Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fun, fun, fun

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The Johnson Family has been having fun, fun, fun here in Omaha, and we didn’t even need to get a Thunderbird. On Tuesdays for the last month or two, Hannah (now 18 months) has been having fun participating in “Mud Pies” at the Fontenelle Nature Center. It’s a program for small children where they can explore the outdoors, paint pictures, and yes, even make mud pies. It’s been a fun weekly activity for her and a chance to spend quality time with Grammy.

On Thursday last week, Friendship Program had its Senior Prom. Vivian was able to recruit me to come and take pictures of staff and participants in front of an archway of balloons she’d made up with her co-workers. They also had a singing, dancing DJ to help get everyone up on their feet. Everyone dressed up and had a great time, including Vivian and me. I have to admit it’s great to be involved with such a fun organization!

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On Saturday, Vivian and I were bored, and she happened to discover that the Beach Boys were going to be in town performing a free concert to a crowd of 17,000 at the new River Edge Park in Council Bluffs, an area that had literally been underwater not more than two years ago. They also had a special guest performing — John Stamos! Yes, Uncle Jesse from Full House made an appearance to a crowd of squealing women of the eighties. There were people of all ages in the crowd, but the baby boomers seemed to be the liveliest, kicking up their heels and starting conga lines at random during different songs.

Mulberry Lane, a local girl group, was also on hand for the opening and closing acts. Then the Beach Boys managed to play every song from the their extensive catalog —Kokomo, Barbara Ann, I Get Around, Surfer Girl, California Girls, Be True to Your School, and of course Fun, Fun, Fun. John Stamos even sang Forever, the song his character sang to Becky during their wedding on Full House. He also made a point of thanking veterans in the crowd in recognition of Memorial Day, bringing one soldier up on stage to have a brief jam session in front of the crowd. It was a very thorough performance to say the least. All it needed were a few original beach boys other than Mike Love (but that’s another story).

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Oh yes, it was also Memorial Day weekend, so we had a few picnics to attend as well. Jenny and a few of her friends went on their annual bike ride to Silver City and back, and then they crashed at Jon Paper’s house afterward for a makeshift barbecue. Vivian and I dropped by with Hannah and got another picture of her sitting on the stump we propped her on a year ago, making for a cute comparison. There was plenty of football tossing and food to go around, and after we were done, Richard had to get weighed in to see how big that watermelon was that we never even touched.

The next day, Vivian had a big reunion picnic with the gang from her old bible study at BCC. One stray member, Jenn, had moved to North Carolina, but was visiting long enough for a reunion of sorts. It was the first time the “gang” had gotten together in quite a while. Some members such as Kevin and Bob had gone off to have enormous families of their own, so we had plenty of kiddos on hand for Hannah to play with (she mostly just wanted to play on the slide). Others such as Tim and Amy had moved away briefly but had somehow moved back, and others such as Matthew, Venche, and Vivian had never really left —they just needed a catalyst such as Jenn to bring everyone back together. It was a fun evening of playing games and catching up before the sun went down.

Mother’s Day and Gifford Farm

Is it spring at last now, or is it already summer? It’s hard to believe there was snow on the ground two weeks ago as the temperatures are approaching triple-digits. We do now have plenty of blossoms filling the air with fragrance, including the brief appearance of lilacs in our yard.

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Sunday was Mother’s Day, so that meant spending lots of time with family. At church, the men hosted a Mother’s Day breakfast for everyone in the church basement. Then that afternoon, Vivian and I brought Hannah to grandma and grandpa’s for the rest of the day. Grandma had set up the yard with a small fence and a whole bunch of toys for Hannah to play with and explore. Jack manned the grill, cooking a bunch of burgers and brats for everyone (I brought the potato salad). Both moms then opened their gifts after we had sufficiently stuffed themselves. (Being a helpless romantic and a traditionalist, I gave Vivian some flours.)

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On Saturday, Gifford Farm here in Bellevue held a kind of open house / family fun day for visitors to come and see how they’ve recovered since the flood two years ago. Many of the buildings on the farm were a complete loss, and the animals had been moved to 132nd and Harrison for some time as everything was cleaned up and rebuilt. It was quite the experience for Hannah, who had only seen these farm animals in her books. She seemed quite shocked and terrified once she discovered that those little chickens were about as tall as she was, and a “hose” was the relative size of Godzilla. She did warm up quickly, though, petting a couple of the resident animals who let us get close enough to reach them. Hannah particularly enjoyed playing on a xylophone in an outdoor play area, and we naturally had to get a photo of her crossing Grandma’s Bridge. We wrapped up with a piece of Pig Bread for lunch, which Hannah especially seemed to enjoy, and we even bumped into the elusive Kam family on the way out.

¿Que mes es esto?

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So, Cinco de Mayo happened over the weekend, and the cold and rainy and generally gray weather was enough to make me ask, “¿Que mes es esto?” Hannah had her very first Cinco de Mayo experience last year, when it was sunny and warm and we had to find shade and some cold ceviche. We only stayed for the parade for about half an hour before deciding to go home and warm up. It gave us enough time to see some inexplicable costumers, extremely lame “floats” that were just cars with magnetic stickers for local businesses, and the line of horses bringing up the rear. Hannah has an equestrian fascination at the moment and had never seen a “hose” in real life before.

That evening, the three of us crashed at Jenny and Libby’s for a Quatro de Mayo party with our cluster of mutual friends. We brought beans and rice to go with enchiladas and sangria, and we had a sombrero and some maracas for my hijita to play with. Of course, we also had a piñata to take a few swings at outside. Mommy, daddy, and even Hannah took a few turns whacking at it, which produced much better results than a “goofus” of years past that I could mention.

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One other major development over the weekend was our unexpected winning of the “blue pass” contest at Jitterbugs. The Jitterbug volunteers were encouraged to give our specially-marked passes to people, and the person who passed out the most would get a free pass to a dance workshop hosted by Christian Frommelt and Jenny Shirar from St. Louis. Well, thanks to Vivian’s co-workers, that winner turned out to be us. Or should I say, me, because after much discussion, we decided that I would be the one to participate in the workshops, mostly because after checking the guest list, follows outnumbered the leads by a few heads. It was the first time in a couple years that I’ve been able to participate in dance classes of any kind, and it was a great experience. On Saturday, I wore my feet out working on my swing out, getting a crash course in St. Louis Shag, and then stumbling through a series of footwork drills. Then on Sunday, we met up again at Troy’s house for classes in Al & Leon’s Shim Sham, dynamic Lindy Hop, and some exhausting St. Louis Style Swing Outs (which involve turning around twice in eight counts instead of just once — dizzying to say the least).

What I discovered in the end was that this was great exercise not just physically but mentally as well. Observing other people’s dance steps and trying to remember them long enough to do them myself was a terrific workout for my mind — like a bunch of rusty, unused gears were suddenly working together once again after many years of disuse. My only challenge now is to remember what I learned so I can teach it to Vivian the next time we hit the dance floor.

Go home, weather. You’re drunk.

“Go home, weather. You’re drunk.” That seems to be the theme of 2013 thus far, and a kind of running joke that doesn’t seem to know when to quit. (Can you believe that Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year?)

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On Saturday, Vivian and I decided to help Tamra move into her new condominium in Bellevue as a way of saying “Welcome to the neighborhood.” A bunch of our mutual friends showed up to help with the move, and I had the strangest sense of déjà vu, having moved Tamra less than a year earlier. Her new place is within walking distance of legendary burger joint, Stella’s (where I haven’t shown my face since being humiliated by a pile of meat in 2011). Ryan was kind enough to grill a pile of burgers and save us the trip, however. As far as I know, nobody ate them on a napkin. Hannah seemed to enjoy toddling about Tamra’s new backyard, and she even got her have her first faceful of watermelon.

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A few days later, I took Hannah to her very first trip to the dentist, which was a slightly traumatic experience. Her teeth were just fine, but she absolutely did not like having strangers poking around in the there and spreading foaming fluoride all over the place. I took her up to spend some quality time with mommy during her lunch break at Friendship Program afterward. We went out to Benson Park, where Hannah got to chase a few geese and play on the swings while the weather was still “sober.” Of course, we had to bring her back to work afterward to say hello to Vivian’s co-workers and friends (and play with a few balls).

The next day it freaking snowed. And by freaking, I mean the freakish freak snow to hit the area in many a decade. Our tulips were fortunate enough to survive the few inches of snow we got by shutting themselves in self-defense. Still, there’s nothing quite as surreal as seeing snow on the ground in early May — especially since Hannah was swinging in our backyard just a day or two earlier before it got covered in snow. It was all vaporized by that afternoon.

Next stop: Cinco de “What month is this again?”