Independence Weekend

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It’s been a star-spangled week for us here in Omaha. With several days off and beautiful weather, the Johnson family and our band of mutual friends have been living it up and enjoying all the explosion-y goodness that this red, white, and blue city had to offer.

We kicked things off on Wednesday by taking Hannah down to Rivers Edge Park in council Bluffs to check out some fireworks. They had some balloon animals and train ride for the kids along the riverfront, but Hannah seemed mostly interested in playing with sand and running around before our friends arrived. We sat on the same patch of green where we watched the Beach Boys a few weeks earlier, and some time after the sun went down, the sky lit up with fireworks over the new ballpark downtown. It was a nice way to kick off what we be a long, Independence Day weekend, though the jam-packed traffic on the way out took over an hour for us to push our way through. Maybe next time we ought to park down at the casino and just walk.

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Vivian’s folks invited us over for a Fourth of July luncheon of burgers and all-American apple pie. Hannah marked the occasion by playing with a tea set for the first time and eating her very first ice cream cone. We left her with “Mimi and Papa” for the evening as Vivian and I went off to blow some things up with our friends.

Jenny had organized a party at Ben’s house to say both Happy Birthday to her roommate Libby and farewell to Keith, who was moving to Idaho for reasons still unclear to most of us (it has something to do with mountain biking). Jenny brought out a patriotic cake with a musical candle (that would not shut up), and shortly thereafter we broke out the sparkly thing. Everyone had the chance to paint the air with sparklers, fire off Roman candles, and fill the sky with a bunch of artillery shells. Someone even brought “homemade” fireworks that were made essentially of gunpowder in vinyl triangles, creating the perfect opportunity for someone to lose a couple fingers.

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On Friday night, a bunch of our friends returned to Elmwood Park to indulge in another performance of Shakespeare on the Green (because once is never enough). This time around, we saw a musical (and whimsically modern-looking) rendition of Twelfth Night. Since this performance was decidedly more family friendly than the gruesome Titus Andronicus, and this happened to be a holiday weekend, the crowd was decidedly larger than before. I came early enough to get a fairly decent spot in the nearly record-breaking crowd of 4,000+. A bunch of us decided to try on some old-timey clothes at one pavilion and then the girls engaged in a little swordplay with one another. (The girls especially seemed to enjoy this.) A panel of instructors answered Shakespeare-related questions, and a troop of 8-12 year olds from Camp Shakespeare performed a few scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for us as well. The wandering singers and juggler Jek Kelly were also on hand, as usual, and we even learned that everyone’s favorite juggler will be retiring this year. He got a tearful standing ovation in response to that news.

The play itself was delightful, of course, with an enthusiastic cast and plenty of fun, hip songs to go along with the 400 year old comedy. As with Titus, I didn’t bother to read much of the synopsis before watching the show, but I was still able to follow it fairly well. The play ended with the cast dancing into a curtain call, and then our own group decided to have an impromptu dance session right on our blankets as we waited for the rest of the crowd to thin out before heading for home.

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On Saturday morning, we joined our friends Randy and Jolene to celebrate their son Timothy’s third birthday down at Lake Zorinsky. Timothy and Hannah seem to get along quite well despite being about a year and a half apart in age. Randy grilled up burgers and hot dogs for everyone, which we tried to eat while trying to keep everything from blowing away with the gale force wind that ripped through our pavilion. Timothy also opened a bunch of presents, which included some Bible stories from Vivian and me and a Radio Flyer wagon that Randy put together on site so Hannah and Timothy could go for a ride.

Vivian and I wound up resting up for the rest of the weekend. After so many days and nights filled with fun, it actually felt great just to stay in a night or two before starting another busy week. On Monday, I’ll be starting a new job as marketing manager at the Pope Paul VI Institute here in Omaha, which has been described as the Mayo Clinic of reproductive health care. I’ve learned already that they’ve helped several people we know personally to have children when they thought they never would, so it looks like a wonderful, new place to work!

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