill, even if I’d done it three times before.

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Sunday night, Wildewood church had a fundraiser spaghetti dinner for a young lady named Lexi, who’s been diagnosed with stage four bone cancer. Many local businesses donated food for the event, and there seemed to be a fairly good turnout, as the food was nearly gone when it was time for us to go. Hannah got her face-painted like a dalmatian and then got in some running around afterward with Aaron. Our kids can have fun with just a big empty field and a tree, which is a happy break from video games — now that we have the weather for it (random blizzards up north notwithstanding).

Crossing Bridges and Remembering Elephants

Well the flood waters are receding, and despite the promise of more winter coming tomorrow, it feels like spring may be here at least. Now if only, it would stay put.

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On Tuesday last week, we took the kids out to enjoy some of the weather down at the now not-flooded River’s Edge Park. There were still some wet spots, along with plenty of dirt and debris to be found — a piece of which looks like the remnant of some poor person’s home or furniture. Fortunately, it sounds like Loessfest will simply be delayed until Labor Day rather than cancelled, so we’ll get to enjoy one concert sometime this year (no word yet on the one at Memorial Park).

The near sunset we walked across the river with a couple hundred others for Autism Awareness Day. The mayors of Omaha and Council Bluffs met at the halfway point to say a few words, and there were a handful of mascots on hand to meet and greet everyone. People were also dressed in blue for the occasion, though we had to head on home before the bridge was actually lit up in blue for the evening. Hannah and Aaron seemed to have more fun running around in the rock garden below pretending to be chased.

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On Thursday night, Vivian and I attended the Elephant Remembers dinner with the Douglas County Republican Party. It was apparently a sold-out event with the Omaha Hilton filled to capacity with guests. We saw many familiar faces in the crowd, including a handful of friends mingling among the politicians. Scott Voorhees was emcee and featured speakers included Mayor Stothert, Congressman Bacon, Gov. Ricketts, and both Nebraska Senators (Sasse and Fischer).

We ate dinner as the event continued, and Vivian cut up the giant Wheatfield’s cake for our table (not waiting for anyone else to tell us to do so). The Senator Sasse introduced Tim Scott, Senator from South Carolina, who was the keynote speaker of the evening. According to Sasse, they almost didn’t make it, as Chuck Schumer had been holding up a nominee in the Senate. This kept Sasse and Scott on the floor until the vote was held, missing their flight and having to charter a plane instead. Sen. Scott then said a few words on his upbringing and religious faith before being awarded the title “Admiral” of “the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska” by Gov. Ricketts.

As usual, it felt good to be able to rub elbows with once again with many of the people I get to vote for. I got to personally thank Sasse for his recent “Born Alive” bill in the Senate, which he lamented 44 senators voted against. I also told Ricketts we were keeping him in our prayers as we’re all still dealing with the disastrous flooding last month. I told him that times like these might pull some people apart, but Nebraskans pull together instead.

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In other news, I got to enjoy eating out a couple times, once at Arby’s with Vivian and Aaron and then against with my dad for breakfast in thanks for his chauffeuring me to work these past few weeks (as I’m waiting on a new car).

Then on Saturday, my dad smoked some ribs and had the whole family over for dinner, including uncles Nathan and Jonny. The weather was nice enough to eat outside in the yard (and climb a tree), and my dad also went through another one of his trunks with us in the basement (so we’d know what all this stuff was should be ever pass on unexpectedly).

We finished off the evening with dessert and charades inside before calling it a night.

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On Sunday, Vivian went to a “sharing day” with the Omaha cake club, learning how to make a mermaid tail (which she brought home).

Then that evening, we took the kids down for an evening at the Children’s Museum. They got to engage in their favorite activities, including cooking pretend food, painting on windows, being on TV, applying make-up, playing with balls, riding dinosaurs, making music, and trying out some sports (among other things). What made tonight different, aside from being free, is that a lot of the usual noisemakers were turned off specifically for autistic kids, who were invited to come. That made for a very slightly less noisy and chaotic visit than usual.

Next stop: fish frying and The Mads (again).